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And I think there's a good deal of evidence if you look at the One might say at any rate if you look at some of the behavior reported by them of that there's no good reason to say that they don't have a concept. But it gets terribly complicated if one wants to have criteria that they have concepts. And if one looks for criteria in terms of certain kinds of utterances as to what they would say not merely what they do. And once you do that then there's the problem disappears from the emphasis on concepts. So whether or not the actual human beings that we have the emphasis not so much. It's not clear whether to attribute to an animal having a concept of the animal that is according to some people can have certain kinds of apparatus and especially linguistic apparatus. And as a result of having this one wish that apparatus we can have certain criteria as to whether or not the animal does or doesn't have concepts. So we have today I think simply on this. The fact that the emphasis namely on the tradition of the critique or at least an
open issue as to whether or not one can have a way of identifying men as if making sure that men and men alone have concepts and I think roughly speaking one could say that it seems intuitively clear. It seems clear to me at the reading some of the literature and others that make perfectly good sense to say that animals have concepts. But if the issue becomes relatively complicated either for certain kinds of concepts of or to look for criteria for having concepts they use a term that was popular as a result of the work of it. The efforts to shift away from concepts to certain kind of linguistic behavior. And. If that's true there is a problem here which I simply say I don't really know what the answer is as to whether one could emphasize concepts or make merely an aspect of degree.
But there are certain kinds of concepts which man alone and animals have others and whether or not we can account for the degree in terms of language or whether it's the other way around. It's because we can form certain complicated concepts. We then have a language and I say all of the fries I can see is up in the air and it gets even more complicated if you ask a criteria for proof that certain animals or certain human beings have a certain kind of a concept. So this doesn't get is very far. The emphasis on concept when a man is to be distinguished from other animals and having concepts or whether he is to be distinguished as a language animal or an animal that has a particular kind of or has acquired a language or drugs in which began I'm just taking that for granted. Time is getting short so I really don't think I can go into the details as to the differences in emphasis on the American private approach on the language with me and the sort of thing that one finds as a result of the work
of it. But let me really say I have just indicated an area of concepts and language would simply be a headline and so that all of this indicates that it worries that there's a particular kind of approach in the tradition that we can get a handle on what man is really like by emphasizing this concept formation. We can get a necessary condition to account for a lot of other things but certainly won't be a sufficient condition to account for a lot of other things. Maybe the fact that man has concepts you won't know why he published newspapers but at least this was the beginning point and well this isn't at this stage of the game. Well it's an interesting beginning point or not. I merely would like to say a much you related to this is a and currently more I think popular at least popular I think in a certain way. European psychologist an increasingly popular and certain kind of American group's
phenomenologists group a different kind of emphasis and the emphasis is not so much of merit as a concept forming animal but that man's significance or if you wish man system that man actually is. Use another stimulus bound that their man traditionally Mili find a great number of things and he isn't merely to be understood as reacting to specific stimuli. Now a lot of this is overdone in terms of all sorts of analogies to mechanics that he isn't simply a mechanical animal he doesn't react mechanically. There's no mechanism involved. They're also at the camp with all sorts of irrelevant or if you wish. If you wish not only around but also it's a misleading way of identifying describing this negative way. But the emphasis once again is that man if you wish there is a system builder or tries to fly when he has a series of elements which he which
he experiences tried actually to get a certain kind of a particular kind of way of systematizing these particular elements and to try to form a particular kind of system in terms of which he can understand explain and account or deal with all these particular kind of elements. Now don't forget people who talk this way actually using the word system in a systematically ambiguous way that they are not there as presumably they're occasionally under presumably. Some people have understood them to say that the most important thing that man is to try to get a system relative to which you can get he can explain everything that manifold speakers of rational animal in the sense that man is primarily interested in explanation. And that all the types of things that he is the valuable kind of system of thought let's say to take a well-known example for example imagine that all the particular kinds of that magic is merely a. Preliminary or
prehistoric and crude way of doing science that by engaging in magic men try to understand the world and he was doing bad science. Now once again you find a good deal of critique are the people who emphasize that man if he wishes to seek system seek significance. This is pagan in certain circles as identical with the thesis that man is primarily seeking certain kinds of systems namely systems relative which he can explain and to give a systematic explanatory account of the world. This isn't the case with Paul and the fact that men think all sorts of systems of systematize are great at people who emphasize this. I'm not at all saying that men are primarily interested in explanation. Now this emphasis on them. And once again I want to reiterate that there's a systematic ambiguous what it means to have a system and an oar in different areas. Once again would vary from contact with hunters what would be meant by a system in science or a system in ethics or system in
politics. That would be very different from case to case now. If you look at people like maybe Strauss today he emphasizes and in many of his books that the growth of the intellect and which he tries to account for certain kind of totemism in terms of what he calls the growth of the intellect and he tries to show that attempts to explain or to explicate or to eliminate what's up and totemism be completely will completely fail if one doesn't emphasize the drive for that the intellect is playing a role for itself and I would simply drop the attempt of the word intellect here and simply use the word that is an attempt to form a systematic way of dealing with animals and the relationship between animals in the groups. And there are certain kinds of principles that the groups had relative to which they classified in London and describe the relationships between animals and relationships between animals and themselves. Now this answers this which is
current today and a great number is an antithesis to certain things that occurred at the end of the nineteenth century. And. Need your doing and other people which presumably presumably only mark that Mark presumably wrote with up here presumably according to some people that these philosophers and psychologists and social scientists maintain that man really doesn't seek system except the Riveter way that men undertake to solve particular kinds of problems or men try to justify certain kinds of social practices that ethical systems are primarily attempts to justify thought social practice that they attempt to undertake certain to find systems of science primarily at times. The sort of sour recurrent problems with how to deal with the world and there isn't really a driver system. There is no that isn't the case. What is the case however is that men have certain other kinds of needs to use
once again the jargon non-cognitive neither want to control the environment they want to find ways of justifying the current political setup and all these other and rights of the so called intellectual constructions and search them are actually to be understood merely as it were or as attempts to do that and there is so to speak no particular kind of. If you wish now you are in this position that people have to systematically understand and to explain or systematically deal with their emotions or to deal with the tribes etc.. Now I find that the question which is recurrent very proprietory First of all is very hard to know on the grounds that on a good or naive or very simple minded Marxist or Dewey ite line which do we never really have and rather do a line of all them are right we do find this recurring need to justify.
