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How does men differ from everything else on earth. The University of Chicago presents the 1966 Britannica lecture series. The difference of man and the difference it makes. Our guest speaker for the series of five lectures about the position of man in the natural world as Mortimer J Adler director of the Institute for philosophical research. Today's lecture the fourth of the series is titled Man and machine. Mr. Adler ended the last lecture with the conclusion that man does indeed differ in kind from other animals. Today he begins with the question of whether that difference is radical or merely superficial. Mr. Adler Here are the alternatives. Be sure that the perfectly clear on the one hand we have men with unique propositional language and with the unique power of conceptual thought but with his brain the sufficient condition or complete explanation of these unique possessions. And if this is the case then man is only superficially different in kind from other animals.
On the other hand we have exactly the same conditions men with unique propositional language and with the unique power of conceptual thought. But with his brain only a necessary but not the sufficient condition or adequate explanation of these unique possessions to which therefore must be added an immaterial factor. Requisite for the explanation of conceptual thought. And if this is the case then man is radically different in kind from other animals. I turned at once to the philosophical arguments for an immaterial factor. As requisite for the explanation of conceptual thought. The arguments are of Tussauds direct and indirect. The direct arguments to be found mainly in the attitude in tradition first stated by Aristotle in the second third book of the DE anima and later developed by Aquinas in the some occult reason tealeaves book part to the classic indirect
argument used to be found in de caught in the discourse on method pot 5. There may be other arguments for the materiality of the human intellect but except for two except for two one direct argument drawn from the arity in tradition and the indirect argument advanced by Descartes. None can be restated today in a manner that fits the present state of the evidence bearing on the mixed question about the difference of man. Let us consider the direct argument as it is found in Aristotle. And let me say at once that it is much too elaborate and difficult to expound in the detail required to make it intelligible. To do so would require more than the whole time allowed for this lecture. It was the best I can do with the direct argument. It is to appear in my eyes the argument without giving any of the metaphysical reasoning and explanations that make it understandable and persuasive. And you will see why this is not regrettable. The central fact the central fact from which the direct argument
takes its departure is the fact the stablished in the preceding lecture namely that our use of common names to designate things according to the kinds or classes to which they belong presupposes are having universal concepts whereby we know whereby we apprehend or are aware of the universal aspects of the things we are able to talk about. Only some of which things are perceptually present to us when we think about them and talk about. Concentrating on the fact that conceptual thought is markedly different from her sexual thought by virtue of it's enabling us to apprehend things both present and absent in their universal aspects. The argument hinges on one cardinal inside stated positively. The insight is that everything that exists materially exists in matter or through the action of magma.
Exists as an individual. The same point can be stated negatively if anything exists as an actual universal not as an individual. It can only exist in matter. It must exist immaterial if you fully understood this InStyle insight which you I don't believe you can understand without all the elaboration that's involved in the notion of universals and materiality an individual as if but if you did fully understand this insight and vision understanding it if you were persuaded of its truth you would then grasp the nerve of the direct argument which I'm not going to self-publish summarize for you in four propositions. 1. Our concept Allah concepts are that in US whereby we apprehend the universal aspects of the things we think about and talk about too. To perform that cognitive function. Ah concepts must be
actual universals free. But for anything to be an actual universal its mode of existence must be immaterial for all. Hence the existence in Mayor of conceptual thought cannot be adequately explained by the action of a material organ such as his brain but requires the presence and operation of an immaterial fact. The direct argument in short supports the conclusion that the brain may be unnecessary but it cannot be the sufficient condition of man's having the power of conceptual thought. And if it can be shown that any other animal such as the bottlenose dolphin that has the power of propositional speech and therefore the power of conceptual thought the direct argument would lead to the same conclusion about the dolphin and its brain is the necessary but not the sufficient condition of his having the power of conceptual thought.
