What a piece of work is a man; Contemporary picture, part 2
I've been worked along for a few hundred yards in silence stated the number of seconds he had to leave. His father took a new number took out a pencil and paper made a very elaborate calculations about 20 minutes and came out triumphantly and said Your answer is out by a hundred seventy two thousand eight hundred seconds whereupon Bin said you have forgotten the two leap years of 18 20 and 18 pretty. Sure. Please collapse. Where I grew up to be quite capable a mathematician. I mean this is a very interesting thing some boys who grew up to be men of genius one is out and the other is Gauss. One or two others have grown up to be remarkable mathematicians have lost their calculating faculties but have grown up to be and have been quite intelligent
about the average. Perhaps the most extraordinary thing is that quite a number of them have been far below the average in intelligence. The most extraordinary case of them all was a German in the middle 19th century called does it. She was really completely half witted he was an equal to the day of his death. To understand the first book of Euclid. But he had this unbelievable capacity for doing so all his life for about 40 years he was paid a small pension by the Prussian government to find the factors of numbers between seven millions and millions which he did with the greatest of ease. I do think presents one of the strangest mysteries anywhere on earth is this
fantastic capacity come from. It seems quite inexplicable that some people should have built into their brains this this enormous power of arithmetical calculation which they don't they don't know how they do it. In many cases many of them have been asked How do you do it. Some of them have some ideas of how they do it but some of them simply don't know. They just say I get. That there is some kind of not sitting down in the basement which performs these calculations and presents the result to their conscious self and the conscious self may be a complete idiot. We just have to hold up our hands with complete incomprehension.
So much for the negative and the positive unconscious Now let us consider what may be regarded as the deepest of all levels of the unconscious namely the body. After all we all go about with a body and it profoundly influences personal life. We know remarkably little about most of its functioning. For example I give the order. I want to raise my arm. This is a very simple order and the duty goes. But how on earth does it go up. We had no idea we can give this general order but there is some kind of physiological intelligence within the body which mobilizes the resources of the body to carry this out. And are we now and this is being analyzed and we see that this process is of immense complexity.
It has to be a coordination of some muscles and below the level of the massive level there is of course the the cellular level and the subzero level. There's an enormous organization of electrical impulses and chemical exchanges and changes going on. None of which none of which do we as personal conscious egos have the slightest awareness. And nor does it as far as we know does any part of that. Unconscious with which we ever come into contact. I really don't have the slightest awareness of this or that this kind of physiological intelligence works within us in ways which of which we are perfectly ignorant to Tedy and philosophers of the Middle Ages in the science used to call this
this physiological intelligence which runs the body used to call it by the name of the two aspects of the soul the putative and the and the sensitive or animals. These are quite useful terms. We mustn't of course take them too seriously. They are merely useful as names of processes but by no means the names of functional entities I sometimes use the digital so as a kind of shortcut of describing certain things which happen within the body. The interesting thing is that these kind of physiological intelligence has two aspects. There is what may be called the biological intelligence
sort of generalized specific intelligence which runs our heartbeat target gestation which is when we hurt ourselves which mobilizes the resources the body against disease and so on. And there is also a kind of ad hoc physiological intelligence which mobilizes resources of the body but to perform specific actions. Some of these actions appear to have no kind of evolutionary precedent. And some of them even seem to have no kind of utility. Very strange. Q In your example of what physiological intelligence of a quite literally animal can do is provided by the parrot when it imitates something that is trying to analyze what happens when a parrot imitates a human voice seeing something. Presumably the parrot
consciously hears the human voice repeating this phrase whatever it may be. And after hearing it some time and this evidently penetrates into its mind such as it has and then something inside the palate gets to work and proceeds to organize the noisemaking operators which in the bird is really really different from the human noise operators in the noise making operators we have the soft palate they have a tunnel quite different shape they have a beak they have no soft palate they have no teeth and yet the imitation that a parrot can give is sometimes so good to dogs will be deceived by the by the bird calling out until you think it's their master's voice. And even occasionally I think human beings can even be deceived by the parrots words and think this is another human being speak. This is really a
most extraordinary when you try to seem to analyze this I mean that you see there is something in the palate or some kind of physiological intelligence performing an ad hoc Act which has no evolutionary precedent and no biological value as far as I can see it all performing it in a way. Inconceivably more difficult than anything that the conscious parent can do. A part of the parents mind is this unconscious physiological intelligence infinitely bright and the conscious mind in human beings. Certain analogies to this I mean for example the again question of imitation the very tiny infant will imitate the smiles of somebody who bends over the crib and smiles again here is something the infant which
arranges the most elaborate display of muscles to produce a play of muscles to produce this smiling and we have examples which are did it it is strange I mean some of you may have read of a curious book which came out or I suppose about five or six years ago by a German psychologist called Harry Gale who spent some time in Japan. Studied the art of archery. There's a special art of Zin archery in Japan he's book is called Zen and the art of archery. And this is a particularly interesting book because one sees that the whole technique of this art consists precisely in the ego getting out of it the way that
