Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 10, No. 4, 2011
  Current Issue  
  Back Issues  
Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Bernard Dubé
  Contributing Editors
David Solway
Nancy Snipper
Samuel Burd
Andrée Lafontaine
Sylvain Richard
Marissa Consiglieri de Chackal
  Music Editors
Diane Gordon
Serge Gamache
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Denis Beaumont
Marcel Dubois
Emanuel Pordes
  Past Contributors
  Noam Chomsky
Mark Kingwell
Naomi Klein
Arundhati Roy
Evelyn Lau
Stephen Lewis
Robert Fisk
Margaret Somverville
David Solway
Michael Moore
Julius Grey
Irshad Manji
Richard Rodriguez
Pico Iyer
Edward Said
Jean Baudrillard
Bill Moyers
Barbara Ehrenreich
Leon Wieseltier
Charles Lewis
John Lavery
Tariq Ali
Michael Albert
Rochelle Gurstein
Alex Waterhouse-Hayward


David  Solway


David Solway is a Canadian poet and essayist (Random Walks) and author of The Big Lie: On Terror, Antisemitism, and Identity. His editorials appear regularly in FRONTPAGEMAG.COM and Pajamas Media. He speaks about his latest book, Hear, O Israel! (Mantua Books), at


Those who regard Noam Chomsky as one of the world’s premier thinkers might be advised to reconsider. It is, of course, mainly his political writings that have earned him his current reputation for crusading fearlessness, uncompromising candor, and lacerating intelligence. That they consist largely of cant and drivel erected on a foundation of dishonesty escapes his acolytes’ attention completely, likely because he speaks to their prejudices and because they have not done their homework. And possibly because they are influenced by the New York Times, which beatifies Chomsky as “arguably the most important intellectual alive.” But then, that’s the Times, for which the provision of evidence was never a desideratum.“What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence,” to quote Christopher Hitchens’ aphorism on the beatification of Mother Teresa, whom he regards as “a fanatic, a fundamentalist, and a fraud” — epithets which would more aptly apply to Chomsky. I will, however, provide evidence for my dismissal of Chomsky as a world-class quack, as did Hitchens with Mother Teresa in his devil’s advocate volume on the saintly imposter.

As I’ve written before, Chomsky’s dishonesty is palpable. He rages furiously and sanctimoniously against the U.S. “war machine,” but as Peter Schweizer reveals in Do As I Say (Not As I Do): Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy, Chomsky wrote his world-famous Syntactic Structures on grants from the American military establishment. America is, for Chomsky, “the land of Pentagon contracts, lucrative real estate holdings, stock market wealth, and a tax-sheltered trust for his children.” Yet, despite his fierce denunciations, he squats there like an orb spider, his web sagging with the weight of juicy flies. He makes disingenuous millionaire Michael Moore look like a small-time piker.

As for his political ravings, the sheer nonsense of most of his claims is outstripped only by the abyssal gullibility of his auditors and readers, who do not realize that Chomsky is a contaminated witness. “It would be easy to demonstrate,” writes David Horowitz in an article titled “The Sick Mind of Noam Chomsky,” “how on every page of every book and in every statement that Chomsky has written, the facts are twisted, the political context is distorted (and often inverted) and the historical record is systematically traduced,” expressing “a pathological hatred of his own country.” A recent book has accomplished precisely such a demonstration. Chomsky’s doctoring of sources, dubious or obscure references, misquotations, convenient abridgments, significant omissions and gross misinterpretations have been abundantly documented in The Anti-Chomsky Reader, a volume which should be consulted by those who are still impressed by Chomsky’s glowing nimbus and public prominence as a “libertarian socialist.”

Noted jurist and author Richard Posner concurs with the book’s findings. In his Public Intellectuals: A Study of Decline, Posner writes that Chomsky’s tone and one-sidedness is “all too typical” of his oeuvre. “Chomsky’s use of sources is uncritical, and his methodology unsatisfactory — it consists simply of changing the subject.” Nor does Chomsky feel obliged to defend his assertions no matter how outrageous or tendentious since “[h]e never acknowledges error.” Chomsky appears to regard himself as a political sage, perhaps even a prophet, whose insights cannot be questioned and whose pronouncements are infallible. One recalls his confident prediction to an MIT audience in a lecture of October 18, 2001, scarcely a month after 9/11, that the U.S. was preparing a “silent genocide” against Afghanistan, planning “to murder three or four million people.” This should tell us all we need to know about his powers of divination.

