Milton and the Ineffable offers a comprehensive reassessment of Milton's poetic oeuvre in light of the literary and conceptual problem posed by the poet's attempt to put into words that which is unsayable and beyond representation. The struggle with the ineffability of sacred or transcendental subject matter in many ways defines Milton's triumphs as a poet, especially in Paradise Lost, and goes to the heart of the central critical debates to engage his readers over the centuries and decades. Taking an (...) interdisciplinary conceptual approach, this study sheds fresh light on many of these debates by situating his poetics of ineffability in the context of the intellectual cross-currents of Renaissance humanism and Protestant theology. The book plots an ongoing narrative in Milton's poetry about silence and ineffable mystery which forms the intellectual framework within which Milton continually shapes and reshapes his poetic vision of the created universe and the elect man's singular place within it. From the free paraphrase of Psalm 114 to Paradise Regained, the presence of the ineffable insinuates itself into Milton's poetry as both the catalyst and check for his poetic creativity, where the fear of silence and ineffable mystery on the one hand, and the yearning to lose himself and his readers in unspeakable rapture on the other, becomes a struggle for poetic self-determination and finally redemption. (shrink)
In the last decade, it has become commonplace among people who work on reasons (although not uncontroversially so) to distinguish between normativity and rationality. Work by John Broome, Niko Kolodny, Derek Parfit, and Nicholas Shackel has helped to establish the view that rationality is conceptually distinct from reasons. The distinction allows us to make sense of the questions recently addressed by Broome, Kolodny, Reisner, and Shackel: is rationality normative, and if so, in what way? Kolodny’s ‘Why be Rational?’ answered (...) the first of these questions by claiming that there is no reason to be rational. In order to argue for this conclusion, Kolodny argues for a process account of rationality. Kolodny’s view is that rational requirements govern mental processes. His view is set in direct contrast to Broome’s, who holds that rational requirements are primarily, and perhaps exclusively, concerned with relations among mental states at a time. (shrink)
An important advance in normativity research over the last decade is an increased understanding of the distinction, and difference, between normativity and rationality. Normativity concerns or picks out a broad set of concepts that have in common that they are, put loosely, guiding. For example, consider two commonly used normative concepts: that of a normative reason and that of ought. To have a normative reason to perform some action is for there to be something that counts in favour of performing (...) that action. Likewise with ought, when there is sufficient evidence for something, one ought to believe it (at least under normal circumstances). Not all guidance need be directed towards a specific state or a specific action. Subject to the requirements of normativity, too, are relations. It is commonly believed, for example, that we ought not to hold contradictory beliefs.1 At least some of the requirements that concern relations amongst an agent’s mental states are, or seem, distinctive. Agents who fail to satisfy these requirements are considered, at least to some degree, irrational. On many current views, being irrational is distinct in some way from not being how one ought to be; rationality is a concept distinct from normativity. Much of the literature on this topic over the last decade stems from attempts to capture the characteristic features of the requirements of rationality. Two influential views in particular did much to set the agenda. The first of these two was put forward John Broome.2 His view, the particulars of which I shall discuss in more detail below, is that the requirements of rationality could be expressed using a normative relation, which he calls a ‘normative requirement’. Normative requirements are conditionals governed by an all-thingsconsidered ought. In the case of rationality, the conditional is made up entirely of mental states.. (shrink)
In this paper I argue against the stronger of the two views concerning the right and wrong kind of reasons for belief, i.e. the view that the only genuine normative reasons for belief are evidential. The project in this paper is primarily negative, but with an ultimately positive aim. That aim is to leave room for the possibility that there are genuine pragmatic reasons for belief. Work is required to make room for this view, because evidentialism of a strict variety (...) remains the default view in much of the debate concerning normative reasons for belief. Strict versions of evidentialism are inconsistent with the view that there are genuine pragmatic reasons for belief. (shrink)
In this paper it is argued that the buck-passing analysis (BPA) of final value is not a plausible analysis of value and should be abandoned. While considering the influential wrong kind of reason problem and other more recent technical objections, this paper contends that there are broader reasons for giving up on buck-passing. It is argued that the BPA, even if it can respond to the various technical objections, is not an attractive analysis of final value. It is not attractive (...) for two reasons: the first being that the BPA lacks the features typical of successful conceptual analyses and the second being that it is unable to deliver on the advantages that its proponents claim for it. While not offering a knock-down technical refutation of the BPA, this paper aims to show that there is little reason to think that the BPA is correct, and that it should therefore be given up as an analysis of final value. (shrink)
As Dworkin puts it: moral scepticism is a moral view. This is in contrast to the more popular idea that the real challenge for moral realism is external scepticism, scepticism which arises because of non-moral considerations about the metaphysics of morality. I, too, do not concur with Dworkin’s strongest conclusions about the viability of external scepticism. But, I think his criticism of error scepticism offers a much needed corrective to more traditional metaethical projects. My aim in this paper is to (...) split the difference between Dworkin’s view and more traditional views, concluding that Dworkin’s work in Justice for Hedgehogs contributes to metaethics for everyone. (shrink)
