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Mind-body problem-Chomsky/Nagel

by bohm2
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apeiron
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Jan27-12, 07:17 PM
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I thought this was an interesting debate by pro-minimalist/optimalist paper (Hiroki Narita & Koji Fujita) arguing that physical law versus natural selection played a more important role in the evolution of language.
The examples of optimisation are standard fare for dissipative structure theory....
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constructal_theory

Nature is already self-optimising - it can adapt its constraints so long as there is a flow from which to learn.

The epistemic cut is then what happens when there is a strong separation between the information that constrains the flow and the flow, rather than the very weak separation we see in non-living dissipative structures, like tornadoes and whirlpools.

So it is not as if anything here poses any particular problem that has not already been addressed.

That is why the debates that swirl around Chomksy's ramblings sound like ancient history, folk fumbling in the dark after concepts already articulated.
bohm2
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Jan27-12, 08:48 PM
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I don't see any appeal in leaving substance dualism open as a live option.
I don't think he really believes that. He's just arguing that it can't be ruled out a priori as it is really an empirical question (assuming we have the cognitive tools to answer it). His major argument is really this quote:
The mind-body problem can be posed sensibly only insofar as we have a definite conception of body. If we have no such definite and fixed conception, we cannot ask whether some phenomena fall beyond its range. The Cartesians offered a fairly definite conception of body in terms of their contact mechanics, which in many respects reflects commonsense understanding...[However] the Cartesian concept of body was refuted by seventeenth-century physics, particularly in the work of Isaac Newton, which laid the foundations for modern science. Newton demonstrated that the motions of the heavenly bodies could not be explained by the principles of Descartes’s contact mechanics, so that the Cartesian concept of body must be abandoned.
Unfortunately, while this argument may have been valid before Einstein, it is less valid after Einstein's classical field theory and general relativity where
...all of the beables are local, and local in the strongest sense: the entire physical situation is nothing but the sum of the physical situations in the infinitely small regions of space-time.
It is only with QM, that Chomsky's argument is once again valid. Consider, Kim's 2 questions below. Do they even make sense with what we know today from QM?
1. How can a thing such as consciousness exist in a physical world, a world consisting ultimately of nothing but bits of matter distributed over space-time in accordance with the laws of physics?

2. How can the mind exert its causal powers in a world that is fundamentally physical?
What I mean, is those assumptions by Kim seem questionable and one of them probably inaccurate with what we know today in QM, I think. Moreover, this also assumes that physics is finished or won't change much as per Nagel's argument. Unfortunately another form of dualism seems to exist even in physics, whether one is talking about attempts to unify QM with GR or even with respect to the wave-particle dichotomy in QM. By the way, I thought this was interesting piece in a Biosemiotics journal contrasting the similarities and differences between Thomas Sebeok and Noam Chomsky:

On the Origin of Language: A Bridge Between Biolinguistics and Biosemiotics
http://www.biosemiotica.it/internal_...20Language.pdf

I still don't understand that part about heirarchical constraints. How is this incompatible with Chomsky's position. I've read stuff of his from the 1960s where he argues about heirarchy and constraints. Do you mean that the concept is been used differently in semiotics/biosemiotics, etc?
apeiron
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Jan27-12, 09:42 PM
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By the way, I thought this was interesting piece in a Biosemiotics journal contrasting the similarities and differences between Thomas Sebeok and Noam Chomsky:
Barbieri has already been discussed in this thread. See post #209.

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I still don't understand that part about heirarchical constraints. How is this incompatible with Chomsky's position. I've read stuff of his from the 1960s where he argues about heirarchy and constraints. Do you mean that the concept is been used differently in semiotics/biosemiotics, etc?
The context was Chomsky's claims to be evo-devo, yet he is still bringing up these hopeful monster genetic scenarios.

The Brakefield paper you cited illustrates how people are now trying to conceptualise the hierarchy of contraints that guide development. So Brakefield distinguishes between absolute physical constraints imposed by the material world and generative constraints imposed by the vagaries of a genetic history.

