Ignorance Radicalized

Studia Philosophica Estonica 2 (2):140-156 (2009)
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Abstract

The aim of this paper is twofold. I criticize Michael Devitt's linguistic---as opposed to Chomsky's psychological---conception of linguistics on the one hand, and I modify his related view on linguistic intuitions on the other. I argue that Devitt's argument for the linguistic conception is in conflict with one of the main theses of that very conception, according to which linguistics should be about physical sentence tokens of a given language rather than about the psychologically real competence of native speakers. The basis of this conflict is that Devitt's view on language, as I will show, inherits too much from the criticized Chomskian view. This is also the basis of Devitt's strange claim that it is the linguist, and not the ordinary speaker, whose linguistic intuition should have an evidential role in linguistics. I will argue for the opposite by sketching a view on language that is more appropriate to the linguistic conception. That is, in criticizing Devitt, I am not defending the Chomskian approach. My aim is to radicalize Devitt's claims.

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