Philosophers have long been concerned about what we know and how we know it. Increasingly, however, a related question has gained prominence in philosophical discussion: what should we believe and why? This volume brings together twelve new essays that address different aspects of this question. The essays examine foundational questions about reasons for belief, and use new research on reasons for belief to address traditional epistemological concerns such as knowledge, justification and perceptually acquired beliefs. This book will be of interest (...) to philosophers working on epistemology, theoretical reason, rationality, perception and ethics. It will also be of interest to cognitive scientists and psychologists who wish to gain deeper insight into normative questions about belief and knowledge. (shrink)
This paper argues that both a limited doxastic voluntarism and anti-evidentialism are consistent with the views that the aim of belief is truth or knowledge and that this aim plays an important role in norm-setting for beliefs. More cautiously, it argues that limited doxastic voluntarism is (or would be) a useful capacity for agents concerned with truth tracking to possess, and that having it would confer some straightforward benefits of both an epistemic and non-epistemic variety to an agent concerned with (...) truth tracking. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that we can give a plausible account of how to compare pragmatic and evidential normative reasons for belief. The account I offer is given in the form of a ‘defeasing function’. This function allows for a sophisticated comparison of the two types of reasons without assigning complex features to the logical structures of either type of reason.
In this paper I argue that the enkratic principle in its classic formulation is not a requirement of rationality. However, it is a requirement of another kind, an agential requirement. I discuss how we can distinguish rational requirements from agential requirements, and why both kinds of requirements are important for understanding our expectations about individual agents.
This paper poses a puzzle concerning a broadly held view about normative reasons for belief: evidentialism. Evidentialism is the highly intuitive view that the only normative reasons for belief are evidential reasons. I shall argue that in certain circumstances, evidentialism is unable to generate the correct reasons for belief; these reasons can only be provided by other kinds of epistemic reasons apart from evidential ones. I am not arguing that reasons in ordinary cases for belief are non-evidential, but that evidentialism (...) is too narrow an account of normative reasons for belief to serve as a complete theory of epistemic reasons. (shrink)
This paper looks at the question of what form the requirements of practical rationality take. One common view is that the requirements of rationality are wide-scope, and another is that they are narrow-scope. I argue that the resolution to the question of wide-scope versus narrow-scope depends to a significant degree on what one expects a theory of rationality to do. In examining these expectations, I consider whether there might be a way to unify requirements of both forms into a single (...) theory of rationality, and what the difficulties involved in doing so can teach us about the foundations of practical rationality. (shrink)
One way to approach the question of whether there are non-derivative partial reasons of any kind is to give an account of what partial reasons are, and then to consider whether there are such reasons. If there are, then it is at least possible that there are partial reasons of friendship. It is this approach that will be taken here, and it produces several interesting results. The first is a point about the structure of partial reasons. It is at least (...) a necessary condition of a reason’s being partial that it has an explicit relational component. This component, technically, is a rela- tum in the reason relation that itself is a relation between the person to whom the reason applies and the person whom the action for which there is a reason concerns. The second conclusion of the paper is that this relational component is also required for a number of types of putatively impartial reasons. In order to avoid trivialising the distinction between partial and impartial rea- sons, some further sufficient condition must be applied. Finally, there is some prospect for a way of distinguishing between impartial reasons that contain a relational component and partial rea- sons, but that this approach suggests that the question of whether ethics is partial or impartial will be settled at the level of normative ethical discourse, or at least not at the level of discourse about the nature of reasons for action. (shrink)
We argue that an understanding of the faculty of language requires substantial interdisciplinary cooperation. We suggest how current developments in linguistics can be proﬁtably wedded to work in evolutionary biology, anthropology, psychology, and neuroscience. We submit that a distinction should be made between the faculty of language in the broad sense (FLB)and in the narrow sense (FLN). FLB includes a sensory-motor system, a conceptual-intentional system, and the computational mechanisms for recursion, providing the capacity to generate an inﬁnite range of expressions (...) from a ﬁnite set of elements. We hypothesize that FLN only includes recursion and is the only uniquely human component of the faculty of language. We further argue that FLN may have evolved for reasons other than language, hence comparative studies might look for evidence of such computations outside of the domain of communication (for example, number, navigation, and social relations). (shrink)
There are many uses in English of the word “ought” (see Ought). This essay concerns the normative uses and the concepts or properties denoted thereby. In particular, it concerns two nonfinal oughts commonly used in the philosophical literature: prima facie oughts and pro tanto oughts.
