By Noam Chomsky
This incredible essay attests to the aptness of Newsweek's id of Professor Chomsky as one of many only a few thinkers this present day whose genius should be in comparison to that of Freud, Marx or Darwin. The nuanced arguments recommend in regards to the background and value of the mind/brain juxtaposition show why, as with the 3 luminaries, his principles have helped rework the way in which we expect in regards to the nature of the realm. --J. Jorge Klor De Alva, Professor of Anthropology, Princeton University
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Additional info for Language & Thought (Anshen Transdisciplinary Lectureships in Art, Science and the Philosophy of Culture)
If so, the picture that has gu ided the most important work on these topic s in the last century may be seriously misconceived. It is, I think, useful to deepen the historical perspective beyond the Fregean paradigm and consider the "first cogn itiv e revolution," the Cartesian theory of body and mind. Descartes offered a sketchy account of the physical world in terms of the "mechanical philosophy"; basically the view that things affect one anoth er by contact. He tried to show that in these terms one can explain every, , 35 NOAM CHOMSKY thing in the inorganic world, and a large part of the organic world as well, including everything about plants and animals and much of the functioning of humans, up to e l ements of sensation and perception.
Such questions do not arise in the study of org anic molecules, nematodes, the lang uage faculty or and so on. The same , , other natural objects, viewed (to the extent we can achieve this stand point) as what they are, not in a highly intricate and shifting space of human interests and con- 43 NOAM CHOMSKY cerns. pan to a fire that is out of control. We naturally want to solve the unification problem, that is, to relate studies of the brain undertaken at various levels. Sometimes unification will be reductive, as when much of biology was incorporated w'ithin known bio chemistry; sometimes it may require radical modification of the more "fundamental" discipline, as when physics was "expanded" in the new quantum theory, enabling it to account for properties that had been discovered and explained by chemists.
Whether some object is a key or a table or a computer dep ends on designer s intent, standard use, mode of interpretation, ' considerations arise when we ask whether the device is malfunctioning, following a rule, etc. There is no natural kind or normal case. The hardware-software distinction is a matter of interpreta tion not simply of physical structure, thoug h with fur ther assumptions about intention, design, and use we could sharpen it. Such questions do not arise in the study of org anic molecules, nematodes, the lang uage faculty or and so on.
Language & Thought (Anshen Transdisciplinary Lectureships in Art, Science and the Philosophy of Culture) by Noam Chomsky