According to Thomas Sowell in Intellectuals and Society, Chomsky is one of those public intellectuals who has ranged “beyond the confines of his specialty” and made “inflammatory comments on things for which he had no qualifications.” But the shabby scholarship alone, evident both in the pulpiteering style and the abject referencing, as well as the apodictic claptrap he purveys, should have set off alarm bells for responsible readers and prompted them to do a bit of supplementary research. If they had, they would have realized that Chomsky is so far off the wall he makes Humpty Dumpty look like a paragon of stability.

It would be no less instructive to leave the politics aside for the nonce and go back to his earlier technical writings in the field of psycholinguistics that established his reputation in the first place. As Posner says, “a successful academic may be able to use his success to reach the general public on matters about which he is an idiot.” But it goes deeper than that. If Chomsky’s reasoning is flawed or tenuous or 'unprovable' in his scholarly work, which was considered seminal and yielded whole university disciplines, then it may well be, by extrapolation, that his reasoning is equally suspect in his other endeavors. It won’t do to read only books like Hopes and Prospects, Failed States, or Hegemony or Survival, the latter praised by the ruthless despot Hugo Chavez. I have in mind books like Syntactic Structures, Aspects of the Theory of Syntax, and his somewhat later The Minimalist Program, which loyal Chomskyites should look into if they really wish to honor their master and justify their professions of regard. They should read the “scholarship,” not the propaganda, to determine if their hero merits his acclaim.

I must apologize in advance for a brief and regrettably superficial excursion into the technical realm of linguistics. I don’t have the space here to hack my way any great distance into it and I don’t want to try my reader’s patience any more than I have to. There may be some consolation to be found in that I avoid the really turgid, off-putting stuff that can drive even the most dedicated student into the nether regions of terminal despair. But some peripheral remarks are in order if we are serious in trying to figure out how Chomsky’s mind works. Chomsky, as we will see, is essentially an intellectual tyrant. He does not give clear and indisputable evidence when developing a thesis; he 'dictates.' And he subsequently expects us to 'believe.'

Chomsky starts us off with his definition of a language: “Language is a set (finite or infinite) of sentences, each finite in length, and constructed out of a finite set of elements.” The sentence itself comprises a noun phrase followed by a verb phrase. Perhaps he should have stopped there. For he goes on to elaborate a complex “phrase-structure grammar” which he diagrams as a tangled forest filled with inverted trees whose branches consist of various parts of speech fit for a tribe of swinging monkeys. The name of this jungle is “Transformational Grammar.” It purports to map what Chomsky calls the “deep structure,” “underlying strings,” and “recursive properties” common to all the world’s languages and innate to all the world’s speakers. These features are supposed to provide for an economy of grammatical rules that prescribe the convoluted operations by which coherent sentences are constructed. His wielding of Ockham’s Razor, however, seems to produce a lot of unnecessary bleeding and more stubble than is desired. As Judith Greene points out in Psycholinguistics: Chomsky and Psychology, the ramification of syntactic rules in the mind of the individual speaker would “start generating strings at random [and] would obviously be wildly uneconomical.”

Moreover, his theories keep changing — though one would assume reality does not. Aspects of the Theory of Syntax significantly emends the earlier Syntactic Structures. He later went on to revise his ideas even further, jettisoning deep structure and postulating a “universal grammar” deriving from “simple” computational laws — hence The Minimalist Program — which do nothing to pollard his earlier arboreal speculations. Indeed, deep structure keeps its place in the popular domain as Chomsky’s chief contribution to the psychology of language.

