Thread: Human Nature?

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  1. #41
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    Geoffrey Sampson is a right-wing racist nut who believes blacks are genetically inferior to whites and that there is a huge distinction among the races. Is this human nature? I don't think so, but he does have a book out called "There's nothing wrong with racism."

    He's speciality is nowhere near cognitive science.

    Chomsky's critics are loons, like Sampson. Another one is Fetzer, who believes that the US government constructed 9-11. They're not just quacks in regards to their fields, but they're altogether quacks.

    For the scientific explanation of human nature and language see cognitive science and people like Pinker, Chomsky, Fodor, and so on.

    The idea that humans have no innate tunings, and are completely "blank slates" is called behaviorism and was debunked years ago. We are clearly geared up for certain things, like language and so on.
  2. #42
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    Geoffrey Sampson is a right-wing racist nut who believes blacks are genetically inferior to whites and that there is a huge distinction among the races. Is this human nature? I don't think so, but he does have a book out called "There's nothing wrong with racism."
    Sure, but he is right about Chomsky's linguistics.

    Calling him a loon is not an argument, either.

    You might like to read (left-liberal) Fiona Cowie's demolition of Chomsky:

    What's Within. Nativism Reconsidered (Oxford Univesity Press, 2003).

    Moreover, Pinker and most of the nativists (but not Chomsky) are right wing nuts, too.

    As far as the 'blank slate' myth is concerned, no one has actually held this view (not even John Locke, to whom Pinker tries to trace this myth); on that, see my next post.
    Last edited by Rosa Lichtenstein; 15th March 2008 at 17:26.
  3. #43
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    Ok, this should lay that myth to rest:

    Meet the Flintstones

    By Simon Blackburn

    The Blank Slate:
    The Modern Denial of Human Nature
    By Stephen Pinker.


    When the hoary old question of nature versus nurture comes around, sides form quickly. And as Leavis once remarked, whenever this is so, we can suspect that the differences have little to do with thinking. Still, the question certainly obsesses thinkers, and crops up in various terminologies and under various rubrics: human essence versus historical accident, intrinsic nature versus social construction, nativism versus empiricism. In the ancient world the nativist Plato held that we come into the world equipped with knowledge obtained in a previous life, while the empiricist Aristotle denied it. In our own time Chomsky has revived the nativist doctrine that our capacity for language is innate, and some ultras have even held that our whole conceptual repertoire is innate. We did not ever have to learn anything. We had only to let loose what we already have.

    There is a standard move, call it the Demon Move, in such a debate. First we establish our own reasonable credentials. We, the good guys, are not taken in by the labels. We recognize, of course, that any human being is the result of both nature and nurture. There is the biological or genetic endowment and there is the environment in which the genetic endowment gets expressed. We good guys understand that it is meaningless to ask whether iron rusts because of the nature of iron or because of the environment in which the iron is put. We know that the rusting requires both. It is the deluded others, the bad guys, who forget entirely about one of these components.

    So if you wish to demonize theorists on the nature side, present them as genetic determinists, holding that there is no more to growing up than following a formula written in the genes. These dangerous fools think that iron is programmed to rust wherever you put it, as if oxygen and damp had nothing to do with it. And if you are demonizing theorists on the nurture side, then portray them as holding that human beings have no characteristics at all except those that are inscribed by environment and culture. These dangerous fools think that the chemical nature of iron has nothing to do with whether it rusts. (There is also a second-order or meta-demonizing move to make. Not only have the dangerous fools got themselves into an extreme position, they also have the gall to paint people like us as ourselves extreme. They are not only blind to their own extremism, they are blind also to our moderation. The things they call us! They must be doubly demonic.)

    The irony is that having satisfactorily trashed the other side, people tend not to stay in the reasonable middle that they claim to occupy. The fig-leaf of moderation is very quickly discarded. Just as in football a defeat for one side is a victory for the other, and in politics a defeat for the left is a victory for the right, so here a defeat of the others is a victory for whichever extreme appealed in the first place. We want simplicity, and our binary thinking is not hospitable to compromise or to pluralism. George W. Bush can woo the people by saying that you are either with us or against us. He cannot do so by saying that you are either with us or against us or somewhere in between. It appears that only fitfully and with effort can we keep it in our heads that iron rusts owing to a number of factors. In our hearts, we are pulled one way or the other.

    This is certainly so with the debate about human nature. The dichotomy between nature and nurture rapidly acquires political and emotional implications. To put it crudely, the right likes genes and the left likes culture, although there are cross currents even in this scheme. (Chomsky is a left-wing nativist.) But the natural thought is that if, say, crime is scripted in the genes, then there is no reason on that score to work for the equality of wealth and the eradication of poverty, because you will get crime anyhow. If mad jealousy or rape are evolved strategies for unsuccessful males, then there is no reason on that score to promote an atmosphere of respect for women, because you will get mad jealousy or rape anyhow. Steven Pinker insists that politics needs first and foremost a view of human nature, since only unrealistic politics will be the consequence of unrealistic views.

    Pinker presents himself as entirely reasonable, naturally; and for large parts of his book he succeeds in being so. He is certainly a skillful expositor and a persuasive writer. He is intelligent and humane. There is a lot to be learned from The Blank Slate. Pinker seems to know everything (the bibliography runs to nearly thirty pages of very small print). He certainly has opinions about everything, and answers to all the questions. The panache and the promise are intoxicating. It is difficult to talk with perfect certainty of human nature, but where Shakespeare and Proust could only crawl, Pinker gallops, He is the messianic prophet of a new world, in which a confluence of sciences finally delivers us the truth about ourselves.

    Students of rhetoric will also admire his mastery of the Demon Move. As is clear from the book’s title, it is the nurture side of the debate that is Pinker’s demon. He hails from the citadel of nativism, the linguistic and philosophy departments at M.I.T. The enemy is empiricism, and the blank slate of the title is the “tabula rasa” or white paper to which John Locke famously compared the human mind. The doctrine of the blank slate is taken to deny that we have a nature at all. The blank slate is the universal human endowment, which waits passively to be written on by experience and environment. It has no nature; or to put it another way, nothing in its nature determines the upshot when experience does its work. It is the clay waiting for the sculptor to form it, and the sculptor can make anything at all of it. It is this model of the mind, and its political and practical implications, that are Pinker’s target.

    We might feel some disquiet about Pinker’s polemic when we remember that Locke himself held no such view and intended no such view by his famous analogy. He is perfectly happy with the idea that the nature of the slate or paper may determine what can be written on it. As a good Christian, Locke believed that an All-Wise Maker has granted us a very definite constitution, enabling us to know what we need to know and not much more. We can know what matters to us and know how to do what is good for us. But Locke also believes in our fallen nature, and he is constantly harping on “the narrow measure of our capacities” and the ways in which we are not fitted for various kinds of understanding, whereas better endowed creatures, such as angels, might be. Locke, in other words, thought that basic powers and limitations of our human nature determined the scope and the limits of our understanding. You cannot think that, if you also deny that we have a human nature at all.

    Locke wanted only to deny innate ideas and innate knowledge, not innate powers or tendencies, nor innate limitations, nor innate cognitive and emotional capacities. This may sound like a mere historical quibble, but it arouses a powerful doubt about Pinker’s diagnosis of modernity. If Locke did not hold the doctrine of the blank slate, then Leibniz and Hume and Kant, not to mention the massed ranks of churchmen declaiming about human depravity and Freudians declaiming about the nature of men and women, most certainly did not hold it either. And then its status as a central and unsalutary determinant of modern thought looks a little shaky.

    Still, Pinker insists that the doctrine of the blank slate is one of a trio of views that have dominated modern life, wreaking havoc in education, politics, and culture generally. Skipping for a moment, the third member of the Pinker’s malign Trinity is Cartesian dualism: the notorious separation of mind and body expressed for the modern era by Descartes. This doctrine, that of the ghost in the machine, strictly separates the mind or soul from the body. And by doing so it takes the soul outside the sphere of mechanical or scientific explanation. It splits the world of the mind from the world of science. It is often supposed to protect our cherished free will. Pinker thinks that this bad idea has obstructed the emergence of a genuine science of the mind, which is still struggling to emerge from its oppression. Here he is on stronger ground, since Cartesian dualism has surely influenced many people, and goes on doing so. It is the philosophy that makes the survival of the soul after bodily death intelligible. It is also a philosophy that makes downward causation, from mind to body, impossible to understand, enabling the cruder kind of theorist to deny that it happens.