I do not suppose that this brief statement the direct argument is satisfactory but it may become a little more intelligible if I now state against this argument. Certain objections which can be and have been raised and having stated them attempt to answer them as well. There are three objections. Here is the first objection. It has been conceded in the course of these lectures as a matter of scientific evidence that animals and machines are capable of what has been called perceptual abstraction. For example rats are able to react to individually different triangles as if they all had some characteristic in common that triangular Aarti that is not shared by stimulate having other shapes and some success has been achieved in getting machines to react to different shapes in an apparently discriminating matter. The perception of the machines of that Con. It would just appear that animals and machines are able to apprehend things in their universal aspects that would universal aspect being that which is common to a number of individually differing particular
instances. But unless an immaterial fact it is also to be attributed to subhuman animals into machines. It would seem to follow that an immaterial fact is not necessary for the apprehension of that which is common to a number of individuals. Some universal aspect of them. Hence even if it is granted that we know things in the universal aspects by means of means of concepts it does not follow that our conceptual knowledge requires us to posit an immaterial fact. That's the objection. Here is the Republic. The objection replied at least to the objection turns on preserving the distinction between conceptual thought in man as evidenced by his propositional speech and what has been called perceptual abstraction on the part of animals and machines in the preceding lecture the one just preceding this. I pointed out the error of the psychologists who interpreted the phenomena of perceptual abstraction as grounds for attributing concepts to animals
the same era is made by the computer technologists who treat pattern recognition by machines as a basis for attributing to them something akin to our understanding of things and the universal aspects. The correct interpretation of the phenomena is that given by Professor Heinrich Cleaver the experimental data show that the animal can be trained on the machine can be programmed to discriminate between equivalent and non equivalent stimuli such discrimination. As for example between triangular and non triangular shapes does not show that the animal or the machine understands this individual stimulus as a particular instance of the class of triangular things. Neither the rat nor the machine understands triangular arity as such to understand the individual as a particular instance of a class is possible only
if there is some understanding of the class the universal. As such but it is precisely an understanding of the universal as such that is the work of conceptual thought. Hence if animals had such understanding they would have the power of conceptual thought. And if they had the power of conceptual thought they would also have the power of propositional speech. But as I've already pointed out the lack of propositional speech on the part of animals is good reason for denying them the power of conceptual fought. Therefore animals lacking conceptual thought do not by means of perceptual abstraction apprehend individuals as particular instances of classes or kinds or as having universal aspects. And when they react to a number of individual the different instances of the same shape in the same way their behavior indicates as Pesach Lua points out only the functional equivalence of the stimulus.
The second objection though is follows the clinical data of brain pathology especially brain injuries that are accompanied by disorders of propositional speech and by loss of understanding the inability to cognize the perceived individual as a particular instance of a certain class as very often happens in brain volunteers show the involvement of the brain in the processes of conceptual thought. Just as other brain injuries causing blindness or deafness show the involvement of the brain in perceptual processes. Hence the one like the other is a function of the brain. To that objection here is the reply must be put up. Well just as to the history of the manna that Aquinas in the 13th century Aquinas who argues for the immateriality of conceptual thought mentions the interference with conceptual thought that results from brain
injuries as well as the interference that results from the effect of toxic substances and fatigue poisons on the action of the brain. That is not new knowledge. He saw no inconsistency between admitting the involvement of the brain in conceptual thought and asserting the immateriality of conceptual fog for all that the evidence is from brain pathology show fault. All that the evidence is from brain pathology show is that the brain is a necessary condition of conceptual thought. You injure the brain and you remove the necessary condition remove a necessary condition and you remove the result. But it all day and all of that and not at the brain is the sufficient condition of conceptual thought. One does not have to deny that it is a necessary condition. You can affirm that it's a necessary condition and still deny that it is the sufficient condition. The era of the object of this of the second objection consists in treating conceptual thought and perceptual processes as alike in being functions of the brain.
In treating visual blindness loss of sight as if it were the same as conceptual blindness or agnosia loss of understanding of things proceed to treat them as the same is to ignore the argument for the immateriality of conceptual thought as contrasted with the materiality of perceptual processes. The objection hardly invalidates an argument that it ignores in the light of that argument. The objection to Miss is to reaffirm the distinction between perceptual and conceptual processes in the brain is the the brain is the sufficient condition of the pharma but only a necessary and not the sufficient not the sufficient condition of the lab. I come to the third objection. It runs as follows. The human infant is not born with the power of propositional speech. He acquires that power and develops it in the cause of maturation. The infants first use of names are designated as and his first utterance of sentences does not occur until with growth his brain reaches a certain magnitude.
Hence it would appear that there is a critical threshold in the continuum of brain magnitudes above which the human being has and below which he lacks the power of propositional speech. But the presence of propositional speech is evidence of conceptual thought and so it can be argued that the power of conceptual thought depends as the power of propositional speech depends on a certain magnitude of the brain. The answer to this objection like the answer to the preceding one can see is that conceptual thought depends on the brain. In this case on its having a certain magnitude but this does not require us to agree that such dependence makes the brain or a certain magnitude of it anything more than a necessary condition of conceptual thought. The argument for the immateriality of conceptual thought. The whole point of which is to show that the brain may be the necessary but cannot be the sufficient condition remains untouched by the objection. This is the way that argument would sound to go on. Now I'm going to turn
once to the indirect argument for the immateriality of conceptual fog and for those who have little taste or aptitude for metaphysical reasoning the indirect argument that I'm now about to state should suffice. Based on a famous passage and they caught the argument as he has stated it is indirect in the sense that it sets up a specific test whereby the opponent the opponent can falsify the conclusion of the direct argument that conceptual thought involves an immaterial fact unlike the direct argument that we've just been through quickly. It does not solve the indirect argument offers no positive reasons for asserting the immateriality of conceptual thought. Instead it challenges the opponent of that proposition to give positive evidence of its falsity and prescribe the foam at the positive evidence must take if it is to exert a falsifying effect. In the present state of the mix question about how man differs and
in the era of the character of the scientific evidence on the question that now exists on the evidence that now exists on this question together with the scientific evidence that is promised in the immediate future I regard the indirect argument as the primary one to two reasons. First it is a mediately intelligible to scientists concerned with this question as the direct argument is not likely to be. It speaks to them in their own terms and challenges them in a way that they regard themselves able to make. The second reason is that philosophers of a materialist persuasion who are concerned with the question about man's difference on not likely to be persuaded by the direct argument. Nor is there much chance of that taking it seriously unless scientists fail again and again and again to meet the challenge set forth by the indirect argument. Should that happen. That might be a changed climate in which this discussion would go on. That being the case I just said these two reasons I'm going to rely primarily on the indirect argument.