When he tells us that the branches of a phrase structure, unlike the links of a word-chain device, act like a kind of blueprint for the finished sentence, we have to take it on his authority. Similarly, what is called a “finite-state grammar,” to quote Steven Pinker in his explication of Chomsky in The Language Instinct, “is just one damn word after another, but with a phrase-structure grammar the connectedness of words in the tree reflects the relatedness of ideas in mentalese.” Really? A formulation of this nature is actually a dictum, and though a hierarchical tree diagram may seem convincing, the map is not the territory. It may not be that way in reality.

What we get in Chomsky is more like a description of what might be or should be the case, but not an explanation of what manifestly is the case. The diagrams function in a certain way; therefore the things they are diagrams of must also behave in the same way. Because the branches of his tree drawings describe arches and parabolas under which the various phrasal segments of a sentence are combined, it must follow that long-distance dependencies are plainly accounted for, that is, that the sentence “remembers” later what came before in the deep structure to produce grammatical agreement among its terms. It’s a nice idea and the term “deep structure” continues to resonate. (Ringing phrases can lead to the belief in entirely phony constructs — think of “Oedipus Complex” and “The dictatorship of the proletariat.”) The trouble is that the term refers exclusively to the idea; neither is confirmable by data gleaned from outside the magic circle. They indicate a hypothesis, not a fact.

In the same way, we are told that parts of speech are not a kind of meaning but, let’s say, they are like Lego pieces that fit one another in prefabricated ways. A given part of speech, for example, a noun, is simply like an item in a menu that must obey certain sequences. Similarly, certain verbs may enter a phrase structure lawfully only by conforming to modular rules or obeying certain formal parameters. But these operational procedures can surely be replaced by the 'meaning of the word itself' (or what this school of thought rather pompously calls the “semantic component”). One can argue that a transitive verb requires an object or an embedded sentence, not because it is following a nexus of prior and invisible rules, but because the sense of the verb 'in itself' requires that you 'complete the potential' or specify the general meaning of the verb in its dictionary acceptation.

In Aspects of a Theory of Syntax, Chomsky tries to get around the dilemma by adding a new constellation of base rules, called a “lexicon,” that would somehow allot meanings to words and sentences. It simply won’t wash — one doesn’t repair a theoretical lesion by simply inventing a prosthesis and tacking it on. Syntax — the order of words — allows us to interpret the overall meaning of a sentence but 'it cannot output definitions', without which syntax is perfectly helpless and contentless. Analogously, in The Minimalist Program, Chomsky plucks out of thin air a faculty he labels a “parser,” which “assigns a percept to a signal” and which, mirabile dictu, “presumably incorporates the language and much else.” Such maneuvers are plainly illicit and imply, rather, that neither deep structures nor a universal grammar could possibly contain all the information necessary for the semantic interpretation of a sentence.

No less troubling, the notion of Universal Grammar may be correct in the trivial sense that every language has a grammar and is learnable, but whether Chomsky’s scaffolding of rules and “parameters” would apply to all the world’s languages, for instance, Mandarin or Hausa or Barikanchi or Hopi or Nootka (the latter, according to Benjamin Lee Whorf in Language, Thought and Reality, has no parts of speech), is another question entirely. Many scholars are profoundly skeptical whether Chomsky’s enunciations apply across the board 'even to English' and some have furnished strong evidence that they do not. (See, for example, Peter Seuren’s Western Linguistics).

As Raymond Tallis writes in Not Saussure: “Chomsky’s methodological tactic of treating language as primarily a syntactic structure has led linguistics to an impasse.” The central problem that Chomsky has failed to address is that a “context-based intuition of the speaker’s intentions is necessary not only to determine the meaning but also the grammatical structure of what has been said” (emphasis added). Tallis’ reasoning is at least as persuasive as Chomsky’s — but Tallis has not undertaken to found an academic discipline or create a dendritical pseudo-science.

Tallis’ allusion to “context-based intuition” strikes very much to the heart of the matter, especially when we consider that Chomsky does not adequately distinguish a sentence from an utterance. “The fundamental aim of the linguistic analysis of a language L,” he writes in Syntactic Structures, “is to separate the 'grammatical' sequences which are the sentences of L from the 'ungrammatical' sequences which are not sentences of L and to study the structure of the grammatical sequences.” Syntactic competence, he states, is reflected in “performance”; unfortunately, not all performances would satisfy the criteria he assembles.