    The second Pinker’s unholy Trinity is in some ways the most interesting. It is Rousseau’s doctrine of the noble savage, or the view that human beings are naturally unselfish and peaceful and happy, and that our greed and violence and misery are entirely the products of culture or civilization. Early in the book Pinker writes:

    "Nobody can fail to recognize the influence of the doctrine of the Noble Savage in contemporary consciousness. We see it in the current respect for all things natural (natural foods, natural medicines, natural childbirth) and the distrust of the man-made, the unfashionability of authoritarian styles of childrearing and education, and the understanding of social problems as repairable defects in our institutions rather than as tragedies inherent to the human condition."

    Here we may feel another stirring of discomfort. The passage and its tone of certainty nicely illustrate the way the Demon Move works. For on the face of it the features of contemporary thought that Pinker here highlights admit of much more nuanced, and sensible, explanations than any simple doctrine of the Noble Savage. Perhaps we like natural foods because artificial foods taste so ghastly by comparison, as anyone returning to the United States from almost anywhere else will testify. Perhaps we like natural medicines because we mistrust the influence of the drug companies on what are presented as results in pharmacology. Perhaps we like natural childbirth (unless things go wrong) because we think that in this area at least evolution might have resulted in something fairly optimal, or perhaps like my own daughter we have a parent who strongly resented being forced to take unpleasant and dangerous drugs like pethadone by a profession bent on making things easy for itself. And perhaps we dislike authoritarian styles of childrearing not because we think children are naturally saintly, but because we have learned to doubt whether violence is the best way to eradicate violence. Finally, perhaps it is our policy to think of social problems as repairable because sometimes there is just a chance that they are, and if there is, hand-wringing over their tragic inevitability will not find the repair. Or perhaps we are just more careful about inferring tragic inevitability from science. To avoid such a mistake it is good to remember examples like this. Our susceptibility to cholera is a result of our genome, but the repair lay outside, in the public health provision of clean water.

    In other words, right from the start there is a question-mark over Pinker’s historical method. It may be that an extreme view, the doctrine of the Noble Savage, has influenced some people at some times. But few parents retain the belief that their infants are angels for very long, and the ruthless European extermination of indigenous peoples everywhere scarcely testifies to the general belief in their superior nobility. A more detailed history, either of parenting or of colonialism, would uncover a whole tapestry of shifting and conflicting attitudes. So we ought to worry about the ease with which Pinker conjures his demons.

    This is especially so given that the doctrine of the blank slate is inconsistent with the doctrine of the noble savage. The latter talks of innate tendencies to peace, happiness, and altruism, whereas the former denies innate tendencies at all. Can people really have held both? Pinker notices the problem, but minimizes it on the grounds that if you think there is nothing there to begin with, then at least you think there is nothing harmful there, and that is half-way to accommodating the idea of innate purity and nobility. Perhaps, but the association remains imperfect, and the more we test it, the harder it is to see modern life as really dominated by the diabolical Trinity. Pinker indeed quotes, very effectively, some hair-raising blank-slate claims, especially from the behaviorists J. B. Watson and B. F. Skinner, who claimed to be able to turn anyone into anything with sufficient conditioning But then these behaviorist advertisings had nothing whatever to do with belief in the noble savage, nor in free will, with both of which they fit badly.

    Still, it is not for its cultural history that people are buying this book in alarming numbers, but for the promise of a new synthesis, a science of the mind that finally tells us who we are, what is possible for us, how our politics should be organized, how people should be brought up, what to expect of ethics, or in short, how to live. In the old days, philosophers, dramatists, historians, anthropologists, writers and poets monopolized these subjects. Now behavioral economists, biologists, cognitive scientists, evolutionary theorists and neurophysiologists occupy the territory. A brave new dawn is upon us.


    If we imagine a score from 0 (genes have nothing to do with human nature) to 10 (culture has nothing to do with human nature), I should guess that Pinker scores about 9. He holds, for example, that the way children turn out is almost wholly unaffected by how their parents bring them up. This is mostly certified by studies of identical twins brought up apart, although here he does not refer to Cyril Burt, the British psychologist who wrecked the education system on the basis of such evidence, having made it all up.

    Actually, there is a whole lot more to worry about with twins studies. Their results are expressed in terms of the heritability of properties, or proportion of variance supposed due to genetic factors. There is already a worry, since by the time of birth the twins’ genes have been expressing themselves in identical environment for nine months, and the time of separation and its extent are confounding factors (many “separated” twins are brought up within the extended family). The results of this research have included such gems as the heritability of milk and soda intake (high) or of fruit juice and diet soda (not so high). What is not usually stressed, and not stressed here, is that any measure of heritability is highly contextual. In a world of clones, the heritability of properties is zero; in a world of absolute sameness of environment, it goes to 100%. That is, if iron is put in a uniform environment, differences of rust are 100% due to difference of composition, but if identical samples of iron are put in a variety of environments, differences of rust are 100% due to environment. Heritability has also little or nothing to do with the malleability of the trait in question. In Swedish twins studies, heritability estimates for regular tobacco use was given as three times as great for men as for women, but for women it also ranged from zero to sixty percent in three different age cohorts, presumably because of changing cultural pressures on female smoking. Pinker is either not aware of the health warnings attached to this kind of research, or suppresses mention of them.

    Anyhow, he thinks that violence in America is not to be approached in terms of media violence, childhood abuse, guns, discrimination, poverty, divorce, alcohol, drugs, or indeed anything except Hobbes’s view of the inevitable nature of human aggression. Indeed, he writes as if any explanation of human phenomena that invokes culture is positing a “superorganism” or a free-floating “cloud” lying above and beyond the individual.

    Pinker believes that anybody who scores around 5 on my scale is in the grip of his demon myths, and really scores 0. So he routinely sets tests for the other side and parades their inability to meet them, without revisiting the question of whether his side can meet them. Thus he makes much of the fact that if exposure to the media were implicated in violence, we might expect Canada’s homicide rate to be about the same as that of the United States, while in fact it runs at about one quarter. But Pinker is silent about the fact that if nothing but a shared Hobbesian human nature were the explanation, we would also expect an identical homicide rate. (To be fair, in a different part of the book Pinker does mention an explanation of the difference in the different history of expansion of the two nations_a geographical and cultural explanation that leaves you wondering about the efficacy of his otherwise cherished biological explanation). There is also a rather startling absence of countervailing evidence, such as the recent Surgeon-General’s report about media violence , or the well-known meta-study of studies of violence by Haejung Paik and George Comstock, which found in 1994 that media violence affects young peoples’ chance of being violent about as much as smoking affects the chance of lung cancer.

    In sum, Pinker is an unblushing proponent of “evolutionary psychology,” the descendant of sociobiology that has swept campuses and bookstores alike for the last decade or so. The building blocks of this addition to science are well-known. At its simplest, we find some allegedly common human trait, and we explain why we have it by imagining how a propensity towards it might have been beneficial in the Flintstone world, or in the Pleistocene conditions in which apes evolved into humans. Suppose, for instance, a finding that women typically prefer richer and taller men. We take such a fact, or factoid, and then hypothesize that this preference is an adaptation in the biologist’s sense. It contributed to increased reproductive success. That is, there is some mechanism (at its simplest, a gene or two) that increases the probability of that preference, and women who have it reproduce more successfully than women who do not. Their mate’s riches enable their children to survive in greater numbers, and their mate’s height makes them better hunters (ignore the fact that they are presumably worse gatherers). Women without the gene gradually lose out. Only those with it produced lineages descending as far as the present.

    Such stories go nicely with other views about the mind. One is the doctrine of the “modular mind”, often known as the Swiss army knife picture of the mind. The mind is not one huge general-purpose information processor, but an agglomeration of modules specifically dedicated to particular tasks. It is not so much one tool as a commonwealth of little tools. So Pinker likes to talk of a faculty such as sympathy or of a propensity to aggression as switches and knobs that can be turned on or off, or set at one level or another.

