thumbnail of Peace, love, creativity: Hope of mankind; Philosophy of the free man's world, part one
Hide -
This transcript was received from a third party and/or generated by a computer. Its accuracy has not been verified. If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+.
From the Great Hall of the Cooper Union in New York City. National Educational radio presents the Cooper Union forum series on peace love and creativity the hope of mankind. These programs were recorded by station WNYC. Here now is the chairman of the Cooper Union forum Dr. Johnson he Fairchild. Says you're. Getting a program. To come. I was subject for discussion receiving. The philosophy of a free man's world. William J. And
our doctor who was a scholar. And as you probably already great read was doing a fabulous and credible series with William J. Yeah I go back just a little bit to mention that he is probably named you know list. North Carolina. He is currently professor of English at New York University graduate school. Has been educated in Duke University and the University of Wisconsin. Has a great deal of teaching experience which I like to mention.
It's been a Rockefeller Foundation fellow. Google has been a United States part of the state of Florida and Japan. Professor of American literature and the Harvard. Songwriting 50 University of 63. In short were in a like scholarship. Literary literary for us. Those. Years when they're. Invited. Very close. So what was the song. There is singer.
His most recent publication. Leave me. It is tremendous. Absolutely. With every right to serve. First the freeze papers. So fabulous. Very delighted to come here to talk to us of the philosophy of the Freeman's world was it was. Was a thank you present for a child.
As a gentleman. I much loved octogenarian poet Marianne Moore has confessed in her poem called poetry. I too dislike it. There are things that are important beyond all the spittle regarding it however with a perfect contempt for the right one discovers after all a place for the genuine. William James the American philosopher felt the same contempt for proper loss of it. Passed in his day Parker lost. Yet like Mr Moore found in it a place for the genuine. I don't know what Mr. Moore thinks that we're doing James but in founding there Portree on philosophy on concrete experience they had much in common. In his first chapter of pragmatism called the dilemma colossally James your college student thesis by a young man who began by saying that he had always taken for granted that when you entered a philosophical
classroom you had open relations with the universe entirely distinct from the one left behind you in the street. That you were supposed to say I had to have so little to do with each other that you could not possibly occupy your mind with them at the same time there were not a concrete person experienced a rich history belongs in his multitudinous beyond imagination. Tangled muddy painful and perplexed. The world of which your philosophy professor introduces you is simple clean and noble. The contradictions of real life are absent from. Its architecture as a class of principles a reason to trace its outline. Logical necessity to cement its parse. Purity and dignity of what it most expresses is a kind of marble temple shining on a hill and station. A course here James is taking his usual satirical dig at Wright some of them and all
philosophers of the absolute but the writer of the piece was expressed a typical attitude of the man of the street toward various approaches to the philosophy. James and his pasta must be some problems of philosophy. Return to this comment of Jackson that code Polaski is out of touch with the real life for which it substitutes abstractions for one code. Historically this objection is valid. James with us but he sees no reason why philosophy should keep aloof from reality permanently. While they and noble abstraction should not give way to more solid and real constructions why philosophers should not get into as close contact as realistic novelists where the facts of life. When you and James offended professional philosophers not on a biased sample they were the attitude of the man in the street toward noble action abstractions. Still worse he always insisted that every man's philosophy from Plato to Bergson is
personal and subjective and impervious to universe he declared that a philosophy is an expression of a man's intimate character. And all definitions of the universe are about to deliberately adopted reactions of human characters. If we take the whole history of philosophy is just introduce themselves to a few main types which under all the technical verbiage in which ingenious intellect of man and delicately him are just so many visions modes of feeling the whole point and seeing the whole drift of life forced on by want to total character and experience and on the whole preferred. There is no other truth or word as one's best working attitude and a quotation. Although I have not attempted to define the meaning of the word philosophy to word it for you and James I think these quotations clearly indicate that he
approached the subject in much the same way as the poet or not. Just as fresh as a realistic novelist in attempt to get into close contact with the facts of life. Are course the realistic novelist often thanks to his being severely objective whereas James as a philosopher cannot help being personal. In fact this anticipates his psychology of consciousness in which you found that all thinking is personal and subjective from beginning to end. Emerson defined the scholar as a man thinking. James says that the philosopher too is only a man thinking even in his own individual right influenced by his own experiences and limited by his particular never system. But even if the last Me is no more than one's basket working attitude you James this writer is toward life. This may still be very important for him and for our store cute and Observer and such an original thinker as William James.
