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Chomsky

Chomsky
November 09, 2011, 04:04:43 AM
Out of curiosity I attended a Noam Chomsky lecture last week with a few friends when he visited my home city. Swarms of people crowded one of the biggest public lecture theaters on offer. The Occupy protests were presumably put on hold for a 3 hour period. The man is treated like a prophet of the left. He of course began his career as a scientist, however. Coming from a light background in cognitive science I have great respect for his work in linguistics. He was one of the first researchers to provide empirical evidence against the 'blank-slate' theory of the human mind, the idea that cognitively we are not hard-wired at all but learn everything from 'culture'. In the realm of language, It is my understanding that Chomsky proved that the amount of data children are exposed to, from 'culture', when intuitively learning the structure of a language for the first time is insufficient to produce a working grammar. The conclusion is that the brain comes into the world prepared with content which organizes the fragmented linguistic data we are exposed to as infants. So this is, off the bat, not a traditionally 'leftist' view. It implies that humans possess a 'universal grammar', innately, and no doubt other cognitive/psychological features. There is actually such thing as a fixed 'human nature'.

But what about his politics, for which he has, for good or bad, become most famous for, at least in pop culture? I am no expert on his writings and can only note some of the main points in his lecture. He is concerned primarily with the controlling interests of the USA in other parts of the world. In this area he has an encyclopedic knowledge of modern history, and relates facts, dates and events surrounding America's persistent efforts to support often at first fringe political movements (often violent, and no matter if they were Islamic fundamentalist (Afghanistan) or brutal military regimes (south America)) in countries who's rulers were not sympathetic to America's material and strategic interests, communists first and foremost but not exclusively. Another concern relates to extent to which economic activity in advanced countries like America has shifted from manufacturing, farming and provision of services to what he calls 'financial games'. Money markets, stock markets, and other arenas in which money is made from not really doing anything of substance, while the former sectors move offshore. Thus the '1%' get richer while the nation as a whole gets poorer and decays because the bulk of the 'concrete' economic assess vanish offshore. He also went briefly into the mass media's historical tendency to stifle democratic debate about such issues and in general, being controlled as it is by this '1%'.

He did not talk about helping the poor and disenfranchised, of elevating those who cannot or will not help themselves, of the need to welcome refugees, how we are all equal, and other 'soft liberal' concerns. He was addressing structural features of culture and the domestic and foreign policy which results. He implied that a significant part of the problem is the neo-conservative right. Now in reality the left may be problematic, particularly insofar as 'soft liberal' concerns go, but an aspect of the left's more traditional focus, i.e. on improving the lives of everyday hardworking people, upheld by Chomsky, seems on reflection to be relevant. There is relevance for his views for any 'third way' political movement focused on sustainable and sensible culture, namely: There is no one in charge, and those who have most semblance of power are interested in pretty baseless wealth accumulation to while the crux of the country rots (economically, but this can be extended to culturally, environmentally, etc). Secondly, for alternative voices to be heard, it will require bypassing mass media and exposing the very specific agenda of mass media which is and eyes-wide-shut consumerism,  constant support of foreign intervention, and political correctness.

Perhaps his concern with the '1%' reflects a psychological predisposition for class revenge or equality, but if it reveals aspects of reality which are relevant for nihilists, then so much the better.  In addition to discussing the above ideas I want to make the point that  explicitly alienating people who hold view like them will in the long term mean nothing but isolation. One can foster commonalities with others without loosing one's own unique stance.

Re: Chomskly
November 11, 2011, 12:44:03 AM
Noam sees both parties for the globalist, Zionist-supporting snakes that they are. His economic point is fucking valid. A nation cannot run on poor, low-skilled workers. A lot of people are "skilled" in the US, but they have useless degrees or contribute nothing (like teaching Music 101 in a liberal arts college). Siphoning wealth to the rich destroys productivity. On the other hand, handing money out aimlessly creates problems. The US needs to understand efficiency, rather than bitching about who is rich or poor.
Impale the Under-120's!

I've always enjoyed a little male bondage every now and then.
I like missionary because it allows me to watch her face as I strangle her.

Re: Chomsky
November 15, 2011, 04:04:38 AM
The problem with Noam Chomsky is that he was utterly swamped with socialist propaganda all throughout his youth (by his own admission).  In his psychological development he has never been able to fully shed that part of his past, so he is perpetually stuck within a given paradigm that forces him to take bizarre or even contradictory positions.  It's kind of a shame, really.

Re: Chomsky
November 16, 2011, 02:04:31 AM
The problem with Noam Chomsky is that he was utterly swamped with socialist propaganda all throughout his youth (by his own admission).  In his psychological development he has never been able to fully shed that part of his past, so he is perpetually stuck within a given paradigm that forces him to take bizarre or even contradictory positions.  It's kind of a shame, really.

Examples?

Re: Chomsky
November 16, 2011, 09:37:30 PM
Examples?
He accepts and even argues for the idea that a significant part of what we are is predetermined by our genes.  He even accepts race as being fundamentally part of our humanity.  Yet, he will argue that we're all basically the same and nobody is really smarter or better than anybody else in any meaningful way.  Then he'll claim that he knows people who are much smarter than him at, say, language acquisition.  He'll discuss how many people are morally lacking, yet morality is really not determined by our biology even though it is part of our nature.  Etc., etc.