Abstract The growing field of clinical?developmental psychology has been influenced by Lawrence Kohlberg's theory of moral judgement. Too literal a use of structural theory, however, has hindered this field's advancement. This paper argues that a new theory of self is required to apply appropriately developmental theory to clinical practice. The model consists of two related dimensions of self: self?complexity and biographical themes (schemata and themata). A perspective on normal and atypical development given by the interactions between these components is described (...) and implications for practice are discussed. (shrink)
All major journalism ethical codes explicitly state that journalists should protect editorial copy from undue influence by outside sources. However, much of the previous research on agricultural information has concentrated on what information various media communicate (gatekeeping studies) or communication's role in increasing innovation adoption (diffusion studies). Few studies have concentrated specifically on organizational and structural constraints that might adversely affect agricultural journalists' ethical standards; those that have, focus largely on farm magazines. A study of newspaper reporters who cover agricultural (...) news found that the most pressing ethical concern is the effect of advertiser (agri-business) pressure on editorial copy, and that their concerns in general parallel those of farm magazine writers and editors. The majority reported being in situations in which they might be exposed to advertiser pressure, including pressures to change or withhold editorial copy. Large minorities suggested that advertising pressures affect the overall environment in which agricultural journalists work, and more than one in ten said they allow advertiser pressures to influence editorial decisions. The newspaper reporters who cover agricultural beats showed slightly more resistance to advertiser pressure than did farm magazine editors in a parallel study. (shrink)
He is the most frequently quoted person on the planet. Noam Chomsky leads two separate, influential lives: one as a linguist, the other as a human rights activist. In both lives the responses he evokes are uncommonly vehement â€“ it seems he is either god or the devil. Yet Chomsky does not seek followers. He wants everyone to see things for themselves, to think and judge for themselves. On 7 December he turns 75.
Today, thanks to Noam Chomsky and his fellow media analysts, it is almost axiomatic for thousands, possibly millions, of us that public opinion in "free market" democracies is manufactured just like any other mass market product â€” soap, switches, or sliced bread. We know that while, legally and constitutionally, speech may be free, the space in which that freedom can be exercised has been snatched from us and auctioned to the highest bidders. Neoliberal capitalism isn't just about the accumulation (...) of capital (for some). It's also about the accumulation of power (for some), the accumulation of freedom (for some). Conversely, for the rest of the world, the people who are excluded from neoliberalism's governing body, it's about the erosion of capital, the erosion of power, the erosion of freedom. In the "free" market, free speech has become a commodity like everything else â€” â€” justice, human rights, drinking water, clean air. It's available only to those who can afford it. And naturally, those who can afford it use free speech to manufacture the kind of product, confect the kind of public opinion, that best suits their purpose. (News they can use.) Exactly how they do this has been the subject of much of Noam Chomsky's political writing. (shrink)
Professor NoamChomsky is a fierce critic of US wars and foreign policy, and a brilliant analyst of the propaganda and psychological mechanisms through which the liberal-bureaucratic establishment achieves public consent and endorsement of the aggressive actions of the state. For this he is intensely admired in some quarters, and detested and reviled in others. Between the extremes of the uncritical campus adulation and the vicious ad hominem abuse to which he is sometimes subjected, there are genuine (...) critiques to be made and refreshing doses of the unvarnished truth to be found in his voluminous output over the years. (shrink)
Counterpunch, November 23, 2009 In his wild and slanderous "Open Letter to Amnesty International" (signed, fittingly, "Yours, in disgust and despair"), The Guardian - Observer's veteran reporter Ed Vulliamy explains that two "main concerns" motivated him to draft his repudiation of AI's choice of Noam Chomsky to deliver this 2009 Stand Up For Justice lecture: One is that the "pain" individuals such as Chomsky are alleged to cause the "survivors and the bereaved" of the wars in the former Yugoslavia (...) is "immeasurable," and Vulliamy feels some kind of need to help mitigate this pain; the other, apparently, is that the "historical record" as it pertains to these wars is too precious and too fragile to be left in the wrong pair of hands. "For Amnesty International, of all people, to honour this man is to tear up whatever credibility they have estimably and admirably won over the decades, and to reduce all they say hitherto to didactic nonsense," Vulliamy writes. "By inviting Chomsky to give this lecture, Amnesty condemns itself to ridicule at best, hurtful malice at worst -- Amnesty joins the revisionists in spitting on the graves of the dead.". (shrink)
The characteristic focus, intensity and hopefulness of Chomskyâ€™s political writings, however, reflect a set of more fundamental views about human nature, justice and social order that are not simple matters of fact. This article explores these more fundamental ideas, the central elements in Chomskyâ€™s social thought. We begin (section i) by sketching the relevant features of Chomskyâ€™s conception of human nature. We then examine his libertarian social ideals (section ii), and views on social stability and social evolution (section iii), both (...) of which are animated by this conception of our nature. (shrink)
CHOMSKY: Any stance we take is based on some conception of what is good for people. This conception will tacitly presuppose a certain belief as to the constitution of human nature -- human needs and human potential. You might as well bring them out as clearly as possible so that they can be discussed.