    Pinker rightly notices that if we go in for these stories we must be extremely careful to distinguish our overt psychologies, which he calls proximate mechanisms, from their underlying evolutionary function. I can illustrate this little trick with the juicy case of sexual desire. The evolutionary rationale is reproduction. But the overt objects of desire need have nothing whatever to do with that rationale: just think of the huge variety of non-reproductive sexual pleasures to which people are so irresistibly drawn, and the precautions that they take in order to avoid reproduction. People want sex without wanting to reproduce, and for that matter they sometimes want to reproduce without wanting sex. We should also notice that the example puts a question mark in front of the idea of a single human nature, since the overt objects of desire are so extraordinarily various. Indeed, evolutionary stories about psychology should embrace this, since evolution can only happen where variation exists and selection works on it, which fits badly with the generally monolithic ambition of finding one “real” human nature within.

    Pinker can be admirably clear about these things, but he falters when it comes to their applications. Consider one of the poster-children of evolutionary psychology, the robust finding by Martin Daly and Margo Wilson that step-children are more at risk from parental abuse than natural children. Pinker writes:

    "Daly and Wilson had originally examined the abuse statistics to test a prediction from evolutionary psychology. Parental love is selected over evolutionary time because it compels parents to protect and nurture their children, who are likely to carry the genes giving rise to parental love. In any species in which someone else’s offspring are likely to enter the family circle, selection will favor a tendency to prefer one’s own, because in the cold reckoning of natural selection an investment in the unrelated children would go to waste. A parent’s patience will tend to run out with stepchildren more quickly than with biological children, and in extreme cases this can lead to abuse."

    Well, maybe. Actually, it is not clear that evolutionary psychology predicts good fathers at all: back in the Pleistocene, gadabout cads presumably fathered more offspring than stay-at-home dads. I seem to recall that Wilma Flintstone was a jealous and possessive wife. But in any event, we might agree that if Abel and Bertha have a child, and then Abel disappears and Chuck hooks up with Bertha, it seems plausible that Chuck should care less for the child than for one that he himself had fathered with Bertha. This is what the statistics bear out. But now we may reflect that if Abel and Bertha bought a dog or a sofa, and then Abel disappeared and Chuck hooked up with Bertha, it seems equally plausible that Chuck should care less for the step-dog or the step-sofa than if he had bought them together with Bertha. My bet would be that an incomer’s abuse of step-dogs and step-sofas is worse than abuse of dogs and sofas couples buy together. Conversely, when the genetic link is absent but the togetherness is present, as when couples decide together to adopt children, parental love seems to function perfectly well: at least Pinker does not suggest otherwise. Normal people take pleasure in the doings of children in general. The mothers at a playgroup do not typically snarl at one another’s children for being genetic competitors to their own.

    The point is not that parental love is anything other than an adaptation: such a notion is absurd. The point is that its strength and its direction can be quite independent of any belief in a genetic link with the object of love. It may be that, as Pinker says, in the cold reckoning of natural selection Chuck’s investment in his adopted offspring goes to waste. How fortunate, then, that Chuck’s own reckoning is not that one. Indeed, if Chuck is anything like a good parent, he will not be thinking in terms of investment and return at all. Supposing that Chuck’s reckoning has to be that of natural selection is no better than supposing that strength and direction sexual desire is proportionate to the expectation of reproductive results. From Augustine onwards, generations of churchmen have wished that this were so, but it isn’t.

    Once we become properly alert to the huge distance between our overt psychologies and the evolutionary rationales that can be offered to explain them, the messianic promise of evolutionary psychology in general, and The Blank Slate in particular, begin to look awfully thin. Pinker says, and I am sure that he is right, that some faculties, or modules, incline us to greed, lust, malice, envy, anger and aggression. Others incline us to sympathy, foresight, self-respect, desire for the good opinion of others. And then we can exchange information with others, and personal and social change can come about when we do.

    But suddenly the notion of a faculty or module starts to evaporate. The Swiss army knife may have a corkscrew that works however blunt the knife is. But if there is one thing clear about our psychologies, it is that the functioning of one module can affect the delivery of another module. Our tendency to anger is suppressed by our prudence. Even at the sensory level, how we smell something is affected by what we are told it is. In the right cultural climate, our greed is checked by our desire for the esteem of our fellows. We imitate and respond and adapt ourselves to the expectations of others. And this leaves scope, to put it mildly, for culture and ethics. It means we will no longer respond in the same way. We will no longer be made angry by what might have made us angry in a different milieu, or desire what we would have desired, or envy what we would have envied.

    In his less doctrinaire moods, Pinker does not deny this. He quotes with approval Peter Singer’s image of the expanding circle, whereby our concerns can come to embrace not only ourselves but also our family, tribe, class, nation, race, humanity, and eventually animals, or even plants. The circle of our concerns can widen, and indeed has done so: “once the sympathy knob is in place, having evolved to enjoy the benefits of cooperation and exchange, it can be cranked up by new kinds of information that other folks are similar to oneself.” This sounds about right to me, apart from the mixed metaphor. And apart from the lingering sense that the evolutionary rationale of sympathy, the “benefits of cooperation and exchange” taint the purity of our concern for others, even at our best, which, to flog the horse once more, is like supposing that even sodomites and foot fetishists are secretly trying to reproduce.


    It sounds, then, as though there remains plenty of room for education and culture, conceived of as natural devices for turning up the good knobs, and turning down the bad ones. We would look to the inherited experience of history, or the experience of parents and educators, to find how to replace competition with cooperation, or aggression with peaceability. We would try to think seriously about why the homicide rate in Canada is one quarter that of the United States, and we would welcome narratives from historians or anthropologists telling us of similar variations. We would applaud the way in which peaceful Scandinavians have descended from bloodthirsty Vikings (Pinker’s example), and we would hope to reproduce whatever factors enabled this to happen. Biological theory cannot provide the answers, or the descendants would resemble the ancestors, since evolution has had too little time to act.

    We might try saying that the Scandinavians and their ancestors share a psychology. They both seek to maximize their utility. <I>Homo Economicus<I> is each of us, a simple fellow, always and only asking: what’s most in it for me? The environment is relevant insofar as it means that sometimes peace might be the answer, and sometimes violence. Our human natures are not so much a blank slate as a slate with a single scratch on it. Pinker does not really believe this, and after all it would mean that blank slate theorists were very nearly right. But neither is he prepared to avoid it by admitting the vast variety of psychologies that history parades before us, and by celebrating the cultural transformations that give us some control over them. He insists on a one-way street: culture is the product of individual psychologies. You should not explain individual psychologies by reference to culture. We need to see “culture as a product of human desires rather than as a shaper of them.”

    This is a very surprising ideology for a professional linguist, and so far as I can make out Pinker does nothing to defend it. Faced with the question “do we explain language in terms of individual language speakers, or individual language speakers by reference to language?”, the only possible answer seems to be that we have two-way traffic. We learn at our mothers’ knees, and when our generation grows up we transmit what we learned, modified by us individually and collectively, onwards to the next generation. The English language is a cultural resource, and there is nothing unscientific about invoking facts about it to explain facts about individuals. The trick is to remember that facts about culture are not facts about some cloudy superorganism, some transcendental spirit of the age hovering around in hyperspace. They are summaries of facts about ourselves and our interactions. What they summarize is the very, very important part of our environment that concerns our interactions with other people. Those interactions shape the way we speak, but also the way we hope and fear and take pride and feel shame. They summarize what we imitate and emulate and eventually what we grow to be.

    So the Viking has ambitions, fears, conceptions of esteem, pride and honor, all of which he gets from his culture and which determine his bloodthirstiness. All of these are lacking to his pacific descendants, while other values have been put in their place. In other words, their psychologies are indeed different, and the interesting thing for politicians, educators, and parents is the question of how those differences came about, and how the progress that they represent can be cemented and duplicated. That is what culture is. Explaining the Scandinavian progress by reference to it is just as proper as explaining my accent by reference to the prevailing sound of English where I grew up. The Viking is bloodthirsty because he lives in a bloodthirsty culture. And the culture is bloodthirsty because of the people in it. You can have both, and there are no demons anywhere.