He also talks about morphospaces - convergent evolution - which to me is just another level of the constraints hiearachy, the one due to the structuration of eco-systems. Ecological niches in other words.

Semiotics recognises yet a further hierarchy in the nature of the constraints (another kind of change going on apart from general spatiotemporal scale). You have the Peircean levels of icon, index and symbol - a hierarchy of the epistemic cut itself.

So the idea of downward causality - the top-down action of constraints - is itself a complex and still developing story.

We are dealing here with at least two kinds of hierarchies.

There is the kind that runs from the general physical state of the universe down to the particular developmental history of some organism - so from the laws of nature down to the contingencies of a specific individual.

Then also the kind of "constraint on dimensionality itself" needed to create the kind of sharp hardware/software divide, or code/meaning divide, that is the basis of the epistemic cut/semiotic story. So that gives us a hierarchy like the increasing constraint seen as we go from 3D cells, to 2D membranes, to 1D microtubules, to zero-D pores.

At some point in this kind of simple dimensional constraint - a direct physical constraint on reaction mechanics, on rate dependent material processes - there is the sharp transition to formal meaning. Suddenly a receptor becomes a lock and key mechanism that functions as an informational symbol. Or a codon comes to stand for an amino acid. Or a word comes to represent a constraint on the freedom of our ideas (or more correctly, our anticipatory states).

So yeah, I see virtually nothing in Chomsky's writings that reflects this kind deep detail. Some of what he says is certainly compatible with it of course. He sometimes waves his hands in the general direction.
apeiron
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Jan28-12, 01:10 AM
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By the way, I thought this was interesting piece in a Biosemiotics journal....
I see Biolinguistics has an article on this also in the current issue.....

Signs Pointing in a New Direction: A Biosemiotic Framework for Biolinguistics
Liz Stillwaggon Swan
http://www.biolinguistics.eu/index.p...urrent/showToc

a distinction between the two fields can be identified with regard to their respective methodological foci: While biolinguistics focuses on human language and tries to embed it conceptually and empirically among grander patterns in the natural world, biosemiotics focuses more fundamentally on sign processes in the living world, of which human language is but one example.
Oh dear, Hauser is now a cautionary tale, even if it does not seem clear what he actually did yet...

Swiss zoologist Heini K.P. Hediger, whose work goes a long way in explaining what went so horribly wrong in the lab of former Harvard primatologist Marc Hauser, a salient example of observer bias based on strongly wished for results,
If you want a more populist treatment, there is Terrence Deacon's new book - Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged from Matter.

From a review....

In his approach to the question of how sentience emerged from "dumb" and "numb" matter, Mr. Deacon mobilizes some radically new ideas, taking us back to thermodynamics to show how it might have happened. His key argument, developed over several hundred pages, centers on what he calls a "teleo-dynamic" system—a self-organizing system that "promotes its own persistence and maintenance" by modifying itself "to more effectively utilize supportive extrinsic conditions." He suggests how such a system might spontaneously arise out of thermodynamic processes, as predicted by chaos theory.

Living organisms are such self-organizing teleodynamic systems, and they have a key property. He calls this the absential. An absential is a phenomenon "whose existence is determined with respect to an . . . absence." This sounds somewhat opaque but captures something essential to mind. In the push-pull universe of ¬mechanical causation, only that which is present shapes the course of events. In our lives, by contrast, we are always taking account of things that are no longer present or not yet present or that may never come to pass. Thus "absentials" include our beliefs, the norms to which we subscribe and those great silos of possibility such as "tomorrow" and "next year."

