Chomsky Notebook

Chomsky Notebook

JEAN BRICMONT
JULIE FRANCK
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 360
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/bric14474
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Chomsky Notebook
    Book Description:

    Noam Chomsky applies a rational, scientific approach to disciplines as diverse as linguistics, ethics, and politics. His best-known innovations involve a groundbreaking theory of generative grammar, the revolution it initiated in cognitive science, and a radical encounter with political theory and practice.

    In Chomsky Notebook, Cedric Boeckx and Norbert Hornstein tackle the evolution of Chomsky's linguistic theory. Akeel Bilgrami revisits Chomsky's work on freedom and truth, and Pierre Jacob analyzes his naturalism. Chomsky's own contributions include an interview with Jean Bricmont and an essay each on Edward Said and the natural world. Altogether, these works reveal the penetrating insight of a remarkable intellectual whose thought extends into a number of fields within and outside of academia. For the uninitiated reader and longtime fan, this anthology attests to the power of Chomsky's rationalism and the dexterity of his critical investigations.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-51778-2
    Subjects: Linguistics, Philosophy, Biological Sciences, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VIII)
  3. PART I. CHOMSKY
    • 1 THE MYSTERIES OF NATURE: HOW DEEPLY HIDDEN?
      (pp. 3-33)
      NOAM CHOMSKY

      The title for these remarks is drawn from Hume’s observations about the man he called “the greatest and rarest genius that ever arose for the ornament and instruction of the species”: Isaac Newton. In Hume’s judgment, Newton’s greatest achievement was that while he “seemed to draw the veil from some of the mysteries of nature, he shewed at the same time the imperfections of the mechanical philosophy; and thereby restored [Nature’s] ultimate secrets to that obscurity, in which they ever did and ever will remain.” On different grounds, others reached similar conclusions. Locke, for example, had observed that motion has...

    • 2 THE GREAT SOUL OF POWER: SAID MEMORIAL LECTURE
      (pp. 34-50)
      NOAM CHOMSKY

      It is a challenging task to select a few themes from the remarkable range of the work and life of Edward Said, who I was privileged to count as a treasured friend for many years. I will keep to two: the culture of empire and the responsibility of intellectuals—or, from a broader perspective, the culture of dominance generally and the responsibility of those with sufficient privilege and resources so that if they choose to enter the public arena, we call them “intellectuals.”

      The phrase “responsibility of intellectuals” conceals a crucial ambiguity: it blurs the distinction between “ought” and “is.”...

  4. PART II. INTRODUCTIONS
    • 3 CHOMSKY, FRANCE, REASON, POWER
      (pp. 53-73)
      JEAN BRICMONT and JULIE FRANCK

      Among contemporary intellectuals, Noam Chomsky is probably the one most famous throughout the world and yet least known in France. His international reputation derives from his unremitting effort in the field of political analysis and commentary and from the revolution in the cognitive sciences he launched with his groundbreaking work in generative linguistics. If he is less well known in France, that is because he can’t easily be situated on the grid (although its confines are not narrow) of French thought; one has to make an effort to step outside the usual categories in order to understand him. Chomsky is...

    • 4 AN INTERVIEW WITH NOAM CHOMSKY
      (pp. 74-112)
      JEAN BRICMONT and NOAM CHOMSKY

      Jb The motivation behind most questions in this part is this: I feel that an increasing number of people realize that the current social arrangements are deeply unjust and that the main answer from the mainstream is the famous TINA. So, even though I know that you will not want to describe an alternative in detail, I think it is important to give concrete answers to the various forms of TINA. Hence, below, I try to formulate the case for TINA as sharply as I can.

      Q1. First there is the issue of human nature. Since you hold that humans...

  5. PART III. LINGUISTIC THEORY AND LANGUAGE PROCESSES
    • 5 THE VARYING AIMS OF LINGUISTIC THEORY
      (pp. 115-141)
      CEDRIC BOECKX and NORBERT HORNSTEIN

      The “generative” program for linguistic theory is now about fifty years old. During its short history, the aims and methods of the program have changed, as is to be expected of any scientific approach to natural phenomena. This essay outlines three periods within the generative enterprise. The phases can be (roughly) identified in terms of the different goals that generativists set for themselves, each bringing with it different standards of success and suggesting (somewhat) different research agendas. All three goals are still with us and animate related yet different kinds of linguistic investigation, so getting some clarity on these historical...