    Once we get past the demonizing and the rhetoric, take proper notice of the space between overt psychology and evolutionary rationale for it, and lose any phobia of cultural phenomena, what is left? There are plenty of sensible and plausible observations about human beings in Pinker’s book. But it is not clear that any of them are particularly new: Hobbes and Adam Smith give us more than anybody else. And at least their insights have stood the test of time, unlike that of some more recent work. Consider again the example of media violence. Here it seems that psychologists cannot speak with one voice about its effects. But worse than that, much worse, they cannot even speak with one voice about what psychological studies find about its effects. That is, the meta-studies that Pinker cites flatly disagree with the meta-studies that I mentioned earlier. If this is the state of play, we do well to plead the privilege of skepticism. We also do well too not to jettison other cultural resources too quickly. The depressing thing about The Blank Slate is that behind the rhetoric and the salesmanship, I suspect that Pinker knows this as well as anyone else.

    Simon Blackburn is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge. His books Think and Being Good are published by Oxford University Press.

    Now, I do not endorse everything Balckburn says, but he is right about Pinker.
    Last edited by Rosa Lichtenstein; 17th March 2008 at 03:23.
  4. #44
    Join Date Mar 2006
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    Default Me on H. Allen Orr on Pinker

    The (Feb. 27, 2003) issue of the NY Review of Books had a review of Pinker's book *The Blank Slate*, "Darwinian Storytelling"
    ( which was probably one of the harshest reviews that I recall seeing of Pinker's book.
    Orr found Pinker guilty of bashing strawmen(How many thinking people now a days accept a radical
    Blank Slate view?). Orr argued that most of Pinker's claims concerning human
    nature, especially on issues dealing with nature versus nurture, to be susceptible of formulation in terms of either
    weaker or stronger versions. Thus Orr agreed that Pinker IS successful in showing that a radical Blank Slate view
    of human nature is untenable but that the sorts of evidence that Pinker presents in his book while
    supporting weaker versions of his claims do not necessarily support the stronger versions, yet Pinker
    in Orr's view tends to infer that evidence supporting the weaker versions does support the stronger versions
    as well.

    Orr found Pinker to be not just critiquing the Blank Slate view of human nature but also to be arguing for Darwinian
    psychology, but the proposition that we can build a Darwinian science of mind is one that Orr contends
    to be quite distinct from the thesis that the slate is not blank. Orr finds Pinker to be endorsing all manner
    of hereditarian explanations of various forms of human behavior, far in excess of the available empirical evidence.
    Orr finds Pinker's adaptationism to be problematic as an explanatory strategy, basically finding him guilty
    of a weakness for "just so" stories of evolutionary adaptation. Thus, Orr charges that Pinker and
    other evolutionary psychologists have done little to support their hypotheses on the basis of rigorous
    research methods. Their work is lacking in terms of citations of twin studies, or analyses of chromosome
    locations or DNA sequences, that is of the type of research that is required now a days to support
    contentions that a given trait is under genetic control. All the evolutionary psychologists have been able
    to give us is stories but Darwinian stories are not the equivalent to Mendelian evidence. In particular
    evolutionary psychologists fail to consider that the same evidence that they cite as demonstrating that
    a given behavior is adaptive (and thus might be a bona fide biological adaptation)
    might also be evidence of it being "economically" advantageous. That is organisms with suffficiently
    large and complex brains might be able to figure out that the advantageousness of the behavior
    in question, so their exhibition of that behavior might have nothing to do with evolved instincts
    or specialized mental modules.

    Years ago, B.F. Skinner made pretty much the same point, a bit more elegantly IMO than does
    Orr. Skinner pointed out that selection as a causal mode operates at three different levels:
    the genetic level in terms of what he called selection by contingencies of survival, that is
    natural selection, the level (in terms of the behavioral repertoires of
    individual organisms) of operant conditioning, and the level of the evolution of cultures. A quarter-century
    ago, Skinner found E.O. Wilson guilty of taking certain features common to natural selection,
    operant conditioning, and the evolution of cultures and attributing them all to genes.
    As Skinner put it:

    "Genes no doubt explain behavior resulting from natural selection, and they are also responsible
    for operant conditioning as a process, but once that process has evolved, a different kind of
    selection accounts for the behavior of the individual and the evolution of cultural practices."
    (B.F. Skinner, "Can the Experimental Analysis of Behavior Rescue Psychology" from his book
    *Upon Further Reflection*, 1987). In my judgement, the same sort of criticism
    that Skinner made of Wilson, is also applicable to contemporary evolutionary psychologists
    like Pinker. And as should be apparent from a reading of Skinner, there is nothing
    anti-Darwinian about such criticism as people like Wilson or Pinker would have
    us believe.

    Returning to Orr's critique of Pinker, finds Pinker's discussion of the history of the
    early debates concerning sociobiology, to be full of misrepresentations of the
    arguments of its critics, especially the arguments of people like the late Stephen
    Jay Gould, and of Richard Lewontin. In fact, Pinker, according to Orr, rarely does
    these people the favor, of stating what their arguments were in the first place,
    thereby, allowing himself to portray Gould and Lewontin as having engaged
    in a purely politically motivated attack on sociobiology. In fact Orr charges
    Pinker with induging in a certain amount of red-baiting in his discussions of
    Gould and Lewontin, in which their scientific arguments against sociobiology
    are almost completely ignored. In other words, Pinker, once again, is guilty
    of bashing strawmen, in order to make his own case in favor of evolutionary

    In fact, Orr does not read either Gould or Lewontin as having endorsed a radical
    Blank Slate view of human nature. And he goes on to cite what he considers to
    have been their scientific case against sociobiology and evolutionary psychology,
    including the famous "spandrels" argument that traits that are a part of our biological
    heritage are not necessarily the direct products of natural selection but might instead be the
    result of how organisms are built , just as spandrels, in eccliastical architecture, are
    the inevitable byproducts of placing a frame on arches. And also, Orr cites the arguments
    of Gould & Lewontin to the effect that behavior that is adaptive may not necessarily be optimal.

    While Orr concedes that the early radical critics of sociobiology often went too far, and overstated
    their case, the same can be said for the early proponents of sociobiology as well. In any case,
    Pinker in Orr's judgement presents a very unbalanced and tendentious history of the sociobiology

    Orr finds Pinker's discussion of the moral implications of evolutionary psychology to be contradictory.
    Pinker makes the case that we need not worry about the moral and political implications of
    evolutionary psychology. Pinker holds that we shouldn't fear hereditarian explanations of human
    behavior, we should not assume that such explanations, necessarily have reactionary political
    implications. In Orr's view, this position is contradictory because the liberal morality that
    Pinker adheres to (and which he contends is not threatened by evolutionary psychology) is
    itself, historically the product of the Blank Slate view of human nature, as championed by
    Locke and his intellectual descendents, from the Enlightenment, on down. Locke after
    all attacked the hereditarian views of human nature that were current in his day, which
    were used to support such doctrines as the divine right of kings, rule by aristocracies,
    slavery, and so forth. The Blank Slate view of human nature, was used by Locke and
    his disciples to discredit all of these inegalitarian doctrines and social practices.
    Orr finds Pinker to be inconsistent because on the one hand as an evolutionary psychologist
    he totally rejects the Blank Slate view of human nature, while on the other hand clinging to
    the political morality which was itself a product of that view of man. Now Orr, admits that
    Pinker does think that a liberal political morality can be explained in terms of evolutionary psychology,
    but he finds Pinker's arguments to be less than convincing, especially Pinker's attempt to explain
    it in terms of reciprocal altruism.
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    Thanks for that Jim; I find it hard to believe anyone takes Pinker seriously.

    And Orr is an expert in speciation, isn't he?
    Last edited by Rosa Lichtenstein; 16th March 2008 at 13:50.
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    Rosa wrote:
    And Orr is an expert in speciation, isn't he?
    Yes, he is.
    Last edited by Rosa Lichtenstein; 16th March 2008 at 20:38.
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    Co-author of:

    [FONT=Trebuchet MS]Coyne, J., and Orr, H. (2004), Speciation (Sinauer Associates Press).[/FONT]
    Last edited by Rosa Lichtenstein; 17th March 2008 at 03:26.
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    Does Human nature exist, or are we all born as a Tabula Rasa, and every trait is learned?
    Does it exist? There is a reason a thread this thread is here and not in Science & Environment.
    Patience has its limits. Take it too far, and it's cowardice. -George Jackson

    There is no such thing as an innocent bystander. -Abbie Hoffman
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    Because he holds that language is innate and not a social product, created in collective labour.