But absentials long precede human consciousness, Mr. Deacon claims. All "teleodynamic systems" are shaped and defined, in great part, by the constraints placed on their development. The constraints are evident in the directed development of organisms or the limited patterns of behavior they may exhibit: Living matter is, as it were, "railroaded" along certain paths. It is through these constraints that, ultimately, "that which is not" asserts its power. Mind emerged not from matter, Mr. Deacon concludes, but from the constraints on matter. These constraints then shaped the emergence of brand-new "higher level" properties—mind and thought—that are not susceptible to reduction.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000...109496396.html
So you see, things are beginning to move at a fast pace on the semiotics front.

The systems view is being driven by a connection to a generalised theory of symbols/semiosis on the one hand, and a generalised theory of dissipative structure thermodynamics on the other. These are the two essential aspects of the one larger story. The formal and material causes of consciousness.
bohm2
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Jan28-12, 09:19 AM
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This site gives links with many anti-nativist stances that question Chomsky's stuff:

Could Chomsky be Wrong?
http://www.timothyjpmason.com/WebPag...terChomsky.htm

I'm actually surprised of the opposition to his stuff. Maybe it was because I was always a nativist. I think it's because I was always convinced by pro-nativist arguments who argue that,

there is no known process, either in biology or in cognition, that literally amounts to learning in the traditional 'instructive' sense, that is, to a transfer of structure from the environment to the organism.
I do think Pinker (who I also find very easy to understand) raises some good points against Chomsky's saltatory evolution/genetic monster stuff (e.g. very rapid evolutionary and novel change) but I still think the language/math/cognitive abilities in humans are qualitatively different than any other cognitive systems in other animals/other primates, so I find Chomsky's arguments stronger. I mean just think what we are capable of doing compared to our nearest ancestor. There's just no comparison. And as I much as I dislike the hairless, linguist, ground chimps of which I am a member, I can't help but notice this difference. Berwick and Chomsky argue for this qualitative difference when they write:
Notice that there is no room in this picture for any precursors to language – say a language-like system with only short sentences. There is no rationale for postulation of such a system: to go from seven-word sentences to the discrete infinity of human language requires emergence of the same recursive procedure as to go from zero to infinity, and there is of course no direct evidence for such “protolanguages.”
The Biolinguistic Program: The Current State of its Evolution and Development
http://www.punksinscience.org/kleant...inguistics.pdf
bohm2
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Jan28-12, 12:19 PM
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The context was Chomsky's claims to be evo-devo, yet he is still bringing up these hopeful monster genetic scenarios.
Is evo-devo incompatible with saltational evolution or hopeful monsters? Here's an interesting paper on the topic:
In recent years evo-devo, hand in hand with QTL analyses, demonstrated that novel morphological forms in evolution can result from changes in just a few genes of large effect (Doebley et al. 1997; Wang et al. 1999, 2005; Gailing and Bachmann 2000; Moritz and Kadereit 2001), rather than many genes of small effect as implicated by gradualistic scenarios...Evo-devo clearly paved the way for a revival of saltational evolution. The first attempt to resurrect hopeful monsters by an early ‘‘evo-devonian’’ (Gould 1977a), however, largely failed (reviewed by Theißen 2006). It is remarkable, therefore, that the next major attempts to bring hopeful monsters back to the stage of evolutionary biology were inspired mainly by paleobotanical evidence.
Saltational evolution: hopeful monsters are here to stay
http://www.evolocus.com/Publications/Theissen2009.pdf

Another interesting PhD thesis taking this saltational argument on this topic:
Following Chomsky (1988, 2005); Crow (2002); Eldredge (1996); Fodor (2008); Gilbert et al. (1996); Gould (1989, 2000); Maresca and Schwartz (2006); Piattelli-Palmarini (1989); Rosselló and Martín (2006), I argue that not one of the underlying mechanisms that are posited as necessary to support the language faculty lends itself to an adaptationist explanation.
A Saltational Approach for the Evolution of Human Cognition and Language
http://www.lkse.net.au/PhDThesis.pdf
apeiron
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Jan28-12, 01:54 PM
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Is evo-devo incompatible with saltational evolution or hopeful monsters? Here's an interesting paper on the topic:
There is a difference between evo-devo saltation (as described in Lanyon's paper for instance) and remarks Chomsky has made about his hopeful monster.

