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Robert M. Hutchins: Building on Earlier Foundations

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Democracy, Human Development, Human Rights, Social Rights, The Search for Peace, United Nations, World Law on January 17, 2016 at 5:16 PM

ROBERT M. HUTCHINS: BUILDING ON EARLIER FOUNDATIONS
By René Wadlow

Much of our current work for a more just and peaceful world builds on the thinking and efforts of earlier foundations. An important foundation is the leading role of Robert M. Hutchins, long-time President of the University of Chicago (1929-1951) whose birth anniversary we mark on January 17.

Hutchins’ father, William, was President of Berea, a small but important liberal arts college, so Robert Hutchins (1899-1977) was set to follow the family pattern. He went to Yale Law School and stayed on to teach. He quickly became the Dean of the Law School and was spotted as a rising star of United States (US) education. When he was 30 years old, he was asked to become President of the University of Chicago, a leading institution. Hutchins was then the youngest president of a US university.

In the first decade of his tenure, the 1930s, his ideas concerning undergraduate education − compulsory survey courses, early admission after two years of secondary school for bright and motivated students, a concentration on “Great Books” – an examination of seminal works of philosophy in particular Plato and Aristotle − divided the University of Chicago faculty. There were strong and outspoken pro- and anti-Hutchins faculty groups. Moreover, Hutchins’ abolition of varsity football and ending the University’s participation in the “Big Ten” university football league distressed some alumni whose link to the university was largely limited to attending football games. For Hutchins, a university was for learning and discussion, not for playing sports. As he famously said, “When I feel like exercising, I sit down until the feeling goes away.”

It is Hutchins’ creation and leadership of the Committee to Frame a World Constitution in 1945 which makes him one of the intellectual founders of the movement for world federation and world citizenship. After the coming to power of Hitler in Germany in 1933 and his quick decision to ban Jewish professors from teaching in German universities, many Jewish scientists and professors left Germany and came to the USA. Some of the leading natural scientists joined the University of Chicago. Thus began the “Metallurgy Project” as the work on atomic research was officially called. The University of Chicago team did much of the theoretical research which led to the Atom Bomb. While Hutchins was not directly involved in the atomic project, he understood quickly the nature of atomic energy and its military uses. He saw that the world would never return to a “pre-atomic” condition and that new forms of world organization were needed.

 

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Robert M. Hutchins

“The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment.”

-Robert Maynard Hutchins.

 

On August 12, 1945, a few days after the use of the atom bombs, Hutchins made a radio address “Atomic Force: Its Meaning for Mankind” in which he outlined the need for strong world institutions, stronger than the United Nations (UN) Charter, whose drafters earlier in the year did not know of the destructive power of atomic energy.

Several professors of the University of Chicago were already active in peace work such as Mortimer Adler, G. A. Borgese, and Richard McKeon, Dean of the undergraduate college. The three approached Hutchins saying that as the University of Chicago had taken a lead in the development of atomic research, so likewise, the university should take the lead in research on adequate world institutions. By November 1945, a 12-person Committee to Frame a World Constitution was created under Hutchins’ chairmanship. The Committee drew largely on existing faculty of the University of Chicago − Wilber Katz, Dean of the Law School and Rexford Tugwell who taught political science but who had been a leading administrator of the Roosevelt New Deal and Governor of Puerto Rico. Two retired professors from outside Chicago were added − Charles McIlwain of Harvard, a specialist on constitutions, and Albert Guerard of Stanford, a French refugee who was concerned about the structure of post-war Europe.

From 1947 to 1951, the Committee published a monthly journal Common Cause many of whose articles still merit reading today as fundamental questions concerning the philosophical basis of government, human rights, distribution of power, and the role of regions are discussed. The Preliminary Draft of a World Constitution was published in 1948 and reprinted in the Saturday Review of Literature edited by Norman Cousins and in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists some of whom were in the original “Metallurgy Project”. The Preliminary Draft raised a good deal of discussion, reflected in the issues of Common Cause. There was no second draft. The Preliminary Draft was as G.A. Borgese said, quoting Dante “…of the True City at least the Tower.”

 

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In 1951, Hutchins retired from the presidency of the University of Chicago for the Ford Foundation and then created the Ford Foundation-funded Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions where he gathered together some of his co-workers from the University of Chicago.

Two ideas from The Preliminary Draft are still part of intellectual and political life for those concerned with a stronger UN. The first is the strong role of regional organizations. When The Preliminary Draft was written the European Union was still just an idea and most of the States now part of the African Union were European colonies. The Preliminary Draft saw that regional groups were institutions of the future and should be integrated as such in the world institution. Today, the representatives of States belonging to regional groupings meet together at the UN to try to reach a common position, but regional groups are not part of the official UN structure. However, they may be in the future.

The other lasting aspect of The Preliminary Draft is the crucial role that nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) should play. The then recently drafted UN Charter had created a “consultative status” for NGOs, but few of the UN Charter drafters foresaw the important role that NGOs would play as the UN developed. The Preliminary Draft had envisaged a Syndical Senate to represent occupational associations on the lines of the International Labor Organization where trade unions and employer associations have equal standing with government delegates. In 1946, few people saw the important role that the NGOs would later play in UN activities. While there is no “Syndical Senate”, today NGOs represent an important part of the UN process.

