Platonic Chomsky?

Carrol Cox cbcox at
Thu Mar 30 13:41:38 PST 2000

Scott Martens wrote:

> I'm a materialist. To whatever extent minds exist, they exist in the human nervous system. There is evidence to support this idea,

There is a difficulty here. I would accept your proposition as nearly axiomatic with one qualification or addition, difficult to articulate with precision. That minds, if they exist, exist only in the human nervous system does *not* mean that a mind *is* the nervous system. I'm operating here from the sixth of the theses on Feuerbach.


Feuerbach resolves the religious essence into the *human* essence.

But the human essence is no abstraction inherent in each single


In its reality it is the ensemble of the social relations.

Feuerbach, who does not enter upon a criticism of this real

essence, is consequently compelled:

1. To abstract from the historical process and to fix the religious

sentiment [*Gemut*] as something by itself and to presuppose an

abstract -- *isolated* -- human individual.

2. The human essence, therefore, can with him be comprehended

only as a "genus," as an internal, dumb generality which merely

*naturally* unites the many individuals.

Independently of social relations (or the "ensemble of social relations") humans have brains but no minds. Another way of putting the same thing (I think) is to affirm that we (as humans) do not have a history but *are* our history. Statements about the brain can, in principle, apply to all individuals, but statements about minds (e.g., the literary philosophies miscalled psychology of Freud and Lacan) can only be made about unique histories and are not generalizable. A cyber= friend who is a Lacanian informs me off list, " the Imaginary, which is absolutely unique for each and every person." But if it is unique for each person, than it is like Proudhon's Providence, a mere label, a synynym for x's life story, not an explanation of anything. There can be a "science of mind" -- but it is called history, not psychology, and tells us or can tell us nothing about individuals. Nor can any statement about these unique (concrete rather than abstract) indiviuals (histories) tell us anything about history.

Doubtless there are holes here. There are certainly more precise ways to put it.


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