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Man and the value of life. WG. University of Cincinnati radio presents International. Discussing the ethical technical and legal issues surrounding the extension of life through advances in medicine. The lectures are from a symposium sponsored by the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine as a part of the university's 100 50th anniversary celebration. Today we present Dr. Jack Carson historian humanist philosopher author and the university professor at Columbia University. He will offer a philosophical perspective of the value of life. The program will be opened by Dr. Charles Gehring U.S. professor of neurology
and program chairman of the man and life symposium. Here now is Dr. airing. The Prophet say that man that is born of woman is of a few days and full of trouble Joe. And the nations are is a drop of the bucket and are counted as a small dust of the balance. That's Isaiah. To relate to an infinite universe where one's place is the tick of eternity's clock requires a bit of doing in the microcosm. Our cultural ambivalences are wondrous strange and reflect the value placed on life. Let us consider for a moment the extremes of infancy and old age old age in infancy revered in the Far East or were varied before the advent of our armies of occupation are carelessly valued by Western society
dominated by industrialism what reverence there is is reversed and awarded to those contributing actively to the gross national product. We do not value children as we should as the primary national product their proper appreciation might garner their appropriate nurture Luther Burbank said. If we paid no more attention to plants than we do to our children we would be living in a jungle of weeds. In the interests of time and startle I cite a chilling illustration of social ambivalence and irresponsibility. The battered child return to the unaltered scene of the crime as happens to frequent. There is a tendency in all of us to remain uninvolved now motherliness is a great force for good. Most any woman can become a mother at some time. Motherly is something else.
Harry Harlow's monkeys illustrate the devastation wrought by the terry cloth or wire mother. What happens to all the bright and attractive children that reservoir of potential originality and happiness. It is the world's one crime its babes grow dull saying Baichung Lindsay it John charge day indicated something of the complexities of the formative process when he wrote among the hopes of this world none shines more promisingly than the eternal resilience with which some children manage to escape into humanity from even the dreariest of parents. If we turn to the other end of the spectrum one of the problems generated by medicine on the march is the increase of the elderly projected as something on the order of one out of every eight persons by one thousand eighty. Their children have little use for
them. Nor does society which decrees their in activity. Those with possessions enough to make their own activity or who have illnesses qualifying them for one or another medical facility are not my immediate concern but rather the vast number who have no place in the present scheme of things. Their main trouble is I know it is isolation loneliness and unproductive idleness unregarded age in corners thrown as the Bard said indicating the existence of the problem for many many generations. A culture that robs the elderly of initiative and subverts the long term good fastens a mortgage a pawn on coming generations furnishing youth with a continuing preview of its fate with the main affliction and lack of activity and an intolerable and appalling tedium invades the soul. This
way lies madness ageing of itself garners respect in the cultures of the East. In ours it gathers opprobrium. Today everybody wants to live a long time but no one wants to be old. Society focuses its attention on the weaknesses rather than the strengths of aging folk who could contribute not only in intellectual fields but also in the craft and the narrowing areas of manners. Grace an IC win imma be dominated by a policy of obsolescence and waste. We have been loath to face the problem which no one of us escapes providing he lives long enough medical progress highlights the process to such despite the somber tone of the prophets. I retain a tinge of optimism derived no doubt from the nature of my work and my own
good health as a procedural method. I appreciate Freud's benevolent skepticism and gave his TED a kiss keps this active doubt the doubt which so loves truth that it neither dares rest in doubting nor extinguish itself by an unjustified belief brought up in a profession dedicated to the relief of illness. It is difficult to convey the satisfaction that derives from this constructive commitment. For him that is joined to all the living there is hope says Ecclesiastes Stevie's the physician need never fear being supernumerary or out of work. He is wanted in circumstances where no one else may be tolerated. His is the stimulating Parag atit of living dangerously in relative safety. He is respected even among those intent on killing one another. The editor of one of the world's great medical publications said of
it the nation's lawyers must execute its laws even when this means the execution of a human being. A nation's soldiers must kill whomsoever their leader commands. But the doctor perhaps because of his religious origins is excused such destruction. Even in war he may be permitted to believe in human brotherhood to treat all men without political or racial or religious distinction. The way is not always easily found. Is it better for example to be declared alive though unable to become aware of one's surroundings. The advantages of dying old can be overestimated. John Chartier has said if the national commitment to life does not provoke some philosophical basis that can guide us. Many of the elderly bereft now of the old man's friend will be flayed unmercifully on the rack of life.
