thumbnail of The Institute on Man and Science; A Cosmopolitan Morality
Transcript
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
National Educational radio in cooperation with the Institute on man and science presents a series of talks drawn from the institute's annual conference held recently in Rensselaer Ville New York. The Institute on man and science is a nonprofit educational institution chartered by the New York State Board of Regents. The annual assembly of the institute is designed to focus attention on 20th century technology and human relationships resulting from its application. The speaker for this program is W. Warren wager professor of history at the University of New Mexico. Professor wagers topic is a cosmopolitan morality. Here now is Professor wager in my first lecture I attempted to introduce to you largely in its historical perspective the vision of a city of men. And I said it was a vision not a reality
or an extra Ribble necessity but a vision which may well be unattainable but which we can realize in history only by consciously choosing to create it and by deliberately pledging our first loyalty our highest loyalty to it. We do not have the time even if it were possible to depend on the slow course of historical evolution. We don't have the time to wait for the world civilization to come in its own good time. And nothing guarantees that it would come anyway even under the most favorable of circumstances. And I also said that the city of man is fundamentally a moral idea. The fact that the cosmopolitan value systems that we talked about yesterday appeared at certain strategic times in the past and the fact that they helped lead
to the formation of past universal States is no guarantee that the cycle will repeat itself in our own time. So we're speaking not of historical necessity but of historical opportunity which depends for its realisation on our moral options here and now. Nor do the specific values and institutions of any of these past civilizations give us more than the most general guidance as we look forward to the kind of universal society that we want in many ways I think the city of man will certainly be very different from anything the world has seen before in part because of the fact that the world has never seen anything like our modern science and technology before. And this reminds me that we have here and instituted
on man and science. We have a humanities faculty and a science faculty. I think this is an excellent strategy. It's quite clear that science shapes the conditions of our life and even of our thought. And he who would seek to understand the modern world and the possibilities open to mankind in the future must have at least some familiarity with the achievements and methods of modern science. But nothing annoys me quite so much as the man of science or the engineer who thinks that he is a guardian angel or who thinks that increasing knowledge and improving technique will in and of themselves bring us to this or that promised land. In recent decades this sort of notion has found its
most articulate relievers right here in the United States. I'm happy to see that my colleague Dr. McLaren is certainly not a believer in this notion. Quite to the contrary and I agree with him. Almost entirely in the things that he said this morning but this belief does exist if it exists. For example in B.F. Skinner Zz psycho Craddick utopia Walden too. Where behavioral engineers determine what men want and then fashion a society that gives it to them automatically. And you find it also in Kenneth Boulding was otherwise excellent book The Meaning of the twentieth century where he proposes that all we need to rescue us from our plight is knowledge. The truth about human nature and the techniques for
ensuring economic growth and conflict resolution ideologies he says are obsolete. To paraphrase Sergeant Friday on the dragnet show just give us the facts. And to this and bolding has launched a center for the scientific study of Conflict Resolution at Ann Arbor which reminds me of the sociologist of Peter in Soroka Center for the Study of altruistic integration at Harvard and justice Soroka wanted to learn how to produce love power scientifically. He reasoned that love was a good thing and and it was produced by human beings therefore we could scientifically work out techniques for producing it and then we could we could crank it out you see on a mass production basis. And so in the same way bolding thinks that we can figure out how to resolve human conflicts
scientifically. We can manage conflict in a lecture that he gave in Albuquerque in 1066. He told us that mankind had learned how to prevent depressions through Keynesian economic engineering. He is an economist. Now all we need to do said bolding is to learn how to prevent wars through behavioral engineering. And our country I'm afraid is full of brilliant jovial physicists and biologists and psychologists and sociologists and economists and whatnot who think very much along the same lines. Some rejoice in our developing power to control heredity and others point to the growing capacity that we have to influence behavior and temperament through drug use and others are busy building models of conflict resolution systems and arms
control systems and world government and many more things and still others are concerned with the wonders of the computer as a device for expanding public knowledge and public control of crime delinquency poverty and all the rest. The director of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton has been a prime mover in the push for a federal data center and like Boulding He's an economist. Now most of these brilliant scientific minds have they happened to have values which on the whole do harmonize with the values of the prophets of the city of man that I talked about yesterday. But they like to pretend that values don't really matter or the values arise at least in part out of dispassionate scientific research or the values will somehow take care of themselves. And I think this is extremely dangerous reasoning or non reasoning.
