Monday, October 09, 2006
Fight! Fight! Pinker vs. Lakoff
Linguist and rhetorical advisor to the Democratic party George Lakoff has recently published another book on political rhetoric (though I don’t believe Lakoff thinks of it as rhetoric, he thinks of it as applied cognitive science) Whose Freedom?: The Battle Over America’s Most Important Idea. Steven Pinker blasted it in The New Republic (available here, scan down the page a bit) and Lakoff has, in turn, reponded to Pinker. The folks over at ScienceBlogs are having a feeding frenzy: Chris at Mixing Memory thinks Pinker’s nailed Lakoff on the science (but doen’t much like either one); Razib at Gene Expression compares Lakovian debate tactics to those of creationists after stimulating a pile of comments a week ago; Mike the Mad Biologist observes: “I have had considerable experience debating conservatives, and I have personally found most of what Lakoff writes to be pretty useless in any practical, working sense.”
>Whose Freedom? shows no sign of the empirical lessons of the past three decades, such as the economic and humanitarian disaster of massively planned economies, or the impending failure of social insurance programs that ignore demographic arithmetic.
Pinker wants the elderly to eat dog food.
Not that I’ve read any of this, but Fodor’s serial dismantlings of Pinker in the LRB makes me wonder if there’s any there there, when it comes to Pinker.
It’s just a family feud. In one way or another each of them—Fodor, Lakoff, and PInker—owes a debt to Chomsky.
Chomskyan linguistics and transformational grammar are already doomed to the status of curiously odd but unacceptable intellectual relics that may receive future attention by writers on pseudo-scientific topics such as Martin Gardiner. And NC’s outre political writings continue to provoke nothing but disgust.
Is it Belloc that you’re aiming for? I’m not sure which I admire more: the characterization (even to Francophonizing “Gardner") or the relic-delight that you may believe what you say.
Thinking of Helen while writing Martin. At any rate, I’ll look to the likes of Roy Harris, Geoffrey Sampson (sp?), Georges Mounin, George Steiner, Raymond Tallis and Michael Toolin, et alii for instruction in linguistics, thank you very much.