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Chomsky: Language, Mind and Politics, 2nd Edition



Chomsky: Language, Mind and Politics, 2nd Edition

James McGilvray

ISBN: 978-0-745-65645-8 December 2013 Polity 288 Pages


Noam Chomsky has made major contributions to three fields: political history and analysis, linguistics, and the philosophies of mind, language, and human nature. In this thoroughly revised and updated volume, James McGilvray provides a critical introduction to Chomsky's work in these three key areas and assesses their continuing importance and relevance for today.

In an incisive and comprehensive analysis, McGilvray argues that Chomsky’s work can be seen as a unified intellectual project. He shows how Chomsky adapts the tools of natural science to the study of mind and of language in particular and explains why Chomsky's "rationalist" approach to the mind continues to be opposed by the majority of contemporary cognitive scientists. The book also discusses some of Chomsky’s central political themes in depth, examining how Chomsky's view of the good life and the ideal form of social organization is related to and in part dependent on his biologically based account of human nature and the place of language within it. As in the first edition, McGilvray emphasizes the distinction between common sense and science and the difference between rationalist and empiricist approaches to the mind, making clear the importance of these themes for understanding Chomsky's work and showing that they are based on elementary observations that are accessible to everyone. This edition has been extensively re-written to emphasize Chomsky's recent work, which increasingly 'biologizes' the study of language and mind and - by implication - the study of human nature.

This book will be of interest to students and scholars of philosophy, linguistics, and politics, as well as to all those keen to develop a critical understanding of one of the most controversial and important thinkers writing today.

Preface vi

Introduction 1

1 Chomsky’s Contributions 7

2 The Mind and Its Sciences 26

3 Partitioning the Mind: Bad and Good Cognitive Science 52

4 Human Problem-Solving Capacities 69

5 The Science of Language 89

6 Linguistic Meanings and Their Uses 136

7 Chomsky on Politics: Some Basic Themes 158

8 Language and Politics: Justification 205

Glossary 234

Notes 238

Bibliography 245

Index 254

Extensively re-written throughout to bring completely up to date with Chomskys recent work.
"This is a remarkably comprehensive yet accessible introduction to Chomsky's views about human nature, how to study it, and its various manifestations in language and politics. McGilvray's obvious enthusiasm for the subject is displayed in a text that is stunningly well researched, historically rich, empirically informed, and philosophically engaged throughout."
Paul Pietroski, University of Maryland

"McGilvray has achieved something extraordinary with this compact, accessible and penetrating text. Not only does he insightfully connect Chomsky’s voluminous contributions to current affairs with his equally voluminous work in generative grammar and philosophy of mind and language, he also gets the complex synthesis exactly right. The result is a tour de force. From now on, his is the book on Chomsky that I will direct my students to."
Robert Stainton, University of Western Ontario

"This text highlights Chomsky’s exceptional contribution to the science of language as a biological organ, to the naturalistic theory of mind, and to the view of political systems as means to meet the fundamental needs of humans. McGilvray cleverly evidences Chomsky’s unification of the science of language, human nature and politics."
Anna Maria Di Sciullo, University of Québec at Montréal

"This book provides an accessible introduction to Chomsky. Researchers and students of linguistics, philosophy, cognitive science and politics will find it an interesting read."
Political Studies Review
  • Noam Chomsky is one of the most influential figures in contemporary intellectual life, known for his groundbreaking contributions to a range of fields from linguistics to political theory.
  • This is a fully revised and updated edition of James McGilvray’s highly successful introduction to Chomsky’s work and thought.
  • Unlike other titles on the market, this is a fully comprehensive analysis, spanning the full range of Chomsky’s writings, from his pioneering work in linguistics to his incisive political commentary
  • This conceptually rich yet accessible introduction will appeal to readers in linguistics and across the social sciences