Consequently, when he tells us in The Minimalist Program that language is “embedded in performance systems, which access the generative procedure,” he only muddies the waters. For the fact is that people do not speak in sentences and their verbal expressions are often quite perceptibly ungrammatical. Yet the strings of words, gaps, ill-formed sequences, missing suffixes, disheveled syntax, wrong auxiliaries, morphological aberrations, and improper formations in everyday speech are readily comprehensible. Context, and intuition gained from experience, appear to do the work. As former president of the American Psychological Association, the late Charles Osgood, commented in his Lectures on Language Performance, “the situational conditions to which [speakers] are responding are perceptual and cognitive rather than linguistic.” This at least makes sense.

I have merely skimmed the surface but readers who are unfamiliar with Chomsky’s modus operandi can plunge into his scholarly texts for themselves. What they will discover is that Transformational Grammar (no more than Universal Grammar) gives us not an explanation of how language works but a bundle of descriptions of formal and diagrammatic processes accompanied by a glossary of definitions and reams of alphabetic formulae. 'What is explained is the description, not the thing it is a description of.' To use Chomsky’s own terminology, but in a manner he did not intend, his theories enjoy a kind of “descriptive adequacy,” which boomerang back on themselves; their “explanatory adequacy” applies to the description as — at best — a conceivable but not necessarily an actual mechanism for generating an infinite set of grammatical sentences.

In Aspects of the Theory of Syntax, for example, Chomsky lays it down that “a system of rules that in some explicit and well-defined way assigns structural descriptions to sentences” is grounded in “mental processes that are far beyond the level of actual or even potential consciousness.” And here is the predicament. Chomsky’s “system” is, in many respects, pretty well incoherent, but even if it happened to be 'coherent,' there is still no way of determining that it would be 'valid' or that these mental processes demonstrably exist. Put succinctly, Chomskyan psycholinguistics is not a science, but an elaborate Rube Goldberg machine that mobilizes enormous resources to get very little done. Nevertheless, many of us are seduced by an intricately latticed diction and dazzled into submission by indomitable complexity.

Far more importantly — and the point of my reconnaissance — is that the mind that is at work postulating a theory of generative grammar is the same mind that is busy expounding an ideological program of anti-capitalist, anti-American, and anti-Israeli doctrine, that excuses the Soviet Union for invading Afghanistan and is sympathetic to totalitarian North Korea, that supports Latin American and Islamic autocrats, that can defend a mass murderer like Pol Pot, a Holocaust denier like Robert Faurisson, and a terrorist like Hassan Nasrallah, and that can argue that George Bush’s “crimes vastly exceed bin Laden’s.” 'And it can do so because it is not bound by the rules of testability.'

Thus, Chomsky’s linguistic theories violate Karl Popper’s famous rule that a scientific proposition — or in the present instance, 'categorical statements pretending to be scientific propositions' — must be susceptible to falsifiability. The genuine scientist or researcher accepts this axiom as incontestable, but Chomsky does not. He is always right. Similarly, Chomsky gives us a thematic system of political denunciation of his chosen black sheep, rooted tree-like in his private mental processes and passed off as structurally well-founded, but devoid of rules, and certainly of the inclination, for testing its validity.

True, sociopolitics is not psycholinguistics in so far as “experimentation” is clearly possible in the former. No matter. The upshot is the same. The experiment that would be required to justify his political assertions is either not conducted or its results are pre-cooked. Chomsky is guilty of a variant of that intellectual defect Aristotle in the Metaphysics called apaideusis, the failure “to distinguish between that which requires demonstration or proof and that which does not” — i.e., from Chomsky’s perspective.

