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Philosophy E156: Philosophy of Mind


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Title: Philosophy E156: Philosophy of Mind

Philosophy E156 Philosophy of Mind
  • Week 3
  • The Chomskyan Revolution (cont.) Nativism

Interlocking Parts of the New Paradigm
  • (1) Formal limitations of standard grammars
  • (2) Transformational generative grammar could
    say things not sayable before, existence of
    discoveries, and rigor
  • (3) Methodological change intuitions vs.
  • (4) Conception of science explanatory adequacy,
    etc. behaviorism description vs. explanation
  • (5) Mentalism
  • (6) Autonomy of syntax, eschewing explanation use
    (the Bloomfield sort)
  • (7) Creative character of language
  • (8) Deep structure and surface structure
  • (9) Uniting the best parts of universal grammar
    and structuralism
  • (10) Making linguistics part of psychology
  • (11) Cognitive science
  • (12) Nativism

Interlocking Parts of the New Paradigm
  • (1) Formal limitations of standard grammars
  • (2) Transformational generative grammar could
    say things not sayable before, existence of
    discoveries, and rigor
  • (3) Methodological change intuitions vs.
  • (4) Conception of science explanatory adequacy,
    etc. behaviorism description vs. explanation
  • (5) Mentalism
  • (6) Autonomy of syntax, eschewing explanation use
    (the Bloomfield sort)
  • (7) Creative character of language
  • (8) Deep structure and surface structure
  • (9) Uniting the best parts of universal grammar
    and structuralism
  • (10) Making linguistics part of psychology
  • (11) Cognitive science
  • (12) Nativism

Interlocking Part (3) Intuitions in Chomskys
  • The ordinary language philosophers reliance on
    intuitions what we say may have influenced
    Chomskys reliance on intuitions
  • Examples In Sense and Sensibilia, for instance,
    it matters for Austin that A. J. Ayer says that
    a coin which looks circular from one point of
    view may look elliptical from another.
  • We have intuitions about what to say here.
  • Austin correctly points out that nobody takes the
    coin to be elliptical.
  • Another example (Cavells Must We Mean What We
  • Austin writes, Take voluntarily... we may...
    make a gift voluntarily.
  • Ryle (The Concept of Mind, p. 72) In their most
    ordinary employment voluntary and involuntary
    are used ... as adjectives applying to actions
    which ought not to be done. We discuss whether
    someone's action was voluntary or not only when
    the action seems to have been his fault.

Two More Sociological Speculations about
Chomskys Use of Intuitions
  • Let me suggest that not only was Chomsky perhaps
    influenced by ordinary language philosophy here,
    but that his influence among philosophers might
    well have been increased by his using a technique
    familiar to them
  • A further point The recruitment of linguists by
    Chomsky for the new science of linguistics might
    have been made easier by the fact that now, in a
    certain sense, linguistics was easier no longer
    did linguistics require field work to collect
    corpora or lab work to collect evidence but could
    be done a priori

Intuitions Independent of Semantics
  • An example from in LSLT (p. 241) Chomsky relies
    on our intuitions that (1), for instance, is
    grammatical and (2) not
  • (1) I dont like to see people be intimidating
  • (2) I dont like to see people be intimidating
  • Use of intuition differs from Bloomfields use of
  • Chomsky judged relevant intuitions (see Selected
    Readings, p. 19) at least to be independent of
    meaning (significance)
  • (11) Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.
  • (12) Furiously sleep ideas green colorless.
  • Chomsky regards (11) as grammatical
  • He says, correctly, that we recognize that (11)
    is grammatical and (12) not even though they are
    equally nonsensical

Why the Subject Is Intuitions Rather than Corpus
  • A corpus can never be complete in fact, most
    grammatical sentences are not in it (Selected
    Readings, p. 20)
  • Creative character of language
  • Focus on corpora operationalistic restrictive
    of evidence
  • Focus on corpora part of larger project eschewing
  • We can test a speakers selection of sentences
    she has never heard before by looking for a
    bizarreness reaction (LSLT, p. 95)
  • The speakers ability to select is described as
    an intuitive sense of grammaticalness
  • This is later called competence (Selected
    Readings, p. 7)
  • The set of grammatical sentences linguistic
    theory generates corresponds to the intuitive
  • The goal of linguistic theory is an account of
    linguistic intuition