Is Chomsky left out because he writes about topics of little interest to historians? His books contain arresting arguments about the history of the Cold War, genocide, terrorism, democracy, international affairs, nationalism, social policy, public opinion, health care, and militarism, and this merely begins the list. He ranges across the Americas, Europe, and Asia, paying special attention to the emergence of the United States. Two of his major themes, namely, the "rise of the West" in the context of comparative "global (...) history," are also major areas of interest for professional historians, never more so than today. (shrink)
To his credit, Chomsky puts them all on his website, whether itâ€™s The New Yorker describing him as â€œthe devilâ€™s accountantâ€ and â€œone of the greatest minds of the 20th centuryâ€, or The Nation, which lampooned him as â€œa very familiar kind of academic hackâ€ whose career has been â€œthe product of a combination of self-promotion, abuse of detractors, and the fudging of his findingsâ€. He stands accused of asserting that every US President since Franklin D Roosevelt should have been (...) impeached as war criminals; of supporting the murderous Pol Pot regime in Cambodia; and of comparing Israel to the Third Reich. (shrink)
After September 11, Sullivan wrote that while he wasnâ€™t worried about the heartland, â€œdecadent coastal liberals may well mount a fifth column.â€ This in response, as is well known, to a thoughtful New Yorker essay by Susan Sontag. Sullivan, who Eric Altermanâ€”not usually a sharp wordsmithâ€”memorably calls â€œYoung Roy Cohnâ€ later issued â€œSontag awards.â€ His attitude and his popularization of a sort of Lynne Cheneyist position on what â€œViewsâ€ are improper and thus should not be publicly aired, probably did far (...) more damage to civil liberties than Joe McCarthyâ€™s pal Roy, who at the very least didnâ€™t take himself seriously. (shrink)
The new Chomskian orthodoxy denies that our linguistic competence gives us knowledge *of* a language, and that the representations in the language faculty are representations *of* anything. In reply, I have argued that through their intuitions speaker/hearers, (but not their language faculties) have knowledge of language, though not of any externally existing language. In order to count as knowledge, these intuitions must track linguistic facts represented in the language faculty. I defend this idea against the objections Collins has raised to (...) such an account. (shrink)
The Chomskian holds that the grammars that linguists produce are about human psycholinguistic structures, i.e. our mastery of a grammar, our linguistic competence. But if we encountered Martians whose psycholinguistic processes differed from ours, but who nevertheless produced sentences that are extensionally equivalent to the set of sentences in our English and shared our judgements on the grammaticality of various English sentences, then we would count them as being competent in English. A grammar of English is about what the Martians (...) and we share. In this note, I argue that a recent attack on the Martian Argument by Laurence fail to mitigate its force. (shrink)
Mind–body dualism has rarely been an issue in the generative study of mind; Chomsky himself has long claimed it to be incoherent and unformulable. We first present and defend this negative argument but then suggest that the generative enterprise may license a rather novel and internalist view of the mind and its place in nature, different from all of, (i) the commonly assumed functionalist metaphysics of generative linguistics, (ii) physicalism, and (iii) Chomsky’s negative stance. Our argument departs from the empirical (...) observation that the linguistic mind gives rise to hierarchies of semantic complexity that we argue (only) follow from constraints of an essentially mathematical kind. We assume that the faculty of language tightly correlates with the mathematical capacity both formally and in evolution, the latter plausibly arising as an abstraction from the former, as a kind of specialized output. On this basis, and since the semantic hierarchies in question are mirrored in the syntactic complexity of the expression involved, we posit the existence of a higher-dimensional syntax structured on the model of the hierarchy of numbers, in order to explain the semantic facts in question. If so, syntax does not have a physicalist interpretation any more than the hierarchy of number-theoretic spaces does. (shrink)
Education stands at the intersection of Noam Chomsky's two lives as scholar and social critic: As a linguist he is keenly interested in how children acquire language, and as a political activist he views the education system as an important lever of social change. Chomsky on Democracy and Education gathers for the first time his impressive range of writings on these subjects, some previously unpublished and not readily available to the general public. Raised in a progressive school where his (...) father was principal, Chomsky outlines a philosophy of education steeped in the liberal tradition of John Dewey, more concerned with cultivating responsible citizens than feeding children facts. The goal of education, Chomsky argues, is to produce free human beings whose values are not accumulation and domination, but rather free association on terms of equality. Spanning issues of language, power, policy and method, this collection includes seminal theoretical works like Language and Freedom , a social analysis of the role of schools and universities in the American polity, and specific critiques of language instruction in America's classrooms today, along with new interviews conducted by Carlos Otero that serve to encapsulate Chomsky's views. Engaging and incisive, Chomsky on Democracy and Education makes accessible the key insights that have earned Chomsky such a committed following. (shrink)
