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While the discovery of intelligent life in other parts of the universe is not likely in the immediate future, it could nevertheless happen at any time. Whenever it does occur its consequences for earth attitudes and values may be profound. Hence a long-term research effort, which would aid in preparing for this possibility, could usefully begin with:
- A continuing determination of emotional and intellectual understanding and attitudes regarding the possibility and consequences of discovering intelligent extraterrestrial life.
The Brookings Institution is particularly indebted to the following people who took time out of their busy schedules to review specific sections of the draft report: ...Charles Morris, Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of Florida
The non-reductive and pluralistic naturalism of pragmatism is evident in Morris’s efforts to construct a theory of language and signs. The scientific method, applied to all areas of inquiry, produces knowledge about humans and their environment which aids with philosophical questions. Neither philosophy alone, nor any single science’s knowledge, can determine the reality of anything, including the nature of meaning, signs, and language. Morris inherited this perspective towards philosophical problems from earlier pragmatists. The psychological functionalism developed by Dewey, Mead, and James Angell at Chicago during the late 1890s synthesized the latest scientific knowledge into a theory of mind inspired by evolution: all aspects of mind are functions of purposive organic activity, explained by their survival value. Morris defended functionalism against its rivals in Six Theories of Mind (Morris 1932), and during the 1930s he labeled his own version as the “neo-pragmatism” advancing the movement.
Also committed to the pragmatist view, emphasized particularly by Peirce, that intelligence essentially involves the creation and proper functioning of signs, Morris focused on their nature. Biology, psychology, sociology, anthropology, and linguistics together contribute to semiotics: the study of semiosis or the use of signs. To be a legitimate scientific field in its own right, semiotics must define its subject matter, the nature of signs, and delimit its methodological orientation to the objectively available evidence. Morris, following Mead, accordingly adopted the standpoint of pragmatic social behaviourism towards signs. The meaning of signs consists in their practical use; the practical use of signs is embedded in the behavioural habits of organisms; and complex signs and language arise in the social conduct of humans.