I'm going to appeal to the direct argument only it's and I would appeal to the direct argument only at such times as scientists and materialist philosophers are prepared to admit that the challenge of the indirect argument has not been met. After repeated attempts to do so. They caught asserts that it is quite possible for a machine or atomic timed perfectly to simulate the behavior of subhuman animals of the highest order such as the primates. Precisely because in his view All animals except man lack the power of conceptual thought which in that Codd's vocabulary is called reason. I quote this in the quote carefully. If they had been machines possessing the organs an outward form of a monkey or some other animal without reason we should not have had any means of ascertaining that they were not of the same nature as those animals.
But according to the cot it is impossible for a machine or a Tom Aton perfectly to assimilate the behavior of man. He gives two reasons for this. One of which is the impossibility of a mechanical simulation of propositional speech human propositional speech. The other reason I'm going to ignore is not adding anything to the first. Let me quote the language of a cop he said. If there were machines which bore resemblance to our body and imitated our actions so far as was morally or practically possible to do so we should always have to vary certain tests by which to recognize. For all that that they were not real men. And so that is the first test I'm going to rule in our culture. The first is that they could never use speech or other signs as we do when placing our thought on record for the benefit of others for we can easily understand the machines being constituted so they can utter words and even a mid-summer emit some responses to action on it of a cup Auriol kind
which brings about a change in its organs. For instance if it is touched to the particular part it may ask what we wish to say to it. If another part of it makes a claim that is being heard and so on. But it could never happen that it would arrange speech in various ways in order to reply appropriately to everything that may be said in its presence even as the lowest type of man can do to which Descartes adds. I quote. We ought not to count confound speech with natural movements with the trite betray passions and may be imitated by machines as well as manifested by animals. Now the underlying reason why Descartes thinks that no machine will ever be made that can engage in human conversation. Exhibiting that by its power of conceptual thought is the same reason that he thinks that no animal except man has propositional speech namely this is his reason this is not that he has a reason behind his challenge. Let me state that for you and the presence in
Man of an immaterial factor that is absent from both machines and other animals. According to De Kock you know the Rays Kaga tans or thinking being is the very opposite of the race extents of material being and the power of conceptual thought involves immaterial B. By the same criterion they caught rights. We may also recognise the difference that exists between men and brutes. For it is a very remarkable fact that none of us how depraved or stupid without even accepting idiots that they can arrange different words together forming of them a statement which they can make known their thoughts. Why don't they have a hand there is no other animal however perfect and fortunate and fortune that and how fortunate the circumstances may be which can do the same. I go on with the quote. This does not merely show that the brutes have less reason than man but that they have none at all since it is clear that very little is required in order to be able to talk.
