Monday, May 26, 2014

Max Black & George Grant in a 1960 TV show on CBC

What a find -- in CBC's archives for the show Fighting Words! The show's initial run was from 1953 till 1962. It had a 'talking heads' format -- the guests would discuss and debate a series of topics fielded by the host, Nathan Cohen. I've put below a clip from a 1960 episode featuring Cornell University philosopher Max Black, Canadian philosopher George Grant, actress Tony Robins, and newspaper editor Michael Barkway. The show has merits -- I haven't seen video footage of Black and Grant apart from this clip -- but it illustrates a weakness of many intellectual talk shows on TV in that the guests can seldom finish a thought before being cut off. Cohen, Barkway, and Black smoke throughout. The show's focus is on issues in what we would now call 'applied ethics'. The conversation about espionage (in the latter half of the clip) occasions some remarks on the state by Black and Grant. Max Black at 14.19: 'To apply moral terms to a state is to commit a mistake in logic'. Black seems to be denying the possibility of corporate agency.

Other episodes of this show featured Robertson Davies, Brendan Behan, J. B. Priestley, Morley Callaghan, and Norman Mailer.

Max Black completed his graduate work in philosophy under Susan Stebbing's supervision at the University of London. Probably the most well-known person whose graduate work was supervised by Black (at Cornell) is the novelist William H. Gass.

Black's family includes several accomplished academics. His daughter, Naomi Black, was a poli-sci professor at York University in Toronto, where she lived with her husband, S. P. Rosenbaum, a Bloomsbury scholar. One of Max Black's brothers was Sir Misha Black, a professor of industrial design in the UK. This bio of Sir Misha provides more information about Max Black's other two siblings (Sam and Betty).

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