Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Chomsky has no patience for externalism whatsoever

It's amusing watching the video below and seeing the philosopher (Peter Ludlow) totally fail to get the scientist (Noam Chomsky) concede that there's anything at all that needs to be taken seriously about externalism.

See also:
The Varieties of Externalism

Are there any non-question-begging arguments for externalism?


  1. A dollar to whoever tells us what time to start watching for the externalism exchange. :)

  2. 3:35

    You can send the dollar here:

    P E T E M A N D I K

    Associate Professor and

    Department of Philosophy
    William Paterson University of New Jersey
    265 Atrium Building
    300 Pompton Road
    Wayne, NJ 07470

  3. That's a fun interview. I feel a bit bad for the interviewer, as Chomsky can be a bit dismissive and dogmatic about things. To say that it doesn't make sense to talk about X unless X is part of some greater explanatory framework seems a bit much (reminds me of positivists who would dismiss things because they didn't pass muster with their verifiability criterion of meaning). What about exploratory science? What about the initial stages of a science? What about purely descriptive science?

    I think the interviewer was a bit too timid and could have steered things, but I'm sure that's easier said than done.

    That said, he makes a great (and sort of ironic) point that it might be a mistake to import the word 'reference' in ordinary language as a technical term. On the other hand, who gives a shit? That's like the 'Conceptual Foundations of Neuroscience' people: complain about the word and avoid the actual issue.

    I find it funny also, given that he is the king of prematurely importing theories about public language into the head!

    His dry wit, the confidence in his own views, the breadth of topics he feels comfortable and competent to discuss, is indeed very impressive. Especially since he's like 163 years old.

  4. I've seen him dismiss other problems by acting ornery about definitions. When asked about the mind-body problem, he'd say we don't have a good definition of the body, so the problem is not well defined.

    Also, it's hilarious that he was asked if 'language' exists. :)

  5. PPS The interviewer used this really weird word twice and I have no idea what the hell it means. IT's at 5:12, pronounced something like 'persissify'.

    Huh? He says "Can't we say it's a pretheoretic notion of meaning and what we want to do is elucidate or persissify it in some way.'

    Is he saying we want to turn it into a sissy? :o