It may be had and I demand interest and value to another man of similar character and experience. I approach dangerous philosophy in this manner because I want to indicate what it is and why does not. He have to say I never believe that he had attained to a logical system or even a coherent structure of philosophical doctrine. And you continually shifted his terms from several in Paris ism to pragmatism to radical I'm curious as I'm your type ism to liberalism and so on. But in all his prose opera painting he struggled to shun intellectual abstractions and get down to the bedrock of experience throughout his restless changing up professional ambitions there was a consistent attitude in his sympathies and theories. After giving up painting for science he studied chemistry physiology and medicine. He began teaching as an instructor in anatomy but bones led him to nerves and psyches and neuro studies to what it is that human
consciousness is conscious. James his first encounter with fellow soccer concept was desperately personal. As a young man whose life was almost destroyed by the debilitating physical pains which he suspected even then to be neurotic and Origen and he was half convinced that suicide was his only remedy. In his family in a good condition he fought to free him say after on his father's mild Calvinism and the more rigid determinism our contemporary philosophy of signs held by this friend shown here right in England by the renowned Herbert Spencer. Right and Spenser taught him that we are of nature through and through that we are wholly conditioned not a wiggle of our way all happens. Save as a result of physical laws. Whatever the hidden causes of James's neuroses this doctrine aggravated them an almost paralyzed his will power and a spring of 1870 while struggling to
ascend to some sort of partnership with fate. A French philosopher named Charles or nobody helped him survive a mental and emotional crisis. On April 30 he wrote in his diary. Quote. I think that yesterday was a crisis in my life. I finished the first part of the new vs second essay and saw no reason why his definition of free will be sustaining abit thought because I choose to when I might have other polyps need be the definition of an illusion. At any rate I would assume for the present it is no illusion. My first act of free will shall be to believe in free will on code. He resolved. His second act of will to refrain from his customary morbid speculation and voluntarily cultivate the feeling of moral freedom by reading books available to it as well as by
action and of course. Here we have to argue his later will to believe and his famous chapter on Will and his principles of psychology. To be published here 20 years in the future. In fact I want to put a stop to idea which underlies all of William James's writings on psychology and philosophy. Is man's freedom to make choices in an indeterminant world. I might say here that where I will be referring to the world to believe and some of the ideas now and then I'm trying not to your SERP that Theo says it will be a lecture two weeks from tonight I believe on that subject. But how can we know that we live in an indeterminant world and a Harvard Divinity School address you have in 1884 James admitted that we do not. But then no one knows that it is a determined world. Either he told the Divinity School which tutors evidence of an extra con to decide
between determinism and indeterminism is strictly impossible to find. Unable therefore ever to be able to settle this argument by object of editors. One should consider James argued the difference in his own life. That exceptions are determinism would mean determinism professes that those parts of universe already laid down. Absolutely a point and decree but the other part shall be the future has no ambiguous possibilities hidden in his room. The part we call the present is compatible with only one totality. Any other future complement than that one fixed from eternity is impossible. And of course James like to call it is an iron block universe indeterminism On the contrary he continued says that the parts have a certain amount of loose play on one another so that the laying down of one of them does not necessarily
determine what the outer shell be it possibile is maybe an excess of actualities and that thing is not yet revealed to our knowledge may really and I'm sorry I was be ambiguous to alternative futures which we conceived both may now be really possible and then one becomes impossible only at the moment when the other extreme is it by becoming real indeterminism us tonight as they were all to be won on bending due to fact. It says there is a certain out of it or a pill isn't it. And so saying it corroborates our ordinary unsophisticated view of things to that new actualities seem to float in a wider sea of possibilities out of which they are children and somewhere indeterminism says such possibilities exist and form a part of truth. I noticed James's emphasis on possibility. Part of term an
ism. There are no possibilities. There was a failure to get realized are pure illusions. There never were possibilities at all. Later in his the Rasta James switch from possibility to chance. Determinism of course rules out chance completely indeterminism accept a chance a word from which metaphysicians shrink as if it were a pestilence. Yet whether this actuality whether this actually is a world of chance. We do not know and can never know. All James hopes to do is to show the difference between a world of chance in it and one with out any possibility out chance. From the point of view of morality he argues the difference is enormous. It is interesting to see him thinking pragmatically long record he had found the word and tried to define the concept. Them are consequence of accepting the theory of determinism is what James called the dilemma they determinism can never find a satisfactory explanation for evil in the world.
