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On intellectual freedom: something to challenge what most of us have been led to believe about 'language' and 'communication', and indeed the degree to which we have been led to disregard thought, erroneously, and a little bit on how little we actually know about the universe, eg the fact that the law of inertia is "of no known origin" (as Feynman put it) - nobody knows the reason why things coast forever. More on the Feynman another time, first, digest the Chomsky.   Share:  
Thrust of argument: (Much of this taken from my numberwang document, in the references below).

Here we have Chomsky shocking you with things you were blissfully unaware of, on the key topic of language, thought and communication:

<< A few things have remained pretty constant. One is that at the core of language there must be some generative procedure: recursive, compositional procedure >> Noam Chomsky tells us about the scientific endeavour over the last sixty years aiming to understand the nature of human language.

<< The second is that the field ought to be framed within a biological context. So we're interested in what's come to be called i-Language, internal individual language, viewed intentionally, we care about the actual system of rules, not just some class of objects you might enumerate. .. In the background is a concern to try to show how this biological system could have originated. What's misleadingly called 'evolution of language'. Of course it's misleading because languages don't evolve, but the language capacity, U.G. (universal grammar), does evolve, or must have evolved .. you can derive some surprising conclusions: one of them is that the output of the generative system yields the proper forms for semantic interpretation in quite complex structures .. so that means that what's generated is essentially a language of thought, maybe, I suspect, the only language of thought. The second conclusion is that externalisation .. is just an ancillary process, it's not part of the core of language. .. (these externalisations are) reflexes of the sensory motor system and the nature of the externalisation depends on which sensory motor system you're using .. the sensory motor system is not specifically adapted to language, it was apparently around hundreds of thousands of years before language suddenly emerged and there are many ways to map one to the other and it's a hard process and in fact what we find is that the complexity of language which you have to learn when you learn a language is almost entirely externalisation .. >>

<< A third conclusion is that most of the doctrines about the nature of language and related fields .. most of them are just flat wrong. There's a doctrine which is held virtually at the level of dogma. The way it's put is the function of language is communication. It's a kind of a curious notion because biological systems don't have functions. .. the dogma is that language, uniquely among biological systems, has a function and the function is communication, but if these first two conclusions are correct that has to be false because communication is based on externalisation and if externalisation is an ancillary property of language then communication is even more so. >>

As you now appreciate, the very basis of what our 'establishments' call knowledge, call reason, call logic, is shaky. It's worth mentioning a few other upsetting truths here also.
Direction of resistance / implied resistance: I think the following extracts from written material on Chomsky's site will give you yet more awareness of how much our ideas fall short of what the average human imagines our ideas to be.

<< One of the most profound insights into language and mind, I think, was Descartes's recognition of what we may call "the creative aspect of language use": the ordinary use of language is typically innovative without bounds, appropriate to circumstances but not caused by them - a crucial distinction - and can engender thoughts in others that they recognize they could have expressed themselves. Given the intimate relation of language and thought, these are properties of human thought as well. This insight is the primary basis for Descartes's scientific theory of mind and body. There is no sound reason to question its validity, as far as I am aware. Its implications, if valid, are far-reaching, among them what it suggests about the limits of human understanding, as becomes more clear when we consider the place of these reflections in the development of modern science from the earliest days. >>

<< The background is the so-called "mechanical philosophy" - mechanical science in modern terminology. This doctrine, originating with Galileo and his contemporaries, held that the world is a machine, operating by mechanical principles, much like the remarkable devices that were being constructed by skilled artisans of the day and that stimulated the scientific imagination much as computers do today; devices with gears, levers, and other mechanical components, interacting through direct contact with no mysterious forces relating them. The doctrine held that the entire world is similar: it could in principle be constructed by a skilled artisan, and was in fact created by a super-skilled artisan. The doctrine was intended to replace the resort to "occult properties" on the part of the neoscholastics: their appeal to mysterious sympathies and antipathies, to forms flitting through the air as the means of perception, the idea that rocks fall and steam rises because they are moving to their natural place, and similar notions that were mocked by the new science. >>

<< It is commonly believed that Newton showed that the world is a machine, following mechanical principles, and that we can therefore dismiss "the ghost in the machine," the mind, with appropriate ridicule. The facts are the opposite: Newton exorcised the machine, leaving the ghost intact. The mind-body problem in its scientific form did indeed vanish as unformulable, because one of its terms, body, does not exist in any intelligible form. Newton knew this very well, and so did his great contemporaries. >>

