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National Educational radio in cooperation with the University of Chicago presents a short series of lectures designed to initiate a new discussion on the nature of man his place in the universe and his biological intellectual and social potentialities. This lecture the last in the series is entitled The sense of crisis. Our speaker is James M. Redfield assistant professor of social thought at the University of Chicago. Here now is Professor Redfield. Not everybody asks What is the future of man. Marcus it really is for instance you can see for yourself what has gone before so many shifts of power. So also you can see what will happen. For it is all formed let's say it is impossible to break the rhythm of the path. So it is just the same to look at human life across 40 years across 10000. What more could you see. Obviously if the future is going to
be the same as the present it's without any interest to us. And it isn't enough for the future to be various. It also has to be meaningful. St. Augustine for example writes. We do not know why God makes this Batman richer or that good man poor or why the judge is corruption or the false sort of witnesses should send the NSM to waken them. Why the wicked man should live sound and the good man bad rid such contrasts as these who could collect a recount. And even at these absurd contrasts were constant. This might be referred to God just judgment that those who were not to lose eternal bliss should for awhile be exercised by temporal process. But as it is we see that not only are the good afflicted and the bad exulting which seems injustice but that the good often enjoy good and the wicked evil. And this proves that God's judgment is even more inscrutable and these ways unsearchable.
And when we come to that great judgment there we shall not only see all things clearly but acknowledge all the judgments of God. From first to last to be firmly founded upon just with. And there we shall learn also why God's judgments are incomprehensible to us. And how just his judgment he is in that point also. How both of these men are not interested in the future because of their special kind of sense of the past. Marcus asserts the monotony of the future because he finds the past monotonous. For Augustine the past is unintelligible except in the light of a trans Historical of divine revelation. The history of the Hebrews and the Romans as he tells it has meaning only when it has been interpreted by Scripture. So also he expects to find no meaning in future history except in the light
of that final revelation which will conclude history. So perhaps I historian is an appropriate person to ask about the future. After all he is professionally committed to finding some variety and meaning in the parents. And he expects similar variety and meaning in the future. Furthermore the question of the future of man does not arise in all ages. And therefore it has a historical character. It arises in our age and it has arisen in others and we can perhaps ask in what kind of a world demand wonder about the future and what are the various ways of wondering. I want to suggest a few answers to those questions tonight not for us. But for the Greeks also. It does occur to me that there is a contemporary questionable period that I'm going to talk about. It's for all of us in the European tradition the classical
period. And as such it has been really described and reinterpreted in every period which has followed it. So we can ask how does the Classical Age look from here. And maybe the answer to that would tell us something about ourselves. Now in these remarks I'm going to lean heavily on three terms society nature and history. By society I mean not simply the way people live together but also their sense that this way of living has a pattern and a meaning. By nature I mean the given ground of our activities external and internal. Our environment our animal needs and desires and also our tendency to satisfy those needs and desires at the expense of the order of society. By history I mean not simply animals.
The record of what has happened but the sense that the past has a definite pattern and a direction that it is coming to something in the future. History society and nature are interdependent terms. They all meet for example in our conception of the primitive. The primitive state may be defined as that state in which the natural is not yet distinguished from the social. The primitive is itself prehistoric but all conceptions of history begin from the primitive. First account of a primitive people. In Greek is Homer's account of the Cyclopes in the Odyssey. We have no red painted ships he says there are no carpenters among them who could build boats well fitted with benches boats that could get them from city to city going about as men cross the sea one to another. They trust in the immortal gods they do not so crops with their hands nor plow.
But without sowing our tillage all things grow wheat barley and vines which bare the clustering grapes. And the reign of Zeus gives them increase. They hold no public meetings where plans are made. They have no thermos no sense of order. But they live in the crags of the high mountains and hollow caves and each one makes the most for his own wife and children. They pay no attention to one another savagery of the Cyclops has two aspects. They have no technology and they have no social organization. They have no agriculture or boats. But more important they pay no attention to public opinion and they hold no public meetings. Therefore they have no Themis. Them it is Homer's principle of civilized life. He governs man and his relations in his relation with the God prayer and libation are famous in his relations within the family.