Evo-devo says rapid change is possible because of natural selection acting on control genes. So this is still "graduationalism" in the sense that selection acts on particular traits at a population level. The only real difference is that the change that results is non-linear rather than linear.

Whereas Chomsky is claiming for some reason that saltation involved a single individual and a massive mutation event. This altered individual then bred back into its population pool and the trait was so dominant that all others became equally endowed.

It is such a bizarre thing to say that it makes you think either Chomsky has no clue about biology, or he is being deliberately provocative for some obscure reason.

As Lanyon's paper argues, if brain change was critical, then the evidence shows that many genes got adjusted. So it was never about a single critical mutation. Chomsky's hopeful monster must have been struck by a whole constellation of cosmic rays that magically reset a whole array of epigenetic factors in a single blast. Or in other words, his nutty story is even more nutty.

Lanyon says....

Cáceres et al. (2003) find that approximately 90% of the genes that are involved in building the primate brain are more highly expressed in humans.
apeiron
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Jan28-12, 04:39 PM
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I still don't understand that part about heirarchical constraints....
Another good primer on the basic issues is this chapter, Top-Down Causation and Autonomy in Complex Systems, by Alicia Juarrero...

http://www.olek.waw.pl/inne/1357/Mur...63.pdf#page=83

So dealing with the basic semiotic mechanism that is at the heart of the successive evolutionary revolutions of genes and words - what Pattee is dealing with in his epistemic cut, or Rosen is dealing with in his MR systems, etc - this is how Juarrero describes it...

Biological hereditary functions thus represent yet another novel way of integrating organizational structure. With the appearance of the genetic network, function becomes structure (Haken 1983): the product of previous first-order context-sensitive constraints becomes phylogenetically frozen into a structure and encapsulated as a higher-level second-order context-sensitive constraint. Because of the additional measure of decoupling accomplished by this novel level of integration between two different types of functional components, Ruiz-Mirazo and colleagues (2004) identify the appearance of this phenomenon with the emergence of what we can call the strong autonomy of biological systems....

...this more recent evolutionary breakthrough, I suppose, also brought with it a new type of
semiosis based on human symbolic language
and communication with a higher level translation code. In this manner an additional regulatory function was brought inside the system dynamics and modularized – and its subject freed even further from outside direction and control. In other words, because the criteria on the basis of which the top-down selection process is carried out are partitioned in terms of goals appropriate to the higher level, an even greater decoupling from energetic forces appeared with the emergence of the human mind – with selfconsciousness, qualia, and the realm of the linguistically symbolic.
Her book, Dynamics in Action, is worth reading (and there is now some controversy over how much Deacon has rehashed the ideas of others like Juarrero without sufficient attribution ).

For a summary version, see....
http://intersci.ss.uci.edu/wiki/pub/...ction(ECO).pdf
bohm2
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Jan28-12, 05:22 PM
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There is a difference between evo-devo saltation (as described in Lanyon's paper for instance) and remarks Chomsky has made about his hopeful monster.

Evo-devo says rapid change is possible because of natural selection acting on control genes. So this is still "graduationalism" in the sense that selection acts on particular traits at a population level. The only real difference is that the change that results is non-linear rather than linear.

Whereas Chomsky is claiming for some reason that saltation involved a single individual and a massive mutation event. This altered individual then bred back into its population pool and the trait was so dominant that all others became equally endowed.
Even though some of Lanyon's quotes seem sympathetic to Chomsky's view (see below), I don't understand why Chomsky thinks this is the case? I mean, one could hold for rapid saltatory evolution but without the hopeful monster stuff, I think. Do you know what are his reasons for favouring this view?

A single mutation can easily be incorporated into a population by crossbreeding with the parent population to produce novel phenotypes in just one generation(Ackermann et al., 2006).

