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October 5th, 2008

Chomsky and A Brief History of Science

Just watched Chomsky's revisit of linguistics at UCBerkley in 2003, and it was grande.  Seriously -- he covered a volumous  amount of philosophical and scientific history before getting to language; that is a remarkable and necessary feat.  I'm uncertain as to whether I agree with him on Universal Grammar (because it resembles a priori epistemology) but he is dead on about the philosophical implications of discoveries in physics and computer science during the past three centuries.  (For example: multiple, contextually determined definitions of matter (or mass) that fail at giving a single answer to questions about spacetime -- the best demonstration of this is to algebraically manipulate Newton's basic formulas --, or the inaccuracies and limitations of AI when extrapolating answers from input modeled by Cartesian-like principles of knowledge and existence -- like Dreyfus' criticisms, and SHRDLU limitations of metaphysics, etc.)  Before agreeing with him, one should consider the pedagogical criticisms, i.e. genetic limitation to learning.  I wouldn't expect Chomksy to agree with how IQ, for example, is (ab)used outside of its original, pedagogic context but people who don't listen to him explain the foundations of innate knowledge might easily conjure up justifications for sexism, racism, etc.  Their misunderstanding of genetic "predisposition", so to say, as justifying desparant, unequal treatment makes me more cautious than Chomsky's seemingly unexpected equitable conclusion.


Cheers to UCTV and old, wizoned men!  :)

P.S.  Read more Hume, and maybe Locke and Darwin.