by Alonzo L Hamby Noam Chomsky The Guardian, March 8, 1996 Harry Truman is a marvellous subject for a serious biography and after decades of 'scholarly engagement' with the subject, Alonzo Hamby is well qualified to write one. As he says, Truman was a 'man of the people,' whose life 'exemplifies' many aspects of 'the American experience'. In April 1945, 'knowing little more about diplomatic arrangements and military progress than what one would read in a good newspaper, he suddenly (...) found himself responsible for overseeing the end of the war and the establishment of a new global order'. 'You, more than any other man, have saved western civilisation,' Churchill informed him. It was a 'nearvisionary achievement,' in Hamby's judgment. (shrink)
Noam Chomsky's Poverty of the Stimulus Argument is one of the most famous and controversial arguments in the study of language and the mind. Though widely endorsed by linguists, the argument has met with much resistance in philosophy. Unfortunately, philosophical critics have often failed to fully appreciate the power of the argument. In this paper, we provide a systematic presentation of the Poverty of the Stimulus Argument, clarifying its structure, content, and evidential base. We defend the argument against a (...) variety of philosophical criticisms, new and old, and argue that the Poverty of the Stimulus Argument continues to deserve its guiding role in the study of language and the mind. (shrink)
The relation between linguistics and logic has been discussed in a, recent paper by Bar-Hillel} where it is argued that a disregard for workin logical syntax and semantics has caused linguists to limit themselves too narrowly in their inquiries, and to fall into several errors. In particular, Bar-Hillel asserts, they have attempted to derive relations of synonymy and so-called ‘rules of transfOI`1'Il8.tiOH,, such as the active—pussive relation, from distributional studies alone, and they have hesitated to rely on considerations of meaning (...) in linguistic analysis. No one can quarrel with the suggestion that linguists interest themselves in meaning or transformation rules, but the relevance of logical syntax and semsmticsz (at least as we now know them) to this study is very dubious. I think that a closer investigation of the assumptions and concems of logical syntax and semantics will show that the hope of applying the results which have been achieved in these fields to the solution of linguistic problems is illusory. (shrink)
The institution of book reviews, flawed though it may be, still performs a crucial service of resource enhancement for a discipline, funneling informed attention to at least some of the best among a superfluity of publications. During the last quarter century, Thomas Nagel's book reviews and critical essays have played a major role, shaping opinion, and thereby shaping the field. Now he has gathered his favorites in a collection, ten in philosophy of mind, and a dozen in ethics and political (...) philosophy, supplemented by the view from today: brief reactions to the individual pieces, and a fascinating introduction, part intellectual autobiography and part reflection on the state of the discipline. The other minds of the title are those of Freud (and Richard Wollheim and Adolf Grünbaum), Wittgenstein (and David Pears), Noam Chomsky, Jerry Fodor, David Armstrong, myself, Brian O'Shaughnessy and John Searle in the philosophy of mind, and Aristotle (and John Cooper), John Rawls, Robert Nozick, Richard Hare, Bernard Williams, Thomas Schelling, Ronald Dworkin, Alasdair MacIntyre, and Leszek Kolakowski in ethics and political philosophy. Do not be misled by the dust jacket. The picture of brains is as inappropriate as it is ugly; Nagel's interest in the mind has always been more driven by his interest in the mind's role in ethics, than by a fascination with neuroscience. He is a "moral psychologist," not a "cognitive scientist.". (shrink)
A central goal of modern generative grammar has been to discover invariant properties of human languages that reflect “the innate schematism of mind that is applied to the data of experience” and that “might reasonably be attributed to the organism itself as its contribution to the task of the acquisition of knowledge” (Chomsky, 1971). Candidates for such invariances include the structure dependence of grammatical rules, and in particular, certain constraints on question formation. Various “poverty of stimulus” (POS) arguments suggest that (...) these invariances reflect an innate human endowment, as opposed to common experience: Such experience warrants selection of the grammars acquired only if humans assume, a priori, that selectable grammars respect substantive constraints. Recently, several researchers have tried to rebut these POS arguments. In response, we illustrate why POS arguments remain an important source of support for appeal to a priori structure-dependent constraints on the grammars that humans naturally acquire. (shrink)