This is, so to speak, the nature of Chomsky’s “mentalese,” which does not explain anything in the real world but merely describes what Chomsky is already convinced must be the case, as if, in Robert Wargas’s pungent simile, his depositions are “like pulling the lever on a rigged slot machine.” Cloning his psycholinguistic procedures, what is “explained” is not the social, political, and economic world but Chomsky’s own fabulations, his “bizarro-world, fun-house, mirror version of reality,” as John Hawkins puts it. In short, 'the explanation is nothing but a description.' Admittedly, the description is powerful and is obviously capable of “generating” assent. Yet this does not make it anything more than a portrayal of an 'apparently' systematic way of observing language or the world, a vast tautology devoid of 'verifiable evidence' to substantiate its presumably objective claims.

As Zachary Hughes writes in Camera (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting), “Chomsky has used the influence granted him as a prominent linguist to support militant organizations and murderous dictatorships…while implicating those he perpetually paints as the guilty parties — the United States and Israel.” In doing so, Chomsky diverts us with a richly colored map but without the slightest proof that it corresponds to anything in the topography of the real world. It corresponds only to the template in Chomsky’s head. His “philosophy” can be tersely summarized as ipse dixit.

I would suggest, then, that his dogmatic approach to psycholinguistics is mirrored both in his tendency to issue “authoritative” political proclamations and in his defense of dictatorial personalities and regimes. Like to like. In other words, 'the thought process that underlies his political books and lectures derives from his theoretical writing, and both from a consistent habit of mind.' It’s the same old Chomsky.

Reputable linguists Paul Postal and Robert Levine, contributors to The Anti-Chomsky Reader, take the same view. “[T]he two strands of Chomsky’s work manifest exactly the same key properties,” including “a deep disregard of, and contempt for, the truth, a monumental disdain for standards of inquiry, a relentless strain of self-promotion,” and a penchant for abusing others. 'Chomsky is an absolutist in his analytical specialty and naturally gravitates towards absolutists in the geopolitical world.' Truth is what he determines it to be. Contradictory facts are inadmissible in whatever court he sees himself as presiding over. Evidence either does not count or may be tampered with if it serves his purposes. As Randy Harris, oddly enough a great admirer of Chomsky, writes in a review of Robert Barsky’s hagiographic Noam Chomsky: A Life of Dissent, “But there’s this problem. Noam Chomsky lies.”

In conclusion, it is only fair to admit that Chomsky is, in his own warped fashion, undeniably brilliant — it takes brains to invent a complex and reticulated discipline and mesmerize generations of scholars. But brilliance alone, though necessary, is not sufficient to create a truly viable and enduring account of reality; other qualities, such as honesty, humility, self-doubt, an eye for error, and a fastidious attention to the smallest details, are obligatory. That is why Freud and Marx are no longer considered as oracles, but Einstein is. Chomsky may be a “great wit,” but we recall those famous lines from John Dryden’s Absalom and Achitophel: “Great wits are sure to madness near allied/And thin partitions do their bounds divide.” Sadly, as often as not, the partitions come down and the “great wit” finds himself on the other side of the cognitive meridian. In Chomsky’s case, the diagnosis is inescapable. The man is seriously meshuggah.

Ultimately, there can be no rebutting that Chomsky, for all his weird, unanchored giftedness, is not only an intellectual tyrant; he is an intellectual charlatan, however compelling. He is, to go back to Hitchens, the Mother Teresa of the secular domain. And those who hang upon his words have sacrificed both their integrity and their understanding.



Email Address
(not required)

brilliant article.

of course no educated reader takes chomsky all too seriously.
he is the master of philosophical dissumulation.
the charlatan par excellence
the quintessential sophist

if i, along with many others holding diametrically opposed views, enjoy reading his chatter it’s
because behind his deceptive deconstructivism there is a always a kernel of possible truth which, however small and doubtful, is nonetheless big enough to have one pause if only for second and put into question one's most strongly held convictions.
Unfortunately, a lot of accusations and name calling. I would rather that Mr. Solway be more exact and specific in his charges.Chomsky may be all those things that David Solways claims he is but not as presented in this intemperate screed. More analysis and facts; less rage please.