If God be good how came he to create. He did not create. How comes he to permit the devil. James asks. Using the proper words god and devil for good and evil are evil. Facts must be explained as seeming. The devil must be whitewashed the universe must be disinfected. If neither God's written is not his unity and power are to remain on impunity unquote. Actually in a deterministic universe no real distinction can be made between good and bad things simply are and model distinctions are merely subjective fantasies. Calling a thing bad means if it means anything at all. That's the same ought not to be that something else ought to be stated determinism in the nine that anything else can be and instead virtually defines the universe as a place in which one ought to be is impossible.
In other words an organism whose constitution is afflicted with an incurable pain and Iran of all flaws and of course. The only escape from pessimism that James can see is to abandon regret or to be utterly cynical and indifferent. And that was completely contrary to his character his temperament. William James was never able to assume the Olympian calm and calm operative philosophers. He could not stand an agnostic aloofness and all that evidence was in for it will never all be end. And meanwhile he and we must go on living which is to say choosing often with little if any evidence to go on. Some of the stages are all not right even not acting may be decisive in the outcome of the dance from beginning to end of his career. James was much less concerned with philosophical ideas as ideas that were the consequences on a human life. I'll be accepting or
not accepting the ideas but this is not to say that his the philosophizing were simply wishful thinking. He never tried to create an ideal world and then argue it into existence not even later when he defended Christian Symes more accurately the right of Christian scientists and other faith healers to practice. He contended that unless they were permitted to act upon their beliefs the results could not be observed and judged their claims might not be right. Players must not be rejected on theoretical grounds for the theories of the medical profession might turn out to be as fallible as Lord of the faith healers. First James was an M.D. back on degree he ever had was the M.D. degree except honorary degrees from all claims to truth must be judged. Finally on tangible results though James might doubt the claims of the doctors and the scientists. He always defended the scientific method of collecting examining and evaluating data. His unique
contribution was in applying the scientific method in philosophical inquiry. And idealists are sentimentalists bills you're talking use once every problem solved. Just like some starters were going to Jamestown great stimulation and thinking of an unfinished universe bristling with Chance and possibility a universe in which both good and evil are real and eternally at war. Cote. Is regarded as a stable finality. Every outward good becomes a mere weirdness to the flesh. It must be a menace to be occasionally lost for it's good news to be thought of as such. Nay more than occasional lost no one knows the worth of innocent until you know it's just gone forever and that money cannot buy back. Not the saint but the center of that repent or is he to whom the whole length and breadth and height and depth of life's meaning is revealed. Not the absence of eyes but the price they are in virtue of holding her by the throat. Seems the ideal human state
and there seems no reason to suffer when it is not a permanent human state. Do the question Does not the admission of such an unguaranteed chance our freedom preclude I don't know the notion of a Providence govern the world James replied by an analogy. So far as to a man the forecast board there want an ominous outer expert player of the game expert intends to beat him but he cannot foresee exactly what anyone's actual move of his adversary may be you know much however all the possible moves of the latter. I mean I was in Venice how to meet each of them by his own which leads in the direction of victory and the victory and proudly arrives after no matter how devious a course and the one predestined form of Checkmate to the novice is key in this allegory of the novel stands of course for the finite creation expert for the infinite mind. Perhaps and I think that James's analogy is itself not very optimistic
for the inevitable defeat of the novelist but says James it is immaterial for the Creator. Leave the absolute chance possibilities to be decided by himself. Each one is a proper moment arrives whether On the contrary he alienate this power to himself and leave the decision out and out to the finite creature such as we men are the great point is the possibilities are really there. Although James arrived at philosophy through physiology and psychology he never got very far away from his earlier specialties and writing as monumental principles of psychology intended to treat his subject scientifically holding in abeyance for the time being for consideration. But he could not help crying free will. Even in his careful biological approach for example the one theory which all biologist at the end of the nineteenth century accepted was that reflex arc which James said was the only
