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Language and Thought by Noam Chomsky
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bookshelves: natural-sciences, philosophy

This is a very short book which is based on a lecture by Chomsky and subsequent commentaries by a philosopher (Akeel Bilgrami), a neurobiologist (James Schwartz) and a cognitive psychologist (George Miller). Given this diverse panel, it follows that Chomsky's essay is quite broad, covering an enormous amount of topics such as Fregean semantics, computational approaches to cognition, the mind-body problem, unification prospects in the sciences, and the limits of understanding.

What's most striking about Chomsky is his unsurpassed philosophical rigor and his independence of thought. As a case in point, Chomsky is not afraid to dismiss entire philosophical traditions (if not entire branches of philosophy). According to him, mainstream philosophy of mind and language remain entirely misguided: the former insists on a Cartesian mind-body problem which has no place in serious inquiry on the nature of the world, while the latter asks questions and introduces notions that are completely alien to the empirical study of language. Consequently, if Chomsky is correct, much of contemporary philosophy needs to be abandoned! Surprisingly, his criticisms are incredibly penetrating and persuasive.

Overall, this book provides a good overview of Chomsky's philosophical views. Bilgrami's discussion is also quite interesting, especially his reflection on Chomskian, internalist semantics. Yet, for anyone wanting to get a much more comprehensive and detailed exposition of these topics, I'd recommend Chomsky's 'New Horizons in the Study of Language and Mind'.
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Reading Progress

March 31, 2016 – Started Reading
March 31, 2016 – Shelved
March 31, 2016 – Shelved as: philosophy
March 31, 2016 – Shelved as: natural-sciences
April 1, 2016 – Finished Reading

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