To outrightly diss the entire Chomsky viewpoint is as foolish as praising it. Chomsky is too intelligent and too complex to be conveniently stereotyped. If you disagree with his arguments in Manufacturing Dissent, then expose them, point by point. If you disagree with his criticisms of the corporation which he regards as criminal, then again, take him on one point at a time. Solway fails to do this; his is more of a mean-spirited rant than anything else.

Solway devotes most of this diatribe to doing exactly what he criticizes Chomsky for: asserting without evidence, claiming his assertions as facts, favouring abuse over analysis, and failing to pay attention, let alone 'fastidious attention,' to detail. I agree that Chomsky's discourse style is imperious and polemical and that there are some basic flaws in his model of language, but the same is clearly true of Solway; this essay does not advance our understanding of Chomsky, nor of politics or language.
Since the author fails to prove what he claims is Chomsky's fallacy, and considering his usual lampoonist style indulging in his own fallacies, his real motivation might be elsewhere in between the lines: His ethnic integrism. to editor
A disappointing article, in tone and substance. OK, so you don't like Chomsky, we get it. Like any academic, Chomsky has put forward a theory and it is out there for others to question and try to counter. This is the normal academic process. He, like others, is trying to explain how language works, a worthy and ongoing quest.
Given that the author is an arch-conservative and a fiercely right-wing Zionist who is incapable of seeing the brutality of colonialist Israel, including the murderous theft of the entire Palestinian homeland and the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people, obviously Noam Chomsky is the enemy. Chomsky's writing on politics is filled with facts (that's part of its pleasure) and is everywhere fact-based. He has an astonishing knowledge of contemporary history. This essay, on the other hand, you will note, is almost fact-free. It calls Chomsky a liar several times but doesn't give a single example. Read Chomsky: he's brilliant, filled with relevant (& often little known) facts, and has a superb analytic mind. He is committed to humanity, to social justice, and is the enemy of fascists, racists and bigots. Though raised in a Zionist family (he learned Hebrew at a young age), he has no illusions about colonialist Israel's Apatheid, expansionist, militarist agenda. His good friend, the Jewish Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, is the man to read about the horrors of the founding of the Jewish State: Pappe's The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine is a must read.
I find your "deconstruction" of Chomsky's linguistic theses quite puzzling, and, in places, quite obscure. To begin with, leaving Chomsky out for the nonce, there is a a well-known model in cognitive science for thought processes in general which is modeled on Chomsky's linguistic model. Often referred to as the Computational Representational Theory of Thought, the model has it that thoughts involve semantically evaluable components that have syntactic or formal structure, and, crucially, that thought processes can, following Turing's insight, be treated as formal computational processes that operate independently of the semantic properties of the represenations in their domains. Just as, eg., the formal structure of modus ponens, "(if p, then q; p; therefore q", can be implemented regardless of what specific sentences "p" and "q" represent, thought processes are viewed as operating on representations without regard to the semantic values of those representations. That being so, all of your comments about Chomsky ignoring semantics seems question-begging at best. If our ability to produce and comprehend sentences involves computing representations of their structural properties and relationships which, though they respect the semantic properties of constituents, operate independently of those semantic properties, then Chomsky's program is on the right track. What you need to refute him is not the bare assertion that semantics and context have to be involved, but a developed theory showing that they are.

Complaining about the tangled forest of representations begs the question. The examples are legion, but just take one. The infamous "garden path sentence": The horse raced past the barn fell. Most people, including me, have to read it at least twice, because at first glance it looks like there's something wrong with it. "The horse raced past the barn" is complete sentence, so what the heck is "fell" doing at the end. It takes a re-reading to figure out that "the horse raced past the barn" can also be a noun phrase, ie., "the horse (which was) raced past the barn". One way, not the only way, but one way, of understanding why people have the problem processing this sentence that most of us seem to have is by means of Chomsky's phrase structure trees and assumptions of how the parser works. Phrase structure trees are one way of representing the structural features and dependencies in sentences, which words or phrases are structural units ("the horse" vs "the horse (which was) raced past the barn"), which in turn is important because it's part of model of how the average speaker will understand and use her language.

