Review of Metaphysics 20 (3):539-539 (1967)

The excitement generated among philosophers by Chomsky's work arises not only from his contributions to the study of language but also from the ramifications of his work for general issues of epistemology and the philosophy of science. Chomsky has been attacking cherished dogmas of empiricism and its ally, behaviorism. He has suggested that Descartes—the favorite whipping boy of contemporary philosophers—and his theory of innate ideas provide a fruitful starting point for understanding and appreciating recent work in transformational linguistics. In this brief historical essay, he sets forth what he takes to be the chief doctrines of Cartesian linguistics and traces their development through the nineteenth century. The essay is self-consciously written from a contemporary perspective and the topics selected for discussion are those which anticipate and are related to contemporary empirical linguistics. The importance of the creative aspect of language use, the distinction between deep and surface structure in language, the belief in a universal grammar are the key themes of this stimulating study in the history of ideas.—R. J. B.
Keywords Catholic Tradition  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
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ISBN(s) 0034-6632
DOI revmetaph196720326
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