- Capitalism and Alternatives -

White Flag?

Posted by: Hank on February 11, 19100 at 14:37:10:

In Reply to: don't hoist the white flag so soon Hank... posted by Piper on February 11, 19100 at 12:23:14:

: Piper: That behaviourist paper that purports to refute Chomsky is located here.

What could you mean by 'white flag?' I was only saying that this discussion has only a tenuous relation to what this board is about, and so I was trying to end it. Skinner's Behaviorism (God, Piper, "operant conditioning"!) cannot answer for first language acquisition, okay? Chomsky was right in rejecting it. But, is his model (transformational grammar, principles and parameters, etc) the ONLY alternative to Behaviorism? That's the next question, and it has only a minute relevance to capitalism and the alternatives. So, I'm not going to get really far into it. Generally, we shouldn't get very far from the topic, right?

For now, I'll just say that I glanced over your link and thanks. If I get a chance in the next few days, I'll post something at THE TOP pf this board which goes into further detail. But my discussion won't be exhaustive, because like I said it really is beyond the scope of this board.

: Behaviorism, by definition, denies anything to the mind beyond dispositions to respond in certain ways to certain stimuli. This includes the Behavioralist view of linguistic competetence, stated in Skinner's book. In contrast, Chomsky says that every human mind has a MENTAL ORGAN SPECIFIC TO LANGUAGE which is INTRICATELY STRUCTURED. It is structured (or, to use a computer metaphor, 'hard-wired') PRIOR TO ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONING.

: Piper: again i do not believe skinner talked about 'stimuli'.

Right, "Operant Conditioning", is the general term but the discrete units (e.g. words spoken to a to a two-year old) can be called stimuli. And, right, Skinner and behaviorists did not and do not deny genetic endowment.

: I beileve it has been orthodoxy since Kant that the mind is structured a priori and 'awoken' by experience. This was the solution to the rationalist/empiricist dispute.

Right, but behaviorialism is loathe to attribute anything to innate properties in the human mind, and they're certainly not going to agree with Chomsky's notion that the LAD is intricately structured and that all human languages are, basically, the same. It's hard to get research grants to Bali if you're saying things like that!

: I can't offer a defence of skinner here against Chomsky's attack because i haven't read it in 4 years. But if i can be bothererd reacquainting myself i might just do it.

Let me know what you think--at the top of the page, please. Of course, it savages Behaviorism, but this is common academic fare. Chomsky maybe even turned up the volume given that he was writing for the New York Review of Books, a public journal. Things get pretty nasty, and it looks even nastier when a person's name is an abbreviation for a whole school of thought. And anyway, we should remember that Behaviorism is dominant in American academia, and as such it Behaviorists are forever writing savage reviews of Chomsky, calling him names like 'fascist' too. In this, we should always remember that changes in science are always accompanied by self-conscious rejection of the old school, and these often take on nasty dimensions. So, I find Chomsky's review steadfast and unyielding, with Nazi illusions for shock value. A defender of Skinner will see it differently. Check it out for yourself and then tell me your opinion. It's sort of like somebody said in another context, "we always find what we're conditioned to look for."

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