A mutation arising in a single male can spread rapidly through sexual selection within a small group, which would have isolated itself from the main group. Crow (2002) also argues that this single mutation has led to the brain asymmetries related to language.
apeiron
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Jan28-12, 06:30 PM
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I mean, one could hold for rapid saltatory evolution but without the hopeful monster stuff, I think. Do you know what are his reasons for favouring this view?
I have absolutely no clue why Chomsky does things the way he does, other than the fact that he has clearly been well rewarded for doing so. A Skinnerian would explain superstitious behaviour in terms of ordinary operant conditioning.

Perhaps he has made an art-form of social boundary maintenance - he is great at creating a zone of incomprehension to mark the limits of a field of academic inquiry.

Like Freud and other charismatic leaders, at some point you are forced to decide whether you are fundamentally for him, or against him, as the irrationality marking the boundary of Chomsky's kingdom leaves no other choice.

And either reaction serves his purposes. Having a horde of angry enemies is as important to your reputation as having the band of devoted followers, always ready to quaff the Kool-Aid. You need both the action and the reaction to keep you perennially in the limelight of discussion.

Chomsky's even more famous political views shows he has a social talent for controversy. And it is the same tactic at work as far as I can see.

There is stuff - like this hopeful monster nonsense - you just have to swallow to join his club. And it is probably made deliberately uncomfortable. Think of it as a hazing ritual, or a cult. The nonsense does not allow you to straddle the divide in a way a reasonable person might want to. And once you have chosen to cross a divide marked by this unreason, it becomes very difficult to return. You have been cut off from your family and your only choice becomes an over-identification with the teachings of the master.

The master of course then always talks in confusing and opaque ways, so that you also get the feeling it is your failing that his teachings are not more clear. You must try harder to believe young grasshopper!
bohm2
#461
Jan29-12, 10:39 PM
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There is stuff - like this hopeful monster nonsense - you just have to swallow to join his club. And it is probably made deliberately uncomfortable. Think of it as a hazing ritual, or a cult. The nonsense does not allow you to straddle the divide in a way a reasonable person might want to. And once you have chosen to cross a divide marked by this unreason, it becomes very difficult to return. You have been cut off from your family and your only choice becomes an over-identification with the teachings of the master.

The master of course then always talks in confusing and opaque ways, so that you also get the feeling it is your failing that his teachings are not more clear. You must try harder to believe young grasshopper!
I have no clue what you're saying. Maybe it's because this isn't really my field? Personally, I find Chomsky's philosophy pretty easy to understand, although Pinker's stuff is easier. Fodor is far more difficult. I still don't understand why he favours that 'hopeful monster" stuff but given that he's a nativist with respect to language he does offer an argument as I pointed above:

Notice that there is no room in this picture for any precursors to language – say a language-like system with only short sentences. There is no rationale for postulation of such a system: to go from seven-word sentences to the discrete infinity of human language requires emergence of the same recursive procedure as to go from zero to infinity, and there is of course no direct evidence for such “protolanguages.”
Which part of this argument do you not agree with? I mean how does a cognitive system go from a few (other animals/ancestors) to infinite? Both with respect to linguistic and mathematical stuff?
apeiron
#462
Jan29-12, 10:52 PM
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I mean how does a cognitive system go from a few (other animals/ancestors) to infinite? Both with respect to linguistic and mathematical stuff?
We've already discussed the singing ape and vocal tract constraint hypothesis that would have produced a recursive phonology. That would be a gradual evolutionary change happening over perhaps 100,000 years or more.

Then the next step is the taking over of that phonal technology by semiotic mechanism and cultural evolution. More simply put, vocalisation became symbolic and H.sap took off, probably in saltatory fashion in just a few thousand years.