Chomsky's development of the lexicon, where the lexical entries for particular words contain all of the relevant information for introducing them into sentential representations, is not, as you seem to describe it, a desperate attempt to avoid a dilemma (I'm not at all clear what you take the two horns of the dilemma to be), but, rather, a development aimed at simplifying what sorts of things have to be imputed to the "language faculty". The greater the detail of syntactic information stored, as it were, in a lexical table entry, the less complicated Chomsky was able to make the rules, and the fewer "transformations" from one level of representation to another he needed to introduce. Which, again, is the motive behind his Minimalist Program, although to be honest, my familiarity with Chomsky only went up to his Principles and Parameters/Government and Binding phase. Minimalism has the simplest rules-move, copy, delete...coupled with the a further enhancement of the lexicon, to contain all the relevant information for actual language items.

Complaining that Chomsky's model only tells us how something might or ought to happen, but not how it does, ignores the widespread use of idealizations throughout science. Mechanics appeals to frictionless planes, chemistry appeals to ideally pure samples (the water we drink is NOT H2O, it's H2O plus a lot of other stuff). Fictionless planes and ideally pure samples aren't found in nature. Why isn't their use by science illegitimate? Because there are reasons for thinking that what makes them strictly speaking false are due to noise, to interference by inessential factors. It's always possible that an idealization is wrong, but that's an empirical question.

Lastly, why on earth would it be a criticism that Chomsky's theories keep changing? Look at the history of physics, or psychology during the 20th century. In physics, the people whose opinions refused to change, eg., Einstein, went from being the heralds of a new age in science to being an embarassment to younger generations of physicists who couldn't get him to understand the consequences of his own work. Chomsky took linguistics from a descriptive cataloguing to an explanatory science. In the aftermath of his initial work, linguists all over the world began applying his model to their language, and have continued to apply it more and more exotic aboriginal languages. The changes in Chomsky's theories seem to reflect 2 things: the general scientific impulse to greater simplicity relative to a theoretical goal (for Chomsky, characterizing the innate Language Faculty in a way that captures the facts of child language acquisition), and the ever broadening and deepening level of linguistic data coming from researchers across the world.

I'm not claiming that I know Chomsky is correct. As became evident to me from my professors, linguistics is a deep subject. But it seems to me that your "deconstruction" misses its target. As far as Chomsky's political views, I have no comment. I find a lot of his claims baffling, his apparent distortions of evidence worrying. But Bobby Fischer was a world-class chess player, regardless of how nutty his political opinions were.

Your conclusion reminds me of Bishop Samuel Clarke, who began a work by saying "Only 2 sorts of people don't believe in God; those who have never heard the arguments, and those who have heard them, but have so corrupted themselves as to be incapable of rational thought." You can try poisoning the well, but smart people should realize that, unless you (and I mean YOU) have a better linguistic theory on offer, you're just admitting your own impotence.


By David Solway:
Interview - David Solway
The Multiculti Tango
Utopiah: Good Place or No Place
Palin for President?
The Madness of Reactive Politics
Liberty or Tyranny
Shunning Our Friends
A Culture of Losers
Political Correctness and the Sunset of American Power
Talking Back to Talkbackers
Letting Iran Go Nuclear
Robespierre & Co.
The Reign of Mediacracy
Into the Heart of the United Nations
The Big Lie
As You Like It
Confronting Islam
Unveiling the Terrorist Mind



  = shared webhosting, dedicated servers, development/consulting, no down time/top security, exceptional prices
Montreal Jazz Festival
Film Ratings Page of Sylvain Richard, film critic at Arts & Opinion - Montreal
Montreal World Film Festival
Listing + Ratings of films from festivals, art houses, indie
Festival Nouveau Cinema de Montreal, Oct. 13-24st, (514) 844-2172
Photo by David Lieber:
Armand Vaillancourt: sculptor
Canadian Tire Repair Scam [2211 boul Roland-Therrien, Longueuil] = documents-proofs
Available Ad Space
Valid HTML 4.01!
Privacy Statement Contact Info
Copyright 2002 Robert J. Lewis