    He has not done so, but others have put his ideas to right-wing use -- Pinker for one.

    It is all of a piece with claims that 'biology is destiny', and that our nature is constrained by our genetic make-up, and thus cannot be altered.

    Language used to be a gift of the 'gods' (according to ruling-class hacks); now it is gift of our genes. We did not create it, it created us.

    If you can, get hold of Fiona Cowie's book 'What's Within: Nativism Reconsidered'. In her introduction, she makes similar points.
    You are falsifying Chomsky’s work. Of course human nature is in some ways constrained, as even Marx wrote in Capital, which I have quoted in another thread, at which point you ceased participating in the discussion. Obviously human beings are constrained by the genetic code, which is why humans cannot simply be socially compelled to begin puberty or to sprout wings. Your understanding of language acquisition is infantile and archaic, nowhere taken seriously by cognitive scientists, who, incidentally, spend their lives studying and researching the subject matter.

    A person who is interested in studying languages is faced with a very definite empirical problem. He's faced with an organism, a mature, let's say adult, speaker, who has somehow acquired an amazing range of abilities, which enable him in particular to say what he means, to understand what people say to him, to do this in a fashion that I think is proper to call highly creative ... that is, much of what a person says in his normal intercourse with others is novel, much of what you hear is new, it doesn't bear any close resemblance to anything in your experience; it's not random novel behaviour, clearly, it's behaviour which is in some sense which is very hard to characterise, appropriate to situations. And in fact it has many of the characteristics of what I think might very well be called creativity.
    Now, the person who has acquired this intricate and highly articulated and organised collection of abilities-the collection of abilities that we call knowing a language-has been exposed to a certain experience; he has been presented in the course of his lifetime with a certain amount of data, of direct experience with a language.
    We can investigate the data that's available to this person; having done so, in principle, we're faced with a reasonably clear and well-delineated scientific problem, namely that of accounting for the gap between the really quite small quantity of data, small and rather degenerate in quality, that's presented to the child, and the very highly articulated, highly systematic, profoundly organised resulting knowledge that he somehow derives from these data.
    Furthermore we notice that varying individuals with very varied experience in a particular language nevertheless arrive at systems which are very much congruent to one another. The systems that two speakers of English arrive at on the basis of their very different experiences are congruent in the sense that, over an overwhelming range, what one of them says, the other can understand.
    Furthermore, even more remarkable, we notice that in a wide range of languages, in fact all that have been studied seriously, there are remarkable limitations on the kind of systems that emerge from the very different kinds of experiences to which people are exposed.
    There is only one possible explanation, which I have to give in a rather schematic fashion, for this remarkable phenomenon, namely the assumption that the individual himself contributes a good deal, an overwhelming part in fact, of the general schematic structure and perhaps even of the specific content of the knowledge that he ultimately derives from this very scattered and limited experience.
    A person who knows a language has acquired that knowledge because he approached the learning experience with a very explicit and detailed schematism that tells him what kind of language it is that he is being exposed to. That is, to put it rather loosely: the child must begin with the knowledge, certainly not with the knowledge that he's hearing English or Dutch or French or something else, but he does start with the knowledge that he's hearing a human language of a very narrow and explicit type, that permits a very small range of variation. And it is because he begins with that highly organised and very restrictive schematism, that he is able to make the huge leap from scattered and degenerate data to highly organised knowledge. And furthermore I should add that we can go a certain distance, I think a rather long distance, towards presenting the properties of this system of knowledge, that I would call innate language or instinctive knowledge, that the child brings to language learning; and also we can go a long way towards describing the system that is mentally represented when he has acquired this knowledge.
    I would claim then that this instinctive knowledge, if you like, this schematism that makes it possible to derive complex and intricate knowledge on the basis of very partial data, is one fundamental constituent of human nature. In this case I think a fundamental constituent because of the role that language plays, not merely in communication, but also in expression of thought and interaction between persons; and I assume that in other domains of human intelligence, in other domains of human cognition and behaviour, something of the same sort must be true.
    Well, this collection, this mass of schematisms, innate organising principles, which guides our social and intellectual and individual behaviour, that's what I mean to refer to by the concept of human nature.
    I think a very important aspect of language has to do with the establishment of social relations and interactions. Often, this is described as communication. But that is very misleading, I think. There is a narrow class of uses of language where you intend to communicate. Communication refers to an effort to get people to understand what one means. And that, certainly, is one use of language and a social use of it. But I don't think it is the only social use of language. Nor are social uses the only uses of language. For example, language can be used to express or clarify one's thoughts with little regard for the social context, if any.
    I think the use of language is a very important means by which this species, because of its biological nature, creates a kind of social space, to place itself in interactions with other people. It doesn't have much to do with communication in a narrow sense; that is, it doesn't involve transmission of information. There is much information transmitted but it is not the content of what is said that is transmitted. There is undoubtedly much to learn about the social uses of language, for communication or for other purposes. But at present there is not much in the way of a theory of sociolinguistics, of social uses of languages, as far as I am aware.

    Here Chomsky, in response to a specific question, explains an important distinction:

    Q. Here’s one brief example: some feminists have argued that the term motherhood is something like a semantic universal and that that op*presses women. Do you see any justification for that argument?
    A Well, you have to ask what you mean by “semantic universal.” First of all, there’s the question of whether it’s true, but let’s say for the sake of argument that every language known has a concept like “motherhood,” and let’s say that every one of those languages and every one of those concepts has something that oppresses women in it. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that this were discovered to be true. We still would not have finished because it may simply be that every culture you sample is a culture that oppresses women. That doesn’t yet show that it’s inherent in our nature that women be oppressed. That just shows that the cultures that exist oppress women. And therefore it’ll turn out that in every language that’s developed in those cultures there will be a concept which reflects this relation of authority and control. But that doesn’t tell you it’s a semantic universal. In fact, there’s ambiguity in the notion “semantic universal” which ought to be clarified. Some things are semantic univer*sals in the sense that you find them in every language. Other things are semantic universals in the sense that they’re part of our nature and therefore must be in every language. That’s a fundamental difference. For example, it’s a fact that every human society we know—I suppose this is probably close to true if not totally true—places women in a subordinate role in some fashion. But it doesn’t follow from that that it’s part of our nature. That just shows that it’s part of the society. If that were true, it would be a “weak universal.” That is, it would be a descriptive universal but not a deep universal, something that’s necessarily true. Now, there are things that are necessarily true. For example, there are properties of our language which are just as much part of our nature as the fact that we have arms and not wings. But just sampling the language of the world is not enough to establish it.
    It goes a bit back in your discussion, but what I should like to know, Mr. Chomsky, is this: you suppose a basic system of what must be in a way elementary limitations that are present in what you call human nature; to what extent do you think these are subject to historical change? Do you think, for instance, that they have changed substantially since, let's say, the seventeenth century? In that case, you could perhaps connect this with the ideas of Mr. Foucault?

