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[Xmca-l] Re: Chomsky, Vygotsky, and phenomenology

This is very true, Martin.

But Chomsky's innateness thesis--that the deep structure of human grammar is hard-wired as part of our genetic endowment--has no resonance with assumptions of cognitive science. The reason there was not a more active contesting of innateness by cognitive scientists is twofold. 

First, cognitive science, fashioned at that time around the metaphor of the serial digital computer, is a theory of information processing, not of learning. The early models of learning (e.g., Anderson's initial ACT Theory) were very brittle, positing that new production rules (the basic elements of mental processing) could be created mechanically in ways that (a) meshed into the existing structure of production rules, and (b) improved the performance and capabilities of the system--very questionable claims. So cognitive science did not have a secure foundation for learning that they would want to defend against the quite outlandish thesis that the basic structures of language don't have to be learned because we come equipped with them.

Second, it was politically opportune to have Chomsky to join forces with the emerging cognitive science as a way to slay the dragon of behaviorism--looking at Chomsky's critique of Skinner's Verbal Learning, who WOULDN'T want Chomsky on their side!


-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-l-bounces+dkirsh=lsu.edu@mailman.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-l-bounces+dkirsh=lsu.edu@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Martin John Packer
Sent: Wednesday, December 17, 2014 9:25 AM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Chomsky, Vygotsky, and phenomenology

I think Chomsky's work added credibility to the efforts at the end of the 1950s to change the character of psychology. Computers were just becoming available, and they seemed to offer a model, or a metaphor, for psychology: a machine, made of transistors and wires, could be programmed to process information, using an internal language that followed formal rules for manipulating abstract elements that represented (at least for the programmer and user!) some aspect of the world.

Chomsky's approach to language was to formalize it: he viewed language as a collection of grammatical rules that operated (with no attention to semantics) on abstract elements (Sentence, Noun, Verb...), to generate strings of sentences that a linguist would consider grammatical. 

Chomskian linguistics was considered a kind of test case of the feasibility of a cognitive psychology, one that could challenge the claim by behaviorists that science must study only what is observable, so a scientific psychology must study behavior. Chomsky's work seemed to show that science could also reconstruct an underlying competence that was not directly observable. That is what cognitive psychology has been doing ever since.


On Dec 17, 2014, at 9:36 AM, Carol Macdonald <carolmacdon@gmail.com> wrote:

> Do you think Chomsky knows he is? Howard Gardner is a very generous fellow.
> On 17 December 2014 at 16:28, Martin John Packer 
> <mpacker@uniandes.edu.co>
> wrote:
>> oh, I just read your second paragraph...
>> Howard Gardner lists Noam Chomsky as one of the "founders of 
>> cognitive science," along with Jerome Bruner, John McCarthy, George 
>> Miller, and Allen Newell (1985, p. 23).
>> Gardner, H. (1985). The mind's new science: A history of the 
>> cognitive revolution. New York: Basic Books.
>> Martin
>> On Dec 17, 2014, at 8:54 AM, Carol Macdonald <carolmacdon@gmail.com>
>> wrote:
>>> Well yes, and as linguistic and psychology student I was very proud 
>>> of
>> him
>>> for his review, it made me laugh and laugh.  But Chomsky never read
>> Piaget
>>> or Vygotsky.  He would have been interested in Vygotsky's 
>>> interpretation
>> of
>>> Behaviousrism.
>>> As to cognitive psychology - well I suppose we should be pleased, 
>>> but Chomsky had no direct hand in that.
>>> Carol.
>>> On 17 December 2014 at 14:49, Martin John Packer <
>> mpacker@uniandes.edu.co>
>>> wrote:
>>>> Chomsky knew enough about psychology to write a devastating review of B.
>>>> F. Skinner's book 'Verbal behavior,' which still makes very 
>>>> interesting reading. And Chomsky's own book 'Syntactic Structures' 
>>>> was one of the
>> key
>>>> components in the emergence of cognitive psychology in the late 
>>>> 1950s,
>> as
>>>> Howard Gardner's book makes clear.
>>>> Martin
>>> --
>>> Carol A  Macdonald Ph D (Edin)
>>> Developmental psycholinguist
>>> Academic, Researcher,  and Editor
>>> Honorary Research Fellow: Department of Linguistics, Unisa
> --
> Carol A  Macdonald Ph D (Edin)
> Developmental psycholinguist
> Academic, Researcher,  and Editor
> Honorary Research Fellow: Department of Linguistics, Unisa