Interlocking Part (4) Conception of Science
Port-Royal vs. Modern
  • Description vs. explanation
  • Chomsky believes that Port-Royal explanations
    have some substance
  • I.e., the tradition of universal or
    philosophical grammar, which flourished in the
    seventeenth and eighteenth centuries
    particularly in France (Selected Readings, p.
  • He rejects the modern criticism that they are
    overly rational and a priori and disregard fact
  • He levels a different criticism that they were
    too ad hoc, without a systematic basis
  • No underlying hypothesis about acquisition, just
    as with the modern critics
  • The problems posed were beyond the scope of the
    technique and understanding then available
    (Selected Readings, p. 4)

Interlocking Part (4) Conception of science
Leonard Bloomfield
  • Structural linguistics
  • Language (1933)
  • Chomsky outgrowth of comparative study of
    Indo-European, concerned with language as a
    system of phonological units that undergo
    systematic modification
  • Extended this to higher levels of linguistic

Interlocking Part (4) Conception of science
Chomskys vs. Bloomfields
  • Bloomfields focus was the language corpus
  • Focus of Bloomfield linguistics was diversity of
    languages, not uniformity, not Port-Royals
    universal grammar
  • Bloomfield was not interested in theory in the
    way Chomsky was at least not explanation
  • Bloomfield focused on description
  • Bloomfield less rigorous certainly not
  • Behaviorism linguistics the study of behavior
  • Chomsky rejected his goal of discovery
    procedure an algorithm for generating a
    grammar from a corpus

Interlocking Part (5) Mentalism vs. Behaviorism
  • The cause of speakers judgments their
    intuitions is mental
  • A radical shift against the behaviorist orthodoxy
    and the associated operationalism
  • But shift came from outside academic psychology,
    so it avoided much of the natural institutional
  • Chomsky was an outsider in many ways
  • to linguistics
  • to academia (MIT no center for linguistics)

Methodological Behaviorism Logical Behaviorism
  • Methodological behaviorists like B. F. Skinner
    thought that one should do psychology without any
    reference to the internal states of organisms,
    focusing only on their behaviors
  • Internal states are seen as purely private not
    proper for scientific study, or else nonexistent,
    by those favoring logical behaviorism
  • Logical behaviorism is the view that talk of
    mental states is really just talk of behavioral
    dispositions, or states that cause behaviors and
    are caused by external stimuli

The Review of B.F. Skinners Verbal Behavior
  • His review of Skinners Verbal Behavior was the
    first time Chomsky explicitly treated behaviorism
    in print
  • Chomsky (in 2006 interview) There were a few
    people, not many, a small group of graduate
    studentsI could actually name themwho just
    didn't believe the orthodoxy. And Skinner's work
    was like the core text that was being read all
    over. It was studied in psychology, in
    philosophy, and in other fields. That basically
    solved the problem There were no more deep
    problems, it was just a matter of adding more
    details about reinforcement, stimulus-response
    and so on. Personally it just looked crazy to
    me and so did it to a few other people. His
    book was circulating around 1950. Before that, it
    had been his William James lectures, and
    everybody read them before the book appeared. So
    in the early 1950s this is what the graduate
    students at Harvard had in philosophy as
    orthodoxy. I believe it was extremely damaging to
    the field it was undermining the possibilities
    of a scientific work in any of these areas. So I
    actually wrote the review before the book was

Skinners Experimental Work
  • Operants
  • Rat will press the bar
  • Pellet will be released
  • Pellet release increases
  • strength of operant
  • (rate during extinction)
  • Stimulus discrimination
  • Possible to shape
  • response in surprising
  • ways

Chomskys Thesis (I)
  • Verbal Behavior contains no experimental work
  • Stimulus, response, reinforcement
    well-defined experimentally in other work
  • If they are to be defined broadly to cover every
    event to which organism is capable of reacting,
    then there is no demonstration of lawfulness in
  • If they are used more narrowly in light with
    experiments, then most of what the animal does
    is not behavior

Chomskys Thesis (II)
  • Argument from analogy Skinner utilizes the
    experimental results as evidence for the
    scientific character of his system of behavior,
    and analogic guesses (formulated in terms of a
    metaphoric extension of the vocabulary of the
    laboratory) as evidence for its scope
  • Illusion of rigor breadth This creates the
    illusion of a rigorous scientific theory with a
    very broad scope, although in fact the terms used
    in the description of real-life and of laboratory
    behavior may be mere homonyms, with at most a
    vague similarity of meaning
  • Skinners dilemma With a literal reading
    (where the terms of the descriptive system have
    something like the technical meanings given in
    Skinner's definitions) the book covers almost no
    aspect of linguistic behavior, and that with a
    metaphoric reading, it is no more scientific than
    the traditional approaches to this subject
    matter, and rarely as clear and careful