essential point in which the new psychology is an advance upon the old. The notion that all our activity belongs at bottom to the Type A reflex action and all our consciousness accompanies a chain of events of which the first was an incoming current in some century nerves and average the last will be a discharge into some muscle blood vessel or gland. This may sound like the automation deterministic psychology rigged game so strongly opposed but he saw freedom in the purpose of all of the neural activity called the thinking and feeling portions of our lives seemed little more than halfway houses toward behavior and recent psychology accordingly tended to treat consciousness more and more as if it existed only for the sake of the conduct which it seems to introduce and tries to explain is the theory errors so far as they are explained at all by their practical utility. And
in the second place out of the welter of extra noise that is incoming stimulations consciousness selects and ignores or suppresses others there is a range of consciousness out of which the mind are wheel selects a few such objects to bring into focus the attention of full consciousness and James's words every actually existing consciousness seems to Assaf at any rate to be a writer or ends which many but for its credit would not be and with all its powers of cognition may and I subservient to these aims of discerning which backed Father them and which do not. And here of course the enforcer of Darwin is apparent. Other words the mind has operated in such a way through a nervous and brain asked to enable an organism to adapt itself to its environment and survive. And lower animals. This process may be largely a reflex or even their
sound seem to possess a mysterious cleverness and adapt ation. But in man the process is complex and unpredictable making Rio choice not only possible but necessary. For example in many situations the stimuli carried to the brain through the topline of nerves contradict each other making it necessary for the brain to ignore some such as pain during a battle or delayed response until some other stimuli responded to it late lasting from seconds to an hour. Hours months even years into the late response of some intelligent whale operators the relation is simply at tension with the effort. All right James. The essential achievement of the wheel in short friend is most voluntary is to add 10 to a difficult object and hold it fast before the mind. This all the doing is the Fiat. It is America. Physiological incidents that when
the object is not attended to immediate Mordor consequences tradin sort of unresolved. Who has contemplated motor consequences are not to ensue until some possibly far distant future condition shall have been fulfilled involving all of the psychic elements out in order of God except the word now. And it is the same with many of our purely theoretical leaps. The ethical implications of this theory of volition are obvious and it's not surprising that to James as contemporary audiences applauded his lecture on having more enthusiastically than any other he ever delivered or printed the law of habit is that once a neuropathy has been broken it will be travelled again and again on less on the stronger force breaks and you cry as if the first draft results in a useful are healthy habit that a person experiences and it can let the habit take care of itself. The
instinct to function without conscious effort. If you result in the harmful habit deliberate and laborious effort will be needed to establish a new path. The great thing van and all education says James is to make our Never system our ally instead of our enemy.
Please note: This content is only available at GBH and the Library of Congress, either due to copyright restrictions or because this content has not yet been reviewed for copyright or privacy issues. For information about on location research, click here.
Peace, love, creativity: Hope of mankind
Philosophy of the free man's world, part one
Producing Organization
WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-513tz67m).
Episode Description
This program presents the first part of a lecture by Gay Wilson Allen, Professor of English, New York University Graduate School.
Series Description
This series presents lectures from the 1968 Cooper Union Forum. This forum's theme is Peace, Love, Creativity: The Hope of Mankind.
Media type
Producing Organization: WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
Producing Organization: Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art
Speaker: Fairchild, Johnson E.
Speaker: Allen, Gay Wilson, 1903-1995
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-10-19 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:27:30
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “Peace, love, creativity: Hope of mankind; Philosophy of the free man's world, part one,” 1968-04-15, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 23, 2024,
MLA: “Peace, love, creativity: Hope of mankind; Philosophy of the free man's world, part one.” 1968-04-15. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 23, 2024. <>.
APA: Peace, love, creativity: Hope of mankind; Philosophy of the free man's world, part one. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from