These come up all the time.  How familiar are you with Chomsky?

Re: Chomsky
November 22, 2011, 04:12:11 AM
Examples?
He accepts and even argues for the idea that a significant part of what we are is predetermined by our genes.  He even accepts race as being fundamentally part of our humanity.  Yet, he will argue that we're all basically the same and nobody is really smarter or better than anybody else in any meaningful way.  Then he'll claim that he knows people who are much smarter than him at, say, language acquisition.  He'll discuss how many people are morally lacking, yet morality is really not determined by our biology even though it is part of our nature.  Etc., etc.

These come up all the time.  How familiar are you with Chomsky?

You will have to make the contradictions more clear. Re morality: perhaps (no doubt probably) he simply means we have an innate psychological faculty to 'be moral'...like we have an innate psychological faculty to acquire language... the particular content of which is determined by environment (english/french/ghetto grunting)? This is how being moral/linguistic can be part of our nature without being determined.

But like I said in my post, I'm not very farmiliar with his political writings at all, but will be soon.


Re: Chomsky
November 22, 2011, 09:04:25 PM
You will have to make the contradictions more clear. Re morality: perhaps (no doubt probably) he simply means we have an innate psychological faculty to 'be moral'...like we have an innate psychological faculty to acquire language... the particular content of which is determined by environment (english/french/ghetto grunting)? This is how being moral/linguistic can be part of our nature without being determined.
He claims moral capacity is innate, yet is somehow identical in all people (with a caveat for sociopaths).  He does something similar with claims of intelligence.  He is trying to have it both ways.  If moral capacities or whatever are innate, then there must be variation in those capacities in populations resulting from genetics.  He wants to claim that any variation is merely a result of circumstance.  It's a nonsensical position.

Re: Chomsky
November 22, 2011, 10:11:35 PM
Perhaps he simply believes that this is not an insurmountable variation. Not necessarily nonsensical.

Re: Chomsky
November 23, 2011, 02:18:33 AM
You will have to make the contradictions more clear. Re morality: perhaps (no doubt probably) he simply means we have an innate psychological faculty to 'be moral'...like we have an innate psychological faculty to acquire language... the particular content of which is determined by environment (english/french/ghetto grunting)? This is how being moral/linguistic can be part of our nature without being determined.
He claims moral capacity is innate, yet is somehow identical in all people (with a caveat for sociopaths).  He does something similar with claims of intelligence.  He is trying to have it both ways.  If moral capacities or whatever are innate, then there must be variation in those capacities in populations resulting from genetics.  He wants to claim that any variation is merely a result of circumstance.  It's a nonsensical position.

Without having read him on these issues all i can say is that I don't think its nonsensical. It's widely known that you can have variation in innate characterisits which is caused by the environment. Just because something is 'in your genes' does not mean there can't be a distribution in populations relating to quite vastly different ways in which that thing is expressed in behaviour. Intelligence won't be expressed as much if you're not nurtered in schools etc. Stuff is 'innate'... but that is not the be all and end all.

Quote
Genotypes often have much flexibility in the modification and expression of phenotypes; in many organisms these phenotypes are very different under varying environmental conditions. The plant Hieracium umbellatum is found growing in two different habitats in Sweden. One habitat is rocky, sea-side cliffs, where the plants are bushy with broad leaves and expanded inflorescences; the other is among sand dunes where the plants grow prostrate with narrow leaves and compact inflorescences. These habitats alternate along the coast of Sweden and the habitat that the seeds of Hieracium umbellatum land in, determine the phenotype that grows.[6]

--> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phenotype

Re: Chomsky
November 23, 2011, 12:39:07 PM
To accept those innate qualities as the be-all end-all is exactly as nonsensical as to deny them completely. The problem of genius extends to both. Mutation is a part of Evolution.

Epigenetics also presents an interesting addition to what might be considered "innate" qualities

Quote
Marcus Pembrey and colleagues also observed in the Överkalix study that the paternal (but not maternal) grandsons [48] of Swedish men who were exposed during preadolescence to famine in the 19th century were less likely to die of cardiovascular disease; if food was plentiful then diabetes mortality in the grandchildren increased, suggesting that this was a transgenerational epigenetic inheritance.[49] The opposite effect was observed for females—the paternal (but not maternal) granddaughters of women who experienced famine while in the womb (and therefore while their eggs were being formed) lived shorter lives on average.

Quote
Epigenetic inheritance is the transmittance of information from one generation to the next that affects the traits of offspring without alteration of the primary structure of DNA (i.e., the sequence of nucleotides) or from environmental cues.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transgenerational_epigenetics

Non-genetic variation and inheritance is common, and is affected by the environment. Taking a cue from a discussion in another thread, environmentally heritable characteristics could present in ways such as a population being exposed to calorie overload; up-regulating or creating genetic patterns favoring storage of these calories (and hence obesity). Literally, making you prone to be fat even though your great-grandparents may be fine. Also a characteristic that later down-regulates in the absence of the environmental stimulus, sometimes within 3 generations. Be careful what you identify as innate.