It is famous for a woman to weep when her husband has died for a son to embrace his father when he comes home from a journey. And the sexual act is the feminist of a man and a woman. But first and foremost famous is a principle of politics that most opens and closes the assemblies of men and of gods. M.S. is related to the I read to the public meeting and this principle is related to fact. It is thermos to contradict your king at a public meeting. It is famous to test the troops with the words before sending them into battle. Famous is the principle of cultivated public action. You know Homer thermos is primary and technology is secondary. I just use tests the psych class by asking him for that entertainment which is the thermos of strangers. He does
not conclude that the cyclops is a primitive man because he lives in a cave. He tries him against the standard of society. However he discovers that the Cyclopes have no feminist. They do not entertain their guests they eat them. And it is lack of service not lack of technology which marks them as savages. Famous is the characteristic human good and man is distinguished from the feral savage by his ability to live in a society. Technique enables us to conquer nature. It is essential to the economic life to the life of the household. The Cyclopes have no technique because Nature gives them everything without effort. But man is not so well placed. He must make use of the resources of nature with labor and skill and turn them to his good. Through this technical economic life we secure for ourselves the natural goods survival abundant luxury and health.
The natural goods are the goods we share with the animals the Cyclopes because they know no other kind of good. All right kind of speaking animals man quite a man has other purposes in society very clearly in the Homeric society. We use the resources which are secured us by economics and technology and we use them to secure the characteristic human goods honor and excellence. What Homer calls at our attempt to secure the human good. We must have public meetings for the human good cannot be secured by conflict with nature. It arises only in society as men act on one another and as their action is admired by their peers. Now Homer's world is a world of fiction. It's not a world in which anyone ever lived in the frameup fiction Homer can ignore economics man's contest with nature.
Homer's heroes all have assured private incomes. Even as slaves and beggars don't worry much about the next meal. The Homeric world is a purely human world. The poem street of men's relation with one another as man establishes his superiority to man in games in entertainment in single combat and in debate. Thermos is the center of the Homeric world and the arena of famous is what Hannah Arendt calls the space of appearance. The public realm where men define themselves as individuals by exercising their capacity for sharing words and deeds. Furthermore the Homeric heroes in their public lives do not pursue their interest. They prove themselves but they do not enrich themselves. The greatest host is the man who gives the most lavish gifts the greatest speaker is not the man who gets his own way but the man whose wisdom is approved by the folk.
Even the prizes won in battle are not real wealth. They are like the prizes in the games. What Homer calls came in early August objects not for use but for show. Kep to be admired or to be given away. Tripod Wieman things of that kind. Not property but Honor is the name of action. This is contest with the Penelope's suitors is an exception and this is trying to recover his household. But even here the poet devotes most of his energy to establishing a just whose moral superiority to his enemy. And so it is that trade which is the public pursuit of self interest is nearly excluded from the Homeric poems and heroes never trade. And the poet mentions treating only with derision as the gunfire derives a deux sous. You don't look stranger he says like a man skilled at games and all the business of men who are gathered. You look like a man used to go about in ships. A master of sailors and of men who sell things concern for his cargo thinking
always of his profit. You don't look much like an athlete the Homeric heroes are intensely competitive but they compete like the runners in a race to excel one another. There is no place of the kind in the heroic pattern for the competition of the marketplace. For the man who buys low and sells high and enriches himself by impoverishing his neighbor's competitive self interest which is the pursuit of the natural good is a misuse of the public arena. And because the Homeric frame of fiction excludes nature it also excludes history the social order is simply given and as such it is unchangeable. The human order may be defined by contrast with the primitive life of the psych class. But there is no notion that the human has emerged from the primitive man as man as unchangeably as God is God. The Homeric world in fact transcends history because it is fiction because it does not
represent life in any period. It is valid in all periods and throughout the history of the great peoples poems of Homer have remained a model of the characteristically human world. When we come to fact from fiction we come to something very different. The oldest Greek poem describing the world in fact is probably Hesiod's Works and Days. It's roughly contemporary with the Odyssey. You see it describes the world as it happened to him and for him economics not primary or Hesiod trade is a necessary evil. Certainly evil but nonetheless necessary. He should devote one tenth of his poem to a discussion of the best and worst seasons for trading and his judgement on the spring sailing season can be taken as representative. I do not praise it he said. It brings no pleasure to my heart as if I were repaid. It is hard to stay out of trouble but all the same men pursue with in the witlessness of their minds.