<< John Locke wrote that we remain in "incurable ignorance of what we desire to know" about matter and its effects, and no "science of bodies [that provides true explanations is] within our reach." Nevertheless, he continued, he was "convinced by the judicious Mr. Newton's incomparable book, that it is too bold a presumption to limit God's power, in this point, by my narrow conceptions." Though gravitation of matter to matter is "inconceivable to me," nevertheless, as Newton demonstrated, we must recognize that it is within God's power "to put into bodies, powers and ways of operations, above what can be derived from our idea of body, or can be explained by what we know of matter." And thanks to Newton's work, we know that God "has done so." The properties of the material world are "inconceivable to us," but real nevertheless. Newton understood the quandary. For the rest of his life, he sought some way to overcome the absurdity, suggesting various possibilities, but not committing himself to any of them because he could not show how they might work and, as he always insisted, he would not "feign hypotheses" beyond what can be experimentally established. >>

<< As the import of Newton's discoveries was gradually assimilated in the sciences, the 'absurdity' recognized by Newton and his great contemporaries became scientific common sense. The properties of the natural world are inconceivable to us, but that does not matter. The goals of scientific inquiry were implicitly restricted: from the kind of conceivability that was a criterion for true understanding in early modern science from Galileo through Newton and beyond, to something much more limited: intelligibility of theories about the world. This seems to me a step of considerable significance in the history of human thought and inquiry, more so than is generally recognized, though it has been understood by historians of science. >>

<< Honesty should lead us to concede, I think, that we understand little more today about these matters than the Spanish physician-philosopher Juan Huarte did 500 years ago when he distinguished the kind of intelligence humans shared with animals from the higher grade that humans alone possess and is illustrated in the creative use of language, and proceeding beyond that, from the still higher grade illustrated in true artistic and scientific creativity. Nor do we even know whether these are questions that lie within the scope of human understanding, or whether they fall among what Hume took to be Nature's ultimate secrets, consigned to "that obscurity in which they ever did and ever will remain." >>

I appreciate it's complex stuff, and there's a lot of context you need to spend more time reading about to entirely understand what even that much tells us about the state of 'science' in the west today, but once you enter the domain of quantum physics, it all falls apart completely - the universe, Richard Feynman tells us, at its core, essentially, is, in a word, "NUTTY". Yes, the universe is nutty. And he doesn't mean the kind squirrels enjoy. He means it's nuts. It's insane. "I don't understand it either," he informs his dumb but credulous audience, which laughs with joy at this stark stark truth.

 

 

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Removal of resistance: And whilst I'm sure you need a rest from the head-fuck, I have to ensure I mention something about what Chomsky has told us about 'empiricism', which is very very important as far as I can see. He has told us: << Hume, for example, really did his best to show that his elementary principles concerning the acquisition of human knowledge were sufficient to cover an interesting class of cases and challenged his opponents to produce a legitimate "idea" that could not be derived from sense impression by his principles. There is a certain kind of ambiguity in his procedure here, since in part he seems to be engaged in a kind of scientific inquiry, trying to show that certain principles he proposed were in fact adequate to cover the crucial cases, while at other times he relies on these principles to demonstrate that some notion is "illegitimate," since it cannot be derived by them - an argument that rests on our accepting his not very plausible principles concerning the nature of the mind. Hume regarded the principle of inductive reasoning as a kind of "animal instinct," which would appear to be an empirical assumption. In modern versions, his assumptions have often been converted into dogma presupposed without serious effort to show them to be valid, or to reply to classical criticisms that were raised against these principles.

There is no reason to believe today that Hume's principles or anything resembling them are adequate to account for our "ideas" or our knowledge and beliefs, nor to think that they have any particular significance. There is no place for any a priori doctrine concerning the complexity of the brain or its uniformity as far as the higher mental functions are concerned. We must proceed to the investigation of the diverse cognitive structures developed normally by human beings in the course of their maturation and their relation to the physical and social environment, seeking to determine, as best we can, the principles which govern these cognitive structures. Once a certain understanding of the nature of these systems has been obtained, then we can reasonably study the basis on which they are acquired. In my opinion, the little that we know about these questions suggests that the mind, like the body, is in effect a system of organs - we could call them "mental organs" by analogy - that is to say, highly specific systems organized according to a genetic program that determines their function, their structure, the process of their development, in quite a detailed manner; the particular realization of these fundamental principles naturally depends on their interaction with the environment, as in the case of the visual system... If that is correct, the mind is a complex system of interacting faculties, which do not develop by means of uniform principles of "general intelligence"; it is constituted of "mental organs" just as specialized and differentiated as those of the body. >>
Unification: Most people are far more concerned about freedom of speech than about freedom of thought, and yet thought is much much much more important than speech and limitation of thought, unintentional and intentional both, as well as control of it and censorship of it and policing of it, these topics, starting with basic ways in which thought is limited by anyone or anything outside of you individually, should be of maximum interest to you and concern to you, whoever you are. And if you suspect that you won't digest or remember all the key points in this document unless you read it a few times, I have to admit I think you're probably onto something there.
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On intellectual freedom: something to challenge what most of us have been led to believe about 'language' and 'communication', and indeed the degree to which we have been led to disregard thought, erroneously, and a little bit on how little we actually know about the universe, eg the fact that the law of inertia is "of no known origin" (as Feynman put it) - nobody knows the reason why things coast forever. More on the Feynman another time, first, digest the Chomsky.