Biolinguistic inquiry investigates the human language faculty as an internal biological property. This article traces the development of biolinguistics from its early philosophical origins through its reformulation during the cognitive revolution of the 1950s and outlines my views on where the biolinguistic enterprise stands today. The growth of language in the individual, it is suggested, depends on (i) genetic factors, (ii) experience, and (iii) principles that are not specific to the faculty of language. The best current explanation of how language (...) is recursively generated is through Merge, an operation that takes objects already constructed, and reconstructs a new object from them, generating a 'language of thought', perhaps in a manner close to optimal (relying on principles of category (iii)), with externalization (hence communication) a secondary process. The concluding section of the article offers several objectives for future research in the field. (shrink)
A major recurrent feature of the intellectual landscape in cognitive science is the appearance of a collection of essays by Noam Chomsky. These collections serve both to inform the wider cognitive science community about the latest developments in the approach to the study of language that Chomsky has advocated for almost fifty years now,1 and to provide trenchant criticisms of what he takes to be mistaken philosophical objections to this approach. This new collection contains seven essays, the earliest of (...) which were first published about ten years ago. So the linguistic work that is summarised is within the principles and parameters approach and some of the essays (particularly the first and last) provide an outline of the main ideas of the emerging minimalist programme.2 But this is not primarily a book about the details of recent linguistic theory. Rather, in these essays Chomsky offers a wealth of critical commentary on some of the most influential arguments in the philosophy of mind and language that have appeared over the past two decades or so. Indeed, Chomsky discusses a vast range of philosophical topics and reaches some radical conclusions – that many influential philosophical discussions on language and mind are utterly misconceived and that, for example, the traditional mind-body problem cannot even be coherently stated. (shrink)
The thesis we develop in this essay is that all humans are endowed with a moral faculty. The moral faculty enables us to produce moral judgments on the basis of the causes and consequences of actions. As an empirical research program, we follow the framework of modern linguistics.1 The spirit of the argument dates back at least to the economist Adam Smith (1759/1976) who argued for something akin to a moral grammar, and more recently, to the political philosopher John Rawls (...) (1971). The logic of the argument, however, comes from Noam Chomsky’s thinking on language specifically and the nature of knowledge more generally (Chomsky, 1986, 1988, 2000; Saporta, 1978). If the nature of moral knowledge is comparable in some way to the nature of linguistic knowledge, as defended recently by Harman (1977), Dwyer (1999, 2004), and Mikhail (2000; in press), then what should we expect to find when we look at the anatomy of our moral faculty? Is there a grammar, and if so, how can the moral grammarian uncover its structure? Are we aware of our moral grammar, its method of operation, and its moment-to-moment functioning in our judgments? Is there a universal moral grammar that allows each child to build a particular moral grammar? Once acquired, are different moral grammars mutually incomprehensible in the same way that a native Chinese speaker finds a native Italian speaker incomprehensible? How does the child acquire a particular moral grammar, especially if her experiences are impoverished relative to the moral judgments she makes? Are there certain forms of brain damage that disrupt moral competence but leave other forms of reasoning intact? And how did this machinery evolve, and for what particular adaptive function? We will have more to say about many of these questions later on, and Hauser (2006) develops others. However, in order to flesh out the key ideas and particular empirical research paths, let us turn to some of the central questions in the study of our language faculty.. (shrink)
January 21, 2010 will go down as a dark day in the history of American democracy, and its decline. The editors of the New York Times did not exaggerate when they wrote that the Supreme Court decision that day "strikes at the heart of democracy" by having "paved the way for corporations to use their vast treasuries to overwhelm elections and intimidate elected officials into doing their bidding" -- more explicitly, for permitting corporate managers to do so, since current laws (...) permit them to spend shareholder money without consent. (shrink)
Truthout, August 5, 2011 "It is a common theme" that the United States, which "only a few years ago was hailed to stride the world as a colossus with unparalleled power and unmatched appeal is in decline, ominously facing the prospect of its final decay," Giacomo Chiozza writes in the current Political Science Quarterly.