    Well, I think that as a matter of biological and anthropological fact, the nature of human intelligence certainly has not changed in any substantial way, at least since the seventeenth century, or probably since Cro-Magnon man. That is, I think that the fundamental properties of our intelligence, those that are within the domain of what we are discussing tonight, are certainly very ancient; and that if you took a man from five thousand or maybe twenty thousand years ago, and placed him as a child within today's society, he would learn what everyone else learns, and he would be a genius or a fool or something else, but he wouldn't be fundamentally different.
    But, of course, the level of acquired knowledge changes, social conditions change-those conditions that permit a person to think freely and break through the bonds of, let's say, superstitious constraint. And as those conditions change, a given human intelligence will progress to new forms of creation. In fact this relates very closely to the last question that Mr. Elders put, if I can perhaps say a word about that.
    Take behavioural science, and think of it in these contexts. It seems to me that the fundamental property of behaviourism, which is in a way suggested by the odd term behavioural science, is that it is a negation of the possibility of developing a scientific theory. That is, what defines behaviourism is the very curious and self-destructive assumption that you are not permitted to create an interesting theory.
    If physics, for example, had made the assumption that you have to keep to phenomena and their arrangement and such things, we would be doing Babylonian astronomy today. Fortunately physicists never made this ridiculous, extraneous assumption, which has its own historical reasons and had to do with all sorts of curious facts about the historical context in which behaviourism evolved.
    But looking at it purely intellectually, behaviourism is the arbitrary insistence that one must not create a scientific theory of human behaviour; rather one must deal directly with phenomena and their interrelation, and no more something which is totally impossible in any other domain, and I assume impossible in the domain of human intelligence or human behaviour as well. So in this sense I don't think that behaviourism is a science. Here is a case in point of just the kind of thing that you mentioned and that Mr. Foucault is discussing: under certain historical circumstances, for example those in which experimental psychology developed, it was-for some reason which I won't go into-interesting and maybe important to impose some very strange limitations on the kind of scientific theory construction that was permitted, and those very strange limitations are known as behaviourism. Well, it has long since run its course, I think. Whatever value it may have had in 1880, it has no function today except constraining and limiting scientific inquiry and should therefore simply be dispensed with, in the same way one would dispense with a physicist who said: you're not allowed to develop a general physical theory, you're only allowed to plot the motions of the planets and make up more epicycles and so on and so forth. One forgets about that and puts it aside. Similarly one should put aside the very curious restrictions that define behaviourism; restrictions which are, as I said before, very much suggested by the term behavioural science itself.
    We can agree, perhaps, that behaviour in some broad sense constitutes the data for the science of man. But to define a science by its data would be to define physics as the theory of meter-readings. And if a physicist were to say: yes, I'm involved in meter-reading science, we could be pretty sure that he was not going to get very far. They might talk about meter-readings and correlations between them and such things, but they wouldn't ever create physical theory.
    And so the term itself is symptomatic of the disease in this case. We should understand the historical context in which these curious limitations developed, and having understood them, I believe, discard them and proceed in the science of man as we would in any other domain, that is by discarding entirely behaviourism and in fact, in my view, the entire empiricist tradition from which it evolved.
    From the above link to the Chomsky-Foucault debate.
    Rosa is guilty of what Chomsky observes as the intellectually nefarious consequences of a “pernicious epistemological dualism” wherein “questions of mind are just studied differently than questions of body.”

    Here is an interview Chomsky gave with BBC which covers all of this in more detail. Chomsky explains how and why the LAD, or an innate human nature in general, that is clearly modified by the social environment, is the only reason that human behavior and society has such rich potential and why there can be made an argument against such things as exploitation, oppression, hierarchy and domination, because these all go against fundamental aspects of human nature, otherwise, without an innate human nature, these attributes of society may well be defended.
    "I think it only makes sense to seek out and identify structures of authority, hierarchy, and domination in every aspect of life, and to challenge them; unless a justification for them can be given, they are illegitimate, and should be dismantled, to increase the scope of human freedom." - Noam Chomsky
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    Rosa wrote:

    You might like to read (left-liberal) Fiona Cowie's demolition of Chomsky:

    What's Within. Nativism Reconsidered (Oxford Univesity Press, 2003).
    Dr. Cowie presents a summary of her work and views here:

    [FONT=Times New Roman]Fiona Cowie, Associate Professor of Philosophy[/FONT]
    [FONT=Times New Roman]B.A. (Hons.), University of Sydney, 1987; M.A., Princeton University, 1991; Ph.D., 1993.[/FONT]

    [FONT=Times New Roman]Areas of Specialization: naturalized philosophy of mind, psychology and linguistics; philosophy of biology; cognitive science [/FONT]

    [FONT=Times New Roman]Our remarkable capacity for rational thought—for learning and creative problem-solving, for decision-making and for purposeful action—is rightly regarded as our most distinctively human characteristic. For this reason, philosophers have always been interested in the human mind and its workings: every major philosopher from Plato onwards has had a theory of mind. Until very recently, however, our attempts to understand the mind have been hampered by our limited methodology: philosophers (and everyone else) have had to rely on personal introspection and/or informal observations of others’ behavior to provide a factual basis for their theories of cognition and motivation. But now, with the stunning advances that have recently been made by the the mind sciences (psychology, neuroscience, cognitive science), philosophers of mind are in a position radically to rethink their approach. Philosophical theories about human cognition can now be rigorously tested against data provided by the mind sciences, opening the prospect of a ‘naturalized’ philosophy of mind – a philosophy of mind that is firmly rooted in scientific fact. [/FONT]

    [FONT=Times New Roman]My work has always been within this naturalistic tradition. I aim both to make progress in solving traditional philosophical problems and, at the same time, to show how philosophical thinking can enrich and illuminate the sciences of the mind. As an example of such mutual cross-fertilization, take the centuries-old debate about learning—the so-called nature-nurture controversy. In 400 B.C., Plato argued that true learning is impossible. Consider, to take one of his examples, how we might learn the concept of equality. You might think that a person could learn this concept by (say) examining a number of sticks of different lengths. She looks at pairs of sticks, and notices that while some of the pairs are of different lengths, others of the pairs are the same lengths. From her recognition of this distinction among the pairs of sticks, you might suppose, she could learn the concepts EQUAL and UNEQUAL. BUT, says Plato, this person must already have the concept of equality in order to recognize that some of the pairs are the same length! Sameness of length just is equality! But if you need to have the concept EQUAL in order to figure out what data are relevant to learning that concept, then you can’t really learn the concept at all. You must have had it all along. [/FONT]

    [FONT=Times New Roman]Plato argued that if new information from the environment cannot be assimilated into the mind, the process we call "learning" is really just a process of uncovering or "recollecting" knowledge that is born with us. (He thought that we aquired all this innate knowledge when our souls, before birth, beheld the perfect Forms of earthly things in the realm of “true being.”) Although it appears radically contrary to common sense, Plato's view that much or all of our knowledge is innate proved enormously influential. The innateness of our ideas remerged as a subject of heated debate in the 17th and 18th centuries, engaging such notable thinkers as John Locke, Rene Descartes, Gottfried Leibniz, David Hume and Immanuel Kant. And more recently, the issue of learning and innateness has been raised by the work of the linguist Noam Chomsky. [/FONT]

    [FONT=Times New Roman]In numerous very influential works dating from the late 1950’s, Chomsky has argued that natural languages are too complex to be learned ‘from scratch,’ by human children. His best known argument for this conclusion points to the “poverty of the stimulus” encountered by children learning language. First, he notes the complexity of natural languages themselves. Human languages are vast in scope: each language contains an infinity of sentences. As well as being infinite in size, Chomsky notes, natural languages are extremely complex. The rules governing the well-formedness of sentences are highly unintuitive, as they are defined over abstract syntactic properties of sentences (like being a subject, being a noun phrase, being a trace left by movement of a constituent, etc.) . As a consequence, they are only distantly related to the surface features of the sentences children hear. [/FONT]

    [FONT=Times New Roman]So children, by age 8 or so, acquire knowledge of a language which contains infinitely many sentences and is governed by highly abstract and arcane syntactic rules. Chomsky argued that though languages are clearly acquired they could not be learned. For the data to which children have access during the period of language acquisition are simply too impoverished to allow them to learn the grammar of their language. The data, he argued, are limited in at least three important respects. First, children hear only a small finite sample of the sentences of their language, yet they acquire knowledge of the infinitely many sentences that their language contains. Secondly, the sample of sentences to which children have access do not contain certain critical types of sentence that would enable them to distinguish the correct syntactic rules from other, perhaps more natural yet false rules. Finally, Chomsky argued, children are not systematically corrected when they make syntactic errors: what are called negative data are missing from their linguistic input as well, meaning that if they overgeneralize a certain rule, they will never discover their mistake.[/FONT]

    [FONT=Times New Roman]Yet children do acquire knowledge of their language, nothwithstanding all these shortcomings in the data. Chomsky argued that if the linguistic environment does not provide enough of the right sorts of information and evidential constraints for learning to occur, some other process must be at work. A vast store of innate knowledge of grammar, he suggested, is what guides children through the acquisition process. More specifically, Chomsky argued that all human beings have innate knowledge of what he ccalls the Universal Grammar. This specifies features that all languages have in common (and linguistic inquiry over the last 50 years or so has revealed that human languages do share deep similarities, despite their superficial differences). Armed with innate knowledge of the universal linguistic skeleton, children are then able to flesh out the remaining linguistic details with relative ease and speed.[/FONT]