(Much of this taken from my numberwang document, in the references below).

Here we have Chomsky shocking you with things you were blissfully unaware of, on the key topic of language, thought and communication:

<< A few things have remained pretty constant. One is that at the core of language there must be some generative procedure: recursive, compositional procedure >> Noam Chomsky tells us about the scientific endeavour over the last sixty years aiming to understand the nature of human language.

<< The second is that the field ought to be framed within a biological context. So we're interested in what's come to be called i-Language, internal individual language, viewed intentionally, we care about the actual system of rules, not just some class of objects you might enumerate. .. In the background is a concern to try to show how this biological system could have originated. What's misleadingly called 'evolution of language'. Of course it's misleading because languages don't evolve, but the language capacity, U.G. (universal grammar), does evolve, or must have evolved .. you can derive some surprising conclusions: one of them is that the output of the generative system yields the proper forms for semantic interpretation in quite complex structures .. so that means that what's generated is essentially a language of thought, maybe, I suspect, the only language of thought. The second conclusion is that externalisation .. is just an ancillary process, it's not part of the core of language. .. (these externalisations are) reflexes of the sensory motor system and the nature of the externalisation depends on which sensory motor system you're using .. the sensory motor system is not specifically adapted to language, it was apparently around hundreds of thousands of years before language suddenly emerged and there are many ways to map one to the other and it's a hard process and in fact what we find is that the complexity of language which you have to learn when you learn a language is almost entirely externalisation .. >>

<< A third conclusion is that most of the doctrines about the nature of language and related fields .. most of them are just flat wrong. There's a doctrine which is held virtually at the level of dogma. The way it's put is the function of language is communication. It's a kind of a curious notion because biological systems don't have functions. .. the dogma is that language, uniquely among biological systems, has a function and the function is communication, but if these first two conclusions are correct that has to be false because communication is based on externalisation and if externalisation is an ancillary property of language then communication is even more so. >>

As you now appreciate, the very basis of what our 'establishments' call knowledge, call reason, call logic, is shaky. It's worth mentioning a few other upsetting truths here also.

I think the following extracts from written material on Chomsky's site will give you yet more awareness of how much our ideas fall short of what the average human imagines our ideas to be.

<< One of the most profound insights into language and mind, I think, was Descartes's recognition of what we may call "the creative aspect of language use": the ordinary use of language is typically innovative without bounds, appropriate to circumstances but not caused by them - a crucial distinction - and can engender thoughts in others that they recognize they could have expressed themselves. Given the intimate relation of language and thought, these are properties of human thought as well. This insight is the primary basis for Descartes's scientific theory of mind and body. There is no sound reason to question its validity, as far as I am aware. Its implications, if valid, are far-reaching, among them what it suggests about the limits of human understanding, as becomes more clear when we consider the place of these reflections in the development of modern science from the earliest days. >>

<< The background is the so-called "mechanical philosophy" - mechanical science in modern terminology. This doctrine, originating with Galileo and his contemporaries, held that the world is a machine, operating by mechanical principles, much like the remarkable devices that were being constructed by skilled artisans of the day and that stimulated the scientific imagination much as computers do today; devices with gears, levers, and other mechanical components, interacting through direct contact with no mysterious forces relating them. The doctrine held that the entire world is similar: it could in principle be constructed by a skilled artisan, and was in fact created by a super-skilled artisan. The doctrine was intended to replace the resort to "occult properties" on the part of the neoscholastics: their appeal to mysterious sympathies and antipathies, to forms flitting through the air as the means of perception, the idea that rocks fall and steam rises because they are moving to their natural place, and similar notions that were mocked by the new science. >>

<< It is commonly believed that Newton showed that the world is a machine, following mechanical principles, and that we can therefore dismiss "the ghost in the machine," the mind, with appropriate ridicule. The facts are the opposite: Newton exorcised the machine, leaving the ghost intact. The mind-body problem in its scientific form did indeed vanish as unformulable, because one of its terms, body, does not exist in any intelligible form. Newton knew this very well, and so did his great contemporaries. >>

