What Kind of Creatures Are We? (Columbia Themes in Philosophy)
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Noam Chomsky is widely known and deeply admired for being the founder of modern linguistics, one of the founders of the field of cognitive science, and perhaps the most avidly read political theorist and commentator of our time. In these lectures, he presents a lifetime of philosophical reflection on all three of these areas of research to which he has contributed for over half a century.
In clear, precise, and non-technical language, Chomsky elaborates on fifty years of scientific development in the study of language, sketching how his own work has implications for the origins of language, the close relations that language bears to thought, and its eventual biological basis. He expounds and criticizes many alternative theories, such as those that emphasize the social, the communicative, and the referential aspects of language. Chomsky reviews how new discoveries about language overcome what seemed to be highly problematic assumptions in the past. He also investigates the apparent scope and limits of human cognitive capacities and what the human mind can seriously investigate, in the light of history of science and philosophical reflection and current understanding. Moving from language and mind to society and politics, he concludes with a searching exploration and philosophical defense of a position he describes as "libertarian socialism," tracing its links to anarchism and the ideas of John Dewey, and even briefly to the ideas of Marx and Mill, demonstrating its conceptual growth out of our historical past and urgent relation to matters of the present.
brain activity of subjects presented with two types of stimuli: invented languages satisfying UG and others not conforming to UG; in the latter case, for example, a rule for negation that places the negative element after the third word, a far simpler computational operation than the rules for negation in human language. They found that in the case of conformity to UG, there is normal activation in the language areas, though not when linear order is used.14 In that case, the task is interpreted
to be a blind alley, for reasons already mentioned and to which I will return. Furthermore, even insofar as language is used for communication, there is no need for meanings to be shared (or sounds, or structures). Communication is not a yes-or-no but rather a more-or-less affair. If similarities are not sufficient, communication fails to some degree, as in normal life. Even if the term “communication” is largely deprived of substantive meaning and used as a cover term for social interaction of
Computation, regularly bars this option. Suppose in the sentence “the boys took the books from the library” we wish to foreground “the library,” yielding “the library was taken the books from by the boys.” That’s barred by language design, yet another barrier to communication. The interesting cases are those in which there is a direct conflict between computational and communicative efficiency. In every known case, the former prevails; ease of communication is sacrificed. Many such cases are
we?/Noam Chomsky. pages cm. — (Columbia Themes in Philosophy) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-231-17596-8 (cloth : alk. paper) ISBN 978-0-231-54092-6 (e-book) 1. Language and languages—Philosophy. I. Title. P106.c46 2016 401—dc23 2015021707 A Columbia University Press E-book. CUP would be pleased to hear about your reading experience with this e-book at email@example.com. COVER IMAGE: RICCARDO VECCHIO COVER DESIGN : CHANG JAE LEE References to websites
plutocracy, 68, 69, 76–77; and universal health care, rejection of, xxii, 68–69 Vatican II, 65 Vaucanson, Jacques de, 82 vervet monkey, signal calls of, 41–42 vision: and problem of will, 95; as subconscious, rule-bound activity, xvii, 38 Voltaire, 97 Vygotsky, Lev, 14 wage slavery, and capitalism, 73, 74–75 Ware, Norman, xxii, 72–73, 74–75 war on drugs, as criminalization of black life, 46 weak generation: definition of, 4; E-language as weakly generated infinite set, 4, 130n4