We have seen for every use made of science and technology for the enlargement of the human community and for the enrichment of human life. We have seen other uses made of science and technology for destruction for dehumanization for regimentation and for the service of the sovereign nation state and since the sovereign nation state holds the purse strings. I suspect that research is more often directed to negative in than to positive. But what really is a negative or a positive and who decides what is good. Would Walden to be some kind of hideous brave new world. Or would it be a genuine Utopia as its adherents claim for it. Are automobiles and freeways supersonic jet planes TVs set skyscrapers moon rockets computers teaching
machines data centers soft drinks tranquilizers birth control pills cigarettes newspapers medical schools tape recorders advertising agencies these are all triumphs of Modern Science and Technology Organisation. Are they good or are they bad. And what about electronic bugs and laser beams and nuclear bombs and atomic powered missile bearing submarines and spy satellites and bacteriological weaponry. What about truth systems. Truth serums I should say and lie detectors and mood elevators and LSD. What about surgery on embryos to eliminate this or that so-called defect. And when will we be in a position to move from heart transplants to brain transplants. What about Dr Frankenstein and Rossum as
Universal Robots and Brave New World. To be absolutely candid I would no sooner intrust my fate or the fate of humanity to a scientist or an engineer or a psychiatrist. Then I would intrust it to a businessman or a politician or even a professor of history. All these pundits speak of progress but progress toward what they speak of life adjustment but adjustment to walk for walk. The point is that the the big problems of our time and of any time are essentially moral problems. As always in history the question is Where do we want to go. What as individuals and as a society are our goals our values our purposes
to leave them undefined is to run the risk of being caught up in a fascination with me rather than NS. I'm sure that the sort of thing that happened so graphically and grotesquely to the scientific medical technical and academic communities in Nazi Germany can happen here or anywhere and to some extent it is happening already. Let's see how far we can move this morning toward outlining a cosmopolitan morality a morality for the city of man. This is a set of personal suggestions. It's not. In any sense an expression of the consensus of the
prophets that I studied in the book The City of man. It is a personal suggestion but I think everyone who has suggestions to make should be making them here and now. And I think we must not be afraid to challenge conventional ideas of the good. Nor must we be afraid of borrowing liberally from the great ethical thinkers of the past. It's unlikely that any of them can give us a system of law of morality that is adequate to the needs of a post 20th century world civilization. It would be equally surprising if these teachers of past centuries had nothing to offer us. Well there are in general two lines of argument for a world civilization. The first is utilitarian. And the second is moral and spiritual.
But I think the first line of argument is really subordinate to the second and is incorporated in the second. A world civilization would be useful that is utilitarian because it served certain ends and the ends can well be those indicated in the second line of argument. A World War for example would be bad for the existing nation states but it would also be bad for mankind conceived as a moral and spiritual entity to save humanity from World War is to preserve it so that it can pursue the highest aims of which it is capable. So if you argue that a world war is bad because it would not be useful for the existing structure of power this is true. But that World War also violates the ultimate objectives of mankind. And this raises the question which I probably should have raised long
ago. And this is what is the ultimate good. We have to we have to deal with with these ultimate questions from time to time what is the ultimate good and combining the religious and philosophical insights of our cultural heritage. I think one way that we might express our feelings and concern about the highest good is to argue that the highest good is the service of being. We affirm that being is good. That existence is good that the highest good is to serve. This includes the conservation of being. It includes the fulfillment of being and it includes the being of being a being has at least three dimensions which might be compared to the route to the stem
and to the flower of a plant. It's first it's prior dimension is what I would call the cosmos in the Greek sense of the universal order the world order of spirit and matter or God and nature or what Julian Huxley terms the evolving world stuff or to make the the Ground of Being that out of which we exist which includes US in its order or its design for being. From our perspective as human beings however this ultimate reality is like the root of a plant and all its activity culminates from our perspective in the sending up of the common stamp of humanity and humanity. The Cosmos becomes capable of speech of intellection of judgement of culture but humanity in its turn has its culmination in the emergence of the many flowers of
the psychically and physically differentiated persons. The person is not prior to humanity without humanity the individual human organism would be of course nothing but a but a mindless animal and it was only after thousands of years of societal evolution that the individual became in any real sense a person. Until recently the majority of individuals were still condemned to live out their lives without anything like a full maturation of their personality. They are still so condemned in parts of of Africa and Asia and Latin America and even parts of Europe and North America. The person is the individual who has become a free moral agent who is self determined who belongs to humanity but who chooses from
his cultural heritage back which he will believe and how he will live. Arriving at his own formula for living based on but not dictated by the common life to which he belongs. I'm not at all convinced that we had an adequate definition or understanding of personhood until the Enlightenment. Although I'm sure many admirers of earlier traditions will wish to dispute this. Even the Enlightenment had to be supplemented by the further insights of the romantic movement of psychoanalysis and existentialism. Now it's very difficult to strike a balance between the competing claims of Cosmos humanity and personality. But since all moral decisions must necessarily be taken by and for persons I think I should begin there.
When I say that the highest good is to serve being I am not thinking of a man living his life for God or sacrificing himself on the altar of humanity. The person is himself being just as the as the stem and the root belong to a common system of reality when he serves himself he serves yet at the same time his organic ties to humanity and to the cosmos. Limit and condition the way in which he may well serve himself. Well if the highest good is to serve being then to the next highest goods through which being can be served which are instrumental to the service of being OUR it seems to me love on the one hand and freedom on the other hand.