when the ego interferes it just messes everything up. I mean actually do make a small digression here. It's quite obvious that the what may be called defusing a logical intelligence of the body is almost infallible so long as it's not interfered with by the ego or by the personal unconscious the moment some kind of personal anxiety or subconscious anxiety or some other. Subconscious distressing emotion comes into play then we're liable to get psychosomatic disorders that all that the ego can do in relation to the these physiological intelligences used to mess them up to prevent them functioning properly. Yeah in this curious Art of archery what is taught is simply a kind of well organized passivity of stepping aside of the personal self and
permitting this physiological intelligence to do a specific ad hoc Act which is firing the bow and the bow is inspired with the most incredible accuracy. Here you go describes this whole process extremely interesting as showing that like the parrot we have something within us which is in a certain sense much more intelligent than we are. Again one of these extremely mysterious things that we should carry around with us this this kind of extravagantly well developed intelligence which it can do not merely the daily miracles of keeping the body balanced and functioning but also these strange ad hoc feats which as I say don't
seem to have any kind of evolutionary precedent in which it just performs because it's able to perform them. But now let's briefly consider another aspect of of the body. The word here of course the body is a very unsatisfactory word because in point of fact there are actually on this planet at the moment I forget about 2.9 billion bodies. And the interesting thing about human bodies is that they're sufficiently alike to one another for them all to be recognized as human but they are also sufficiently unlike one another for each other and be recognized as belonging to a unique individual. In general I think biologists tell us that variability tends to increase in species according to their
position in the evolutionary hierarchy that the higher you go up the evolutionary ladder the greater the degree of variability in the highest degree of variability in any species is found in man that there is this enormous enormous ability between individuals and this of course is extraordinarily embarrassing for the people who want to develop a satisfactory science of man because after all science says we in the ordinary natural sciences is in the words of a meta Madison the great French philosopher of science and science is the reduction of diversity to unity the the finding of a kind of generalized idea which covers the behavior of all the members of a class. But we're human beings. The difference is just as important as the resemblance. So that really satisfactory the science of man will root not only
the development of. General Laws of behavior but also some way of talking about individual differences between individuals between the special differences between individuals and the way in which the general laws of behavior are applied in specific cases. Plenty of recent work exists which shows that which stresses the importance of these differences. I was thinking of the remarkable work done at the University of Texas by Professor Roger Williams whose book biochemical individuality points out the biochemical level we are even more different than we are from one another in the shape of our faces and bodies that these profound differences in his other books he's pointed out a
striking anatomical differences in the structure of different organs in the structure of the nervous system and so on which indicate quite clearly that this immense variability exists in human beings and that it is no wonder that we think there is so much misunderstanding between people in the world I mean the fact that we are so very unlike one another. Occurrence of course for the extraordinary difficulties we have in getting right and wrong with one another and also I think is one of the good reasons why we should be tolerant and have some kind of democratic form of government which permits a certain degree of free choice. I mean if everybody were like some dictator at the top could perfectly legitimately dictate what was good for all of us because what was good for him would be good for everybody else. But as we are
profoundly different from one another then some kind of regime in which there is a certain freedom of choice is clearly more biologically sensible than a dictatorship I think this is a is an important fact to remember. Now we come from the from the. Biochemical dissimilarities to the morphological differences. And here I would recommend you to examine an extraordinary book which came out well three or four years ago w a children's Atlas of men. And this is a volume of several thousand photographs showing the entire spectrum of human variability Sheldon has worked on a kind of system that the differences between men and this. This sets forth the evidence of his theories and we see here this extraordinary display of different types of creatures I
mean it's almost unbelievable that people are as different from one another as the people of these three polar extremes of possible variability. As incredible as they should belong to the same species Incidentally I'm sorry to say that when I looked at this book one is struck by the curious ugliness of the human species. I look forward with part of it to the publication of its companion volume which will be the Atlas of women. I think. It'll probably be a book of such an extraordinarily empty aphrodesiac nature that will never be put into the hands of a young man. Again. As I say that in the most pictorial form indicates the extraordinary range of
variability between individuals. Quite an interesting point here I would like to make very briefly is that if you look back over periods of history you can see that certain types of music and temperament which undoubtedly to some extent is conditioned by physics. For example I mean no novelist in his senses would put the character of Falstaff into the body of Cassius character Pickwick into the body of your heap. There is a certain relationship between the U.S. can the temperament. And as I say that I think in every period of history there is one or two types of fizzy can temperament which are fashionable and which seem to be particularly useful in that period and those who happen to be born not belonging to that type of contempt and find themselves very unhappy that there's a poem by William Blake where he says
well why was i born with a different face. Why was I not born like the rest of my race. When I look people stare when I speak I thin then I am silent and passive and lose every friend. And this is certainly this is a state of things which many people have suffered from I mean who find themselves physically and temperamentally in a world which approves of other types of physique and temperament and they happen to hair. Again it's another very good reason for it. For tolerance and for freedom of choice in this context. I would like briefly to touch on something which I think is of great interest in regard to fizzy can temperament that is to say the traditional rendering the Christian part of the figure of Jesus. Now this is really