For money has become the soul to us miserable mortals. Man for he see it as a greedy bargaining creature always after his neighbor's goods. All of life public and private is the pursuit of interest in the public arena. We enrich ourselves at the expense of other people in our private activity. We gather wealth from nature. There are he says two kinds of strain. One evil war and quarrelling to the strife of man against man. It is to be avoided. The other one. Zeus has hidden in the roots of the earth and it is much better for man. Do not let the malicious strikes keep you from labor he says a spectator at the corals of the marketplace. A man has a little time for quarrels and meetings. If he does not have an ample store laid up in his house the harvest of the seasons that the earth brings forth. When he said things about public activity and public meetings he doesn't think of debate. The
display of wisdom before the pork butt of litigation in which men lay claim to property which is not theirs and very frequently by bribery and false witness Cain. The introduction of trade and of the traders values into the public world has destroyed the security of that world. And the meeting of men together is not as in home or a place for the use of private resources. It is a place where those resources are risked and often lost. There is only one security to retire into a private world and labor to secure one's own position. Heated up gods and men he says is the man who lives without labor like a drone among bees from Labor. Men become rich in flocks and fat the lazy man envies the labor for labor makes wealth and with wealth or whatever your fate labor is best turned a temperate heart from the holdings of others and change
your own life with Labor. Well it should not be taken. It is better as God's gift. When someone with the strength of his hand seizes riches or acquittals them with his tongue as often happens when gain beguiles the mind of man. And shamelessness trades down shame easy the gods will wither him whither his house briefly his prosperity lasts so keep your heart from that as best you can make sacrifice to the gods. Then Will their angry mind to you be mine and you will buy another man's land. He won't buy yours. Man has to labor incessantly because nature is not fitted to his needs. The earth is full of troubles as he sees it and the sea is full the gods keep hidden from men their livelihood. Otherwise we would easily labor for one day and live in comfort for a year of idleness. A
man is alienated from nature. And the world in which we live is nearly the worst a possible world a world of sickness trouble Swift all the task of the subsistence farmer used to create for himself an island of security between a hostile society and a hostile environment. And these two are not really separate. The recalcitrance of nature is a reflection of the corruption of man. For those who give a straight judgment says he who do not transgress justice their city flourishes the folk their prosperity peace the nurse of life is on their land the earth gives them life and plenty in the mountains their Oaks bear the Toppy corn in the middle be their thick fleece cheap bristle with Will they furnish with good continual nor do they go about in ships. But the fertile earth bears them for that when there is evil down and shameful and Zeus marks them out for his justice. On the whole city has perished on account of one
evil man who goes astray and craftily works at home for them from heaven. Zeus has fixed great sorrow famine and plague together and women die. The people do not bear and the household whither. Can he see it as in Homer. Society is primary. Because he has lost his confidence in society. He cannot approach nature with confidence. His society has isolated him and made him vulnerable to the recalcitrance of nature. In Hesiod as in Homer the characteristic human good distinguishes man from the feral savage. This is the MRI he says that Zeus has fixed for humanity for the fish and the beasts and the wing of the bird that they eat one another since they have no justice. Decay to humanity he gave V.K. and it is part of the. Justice decay plays the same role in Hesiod that the sense of order Emma's
place in Homer both are principles which govern the relations between man and man both of divine sanctions. Both are inherent in man way man but fairness is a principle of action. DKA principle of restraint them as brings men together. DK keeps them apart. DK keeps men from lying from cheating and stealing. He keeps each man to his own. Society for he is feral. The characteristic human excellence can develop only in the private world and this nation of man from society as it expresses itself in a sense of alienation from nature also expresses itself in a sense of alienation from history. DK cannot support itself without the support of society against the pressure of nature. Nature will destroy today. He says there is still some good mixed with evil. But Zeus will
destroy this race of mortals. Father will no longer be equable with son nor son with Father nor guest with host nor friend with friend. There will be no gratitude for a man who keeps his oath nor a just man or good. They will rather honor the man who commits crimes and evil. There will be no decay in their hands no sense of respect. And then to Olympus leaving the broader earth wrapping their fair bodies in white robes will pass to their race of the Immortals leaving Man restraint and the moral sense. They will leave endless sorrows to mortal man and there will be no cure for evil. Soon he says the characteristically human will be lost in the chaos of nature and human life will become unlivable. Society is moving toward the primitive. And so we find our three terms and he soon society nature and history for him society is corrupt. Nature is recalcitrant and history is regressive.
And I put it to you that this is a compact bleak worldview. He is poem in fact is the first statement of an enduring world picture that works and days as the foundation of a whole tradition developed through the sixth and fifth centuries by the oligarchy poets particularly by Theocritus Pender. I'd like to explore that development but that would be another lecture here I'm going to contrast the oligarchy tradition with another tradition which began to develop in the middle sixth century early six centuries. I call this the reform tradition and it has its oldest source in the poems of Solon. Solon shares with his diagnosis of society's competitive self-interest is the source of public disorder. The citizens themselves he says wish to destroy their city and their folly drawn on by money they don't know how to stop when they have enough now to put in order a life of calm and moderate plenty.