The Mozart/Dutch Example
  • the response to a piece of music with the
    utterance Mozart or to a painting with the
    response Dutch (III)
  • These responses are asserted to be under the
    control of extremely subtle properties of the
    physical object or event (108).
  • Suppose instead of saying Dutch we had said
  • Clashes with the wallpaper,
  • I thought you liked abstract work,
  • Never saw it before,
  • Tilted,
  • Hanging too low,
  • Beautiful,
  • Hideous,
  • Remember our camping trip last summer?,
  • or whatever else might come into our minds when
    looking at a picture (in Skinnerian translation,
    whatever other responses exist in sufficient
  • Skinner could only say that each of these
    responses is under the control of some other
    stimulus property of the physical object.

The Mozart/Dutch Example (cont.)
  • responses are asserted to be under the control
    of extremely subtle properties of the physical
    object or event
  • if we say chair, it is under the control of the
    collection of properties (for Skinner, the
    object) chairness (Verbal Behavior, p. 110),
    and similarly for any other response. This device
    is as simple as it is empty.
  • Since properties are free for the asking , we
    can account for a wide class of responses in
    terms of Skinnerian functional analysis by
    identifying the controlling stimuli. But the word
    stimulus has lost all objectivity in this usage.
  • Stimuli are no longer part of the outside
    physical world they are driven back into the
    organism. We identify the stimulus when we hear
    the response. It is clear from such examples,
    which abound, that the talk of stimulus control
    simply disguises a complete retreat to
    mentalistic psychology.
  • We cannot predict verbal behavior in terms of
    the stimuli in the speaker's environment, since
    we do not know what the current stimuli are until
    he responds.

Skinners Treatment of Proper Names
  • A proper noun is held to be a response under
    the control of a specific person or thing (as
    controlling stimulus, 113).
  • Counterexamples
  • I have often used the words Eisenhower and
    Moscow, which I presume are proper nouns if
    anything is, but have never been stimulated by
    the corresponding objects. How can this fact be
    made compatible with this definition?
  • Suppose that I use the name of a friend who is
    not present. Is this an instance of a proper noun
    under the control of the friend as stimulus?
  • Elsewhere it is asserted that a stimulus
    controls a response in the sense that presence of
    the stimulus increases the probability of the
    response. But it is obviously untrue that the
    probability that a speaker will produce a full
    name is increased when its bearer faces the
  • Furthermore, how can one's own name be a proper
    noun in this sense?

Skinner on Reference
  • The assertion (115) that so far as the speaker
    is concerned, the relation of reference is
    simply the probability that the speaker will
    emit a response of a given form in the presence
    of a stimulus having specified properties is
    surely incorrect if we take the words presence,
    stimulus, and probability in their literal
  • That they are not intended to be taken literally
    is indicated by many examples, as when a response
    is said to be controlled by a situation
    stimulus. No characterization of the notion
    stimulus control that is remotely related to the
    bar-pressing experiment can be made to cover a
    set of examples like these, in which the
    controlling stimulus need not even impinge on the
    responding organism. Some of Skinners examples
  • when an envoy observes events in a foreign
    country and reports upon his return, his report
    is under "remote stimulus control" (416)
  • the statement This is war may be a response to a
    "confusing international situation" (441)
  • the suffix -ed is controlled by that "subtle
    property of stimuli which we speak of as
    action-in-the-past" (121)

Interlocking Part (6) Autonomy of syntax
  • Competence/performance distinction
  • No science possible or at least in the offing
    for performance
  • Science is in the offing only for the
    rule-governed behavior that one has and exercise
    knowledge of in using language
  • Called competence
  • Syntax independent of processing
  • Syntax independence of semantics

Interlocking Part (7) Creative character of
  • In Cartesian Linguistics, p. 60, Chomsky
    characterizes the notion of the creative
    aspect of ordinary language use in terms of two
  • its being unbounded in scope
  • its being stimulus-free
  • At CL, p. 65, Chomsky introduces these
  • free from stimulus control
  • does not serve a merely communicative function
  • instrument for free expression of thought
  • for appropriate response to new situations