Actually there isn't that you can't really say that menu systems in order to justify you also have to explain how there was ever an attempt or or other than the drive to try to correct for a system in the first place even if you use the system in order to justify it. Secondly if one looks at it once again a great deal of animal behavior. It seems a good deal of animal behavior once again seems to be motivated just to find out what's true in the environment. Some experimental studies in which animals very often will give up a certain amount of food just to be able to explore the environment a certain curiosity drives. So I mean this is. This is simply a certain kind of evidence is not exhaustive but it seems to me that the particular kind of emphasis on the fact that people don't really seek system and that systems are only the relative and then we really satisfy other motives and other needs. It seems to me an overexaggeration are I can simply refer you to some of the literature.
Now there's a very interesting thing that's just come out by now Spyro on the attempts to give an explanation of primitive religion. It's a series added in an. Anthropology for that and one of the The book is called the typology in religion and it a very interesting essay by Mel Spyro an anthropologist on the various attempts to explain the kinds of religious practices and beliefs that groups had. And I and he uses a good deal of psychological and ethnic and ethnic graphic material I think to show the limitations. Use that if you wish the functional view that the recent If you wish an attempt to understand and explain. Now again I'm not saying I think anyone has ever said that man only looks for system for its own sake it's merely the other way around whether there's an independent Iraq
and I know this is something which I can't prove or give evidence it seems to me that it is the case that there is. But now we have a number of other issues just beginning. And that's where it begins what's a man either wants system for their own say or I want them for some other reason. The question then comes up credit this particular question forces them be satisfied. And actually if one doesn't have this particular question a system if it can't be satisfied one of the limitations you see very often when for example Bry the notion of a system when very often things when he talks about political system he actually related to what may be called ethical systems and very often what he seems to want by an ethical system a sort of a set of principles so that given the set of principles we will always be able to sign any outcome that works
that we have to encounter and if we can find that we can't get such principles Bry reference to which we could actually decide what to do for any particular current then this is a limitation of the Dreyfus system. Well obviously. Well let's say we can we can show that that this will not be done. What then has for example it's quite clear that most of us. Let's not take a moral issue for the moment. Let's take simple issues of preference very often given our preferences such that when presented between the option for a piece of cake and a piece of ice cream we very often won't know what to do. Preferably might be indifferent between them and our system quote unquote of preferences might not dictate any outcome in this particular case. There's actually if you wish. No big deal involved. So what has to be shown is the following even if one can't get to them in the sense
that Berlin seemingly won that there may be conflict occasionally between principle. One has to show that this is a great law so we might say well it isn't really such a tremendous loss why should you necessarily be able to decide every hour. And certainly even if one shows that it is nothing that we have these kinds of principles one must be able to show what is the alternative that is. Let me simply use of a word that may be a structure that we have of moral principles or moral preferences which is analogous to the structure we have none moral preferences and to be sure our preferences are such that they don't dictate every outcome. But to go from that is that we don't have a system or that everything goes about our preferences or everything else to be said about our preferences. Seems to me quite misleading so. Let me leave on this particular point.