<< John Locke wrote that we remain in "incurable ignorance of what we desire to know" about matter and its effects, and no "science of bodies [that provides true explanations is] within our reach." Nevertheless, he continued, he was "convinced by the judicious Mr. Newton's incomparable book, that it is too bold a presumption to limit God's power, in this point, by my narrow conceptions." Though gravitation of matter to matter is "inconceivable to me," nevertheless, as Newton demonstrated, we must recognize that it is within God's power "to put into bodies, powers and ways of operations, above what can be derived from our idea of body, or can be explained by what we know of matter." And thanks to Newton's work, we know that God "has done so." The properties of the material world are "inconceivable to us," but real nevertheless. Newton understood the quandary. For the rest of his life, he sought some way to overcome the absurdity, suggesting various possibilities, but not committing himself to any of them because he could not show how they might work and, as he always insisted, he would not "feign hypotheses" beyond what can be experimentally established. >>

<< As the import of Newton's discoveries was gradually assimilated in the sciences, the 'absurdity' recognized by Newton and his great contemporaries became scientific common sense. The properties of the natural world are inconceivable to us, but that does not matter. The goals of scientific inquiry were implicitly restricted: from the kind of conceivability that was a criterion for true understanding in early modern science from Galileo through Newton and beyond, to something much more limited: intelligibility of theories about the world. This seems to me a step of considerable significance in the history of human thought and inquiry, more so than is generally recognized, though it has been understood by historians of science. >>

<< Honesty should lead us to concede, I think, that we understand little more today about these matters than the Spanish physician-philosopher Juan Huarte did 500 years ago when he distinguished the kind of intelligence humans shared with animals from the higher grade that humans alone possess and is illustrated in the creative use of language, and proceeding beyond that, from the still higher grade illustrated in true artistic and scientific creativity. Nor do we even know whether these are questions that lie within the scope of human understanding, or whether they fall among what Hume took to be Nature's ultimate secrets, consigned to "that obscurity in which they ever did and ever will remain." >>

I appreciate it's complex stuff, and there's a lot of context you need to spend more time reading about to entirely understand what even that much tells us about the state of 'science' in the west today, but once you enter the domain of quantum physics, it all falls apart completely - the universe, Richard Feynman tells us, at its core, essentially, is, in a word, "NUTTY". Yes, the universe is nutty. And he doesn't mean the kind squirrels enjoy. He means it's nuts. It's insane. "I don't understand it either," he informs his dumb but credulous audience, which laughs with joy at this stark stark truth.

And whilst I'm sure you need a rest from the head-fuck, I have to ensure I mention something about what Chomsky has told us about 'empiricism', which is very very important as far as I can see. He has told us: << Hume, for example, really did his best to show that his elementary principles concerning the acquisition of human knowledge were sufficient to cover an interesting class of cases and challenged his opponents to produce a legitimate "idea" that could not be derived from sense impression by his principles. There is a certain kind of ambiguity in his procedure here, since in part he seems to be engaged in a kind of scientific inquiry, trying to show that certain principles he proposed were in fact adequate to cover the crucial cases, while at other times he relies on these principles to demonstrate that some notion is "illegitimate," since it cannot be derived by them - an argument that rests on our accepting his not very plausible principles concerning the nature of the mind. Hume regarded the principle of inductive reasoning as a kind of "animal instinct," which would appear to be an empirical assumption. In modern versions, his assumptions have often been converted into dogma presupposed without serious effort to show them to be valid, or to reply to classical criticisms that were raised against these principles.

There is no reason to believe today that Hume's principles or anything resembling them are adequate to account for our "ideas" or our knowledge and beliefs, nor to think that they have any particular significance. There is no place for any a priori doctrine concerning the complexity of the brain or its uniformity as far as the higher mental functions are concerned. We must proceed to the investigation of the diverse cognitive structures developed normally by human beings in the course of their maturation and their relation to the physical and social environment, seeking to determine, as best we can, the principles which govern these cognitive structures. Once a certain understanding of the nature of these systems has been obtained, then we can reasonably study the basis on which they are acquired. In my opinion, the little that we know about these questions suggests that the mind, like the body, is in effect a system of organs - we could call them "mental organs" by analogy - that is to say, highly specific systems organized according to a genetic program that determines their function, their structure, the process of their development, in quite a detailed manner; the particular realization of these fundamental principles naturally depends on their interaction with the environment, as in the case of the visual system... If that is correct, the mind is a complex system of interacting faculties, which do not develop by means of uniform principles of "general intelligence"; it is constituted of "mental organs" just as specialized and differentiated as those of the body. >>

Most people are far more concerned about freedom of speech than about freedom of thought, and yet thought is much much much more important than speech and limitation of thought, unintentional and intentional both, as well as control of it and censorship of it and policing of it, these topics, starting with basic ways in which thought is limited by anyone or anything outside of you individually, should be of maximum interest to you and concern to you, whoever you are. And if you suspect that you won't digest or remember all the key points in this document unless you read it a few times, I have to admit I think you're probably onto something there.



http://opinion.tvhobo.com/owenjones_israel_numberwang.html