January 21, 2010 will go down as a dark day in the history of American democracy, and its decline. The editors of the New York Times did not exaggerate when they wrote that the Supreme Court decision that day “strikes at the heart of democracy” by having “paved the way for corporations to use their vast treasuries to overwhelm elections and intimidate elected officials into doing their bidding” – more explicitly, for permitting corporate managers to do so, since current laws (...) permit them to spend shareholder money without consent. (shrink)
For me the adventure began just 50 years ago, here at MIT in 1961. The Chomskian revolution had just begun, and Noam Chomsky and Morris Halle had just opened up a PhD program in Linguistics, and I came in the first class. I want to start by thanking Chomsky and Halle for building that program, and I thank MIT and the Research Laboratory of Electronics for supporting it. I’m indebted to Chomsky for revolutionizing the field of linguistics and making (...) it into a field whose excitement has never waned. Chomsky redefined linguistics as the study of human linguistic competence, making linguistics one of the early pillars of cognitive science. (shrink)
Synesthesia is a condition in which stimulation in one modality also gives rise to a perceptual experience in a second modality. In two recent studies we found that the condition is more common than previously reported; up to 5% of the population may experience at least one type of synesthesia. Although the condition has been traditionally viewed as an anomaly (e.g., breakdown in modularity), it seems that at least some of the mechanisms underlying synesthesia do reflect universal cross-modal mechanisms. We (...) review here a number of examples of cross-modal correspondences found in both synesthetes and non-synesthetes including pitch-lightness and vision-touch interaction, as well as cross-domain spatial- numeric interactions. Additionally, we discuss the common role of spatial attention in binding shape and color surface features (whether ordinary or synesthetic color). Consistently with behavioral and neuroimaging data showing that chromatic-graphemic (colored-letter) synesthesia is a genuine perceptual phenomenon implicating extrastriate cortex, we also present electrophysiological data showing modulation of visual evoked potentials by synesthetic color congruency. (shrink)
This article investigates the semantics of sentences that express numerical averages, focusing initially on cases such as ‘The average American has 2.3 children’. Such sentences have been used both by linguists and philosophers to argue for a disjuncture between semantics and ontology. For example, Noam Chomsky and Norbert Hornstein have used them to provide evidence against the hypothesis that natural language semantics includes a reference relation holding between words and objects in the world, whereas metaphysicians such as Joseph Melia (...) and Stephen Yablo have used them to provide evidence that apparent singular reference need not be taken as ontologically committing. We develop a fully general and independently justified compositional semantics in which such constructions are assigned truth conditions that are not ontologically problematic, and show that our analysis is superior to all extant rivals. Our analysis provides evidence that a good semantics yields a sensible ontology. It also reveals that natural language contains genuine singular terms that refer to numbers. (shrink)
Some people say that the founding document of twentieth-century cognitive science was Chomsky’s (1959) review of Skinner’s Verbal Behavior. (Certainly it converted me.2) By any measure, Chomsky was a leading ﬁgure in the victory of cognitivism over behaviorism in psychology. In philosophy too, Chomsky led the attack against Quine’s behaviorism regarding language and language learning.3 Moreover, Chomsky’s (1957, 1965) expressly computational view of language processing was a major inspiration for Functionalism in the philosophy of mind, as founded by Hilary Putnam (...) and Jerry Fodor.4 Thus, when Chomsky turned his attention speciﬁcally and explicitly to the mind–body problem, one might naturally have expected him to grant his endorsement to Functionalism, whether or not he were to say anything further.5 But if one had expected that, one would have been wrong. For in his writings on the mind–body problem, Chomsky has vigorously challenged several of the claims and presuppositions characteristically made by Functionalists. I shall survey some of those challenges and, as a zealous Functionalist myself, try to rebut them seriatim. (shrink)