Hutchins, however, was also a reflection of his time. There were no women as members of the Committee to Frame a World Constitution, and when he created the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions with a large number of “fellows”, consultants, and staff, women were also largely absent.

The effort to envisage the structures and processes among the different structures was an innovative contribution to global institution building at the time, and many of the debates and reflections are still crucial for today.

For an understanding of the thinking of those involved in writing The Preliminary Draft see:
Mortimor Adler, How to think about War and Peace (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1944)
Rexford Tugwell, Chronicle of Jeopardy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1955)
G. A. Borgese, Foundations of the World Republic (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,1953)
Scott Buchanan, Essay in Politics (New York: Philosophical Library, 1953)
For a life of Hutchins written by a co-worker in the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions:
Harry Ashmore, Unreasonable Truths: The Life of Robert Maynard Hutchins (Boston: Little, Brown and Co, 1989)

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

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Albert Schweitzer: Reverence for Life – A Universal Ethic

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Environmental protection, Human Development, Human Rights, Solidarity on January 14, 2016 at 8:36 PM

ALBERT SCHWEITZER: REVERENCE FOR LIFE – A UNIVERSAL ETHIC

By René Wadlow

 

January 14 was the anniversary of the birth of Albert Schweitzer and was a special day at the hospital that he founded at Lambaréné, Gabon.  Alsatian wine would be served at lunch and conversations over lunch would last longer than usual before everyone had to return to his tasks.  In 1963, when I was working for the Ministry of Education of Gabon, and spending time at the Protestant secondary school some half-mile down river from the hospital, I was invited to lunch for the birthday celebration.  As the only non-hospital person there, I was placed next to Dr. Schweitzer, and we continued our discussions both on the events that had taken place along the Ogowe River and his more philosophical concerns.

We would often discuss his interest in the classic authors of Chinese philosophy. I had been an undergraduate research assistant of Professor Y. P. Mei at Princeton. Mei was the professor of Chinese philosophy in the Philosophy Department and in many ways a philosopher himself.  He had been president of a university in China during the Second World War and had moved to the USA after the end of the civil war in 1948.

Although the bulk of Albert Schweitzer’s philosophical reflection concerned the German philosophical tradition −Kant, Goethe, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche − he was drawn to the founders of Chinese Taoism − Lao-tzu and Chuang-tzu and the champion of universalist ethics, Mo-tzu.

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In Schweitzer’s writings he often contrasted Indian and Chinese philosophical thought − the two major traditions of Asia.  For Schweitzer, Indian thought was dualistic, there is on the one hand matter, and on the other spirit. He saw Indian thought a fundamentally pessimistic concerning the world and matter. In Indian thought, the spirit is both higher and in a sense more ‘real’ than matter.  The aim of an individual is to detach himself from matter and unite with the spirit. As he wrote, “Their world-view is pessimistic-ethical, and contains, therefore, incentives only to the inward civilization of the heart, not to outward civilization as well.

For Schweitzer, the Chinese view, in its Taoist form at least, was optimistic with the complete integration of spirit and matter.  The Tao, which is both the source of all things but also the motor of all action, is not separate from material creation but is fully embodied in the material world and within each individual.  Thus ethics are grounded in the nature of the universe as well as in the nature of humanity.  An element that attracted Schweitzer to Taoist thought was its ethical standards which encompass all persons. The Middle East religious systems which have spread worldwide started with Zarathustra who is the foundation of Middle East religious thought.  His approach was taken over by Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  The Middle East philosophical approach divides people into the “saved” and the “unsaved”.  The saved are one’s brothers toward which there is an agreed upon ethical framework and the unsaved who are cast out, unclean and toward whom other ethical standards prevail.  This good-bad, light-darkness is incorporated into the structures of the universe where there is a constant struggle between the forces of light and those of darkness.

This division between the saved and the unsaved was eliminated by the Stoics, especially the later Roman Stoics such as Marcus Aurelius where the concept of a universal ethic for mankind comes into sight.  However, in the chaos of ideas in the late Roman Empire, Christianity emerges victorious with its idea individual redemption. Thus there is a return to the saved and the unsaved, between those who will live in the Kingdom of God and the others.

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Only Chinese thought holds the seeds for a universal approach, but Chinese thought was clouded for a long time by the weak eco-political position of China.  China’s current rise is too recent and too mixed with different ideological positions to become a champion of the universal ethic of Taoist thought.  Moreover, the poetic formulation of much of Taoist writings makes its comprehension difficult for many.

Albert Schweitzer’s reverence for life which accepts that there is reciprocal relationship among all living things may be the closest to a Taoist philosophy easily understood worldwide, a philosophy needed for a deep ecology ethic.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

UN-Designated Day for Developing Awareness of Human Trafficking

In Being a World Citizen, Children's Rights, Current Events, Human Development, Human Rights, International Justice, Social Rights, Solidarity, United Nations, Women's Rights, World Law on January 11, 2016 at 11:23 PM
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