    [FONT=Times New Roman]That a substantial portion of our linguistic knowledge is innate is the modern orthodoxy: language is inborn, not learned. In my recent book, What's Within? Nativism Reconsidered, however, I use both philosophical tools and scientific data to assess the soundness of this view. First, I argue that while considerations of the poverty of the stimulus might show that additional constraints on language learning mechanisms (over and above those posited by traditional, associationist learning models) might be needed, Chomsky’s argument does not show what kinds of constraints are necessary. While they might be the kinds of sophisticated, representational constraints embodied in the theory of Universal Grammar, other sorts of constraints (e.g., low level attentional constraints, constraints imposed by prior theorizing etc.) might serve as well to guide children’s language acquisition. This latter possibility is one that has not adequately been explored. I argue, secondly, that the stimulus to language learning may not be as impoverished as is commonly supposed. Children are exposed to a huge amount of linguistic information – of kinds Chomsky claimed to be unavailable -- in their formative years. Moreover, new research in developmental psychology is revealing that many subtle kinds of feedback are readily available to them. In sum, then, the argument from the poverty of the stimulus is arguably based on false premisses; and even if it weren’t, it would not support Chomsky’s detailed theory about the structure of his hypothesized language faculty.[/FONT]

    [FONT=Times New Roman]Another area in which a synthesis of philosophy and the sciences of mind will, I hope, prove illuminating, is in uncovering the evolutionary history of our distinctly human capabilities. A common strategy, both in psychology and in the popular media, is to “explain” a certain behavior or psychological disposition by appeal to the idea that it evolved – it is an adaptation shaped by natural selection. Thus, for instance, drunkeness, a tendency to violence, intelligence, mens’ (alleged) desire to rape women, women’s (alleged) propensity to marital fidelity – all are explained as being the result of natural selection operating on the minds of our distant hominid ancestors. Together with Jim Woodward, another Caltech philosopher, I am writing a new book critiquing these sorts of explanations. Called Naturalizing Human Nature, and under contract to Oxford University Press, our book will examine a number of issues raised by so-called ‘evolutionary psychology.’ First, we will emphasize the difficulty of providing evidence for particular adaptive hypotheses: theorizing about selection pressures, psychological capacities and behaviors in the dark prehistory of our species in itself poses pressing evidential problems. Secondly, we look at a common assumption among evolutionary psychologists which is that natural selection engineereed particular psychological mechanisms or ‘modules’ to solve particular ‘adaptive problems.’ We argue that this ‘modular’ view of the mind – which sees the mind as akin to a swiss army knife, made up of many independent and specialized units – is based on misunderstandings of how selection acts brains and moreover ignores important evidence from developmental neuroscience and genetics about how mature psychological capacities are acquired.[/FONT]

    [FONT=Times New Roman]Selected Publications:[/FONT]

    [FONT=Times New Roman]What's Within? Nativism Reconsidered. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.[/FONT]

    [FONT=Times New Roman]‘On cussing in Church: In defense of What’s Within?,’ Mind and Language, 16, 2001.[/FONT]

    [FONT=Times New Roman]‘‘'Whistling "Dixie": Response to Fodor,' (2001) online symposium on What's Within? Nativism Reconsidered, [/FONT][FONT=Times New Roman][/FONT]

    [FONT=Times New Roman]‘Mental Modules Did Not Evolve by Natural Selection’ (with James F. Woodward), forthcoming in C. Hitchcock, Ed., Great Debates in Philosophy: Philosophy of Science, New York and Oxford: Blackwell, 2003.[/FONT]

    [FONT=Times New Roman]‘Innateness – Philosophical Issues about,’ forthcoming in D. Chalmers (ed.) Encyclopedia of Cognitive Science, Macmillan Publishing Co., 2002-3[/FONT]

    [FONT=Times New Roman]‘Explanation in Linguistics’ (with Kim Sterelny), forthcoming in W. Frawley (ed.), International Encyclopedia of Linguistics, 2nd Edition, Oxford University Press, 2002-3.[/FONT]
    Last edited by Rosa Lichtenstein; 17th March 2008 at 03:11.
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    JDHURF, I speak to you directly because I haven't read all the massive posts made later in this thread in as much depth to really make any intelligent comment about the discussion,
    But I watch the video which you linked to at the end of your post, in which .Chomsky says that children learn language with little direct instruction from their parents.
    Although earlier in this thread somebody referenced to "feral children", and after reading about it, I'd learnt that these children without growing up in their early years around human language have a very difficult time learning it. As far as I can see that is contradictory to what Chomsky is saying in this interview.
    What do you say?
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    Thanks for that Jim; I have reduced the size of the font to make it easier to read.

    I was very impressed with Cowies's book (even though I reject her naturalist and 'modular' theory of the mind, among other things). She has definitely upset Jerry Fodor:

    I have just noticed, you posted these links too!
    Last edited by Rosa Lichtenstein; 17th March 2008 at 03:14.
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    You are falsifying Chomsky’s work.
    In what way?

    Of course human nature is in some ways constrained, as even Marx wrote in Capital, which I have quoted in another thread, at which point you ceased participating in the discussion. Obviously human beings are constrained by the genetic code, which is why humans cannot simply be socially compelled to begin puberty or to sprout wings. Your understanding of language acquisition is infantile and archaic, nowhere taken seriously by cognitive scientists, who, incidentally, spend their lives studying and researching the subject matter.
    Where have I denied this sort of input from genetics? And where have I outlined my 'theory' of language acquisition?

    Rosa is guilty of what Chomsky observes as the intellectually nefarious consequences of a “pernicious epistemological dualism” wherein “questions of mind are just studied differently than questions of body.”
    And on what statements of mine do you base this lie?

    You know, you might be able to get away with lying in your own blog, and at the PC forum, but if you continue lying here, your posts will be deleted.
    Last edited by Rosa Lichtenstein; 17th March 2008 at 03:05.
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    JDHURF, I speak to you directly because I haven't read all the massive posts made later in this thread in as much depth to really make any intelligent comment about the discussion,
    But I watch the video which you linked to at the end of your post, in which .Chomsky says that children learn language with little direct instruction from their parents.
    Although earlier in this thread somebody referenced to "feral children", and after reading about it, I'd learnt that these children without growing up in their early years around human language have a very difficult time learning it. As far as I can see that is contradictory to what Chomsky is saying in this interview.
    What do you say?
    That is not contrary to anything Chomsky said, in fact, he mentions this in the video I linked to. He goes over the fact that to say children learn language is a bit misleading, for the reasons he goes over, but that children will develop the capacity to embrace the language which they are introduced to depending on their location - so, a Chinese baby will develop the capacity to speak mandarin, because it is mandarin the baby is introduced to, whereas an American baby will develop the capacity to speak english and so forth - a baby not introduced to a language will, for quite obvious reasons, not develop the innate capacity to acquire language. Chomsky even offers an analogy:

    Chomsky’s analogy
    "I think it only makes sense to seek out and identify structures of authority, hierarchy, and domination in every aspect of life, and to challenge them; unless a justification for them can be given, they are illegitimate, and should be dismantled, to increase the scope of human freedom." - Noam Chomsky
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    Here is a link to a portion of and then to the entire article which appeared in a scientific journal that refutes Cowie's arguments:
    "I think it only makes sense to seek out and identify structures of authority, hierarchy, and domination in every aspect of life, and to challenge them; unless a justification for them can be given, they are illegitimate, and should be dismantled, to increase the scope of human freedom." - Noam Chomsky
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    Yes, well, we have already added a link with her reply to this.

    And Mind isn't a scientific journal.