A century ago, a voice of British liberalism described the "Chinaman" as "an inferior race of malleable orientals."1 During the same years, anthropology became professionalized as a discipline, "intimately associated with the rise of raciology."2 Presented with the claims of nineteenth century racist anthropology, a rational person will ask two sorts of questions: What is the scientific status of the claims? What social or ideological needs do they serve? The questions are logically independent, but the second type of question naturally (...) comes to the fore as scientific pretensions are undermined. The question of the scientific status of nineteenth century racist anthropology is no longer seriously at issue, and its social function is not difficult to perceive. If the "Chinaman" is malleable by nature, then what objection can there be to controls exercised by a superior race? (shrink)
forthcoming in reisner and steglich-peterson, eds., Reasons for Belief If I believe, for no good reason, that P and I infer (correctly) from this that Q, I don’t think we want to say that I ‘have’ P as evidence for Q. Only things that I believe (or could believe) rationally, or perhaps, with justification, count as part of the evidence that I have. It seems to me that this is a good reason to include an epistemic acceptability constraint on (...) evidence possessed…1 It is a truism that adopting an unjustified belief does not put you in a better evidential position with respect to believing its consequences. This truism has led many philosophers to assume that there must, at a minimum, be a justification condition (and perhaps even a knowledge condition) on what it takes to count as having evidence. This is the best (or only) possible explanation of the truism, these philosophers have believed. This paper explores an alternative explanation for the truism. According to the alternative explanation that I will offer, unjustified beliefs do not put you in a better evidential position with respect to believing their consequences because any evidence you have in virtue of having an unjustified belief is guaranteed to be defeated. Since the lack of justification for a belief guarantees its defeat, I will suggest, we don't need to postulate a special justification condition (much less a knowledge condition) on what it takes to count as having evidence. Why is this important? It is important because the assumption that there must be a justification condition (or perhaps a knowledge condition) on what it takes to count as having evidence places a high bar on what it takes to have evidence - such a high bar that it is difficult to see how this bar could be met in the case of basic, perceptually justified beliefs. As a result, the high bar set by this condition plays a fundamental role, I will claim, in central features of a core dialectic from the epistemology of basic perceptual belief which plays a central role in the debates between internalism and externalism, foundationalism and coherentism, and rationalism and empiricism.. (shrink)
An idiolect, if there is such a thing, is a language that can be characterised exhaustively in terms of intrinsic properties of some single person at a time, a person whose idiolect it is at that time. The force of ‘intrinsic’ is that the characterisation ought not to turn on features of the person's wider linguistic community. Some think that this notion of an idiolect is unstable, and instead use ‘idiolect’ to describe a person's incomplete or erroneous grasp of their (...) language, where this latter is inherently social. Several important debates have featured discussion of individualistic, personal, or private languages. Some are considered in other entries (see the entries on the language of thought hypothesis, private language, and reference). This entry will concentrate on two influential and broadly idiolectal positions in the philosophy of language and linguistics: Noam Chomsky's preference for I-languages over E-languages (Section 2), and Donald Davidson's rejection of languages conceived as shared conventional structures that make communication possible (Section 3). David Lewis's claim that languages are a convention is a common target for both, and is outlined in an Appendix. The entry begins (Section 1) with some general remarks about the ontology of languages. Contents: 1. Idiolects and Language Individuation; 2. Chomsky on E-languages and I-languages; 2.1 The Origins of Chomsky's Distinction: Competence vs. Performance; 2.2 The Distinction Elaborated; 2.3 Why I-languages? Why Not E-languages?; 2.4 Criticisms of Chomsky's Preference for I-languages Over E-languages; 3. Davidson's Claim That There Are No Such Things As Languages; 3.1 What Davidson Aims to Show; 3.2 The Argument From Malaprops and Related Phenomena; 3.3 Reaction to Davidson's Argument; Bibliography; Other Internet Resources; Related Entries. (shrink)
In Moral Minds, Marc Hauser makes an audacious claim about moral thought. He argues that morality is best understood in much the same way as Noam Chomsky described language: as the product of an innate and universal mental faculty. For Hauser, moral intuition is not the product of culture and education, nor is it the result of rational and deliberative thought, nor doesitreduce to the workings of the emotions. Instead, it is human nature to unconsciously and automatically evaluate the (...) moral status of human actions: to judge them as right or wrong, allowed or forbidden, optional or obligatory. (shrink)