So first the steady exaptation, Gould's spandrel, in the evolution of fancy expressive calls. Then the sudden cultural/mental explosion once a grammatical language got invented for coding socially-useful ideas.
bohm2
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Jan30-12, 12:12 AM
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That option might be viable for one who favours an environmental (importance of culture, etc.) approach but not one who espouses a nativist or "language instinct" position, like Chomsky. As I wrote above:
but given that he's a nativist with respect to language
Actually, the more I think about it, the more I'm starting to favour Chomsky's versus Pinker's nativist position.
apeiron
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Jan30-12, 12:14 AM
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Actually, the more I think about it, the more I'm starting to favour Chomsky's versus Pinker's nativist position.
Yeah, I can see that there are so many facts in its support.
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Jan30-12, 10:17 PM
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Yeah, I can see that there are so many facts in its support.
I provided 2 reviews on this issue above in the Susan J. Lanyon and Thesissen piece. Inside those there are many references. Lanyon's major argument is that gradual change is not consistent with the paleontological evidence. This is not to say that in the nativist camp, this is more popular than Pinker's gradualist approach. It's not, but it seems to be becoming more popular not less popular, if one accepts Lanyon's arguments. But irrespective of some increase in popularity, the issue is the paleontological evidence. Those "facts" do not strengthen the gradualist approach, or so argues Lanyon and provides many references.
bohm2
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Jan31-12, 09:23 PM
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Just to add some terminology here so there's no confusion about what nativists like Chomsky are saying, here's 2 interesting quotes hi-liting the difference between E-language versus I-language (and why only the latter is a valid/scientific study of human language). That issue of Platonism is also discussed in the second quote:
According to Chomsky, E-languages, due to their ephemeral nature, are not appropriate objects for scientific study in terms of their evolution, which is purely historical. In fact, Chomsky (2005) believes that we should not even use the term ‘evolution’ when we speak about cultural artefacts belonging to humans–more specifically, E-languages. Along similar lines, Mendíl-Giró (2006) is concerned with the notion of evolution of language as a social object. He questions the analogy of the evolution of language with Darwinian gradual change leading to improvement with the elimination of undesirable elements. This incongruent notion of languages (as E-languages) having evolved as adaptive systems for better communication, leads to untenable assumptions about linguistic change (Mendíl-Giró, 2006). Rather than focusing on historical changes in E-language and how they have evolved, he argues that we should concentrate on the evolution of I-language, which can be thought of as a linguistic species, with each member’s language organ, or phenotype, built by both the human genotype and developmental processes...Anderson and Lightfoot (2002) believe that arguments that follow the gradualist approach for the evolution of language, that is, from the simple to the complex, can be seen as left-overs from nineteenth century thinking, where languages were treated as external objects and evolved law-like, with directionality. The focus was then, as now, on the products of human behaviour, rather than the states and properties of the mind/brain that give rise to those products.
A Saltational Approach for the Evolution of Human Cognition and Language
http://www.lkse.net.au/PhDThesis.pdf

Collins explains this part and the issue of Platonism by using analogy from physics:
Every theory, we may say, has an infinite import. This is because the very notion of explanation is modal insofar as it must support counterfactuals. Thus, a law does not describe phenomena but tells us what will occur under any conditions that satisfy the properties the theory posits. For example, Newton’s laws don’t purport to describe our solar system (unlike Kepler’s ‘laws’), but instead tell us what will occur in any circumstances that are covered by the concepts of classical mass and force, which our solar system happens to realize (within certain parameters — forget about twentieth century developments). In this sense, Newton’s laws tell us about infinitely many possible systems, even though our universe is finite (we presume). The same holds in the case of linguistics. A formal theory tells us about infinitely many possible states the human mind/brain can fall into, without committing itself to the idea that the mind/brain is infinite, or, of course, that there are infinitely many sentences anywhere at all, not even in Plato’s heaven. To be sure, we need to employ the notion of an infinity of expressions, in Chomsky’s sense, much as we are required to think about infinitely many states of any physical system (theorized, say, in terms of Lagrangians or Hamiltonians). My present point is merely that such notions, while essential in the modal sense explained above, don’t attract our ontological commitment, at least not if we are working within the theory (cf. Feferman’s 1998 position on the relation between science and mathematics). If all this is so, linguistics looks to be in the same boat as any other science.
A Question of Irresponsibility: Postal, Chomsky, and Gödel
http://www.biolinguistics.eu/index.p...cle/view/71/97
apeiron
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Feb3-12, 05:55 PM
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I provided 2 reviews on this issue above in the Susan J. Lanyon and Thesissen piece. Inside those there are many references. Lanyon's major argument is that gradual change is not consistent with the paleontological evidence.
But I have always said this - all the available evidence is that the human mind came on suddenly and language was the key.