Each of these secondary goods should be seen in its relationship to the inner life and conduct of the person not first love. This I think is the proper attitude of the person as he faces outward toward the world of which he himself is an organic part. If he desires to serve being he will be unable to disguise from himself his filial relationship to humanity and the filial relationship of humanity to the cosmos. Piety the respect one has for one's parents will incline him to love mankind and to love the cosmos whether he calls it nature or God or being itself or the doll or heaven or the absolute suchness or Brahman aka money. Fraternity will incline him the respect and love we bear
our brothers will incline him to love his fellow persons. Whether or not they have been able to rise to full personhood and the same basic reverence for being which calls into the love of his brothers of humanity and of the cosmos will call him to the love of himself how he will choose to distribute his love to spend his love energy is of course his decision and one that would take a long time to to discuss fully. But for our overarching theme of a unified world civilization I think one obvious general rule will always ideally apply and that is that the love of mankind as a moral and spiritual unity must take precedence over the love of any specific historical or political community within the larger body of mankind. As soon as we invest our truest and deepest and first love in any one particular
segmental human community we thereby automatically risk excluding from our love and loyalty. The greater part of humanity the greater part of self conscious being. When we imagine that we have to choose between rival communities and we choose as an absolute decision the one to which we happen to belong or where we happen to live. We indulge really in fratricide the crime of Cain and we defy being. Now I'm going to star in and I know as well as as anyone that the brutal fact that such fratricide played an often constructive role in the evolution of human society and human civilizations. It may have been a poor way of doing things but a fratricide falls into the same category as the denial of personhood to slaves and serfs in the economies of the ancient and medieval worlds. It's the category of a
necessary historical evil Khant to whom I referred yesterday. I understood this quite well and so did Marx in his discussion of historical class warfare and exploitation. He deplored it but he realized that it was all necessary in the economy of history. Man evolved from animal into man from automatic being into free moral agent. Only by fits and starts by dialectical leaps forward and backward. Not everything is possible. Two men all at once and some must suffer or fail that others may prosper and live. But we are also capable of diminishing historical evil. This is a modern discovery which I think owes nothing to pagan antiquity and very little to Christian tradition. We have found ways and means of liberating the majority of human
individuals from their anonymity and giving them the possibility of personhood. Our technology and the equalitarian ideals of the Enlightenment and the goals of modern democratic politics all work to this end. This is progress by our definition of the good being is better served when more persons are permitted to fulfill more of their potentialities for mankind in turn. Must also love and reverence the cosmos the reckless exploitation of nature practiced by modern western man is a kind of cosmic impiety that will lead to our rapid extinction even if we do succeed in eliminating fratricide. This exploitation has made possible a higher order of life for millions. But it would be better I think to delay our progress in this direction if necessary.
If in unduly accelerating progress we destroy the very basis of our existence on earth. We are well on our way very well on our way to setting up an ecological situation in which war will once again be the only alternative to starvation in which we shall be back to the state of nature that prevailed before the rise of our civilizations. A world of struggle for the very means of Bear's subsistence. And out of respect for being and for the source of our life we must not only of course practice restraint in the use of the earth's goods we must also practice restraint in human reproduction. He reverences the quality of life will not seek to fill the planet with unlimited progeny and institutions like the Roman Church which fail to adjust their moral perspectives to the modern dilemma of human overproduction are guilty of cosmic
impiety. And after Love comes freedom which I see as the basic attitude of humanity towards the person and of persons toward each other. The most essential condition of personhood is freedom. But man who must is the man who is not. In this respect a person but rather a thing for whom there is no choice. No self no autonomy or responsibility. Civilization has made enormous progress in extending the boundaries of personal freedom. And there is more progress to be made especially as regards those classes races and nations still excluded from the opportunity won by the majority in modern western civilization. Freedom makes love possible without freedom there is no free moral agent who can choose to love or to serve. Being are hippies I think are entirely
justified in standing out from all those forces in modern bureaucratic industrial society that tend to reconstruct the mindless conformity of ancient servitude in the new pattern of robot conformity to the insipid mores of the organisation man. Of course it's it's easier to propound general principles than to apply them in concrete situations. And I'm well aware that every situation requires its own ethical decision. But I think we also need generally accepted moral rules of thumb to guide us in our choices and to give the emergent world civilization at least a measure of spiritual unity and a sense of common. Moral purpose. And in my last lecture I shall go on from here to consider two more problems how the great living cultures of
Series
The Institute on Man and Science
Episode
A Cosmopolitan Morality
Producing Organization
Institute on Man and Science
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
AAPB ID
cpb-aacip/500-k35mf42b
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-k35mf42b).
Description
For series info, see Item 3566. This prog.: A Cosmopolitan Morality. W. Warren Wager.
Date
1968-11-14
Topics
Philosophy
Media type
Sound
Duration
00:29:04
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Credits
Producing Organization: Institute on Man and Science
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-33-10 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:28:50
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Citations
Chicago: “The Institute on Man and Science; A Cosmopolitan Morality,” 1968-11-14, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed September 21, 2021, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-k35mf42b.
MLA: “The Institute on Man and Science; A Cosmopolitan Morality.” 1968-11-14. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. September 21, 2021. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-k35mf42b>.
APA: The Institute on Man and Science; A Cosmopolitan Morality. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-k35mf42b