Two More Quotations on the Creative Aspect of
  • The most striking aspect of linguistic
    competence is what we may call the creativity of
    language, that is, the speaker's ability to
    produce new sentences, sentences that are
    immediately understood by other speakers although
    they bear no physical resemblance to sentences
    which are familiar.
  • Selected Readings, p. 8.
  • The normal creative fashion of language use
    involves unboundedness, novelty, freedom from
    stimulus control, coherence and appropriateness
    to situations.
  • Noam Chomsky, A note on the creative aspect of
    language use, Philosophical Review 91

Descartess Two Means to Distinguish Humans from
Machines Beasts
  • At the end of Part Five of Discourse on Method,
    Descartes presents two means to distinguish a
    real human from any human-like machine
  • (1) Possession of language. No machine should
    produce different arrangements of words so as to
    give an appropriately meaningful answer to
    whatever is said in its presence, as the dullest
    of men can do
  • Chomsky links this first means with languages
    creative aspect
  • (2) Diversity of action. While machines do some
    things well, some better than humans, they fail
    in other things because they act through the
    disposition of their organs, while humans do
    everything moderately well, acting through the
    universal instrument of reason

Interlocking Part (8) Deep structure and
surface structure
  • The term deep structure began to be used around
    1963/4, apparently as the result of Jerrold Katz
    and Paul Postals An Integrated Theory of
    Linguistic Descriptions
  • Chomsky took it up in Aspects of the Theory of
    Syntax (1965)
  • In Aspects, kernel sentences are replaced by deep
    structures abstract grammatical objects that
    underlie the phonetic versions of sentences
    that present themselves to speakers and hearers

Deep Structure/Surface Structure Distinction
  • The deep structures are produced by the phrase
    structure grammar (the base) and are mapped by
    transformations onto surface structures
  • The surface structures serve as the basis for
    phonological interpretation
  • The deep structures are said to be what received
    semantic interpretation by the semantic component

Example Deep Structures of Passives
  • Despite the differences in surface structure, the
    passive form and the active form are said to have
    similar underlying deep structures
  • (1a) The delegate was greeted by the mayor.(1b)
    The mayor greeted the delegate.
  • In the deep structures of both (1a) and (1b),
    there are said to be two NPs, in the same
    left-to-right order.
  • Surface structure is obtained by passivization.

Deep Structures Underlying Wh-Movement
  • Despite differences in surface structure, the
    declarative sentence (1b) and the question (2b)
    are said to have similar underlying deep
    structures, (2a) (2b) the same underlying deep
  • (1b) The mayor greeted the delegate.
  • (2a) The mayor greeted which delegate?
  • (2b) Which delegate did the mayor greet?
  • In the deep structures of both (1b) and (2b),
    there are said to be two NPs, in the same
    left-to-right order.
  • Surface structure is obtained by wh-movement.

Deep Structure General Enough for Chomsky to Find
It in Past Writers
  • Example in Cartesian Linguistics, pp. 79f., drawn
    from Port-Royal Grammar

Same Deep Structure, Different Surface Structure
What to Make of Deep Structure
  • We must ask whether there is anything to the
    notion of deep structure that survives the
    abandonment of the term in later theory
  • In later theory, all semantic interpretation
    occurs from what had been called surface
    structure or at least, an enriched structure
    imposed on the phonetic surface structure called
    logical form (LF)

Interlocking Part (9) Uniting the best parts of
universal grammar and structuralism
  • Accomplishments of structural linguistics
  • Enriched the factual material about languages
  • New standards of clarity and objectivity
  • The idea that language can be studied as a formal
  • Substantive contributions of structural
    linguistics to theory of language are few
  • When problems are clearly formulated, we are led
    to conception of language of universal grammar
    (Selected Readings, p. 5)

Interlocking Part (10) Making linguistics part
of psychology biology
  • Draws from the tradition of philosophical grammar
    the idea that
  • there are language universals (grammaire
    generale), and
  • conditions on the form of language that are not
  • Draws in CL not from Port-Royal but from
    Platonists (Descartes, Herbert of Cherburys,
    Ralph Cudworth) though not Plato himself

Interlocking Part (10) Making linguistics part
of psychology biology (cont.)
  • Assimilates the development of language not to
    learning but to growth
  • Analogy to the growth of a birds wings, enabling
    the bird to fly
  • Stresses the neurological and genetic basis of
    human language, although we know virtually
    nothing about either
  • The term biolinguistics

Interlocking Part (11) Cognitive Science
  • Puts it in the more general context of cognitive
    psychology, or what is now called cognitive
  • What is more, universal grammar developed as
    part of a general philosophical tradition that
    provided deep and important insights, also
    largely forgotten, into the use and acquisition
    of language, and, furthermore, into problems of
    perception and acquisition of knowledge in
    general. These insights can be exploited and
    developed. The idea that the study of language
    should proceed within the framework of what we
    might nowadays call cognitive psychology is
    sound. (Selected Readings, p. 3.)

