Platonic Chomsky?

Gordon Fitch gcf at
Thu Mar 30 06:02:56 PST 2000

> ...
> This leads to a question: Is Chomsky a Platonist? These rules that generate
> and govern languages sound similar to transcendent Ideas. Do these rules
> vary at all over time? Or are they static and essentially eternal?
> ...

As I recall he avoids answering such questions. He says only that it is clear to him from the evidence that there is some biologically innate language-processing ability in humans, not that it is a manifestation of form from a higher realm. No stepping up to the plate and swinging for the bleachers, as with, say, Goedel.

Noam is a rather cagey fellow. "Animal rights" came up on Z-net a few years ago and he started out disparaging the movement rather heartily; but he didn't do an "animal rights is a Nazi idea" number as hereabouts recently. This allowed him to retreat gracefully under fire, finally harrumphing that he didn't know much about it after all, and had other things on his mind. So you see he is cleverer than some people, even if he is not a great genius. He's not going to get his tail caught in the Platonic ice, either.


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