The difference is that Lanyon offers no actual theory of what happened (hers is just a review of the evidence that something did) and Chomsky flaps his hands about, talking about some hominid getting struck by cosmic rays and sprouting a recursion module.

I instead argue the case that is consistent with the evidence - the one that sees first the gradual biological development of the underpinning phonal hardware followed by the very swift social evolution of the semiotic software to exploit the existing neurology in an entirely new way.

So saltatory change is not in dispute. And Lanyon does a good job on knocking down the various biologically-rooted stories on how the human mental change could have occured - the theory of mind module and other such fantasies popular in evo-psych circles.

But Lanyon (who after all is no particular expert) does not even consider the alternative story based on a Vygotskian view of language and mind. So there is no argument there to either accept or reject.

Granted that the emergence of the human mind looks to be a saltatory phenomenon, there are then three hypotheses going around.

1) There was some biological trait being actively selected which led to a radical neurological breakthrough (the general evo-psch view that fails for the reasons Lanyon mentions).

2) There was instead a radical breakthrough in evolutionary mechanism itself - the emergence of a new level of the epistemic cut/semiotic mechanism that is basic to life/mind as a phenomenon. Words, like genes, can encode the general group-level constraints that act on the development of particular individuals, so setting the scene for the explosive sociocultural evolution of the human mind.

This new phase of evolution looks "saltatory" - but only because the pace of sociocultural evolution is perhaps thousands of times faster.

3) The Chomskyian view of saltation which argues that because a "biological selection" argument does not cut it, then the biological change must have been a naked, unsupported, mutation event - the hopeful monster hypothesis.

This view does not fit with normal biology. Despite the attempts of Chomskyites to jump aboard the evo-devo movement, it does not accord with evo-devo principles. Even you appear to discount Chomsky's hopeful monster story.

Nor do the Chomskyites offer any good argument against the Vygotskian/semiotic alternative. Instead, they try to prevent it even being discussed by claiming a-priori that E-language is "ephemeral".

There is then the issue of "other factors". The standard evolutionary view emphasises Darwinian selection and so material/historical causality. But causality includes formal and final cause too.

Chomsky is hardly unique in pointing this out.

Evo-devo of course now recognises this with its talk of structural attractors, dissipative structure theory, and other top-down, rather Platonic-sounding, notions. Biosemiotics is even more explicit in modelling the role of top-down causality.

But where Chomsky differs is apparently trying to shift the full burden of explanation over to that side of things. He wants the history of material and efficient causes (the "gradual" selectionist story") to be reduced to some a-causal accident (the hopeful monster mutant who arose for no good reason by complete chance) so that formal/final cause (in the guise of "optimal computation" or such-like) becomes the whole story.

This is why Chomsky is viewed correctly as a Platonist.

I'm not sure in what way he could now be called a nativist as he has no story at all on how the semiotic machinery of language is biologically innate - not if he is arguing for this causally unbalanced hypothesis of hopeful monster~optimal computation. Where is the evidence that supports it?

Whereas the evo-devo/biosemiotic approach can point to the generally recursive/hierarchical nature of brain architecture, the novel constraint created by a serial/digital vocal tract, the social communicative value of phonal expressive calls, etc.