Cognitive Science (cont.)
  • There is much truth in the traditional view that
    language provides the most effective means for
    studying the nature and mechanisms of the human
    mind, and that only within this context can we
    perceive the larger issues that determine the
    directions in which the study of language should
    develop. (Selected Readings, pp. 3-4.)

What Is the Poverty of the Stimulus Argument?
  • Remember that when Chomsky presents the argument
    from poverty of the stimulus in Rules and
    Representations, he does not explicitly give a
    definition although he does link it to the vast
    qualitative difference between the impoverished
    and unstructured environment and the highly
    specific and intrinsic characters that uniformly
  • Perhaps this vagueness has contributed to a
    common vagueness in presenting the argument since

Properties of Childs Accomplishment Cited in
POS-Type Arguments(from Pullum Scholz, 2002)
Properties of Childs Accomplishment Cited in
POS-Type Arguments(from Pullum Scholz, 2002,
with an addition)
  • h. ERROR-FREEDOM Children learn
    language free of natural errors.

Properties of Childs Accomplishment Cited in
POS-Type Arguments(from Putnams Innateness
Hypothesis article)
  • (a) The ease of the childs original language
    learning without explicit instruction and
    with Mere exposure to the language, and for a
    remarkably short period
  • (b) The fact that reinforcement in any
    interesting sense seems to be unnecessary
    children who learned to speak without talking
  • (c) Not to depend on intelligence level

Properties of the Childs Environment Cited in
POS-Type Arguments
POS Arguments Differ from One Writer to the Next
  • Pullum Scholz point out that the POS differs
    from writer to writer, each picking and choosing
    from these characteristics.

Another Example
Putnams Reservations
  • Nothing surprising in the universals proposed
  • Universals accounted for on the simpler
    hypothesis of common origin of languages
  • Ease of language learning not clear college
    student exposed to less
  • No learning requires reinforcement straw man
  • Independence of intelligence an artifact

Chomskys First Sort of Response
  • Putnam enormously underestimates, and in part
    misdescribes, the richness of structure, the
    particular and detailed properties of grammatical
    form and organization that must be accounted for
    by a language acquisition model, that are
    acquired by the normal speaker-hearer and that
    appear to be uniform among speakers and also
    across languages.

Chomskys Second Sort of Response
  • This proposal the hypothesis of common origin
    of languages misrepresents the problem at issue.
    As noted earlier, the empirical problem we face
    is to devise a hypothesis about initial structure
    rich enough to account for the fact that a
    specific grammar is acquired, under given
    conditions of access to data. To this problem,
    the matter of common origin of languages is quite

Putnams Alternative Approach
  • Putnam suggests as an alternative approach to
    innateness the idea of a general multipurpose
    learning strategy
  • The theorems of mathematics, the solutions to
    puzzles, etc., cannot on any theory be
    individually innate what must be innate are
    heuristics, i.e. learning strategies.

Chomskys Response
  • On Putnams view it is general multipurpose
    learning strategies that must be innate, not
    general conditions on the form of the knowledge
    that is acquired.
  • Evidently, it is an empirical issue. It would be
    sheer dogmatism to assert of either of these
    proposals (or of some particular combination of
    them) that it must e correct.
  • Putnam is convinced, on what grounds he does not
    say, that the innate basis for the acquisition of
    language must be identical with that for
    acquiring any of form of knowledge, that there is
    nothing special about language.

The Little Scientist Objection
  • A different objection from any Chomsky sets out
    here (although it is suggested by something he
    writes later) is that Putnams general learning
    strategy approach would make the child language
    learner into a little scientist.
  • But there is a vast difference between language
    learning and doing science.
  • Doing science at best results in consensus.
  • But language learning results in uniformity
    every language learner arrives at the same thing.