They become rich led on by crime they are unsparing of secret property in a public eagerly each man steals what he can get and they take no care of the solemn altars of soul and in fact is more radical than he see it. For some of the characteristic public activity is not litigation by which one man can steal another's farm. But civil war and tyranny by which a man can steal an entire city. Nor is it possible as in he had to withdraw into your own house all the public evil comes into every house he says. The doors of the courtyard will no longer keep it out. It jumps the high fences and it finds you somehow even if you hide in the farthest knock at the door. At the time of stolen the trading economy reached its logical conclusion. Small primers began to borrow on the security of their own person and then spill into slavery losing not only their property but themselves but for so on the corruption of society is no longer a personal but a political problem and as
such it has a political solution. My heart teaches me to teach the Athenians this bad government brings the greatest harm to a city. But good government you know media brings to the light all order and propriety and often puts fetters on the unjust. It makes the rub smooth. It limits access. It baffles crime. It limits the raging of her straight win by it. All human things become proper and wise. He was a moralist soul and a law giver. Solon did not simply protest and withdrawal he took his protest to the community and set about reform. And in this Solon is characteristic of his age in the late archaic period the Greek cities began to take hold of their situation. They began to use the public order to restrain man's fearful nature and in doing so they began the reconstruction of public life. Solon said that his reforms were in the interest of everyone and therefore they were in
the interest of no one. So one says that he stood in a no man's land. He worked for no party and all parties were disappointed by his work. Each thought they could get great wealth he said and now they are angry with me. They are look at me crossly as if I were their enemy. Solon didn't try to stop the pursuit of interest. He trying to moderate it by balancing the opposing forces and the assumption of public excellence can arise from private places. His aim was not to improve the character of his countryman but to protect them from one another. He sought to construct a public order in which competitive self-interest would no longer be dangerous. So all of his morality is much like he sees it. So I'm to believe in the moral sense the characteristic of a human soul and to was proud of his own virtues. But he did not try to impose his virtues on the city. Rather they served him
for a kind of Archimedes and point. Enabling him to stand outside and to moderate the contention of less virtuous men. If another man held the whip he says as I did I could try living there and in every richness he would not have held back before. I'd like to do what one party likes and then another. This city had been widowed many men but I mingled my strength together from every source and turned about among them like a wolf among many dark. So one could have been tyrant but he would not. He could have been the tool of special interests but he would not. He stood outside the conflict throwing his shield over both contenders. A law giver must be good. Otherwise his laws will not be good. But after that it's a technical problem. If the law giver has a virtue and technical skill.
If he has an expert political workman he can produce a community where virtue is encouraged and vice discouraged. And the state the community that he produces is as much the product of one man's skill as a poem is the product of the skill of the poet. In a sense we could say that someone was attempting to realize the Homeric famous but famous in Homer is a principle of spontaneous human behavior Solon's you know media is an artificial product. So in the early 6 century the state to adapt Burkhardt's craze became a work of art. For the moralist Nature sets a limit to activity men and communities cannot pursue excellence beyond the bounds Nature has set for the technician on the other hand. Nature is a beginning and occasion for activity. If
nature were not inadequate to the needs of man technique would never have come into existence. As hypocrisy says of his own art. In the beginning the art of medicine would not have been discovered for there would have been no need for it or even looked for if the same regime and diet had suited the healthy and the sick as it was necessity itself cause medicine to be looked for and discovered in that when the sick used the same diet as the healthy it did them no good any more than it does now. Technique arises from meat and its aim is to fit nature to the needs of man. Technique works by a process of trial and error testing the various resources of nature against the needs of man and by refinement and selection technique gradually creates an environment satisfactory to me. Hypocrisy is again those who discovered medicine first diminish the quantity of food and the sum of the sick this was evidently a great help and that to
all. There were some unable to digest even a small amount of grain. Such patients evidently required something weaker.
The Chicago lectures
James M. Redfield, part 1
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University of Chicago
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program features the first part of a lecture by James M. Redfield of the University of Chicago: "The Sense of Crisis."
Series Description
This series presents lectures given at University of Chicago, focusing on the nature of human beings, their place in the universe, and their potentialities. The lectures were also published in The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, beginning in September 1965.
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Producing Organization: University of Chicago
Speaker: Redfield, James M., 1935-
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 65-40-6 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:35
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Chicago: “The Chicago lectures; James M. Redfield, part 1,” 1965-10-07, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed February 23, 2024,
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