    • 6 LANGUAGE, THOUGHT, AND REALITY AFTER CHOMSKY
      (pp. 142-169)
      GENNARO CHIERCHIA

      In 1956, Language, Thought, and Reality, a famous book by B. L. Whorf, was published. It addressed some fundamental and very hard questions, which have remained at the heart of an intense debate since. Such questions include the following:

      (1) a. What is the relationship of language to thought?

      i. Is there thinking without language? Does the structure of our language determine how we think?

      ii. How are our linguistic abilities related to our general intelligence?

      b. What is the relation of language to reality? Is language a mirror of the world, or does language determine the way we view...

    • 7 GENERATIVE SYNTAX IN THE BRAIN
      (pp. 170-190)
      YOSEF GRODZINSKY

      Since its inception, generative grammar has positioned itself as the branch of human psychology that focuses on the language faculty. Thus an important programmatic article by Chomsky and Miller (1963) formulated three related questions as those that the language sciences must answer:

      1. What is knowledge of language?

      2. How does it arise in the individual?

      3. How is it put to use?

      The work of a linguist who tries to discover principles of linguistic knowledge is on this view closely related to that of a developmental psycholinguist who studies patterns of language acquisition (and their underlying mechanisms) or to the work of...

  6. PART IV. COGNITIVE SCIENCE AND THE PHILOSOPHY OF MIND
    • 8 LEARNING ORGANS
      (pp. 193-202)
      CHARLES R. GALLISTEL

      Harvey (1628) revolutionized physiological thinking when he showed that the heart circulates the blood and that its structure suits it to perform this function. Before Harvey, the modern conception of an organ as something whose particular structure enables it to perform a particular function did not exist. Physiological thinking centered not on organs but on humors. Humors had properties and effects, and pathological conditions were thought to arise from an excess or deficiency in one or more of them. The humors themselves did not have specific and limited functions. Much less did they have a structure that enabled them to...

    • 9 INNATENESS, CHOICE, AND LANGUAGE
      (pp. 203-210)
      ELIZABETH SPELKE

      Throughout his writings, Chomsky raises questions about human knowledge and freedom: What do we know, and how does our knowledge arise? Why do we act as we do, and how do we choose our actions? He offers strongly contrasting views of the progress of science in answering these questions. Although linguists and other cognitive scientists have made headway in understanding human knowledge, especially knowledge of language (e.g., Chomsky 1975), we have not even begun to understand how humans choose their actions (e.g., Chomsky 1988). In Chomsky’s writings, knowledge of language and freedom of action are treated as distinct and separate...

    • 10 THE SCOPE AND LIMITS OF CHOMSKY’S NATURALISM
      (pp. 211-236)
      PIERRE JACOB

      Fifty years ago, Noam Chomsky laid the foundations for a new scientific approach to the human language faculty (HLF), which he called “generative grammar.” Furthermore, his argument that behaviorist explanations of human verbal behavior are inadequate was a major instigator of the “cognitive revolution” that took place in the 1960s and gave rise to the cognitive sciences.¹ Today, few contemporary analytic philosophers of mind or language would deny, I think, that Chomsky’s work has deeply changed our scientific understanding of human language.

      Many philosophers, however, have challenged one or another aspect of Chomsky’s framework for investigating the HLF. Not only...

  7. PART V. CHOMSKY AND THE INTELLIGENTSIA
    • 11 CONSPIRACY: WHEN JOURNALISTS (AND THEIR FAVORITES) MISREPRESENT THE CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF THE MEDIA
      (pp. 239-257)
      SERGE HALIMI and ARNAUD RINDEL

      To set out to recast any analysis of the structures of the economy and the reporting of the news as a “conspiracy theory” amounts to no ordinary falsification. It is part of a much larger design. During the last quarter of a century, the neoliberal counterrevolution, the crumbling of the “communist” regimes, and the weakening of the trade unions have all contributed, first to the renaissance, then to the hegemony, of individualistic thought. Collective institutions have been dismantled; those erected on their ruins privilege the atomized consumer, the “individual subject.” The new dominant ideology that accompanies this grand transformation renders...