Technology has become such that one of the simplest decisions of my youth that a pronouncing a person dead has been hedged around with all sorts of copy it has said as we are by many knotty problems the useful act of repressing painful or disagreeable ideas feelings and impulses may be overworked. On the other hand the scientist will not metaphore photos into position with diagrams and equations. While the medical profession appears at times to appropriate to itself the sufficiency of the dear old family doctor long since departed. Those willing to connect the future rather than the past with the present look for help. There are no final solutions to the problems that we discuss here. At best we cope a set of rules will not lift the decision from us. All history teaches
that those who would relinquish their moral burdens must also lose their liberty and enhance their very humanity. Here personality must prevail against technique that great physician philosopher Wilford Trotter noted. The more urgent the call for decision or action the more important our character the slowly matured power of judgment and a grasp of fundamental principle and the less trust where they are mere detail knowledge and executive skill. Gave his dying words merrily are appropriate. We also look for the light. I line up with Ray need to boast when he says that the problems of decision created by the dilemmas of modern medicine demand a new kind of socio medical statesmanship involving not only physicians and medical scientists but
also the citizens at large. We need all the help we can marshal from whatever discipline and whatever era to guide us according to that lovely sentiment in the Qur'an where the prophet asks How shall we know when the end of the world has come and is answered. It is when one soul can no longer help another. Thank you thank you. Thank you. Now I like to present the first member of our panel Dr. Carson born in France came to United States the age of 13. He took his higher education at Columbia. Dr. philosophy has been in that faculty ever since he's been professor of history
since 1945. Dean of faculty is in Provost for the decade one thousand fifty eight thousand nine hundred sixty seven. And he's been the University professor since 1967. Perhaps he's best known for his many publications some 15 books in history and criticism. I would like to point to his teacher in America as a continuing inspiration in academe to say nothing of the house of intellect and and science the glorious entertainment the American University which appeared in late 1068 is an accurate depiction of the function of the modern university. It is too good to miss Dr. Barzun. It also has a dozen or so books translations from the French. He is an authority on that greatest of French composers Hector barely Yost's
and his two volume barely owes in the modern century is a joy to a fifth EON not us. I trust you know that the original three B's were Bach Beethoven and barely us. Finally I'm sure he wants no credit for having it as a father in law. One of the great presidents of Harvard University Dr. Barzan whose philosophical perspective will consider the quality of life Jacques Barzun. Thank you. I should try merely a descriptive. Effort designed rather to to set the problem that we have before us. What is the value of life
then anything that could be called philosophical that you could carry away with you as a permanent possession. Now the term life is not exactly what one would call a clear and distinct idea. It is any number of things and people take it differently. Dr. airing in his able presentation seem to me to stress the value of life from the point of view of society. What other people value in the life of X Y or Z child or older person. I think we have to start a little farther back if we are going to have a range of. Perceptions centering in the point. As I take it out of this symposium.
There is a sense in which the question Is life worth living is a entirely personal subjective question. There is a sense in which life is experienced has always been experienced will continue to be experienced by only one person. The living person. We have a vicarious and communicative knowledge that other people are alive. That only one person yourself. Myself anyone knows at first hand what life is and therefore the question Is life worth living which has been asked through the ages. It is a question that begins with the quality that is attached to living by the person who is at the moment living knows what life is as no other person can know it.