The true nativists in this discussion are the ones like Lieberman that can talk about the actual evolutionary biology, not the ones who are having to resort to "rabbit out of a hat" tales about hopeful monsters.
bohm2
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Feb3-12, 10:30 PM
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Quote Quote by apeiron View Post
I instead argue the case that is consistent with the evidence - the one that sees first the gradual biological development of the underpinning phonal hardware followed by the very swift social evolution of the semiotic software to exploit the existing neurology in an entirely new way.
From what I recall the papers I linked do offer many arguments against both these positions (e.g. underpinning phonal hardware and social/cultural evolution). To me the most reasonable approach is the following position advocated by Bickerton:
Although claims for both uniquely-signed and uniquely-spoken origins have been made, support for either of them seems at best dubious, and I see no reason why one cannot remain agnostic on...pending more decisive evidence. My own preference, for what it’s worth, is that language (or I should say protolanguage) began as a free-for-all, catch-as-catch-can mode that utilized sounds, signs, pantomime and any other available mechanism that would carry intention and meaning, and that it only gradually focused on the vocal mode, due to the latter’s greater utility.
Bickerton also hi-lites some problems with treating language as evolving out of prior means of communication or social interaction, etc.

Language evolution: A brief guide for linguists
http://www.ucd.ie/artspgs/langevo/langevobriefly.pdf

Quote Quote by apeiron View Post
This view does not fit with normal biology. Despite the attempts of Chomskyites to jump aboard the evo-devo movement, it does not accord with evo-devo principles. Even you appear to discount Chomsky's hopeful monster story.
It's Chomsky's emphasis on just recursion alone that seems hard to swallow, I think. But I'm pretty sympathetic to Chomsky's argument against adaptionalism and his emphasis on physical constraints as argued here:
It does seem very hard to believe that the specific character of organisms can be accounted for purely in terms of random mutation and selectional controls. I would imagine that biology of 100 years from now is going to deal with evolution of organisms the way it deals with evolution of amino acids, assuming that there is just a fairly small space of physically possible systems that can realize complicated structures.(Chomsky, 1982, 23)...Citing the work of D'Arcy Thompson, Chomsky points out that "many properties of organisms, like symmetry, for example, do not really have anything to do with a specific selection but just with the ways in which things can exist in the physical world."
Cartesian Biolinguistics
http://www.punksinscience.org/kleant..._Cartesian.pdf
Quote Quote by apeiron View Post
2) There was instead a radical breakthrough in evolutionary mechanism itself - the emergence of a new level of the epistemic cut/semiotic mechanism that is basic to life/mind as a phenomenon. Words, like genes, can encode the general group-level constraints that act on the development of particular individuals, so setting the scene for the explosive sociocultural evolution of the human mind.
You equate cultural change with evolution or do you mean something different? Consider Bickerton's argument:
Of course it (language evolution) has stopped, because the biological evolution of humans (saving the odd minor development like the spread of lactose tolerance or proneness to sickle-cell anemia) has, to all intents and purposes, stopped also. What is happening (and has been happening for perhaps as many as a hundred thousand years) is cultural change (sometimes misleadingly described as ‘‘cultural evolution’’); within the envelope of the language faculty, languages are recycling the limited alternatives that this biological envelope makes available. It should always be a warning signal when writers engage in the kind of sleight-of-hand that persistently switches between ‘‘language’’ and ‘‘languages’’; Culotta and Hanson do this in the sentence immediately following the cited one. But language evolution and changes in languagES operate on different timescales, involve different factors, and follow different courses to different ends (or rather, to the end of a complete language faculty in the first case and to no particular end in the second). To muddle them merely confuses an already sufficiently confused field.
P.S. I read that A. Jaerrero piece you linked and I'm about to read a piece by Butterfield that seems interesting (it wasn't):

Laws, Causation and Dynamics at Different Levels
http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/8745...velsRoySoc.pdf


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