    • 12 NOAM CHOMSKY AND THE UNIVERSITY
      (pp. 258-282)
      PIERRE GUERLAIN

      Much ink and saliva have been spent to attack or justify Chomsky’s political views, but few observers have dealt with Chomsky’s place in academia or analyzed the various techniques used to marginalize or discredit him. Chomsky presents even his fiercest critics with a problem, for even those who call him “zany” know he is one of the most famous scholars in linguistics.¹ What I intend to do here is to comment upon a kind of catalog of the reactions to Chomsky’s name within the academic world. I encountered these reactions both in articles written in English or French and during...

    • 13 THE PRACTICE OF INTELLECTUAL SELF-DEFENSE IN THE UNIVERSITY
      (pp. 283-291)
      NORMAND BAILLARGEON

      An anthology edited recently by C. P. Otero bears witness to the fact that, contrary to what a rapid survey of his work might lead one to think, Chomsky has written a great deal on education.¹

      Yet his ideas on this subject have not always received the sustained attention they deserve, and they are only very rarely discussed in the academic milieus concerned. This is all the more regrettable in that Chomsky’s thought, in this as in so many other cases, diverges radically from the beaten path and is quite impossible to boil down into the kind of facile slogans...

    • 14 CHOMSKY, FAURISSON, AND VIDAL-NAQUET
      (pp. 292-308)
      JEAN BRICMONT

      More than thirty years ago, Chomsky got dragged into what is known in France as the “Faurisson affair.” At the end of the 1970s, Robert Faurisson, a lecturer in literature at the University of Lyon, was subjected to all sorts of intimidation: his lectures were disrupted, he was physically attacked, and finally he was suspended from teaching by the university. In addition, he was taken to court by “antifascist” organizations such as LICRA (Ligue internationale contre le racisme et l’antisémitisme), MRAP (Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l’amitié entre les peuples), and associations of persons who had been deported or...

    • 15 CHOMSKY AND BOURDIEU: A MISSED ENCOUNTER
      (pp. 309-316)
      FRÉDÉRIC DELORCA

      During the 1990s, the figures of Noam Chomsky and Pierre Bourdieu emerged as major points of reference for movements “on the left of the left,” which were then enjoying a renaissance and heading toward planetwide unification—what has come to be called the “alterglobalization movement.” Yet no encounter, either between these two men or between their ideas, ever really took place, a failure that is perhaps symptomatic of the difficulties in dialogue not so much between Europe and America as between two traditions of thought present on both continents.

      The main obstacle to dialogue between the worlds of these two...

  8. PART VI. POLITICS:: THEORY AND PRACTICE
    • 16 CHOMSKY IN FRANCE: THE RESISTANCE TO PRAGMATIC ANTI-AUTHORITARIANISM
      (pp. 319-330)
      LARRY PORTIS

      The political writings of Noam Chomsky have gained a new popularity in France over the past decade, which, given their general rejection before this time, is surprising. Indeed, until recently, mention of Chomsky in leftist circles in France was likely to immediately evoke a mixture of fear and revulsion, so completely had his name come to be associated with a denial of the existence of the Nazi death camps during World War II. This surprising and quite silly situation was the product of a media campaign led, toward the end of the 1970s, by some of the more socially ambitious...

    • 17 TESTIMONY
      (pp. 331-333)
      SUSAN GEORGE

      Others will certainly contribute scholarly analyses to this volume in honor of Noam Chomsky, dealing with his work as a major theorist in linguistics or as a political analyst who has accompanied progressive struggles of every kind for decades. For my part, I have a more modest aim, which is to evoke the humanity and the openness of this great mind, from my personal experience. I am thinking of a gesture Noam has certainly forgotten but that was of great, indeed crucial, importance to me.

      In 1967, I was well settled in France, where I had just completed a graduate...

    • 18 TRUTH, BALANCE, AND FREEDOM
      (pp. 334-348)
      AKEEL BILGRAMI

      Though there is much radical—and often unpleasant—disagreement on the fundamental questions around academic freedom, these disagreements tend to be between people who seldom find themselves speaking to each other or even, in general, speaking to the same audience. On this subject, as in so much else in the political arena these days, one finds oneself speaking only to those with whom one is measurably agreed, at least on the fundamental issues. As proponents of academic freedom, we all recognize who the opponents of academic freedom are, but we seldom find ourselves conversing with them. We only tend to...

  9. List of Contributors
    (pp. 349-352)