curious. We should find here that there is on the whole there is a fairly standardized traditional figure. In no case as far as I know I don't think there is any example. Of Jesus having being represented as raw and uncomfortable like the Chinese god of luck. And there is no case I think I can be represented as a kind of bustling rolie polie figure like Santa Claus. Almost always he is he is represented. Yes I'm using Sheldon's classification as a three if that is to say something to. Somebody with almost the lowest amount of sort of round about the middle of muscularity and dry rather slenderness insensitivity and this is a very
great artists have represented the figure of Jesus as powerful in muscled for example in the famous picture in Sunset Park in Italy of the resurrection of Jesus is actually more powerful more athletic than the Roman soldiers around the tomb and in many paintings by Rubens he is represented as very powerful a muscle and it's generally we find offensive again. And if we need seen a picture by Rubens where he said I always thought Christ was a carpenter and not of Brewer's servant. My goods and again this shows how profoundly we are aware of this Z importance of the bodily release. Temperament into behavior in the world
now. Yeah much more time than I would like it if briefly to speak about this immemorial controversy which has been going on for many many centuries between the proponents of the proponents of nature permanence of the radio and the proponents of environment. But as I say it's been going on in different forms for enormous and we get it. Originally in the in a theological form in the problem of predestination or of works. Matthew Prior to using two couplets which summed up the whole problem of predestination like this could be long before he thought. Keep the terrors of the future resists or not the embrace of true deed here. And if Acacius Greece
and this of course the extreme Augustine Ians would say no that they couldn't escape this to Jesus on one side and Paul on the other were predestined to their different fates. And there was this great controversy in the fifth century between St. Augustine and Pelagius plagiarists was obviously British behavior because you came from Britain is religious is a fancy name for Morgan. GUSTIN maintained that he was born hopelessly depraved just like the Watson that he was completely blamed that he had was born without tendencies towards good or evil that the sin of Adam affected only Adam and that every child was born as innocent as Adam had been born. And that even an unbaptized child would go
to heaven whereas Gaston insisted the to hell was paved with good intentions but with infants. In later centuries the argument between nature and nurture shifts it's grown and we find in the 18th century for example a revival of pure luck man is born as a target. We're still in the middle of the century asserting that people with all abilities are due to education and that you could take any shepherd boy from the mountains of the civilians and turn him into an I knew which I am afraid is rather optimistic to say the least. Then you get to the end of the century mark which is the doctrine that
acquired characteristics were inherited and then you get a sharp reaction in the 19th century with Darwin and Mendel and the later insisting on the importance of hereditary factors. Recent times you have had another swing back. Towards the police position with the early writings of Watson who affirmed roundly one time that he could see absolutely no evidence for musical or mathematical ability being inherited. And again that is that any trial could be turned into anything but a suitable conditioning. We have had of course for a time in Russia there was the revival of Lamarckism and Lysenko insisted that you could manipulate plants in such a way that you could change
course with characteristics to be inherited. Well it seems pretty obvious that neither of these extreme views is correct as it obviously seems to me that the nature nurture always act together all the time and that it's perfectly ridiculous to to stress one at the expense of the other. And indeed if you analyze the use of the realities of the case you find that if you are a believer in the existence of hereditary factors and their importance then ipso facto you must be a social reformer because it is only good in mind that the good he rid it really factors can their full expression in a bad environment.
Good will either be repressed completely or masked or distorted in some way so that every good Eugene Eastern every believing here it is I say should be a social reformer and we converse and it seems to me that every good social reformer should certainly take into account the facts fitted to re differences in order to make environmental training of the effective. And with this I would close this lecture slow down a little bit to learn them. Needless to say I've only touched on very few of the endless factors which which modern research has revealed about human beings but I hope I've touched upon some of them which are of more significance than others and that trust
is a modern view. There you are but I mean it is a sketch of the modern fuel useful to you in your thinking about individual behavior and about the march of events in the world. You've heard the second recorded lecture in a series delivered by Aldous Huxley auditorium while he was Carnegie visiting professor of humanities at MIT this is the N A B Radio Network.
- Contemporary picture, part 2
- Producing Organization
- WGBH Educational Foundation
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- This program presents the conclusion of a lecture by Aldous Huxley entitled "The Contemporary Picture."
- Series Description
- Aldous Huxley presents a lecture series in which he asks, "how did our ancestors think of human nature and in what terms ought we to think about it?"
- Broadcast Date
- Media type
Producing Organization: WGBH Educational Foundation
Speaker: Huxley, Aldous, 1894-1963
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 61-56-2 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- Chicago: “What a piece of work is a man; Contemporary picture, part 2,” 1961-10-10, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed March 1, 2024, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-xd0qwv48.
- MLA: “What a piece of work is a man; Contemporary picture, part 2.” 1961-10-10. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. March 1, 2024. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-xd0qwv48>.
- APA: What a piece of work is a man; Contemporary picture, part 2. 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-xd0qwv48