it's hard to say what possessed me to read this book now of all times. some people will know that i've read most of ray jackendoff's Patterns in the M...moreit's hard to say what possessed me to read this book now of all times. some people will know that i've read most of ray jackendoff's Patterns in the Mind, which covers a lot of the same ground, and i've also taken/audited courses on semantic/syntactic theory with ray, so why read pinker?
while confirming a lot of things any casual student of cognitive/psycho-linguistics will already know by now, pinker is still definitely worth reading, and in this book he's at his finest. he explains the basic ideas with simplicity and grace, in a way that won't be tedious even when the general concepts are familiar (though real linguists might be bored). and of course, this is pop science, so pinker steps back to capture the big picture now and again, tying together the strands of current research (c. 1995) into a coherent picture of mind, brain, language, and evolution.
i'd have to say that the most valuable thing i gained from reading pinker was the way he adeptly handled the most contentious issues in this field. he makes a clear case for the core of chomskyan theory, without hesitating to draw lines where chomsky is wrong. he engages with some of the prevalent speculation about language evolution, challenging a number of widely-held beliefs. he takes a stand against the desire to find human-like language in other animals, noting that 1) it's just not there and 2) to insist that we need to find human language in order to elevate other animals to our stature is chauvinistic in the extreme.
basically, i'm sorry i didn't read this book in fall of 2004, when i first started thinking seriously about these issues and could have gained the most from it. but i have no regrets at all about reading it now.(less)
This book presents a way of understanding thought as a formal system. It doesn't so much "argue" for that position as teach you a lot of logic, math,...moreThis book presents a way of understanding thought as a formal system. It doesn't so much "argue" for that position as teach you a lot of logic, math, AI, and even a little neuroscience and genetics to give you the tools to understand this. That said, GEB is obviously not so much for those who a) already understand the afore-mentioned fields and/or b) already accept the main thesis of the book. I fall squarely within category b), and have some background in the topics mentioned in category a), although not enough that this book wasn't worth reading. Having worked in the past to understand Gödel, I came away from GEB with a much deeper understanding of the proof itself and related concepts in math/logic. And while I didn't need convincing that thought is basically a property of a formal system, Hofstadter's outlook on this is enough to give the most insightful cognitive scientist some food for thought.(less)
i've read 5 chapters of this (the first four and the last). i don't know if i'll ever read the middle chapters so i may as well review it. ryle is an...morei've read 5 chapters of this (the first four and the last). i don't know if i'll ever read the middle chapters so i may as well review it. ryle is an engaging writer, so the text moves quickly. the comments of two professors on the section where he lays out the "category mistake" at the heart of cartesian dualism led me to re-read this section in particular, and conclude that it's a rather sketchily drawn analogy that doesn't give you much reason to reject cartesian dualism. (for the record, i think there are any number of other, better reasons for rejecting cartesian dualism). in any case, it's worth reading, at least to dissect his argument and then pat yourself on the back, reassured that you can (in fact) do philosophy. the last chapter also contains some entertaining (perhaps unjustified) criticisms of the entire enterprise of psychology.(less)