The Following that it may very well be that men have a Dreyfus was that it may very well be that this drive may not be satisfied. Berlin and others might show that the drive isn't satisfied in certain areas for example in marble. Very often what up here is a particular kind of severe restriction on the question. To them the restriction namely in relationship to. Unique outcomes that we may not be able to have it. But even if we don't have it there are two things that have to be substituted show what actually is involved in what. How bad is it as a war that we don't. How much are we losing. And secondly. What actually is the structure that we do have and one of the things I find limit limit not too illuminating and some of the people who deny the so called. System or we don't have a complete system of ethics is that they don't really try even to undertake analyze the type of structure we do have. I
want a job. Sam I joked that after class to write an essay on The Following that there is that really there really isn't any real moral conflict because it's either a choice between the good and the bad. And then it's obvious that you do the good or the choice between the bad and the bad. When it's obvious you do neither. The choice between the good and the good the what the different do you think you do is good. Now in a way when occasionally show that very often we will think that in a conflict between two good then we can choose between these two good and he really comes to the conclusion that this sort of thing actually is. Something great is pondering now it may very well be that nothing is prouder of it may be that there's nothing more upsetting than the fact that on our system of non moral preferences we often can't decide except by flipping a coin whether to have mentally flipping a coin and whether or not to choose between.
Once again take an ice cream. I use. I began with ethics simply as an example. But obviously one has to go to case the issue as to whether or not I want to get a metaphysical system or whether one can get a system in a static whether one can get a system unsigned and ultimately a system of politics which is the issue of ideology today. I think a good deal of the history of modern philosophy is an attempt to see whether or not one can undertake and find out who analyze whether or not one could get certain kinds of systems in various areas and it's not systems even isolated propositions that we might consider true or false. At a hastily said whether it's true whether this is a correct way of putting cons point. It's something which. It is not for me to say. That's a part of the audience and I'll ask him to talk about this that one of the ways that people frequently discuss Congar that confirmation point
once again I think this is accurate but at least it's been said on occasion that men actually can only form systems about things that they encounter. That is the content to be sure they may have certain kinds of formal principles but if they try to get this war or even isolated propositions much less whether the positions of the the propositions are systematically interrelated things that they don't want to conquer that is things beyond space and time but let's put it glibly that way the inevitably fail that man actually made have certain kinds of formal principle which they don't derive from experience but actually the formal principle have to have certain kinds of content have to feed on content and to try to get a system of things which are not encountered when actually it will inevitably fail. Great number of people this was a once again a great resume crisis to some
people. Can't was the great destroyer. Now if this is Kant's point. Well if that is Khan's point seems to me quite the debatable because if it means that for any given concept that we have in any science the particular kind of concept must be a concept which had instances among the above that which we've encountered if it's that strong before. I mean just that taken to a well known example in certain esoteric circles various issues about spin and other things in subatomic particle these are not things which are encountered in the things that we ordinarily have but once again let's say for the sake of argument that Cantor a Kantian sort of position is correct then once again this doesn't indicate necessarily that reason with an eclipse is simply a question of the discovery of what actually men can do. And Discovery what we should reasonably look for there's an analogue to a Kantian point which is not really consonant with an
analog to this which I'd like to mention the great number of people who have discovered and the obvious point that a great number of our beliefs. And even our perceptions are to be accounted for in terms of that which we've encountered. And there may be causal factors at work in relationship to our beliefs as to how the world is actually constituted. Given this particular kind of belief a great number of people in this particular kind of evidence then freak will very frequently come for the inclusion that there's a great problem for justification. If if our perceptions about the world could be so socially influenced if people who come from a certain environment see the world that's what and other people come from another environment see the world as way then my God there's a real problem of justification what's right. Now. I merely want to say that if this thesis depends on the fact that
if our beliefs or our perceptions at all then we cannot be in the position of justifying various sentences about that which we perceive then to be a fact that we have eyes or brain should create the difficulty not the fact that we come from social and that why we might be influenced by our parents or by our neighbors because obviously there are causal factors at work. All the way down even on the fact that I see this as a microphone. Well. When I started out this is taking longer than I anticipated. I started out by trying to say that what I'd like to hang on a few moments. I thought I was trying to say that there are three or four kinds of recurring phenomenon that. We all know. And count them. The phenomenon in which either the Very often we can actually always
deal with people in a reasonable way. The fact that reason may be important the fact that very often we might think that not following rule is actually the thing that crucial and for human creativity that very is these these things are very frequently been given as empathy or reason to believe that traditional views of the nature of man and the emphasis on reason are incorrect. You heard Sidney Morgan Besser Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University as he spoke on the topic. The eclipse of reason. This was another program in the series. Peace love and creativity the hope of mankind. On our next program Timothy W. Costello deputy mayor and city administrator of the city of New York will discuss the control of hate and violence. These programs are recorded at the Cooper Union by station WNYC New York. The series
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Peace, love, creativity: Hope of mankind
The eclipse of reason, part two
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)
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Episode Description
This program presents the second part of a lecture by Sidney Morgenbesser, Columbia University.
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: Morgenbesser, Sidney, 1921-2004
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-10-9 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:24:30
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Chicago: “Peace, love, creativity: Hope of mankind; The eclipse of reason, part two,” 1968-02-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed February 24, 2024,
MLA: “Peace, love, creativity: Hope of mankind; The eclipse of reason, part two.” 1968-02-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. February 24, 2024. <>.
APA: Peace, love, creativity: Hope of mankind; The eclipse of reason, part two. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from