This is not an academic question because we have evidence right now on all our campuses in all our periodicals in all the events that characterize this precise moment in the history of the world. We have great evidence that many people are saying My life is not with living. I want to remove myself from the society. I want nothing to do with its business and its institutions. I want to start life again on a new basis. That is the meaning of being a hippie or being a rebel or being a university student in virtually all the universities of the world. And that might be written off as a temporary phase if it weren't that there is a. Profound support. For the views of the young on the part of a great many people who no longer are young but who
seem to echo in their hearts the objections the complaints and the rejection of life. So we have to consider what conditions nowadays make the life of the end of individual intolerable and how oh this that and the other condition detract from what I have called inclusively of the quality of life. Obviously it's no longer sufficient for an individual to be able to say to himself I am a good position I am an able lawyer I deal in real estate better than my colleagues brokerage and the law and medicine are at that level mere rationalizations of the reasons why one wants to live and particularly because one is increasingly aware
that there are hundreds and thousands of other. Lawyers physicians and real estate brokers who. Would serve suppose society would supply its wants. If one were not around so the quality of life must be it must be something immediately felt something not reason about something not going through the indirect pass of usefulness. I know that the whole tendency about talk is the other way. We think that being useful being wanted and all that sort of thing are inherently satisfying. I don't see it in the light of what our new generations are saying. So. Where do we begin. Well we begin with the conditions of modern industrial and democratic society. As we have known it for the better part of a century or a century and a half its characteristics could be broken down into five six or ten subdivisions.
I will only take up a few indicative rather of the things to be looked at then presuming to be any kind of complete survey. The first characteristic I think that we have to note is the vast increase and recent excess in personal contacts with other persons which generate the feeling of anonymity of selfless ness self-less ness absence of self. What has been called alienation but has been diverted from its original meaning by covering all sorts of new troubles on you new perceptions. The individual is alienated from himself. By feeling that he is a unit a cipher and feeling. Furthermore that as
such he has no power of resistance against the environment. That he has manipulated condition pushed around and it is very possible that the present uprising against institutions comes from the feeling that institutions are the agencies of manipulation. The students for example who say that they do not find their curriculum relevant are really complaining that what they're being. Taught is not something for them. But is a process for fitting them into the great organizations that exist outside. Connected with with the excess of impersonal contacts might be mentioned something that few people consider a talk about the breakdown of manners
by which I mean the the obsession with casual innocent in formality which at first one can clearly see were designed to counteract the harshness and and impersonality of industrial life. The anonymity that comes is presumably repaired but being of ready access to other people not stopping for bows and scrapes and immediately using first names. But of course there are diminishing returns to the idea of. Little or no manners because when they become uniform for all they they lose their value of modifying what was failed to be impersonality. And moreover it is soon apparent I mean to the. Unconscious Mind of this and sorrier
rather than to reflection. It is soon apparent. That if anybody has access to do yourself he jumps off bits of it for his own purposes and leaves you with little or nothing. In short the the facade that we used to reprove was a protection for the ego. It was a valuing of the ego and somebody bowed to you when somebody gave you a nudge in the ribs and says Hey Joe give me a cigarette. The ego is is it shattered or doesn't exist it's you're a vending machine suddenly. In other words and I think this is an important thing to be thinking about. Industrial and democratic society has not generated its proper manners. Having the time here to develop a system for you even if I had the ability which I haven't
but I can make one suggestion that under the conditions of at traditional modern life the principle of any new educate should be to be solicitous about avoiding disgusting your neighbors contempt is one of the corrosive from which we suffer. And it is not the contempt of arrogance against modesty or anything of that sort. It's the contempt of indifference the contempt of thinking the other person is an interchangeable part like oneself. Now this whole realm of contacts the ego the self and the others is perhaps the fundamental one in the creation of the quality of life. A second and I won't write them in importance of listening in in my brief sketches. There's no
quantitative meaning a second is what I call the disappearance of the work not busyness not effort not struggling not the rat race or the executive life from which we all suffer but work in the simple sense of tackling a difficulty overcoming this or that unexpected obstacle and seeing the finished product and finding oneself as it were objectified in whatever it may be. A chair that you made with your own hands a an artifact or a work of art a an accomplishment in the abstract realm of human affairs. Everybody nowadays I think speaks of his active
Man and the value of life
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#1 (Reel 1)
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Chicago: “Man and the value of life; #1 (Reel 1),” 1969-04-11, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed December 2, 2021,
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