This power of reason a lot is the same conceptual thought which men have and other animals lack. They caught ads is something as my final quotation I can not in any way something which cannot in any way be derived from the power of Matt. There's the the indirect argument and his background and I will now state the nub of the indirect argument in a form that I'm going to call the Katif challenge and that Cartesian challenge has three prongs. The first problem is a challenge that to the neurologist to give an explanation of conceptual thought in terms of brain action. The second problem is the challenge of the to the zoologist to discover an animal with whom we can engage in conversation by finding means of translation between the animal's language and ours. The third prong is a challenge to the technologist to produce a machine
that can engage in conversation with man using as a means therefore not compute the talk but an ordinary common language such as English. Let me take up first the first prong of the Cartesian challenge. The challenge to the neurologists. No neurologist claims in the present state of his science that he can give a neurological explanation of conceptual thought that has the support of decisive experimental or clinical data leading or ologists are quite frank and explicit in the confession of their ignorance of the brain's action in the performance of the simple act of memory when it comes to conceptual thought which is much more complex than memory. They are even less reluctant to acknowledge their inability at present to give a neurological explanation of it festa Lashley of as at this university for many years for example who's been especially attentive to the problems raised for
the neurologist by the by the serial order the mental set and the conceptual abstractions involved in human speech does not advance even a tentative hypothesis about the underlying brain action. In addition as a lash like makes a point of insisting at the mechanics of machine language or computer talk gives us no hint about the neurological mechanisms involved in propositional speech and conceptual thought. That's a Nielsen Toronto orbicular I think who has devoted himself to the clinical study of aphasia and that Dozier declares that there is no clinical or experimental evidence of a brain center for conceptual thought among or ologists the most speculated of his lord Russell brain. One of those things is one of those things that The New Yorker should take note of. Who has proposed some conjectures about how our cerebral cortex may operate when we understand the meaning of words and when we think
conceptually using words but even he asks. I quote Is it likely that physiology will ever throw any real light upon the relationship between the brain and the mind. His answer is as follows. I quote I believe as Lord brain that working in conjunction with psychology it will. I can only guess where present advances seem to be leading us. My guess is that the nervous system we are looking at the threads while in with the mind we perceive the patterns and that one day we may discover how the patterns are made out of the threads. Let us adopt lard brains hope one that is naturally shared by lastly Abhi of McCullough and others concerned with the neurology of propositional speech and conceptual thought. Let us suppose that future advances in neurology both on the side of theory and on the side of Experimental of clinical evidence will provide us with much more knowledge than we now possess of how our brain works when we
engage in conceptual thought and exercise our power of propositional speech. The question still remains. Will it ever be possible to show by experimental or clinical neurology at the working of the brain. Granted that we understand how it works as well as that can be understood. It is more than a necessary condition of conceptual thought. The answer must be no and affirmative answer would beg the question that is. Mission It would assume the correctness of the materialist thesis that conceptual thought can be identified with brain action. I'm not saying that's falls. I'm only saying what was distinguished between assuming it. And establishing it and philosophy such as Wilford sellers may hold that there is no barrier in principle to the identify identification of conceptual thinking with neural neurophysiological process as the sellers acknowledges in an opposite philosophical view is held by Descartes and others he says. As for conceptual thinking they caught
that only refuses to identify it with neurophysiological processes. But it is not those that see this as a live option. His further comment is that for de Kock no complex neurophysiological process could be sufficiently analogous to conceptual thinking to be a serious candidate for being what conceptual thinking really is to it. Francis L. adds that recent developments in neurophysiology and naval philosophers not neurology has enable philosophers today to see how conceptual thinking 10 can be identified with neurophysiological process. Professor sellers here ignores the possibility of there being positive reasons for maintaining the conceptual thought cannot be identified with neurophysiological processes because they involve an immaterial factor and therefore irreducible due to brain processes. We are that we are therefore left with a genuine philosophical issue. The other side of which I'm taking a genuine
philosophical issue between those who assert and those who deny the immateriality of conceptual thought. Those who assert and those who deny the possibility of identifying conceptual thought with neurophysiological processes. The only point that need be made here is that this philosophical issue cannot be decisively resolved by advances in neurology precisely because neurology by itself cannot show that the brain is the sufficient not just a necessary condition of conceptual thought. Let me take the second problem. The challenge to the sociologists the neurologists leave us with one question to which which we must turn to the zoologists for an answer. Whatever knowledge we may now have of how the brain works when we engage in conceptual thought and propositional speech we still have to ask what difference between the human brain and the brains of other animals explains their lack
of propositional speech and conceptual thought. The answer now universally given to this question is the brains of the highest mammals are of such magnitude in size and complexity that with one possible exception they all fall below a critical threshold in the quantitative continuum above which propositional speech occurs as in the case of man and below which it does not as in the case of other primates The one exception mention above the mentioned moment ago is the bottlenose dolphin and a number of zoologists among them preeminently. Dr. John S. LEVY think that the relative brain weight of a dolphin the relative not absolute because the absolute brain weight of the whale or of the elephant is many times the absolute brain weight of man is the relative the ratio of brain weight to body weight. The relative brain weight of a dolphin is so close to the ratio between the brain and body
weight of man that it should be possible to communicate with the dolphins by establishing some two way translation between human and dolphin language.
Mortimer Adler lectures
Man and machine, 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 presents the first part of Mortimer Adler's lecture, "Man and Machine."
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Series of five lectures by Dr. Mortimer J. Adler, Director of the Institute for Philosophic Research in Chicago. Title of lecture series: "The Difference of Man and the Difference It Makes."
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Producing Organization: University of Chicago
Speaker: Julin, Joseph R.
Writer: Adler, Mortimer Jerome, 1902-2001.
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 66-33-4 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:35
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Chicago: “Mortimer Adler lectures; Man and machine, part 1,” 1966-08-18, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 29, 2023,
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