    Moreover, it is just Fodor's attempt to defend himself, and not too well, as it turns out.
    Last edited by Rosa Lichtenstein; 17th March 2008 at 09:25.
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    We are material beings, like other animals, endowed with certain potentialities. We are not entirely socially constructed beings. Nevertheless part of our material condition is that, more than any other animal, we are born with a relatively under-developed brain which is peculiarly open to environmental adjustment. Nearly everything we need to learn to make us human (walking upright on two legs; speaking a language and thinking symbolically; engaging in cooperative problem solving) is an achievement and we learn it all after birth through interaction with other humans. The window of opportunity for learning all this is confined to our first few years. Infants, who for one reason or another, have been excluded from human contact, do not develop recognizable human (as opposed to animal) traits.
    Well put. This is how I see it. But does this make the idea of human nature a relatively meaningless concept?
    It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness. Karl Marx.
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    But does this make the idea of human nature a relatively meaningless concept?
    I think it does in terms of the concept holding any explanatory power. You only tend to hear appeals to "human nature" from quite reactionary sources and it's normally only employed to justify the status quo and to discredit the possibility of change in human affairs. But as Marx points out, it's our ability to overcome nature which makes us human.
    Last edited by Hit The North; 18th March 2008 at 21:30.
    "Events have their own logic, even when human beings do not." - Rosa Luxemburg

    "There are decades when nothing happens; and there are weeks when decades happen." - Lenin

  19. #59
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    The idea that humans have no innate tunings, and are completely "blank slates" is called behaviorism and was debunked years ago. We are clearly geared up for certain things, like language and so on.
    Skinner's behaviorism was never debunked, nor was the nature argument. It is clear that the truth lays somewhere in between, and more importantly, certain psychological traits are more or less common to all people. Our social tendancies are one such trait. However, how we interpret these drives is completely dependent on what tools we are given with which to decode them. If I am born with a natural tendancy to be self-sassertive, and live in a culture which has conflated freedom and empowerment with subservience to a state (nationalism) I my very well conclude that to be free, I must follow the orders, expectations and norms of a state and its majority. That is clearly an irrational interpretation of the drive, but is very common. In my opinion, the "blank slate" argument, which flawed, seems much closer to the reality of the situation than a purely genetically - induced human condition.
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    Here is a paper, written by one of my teachers, that argues, as Dean does, that Skinner is not dead and buried. [I have to add that I do not agree with all that this article contains.]

    Behaviourism as a Standpoint in Linguistics

    Ullin T. Place


    The thesis of this paper is that behaviourism is the only adequate scientific foundation for the disciplines of psychology, linguistics and linguistic philosophy. Behaviourism in psychology is presented as a convergence of six principles: (1) behaviour as the subject matter of psychology, (2) the objectivity principle, (3) the rejection of mentalistic explanation, (4) the three-term contingency, (5) the distinction between discriminative stimuli and establishing conditions, and (6) learning theory.

    Behaviourism in linguistics and linguistic philosophy is seen as resting on ten principles: (1) language as communication in the service of technology, (2) language and thought, (3) the sentence as the functional unit of linguistic communication, (4) novel sentence-construction, (5) novel sentences and the representation of unfamiliar contingencies, (6) sentence-construction and the win-shift/fail-stay contingency, (7) the picture theory of the meaning of sentences, (8) the associative learning of word and phrase meaning, (9) lexical words, syntactic words and Bickerton's "proto-language", (10) mutations and the facilitation of language learning.


    It is my view that behaviourism is the only scientifically acceptable foundation, not only for the science of psychology, but also for the science of language or linguistics, as it is usually called. Moreover, since I hold that philosophy, in so far as it is capable of contributing to the body of human knowledge, is a branch of the science of language, it follows that I also think that that discipline too requires a behaviourist foundation.

    What Behaviourism is not

    That said, the behaviourism which is needed as the foundation for psychology, linguistics and philosophy is something very different from the popular stereotype. It is no part of the behaviourism to which I subscribe that it denies either the existence of consciousness in the sense of private experience or the possibility of studying such experiences scientifically. It is no part of my behaviourism to reject explanations of the behaviour of organisms in terms of what is going on in the brain and nervous system. Nor is it committed to explaining that behaviour in terms of mechanical reflexes or stimulus-response connections.

    Behaviourism in Psychology

    Behaviourism as an approach to psychology is committed to the following principles:

    B1. Psychology as the Science of Behaviour.

    It was accepted by every school of psychology until the advent of the "cognitive revolution" that an empirical science must be defined by reference to the phenomena it observes and studies, rather than by reference to the theoretical constructs it currently uses to explain those phenomena. It is by applying this principle that the behaviourist concludes that the proper definition of psychology is as the science of the behaviour of living organisms, rather than as the science of the mind.

    B2. The Objectivity Principle.

    The Objectivity Principle holds that the observation statements which provide the foundation of empirical knowledge are and can only be observations of permanent states of affairs in the public domain whose correct description will be agreed by any competent observer who is also a competent speaker and interpreter of the language and technical code in current use. It is a consequence of this principle that conclusions about the nature of events, whether in the public or in the private domain, must be based on objective records whose relation to the events they record must be understood before they can be relied on. This means that before we can make serious evidential use of an objective record of a subject's "introspective report", we need to understand both the nature of what is being reported and the semantics of the process whereby the report is generated.

    B3. The Rejection of Mentalistic Explanation.

    When explaining the behaviour of living organisms for scientific purposes behaviourists have traditionally objected to the use of what have been called "mentalistic explanations". Exactly what kinds of explanation qualify as "mentalistic" and why they are objectionable has never been made entirely clear. I take it that a mentalistic explanation is one which invokes the kinds of process, instantaneous event and ongoing dispositional state which are referred to in the "common sense" or "folk psychological" explanations of human and animal behaviour which we encounter in ordinary non-technical discourse. If so, my view is that such explanations are scientifically objectionable only in so far as they presuppose that the behaving organism is linguistically competent and rely for an explanation of why the agent acted as she did on a quotation of what she might be supposed to have said to herself when deciding what to do. It should be obvious that such explanations are scientifically unacceptable when the behaviour to be explained is that of a pre-linguistic organism (animal) or in the case of linguistic behaviour itself. But the principle of the unity of science requires a theory that will apply to all forms of human and animal behaviour. Consequently, a form of explanation which is restricted in its scope to those aspects of human behaviour which are indeed controlled by linguistic formulations of the contingencies involved is unacceptable for the purposes of scientific theory; though equally unacceptable is a theory which cannot accommodate the phenomenon whereby a great deal of human behaviour is controlled in this way.

    B4. The Three-Term Contingency.

    At the molar level of analysis all instrumental/operant behaviour including verbal behaviour, both that of the speaker and that of listener, is acquired, maintained and abandoned in accordance with the principle of the three term contingency (Skinner 1969), consisting of
    1. a set of Antecedent conditions
    2. the Behaviour emitted or omitted under those conditions, and
    3. the Consequences of so behaving
    B5. Discriminative Stimuli and Establishing Conditions.

    A distinction needs to be drawn within the antecedents of behaviour between discriminative stimuli whose effect is to alert the organism to the impending presence or availability of a particular behaviour-consequence relation and the establishing conditions (Michael 1982), such as food-deprivation or the lack of the appropriate utensils required in order to eat the food set before one in a socially acceptable manner, which determine the valence of both the anticipated and the actual consequences of emitting or omitting the behaviour, i.e. whether the effect of those consequences is to strengthen (reinforce) or weaken (disinforce - Harzem & Miles 1978) the organism's disposition to emit similar behaviour on similar occasions in the future. It should be apparent that this distinction corresponds to that traditionally drawn between "cognition" and "motivation".

    B6. Learning Theory.

    While no one could seriously deny that there are aspects of both animal and human behaviour that are innate, and other aspects that are learned, behaviourists have traditionally attached greater importance to the latter than to the former, and would insist with many contemporary neuroscientists that there are no "hardwired" connections in the brain, i.e., nothing that is not susceptible to modification by subsequent learning. In particular they have always insisted that, although its acquisition has undoubtedly been facilitated by genetic mutations, linguistic competence, both that of the listener and that of the speaker, is acquired in accordance with the same principles as are observed in experimental studies of animal learning. Contemporary learning theory, however, has moved on in a number of respects from the position adopted by most behaviourists in the 1950s and early 1960s before behaviourism was swamped by the cognitive revolution. One principle which at that time had only begun to impress itself on the scientific community was that expounded in Ferster & Skinner's (1957) book Schedules of Reinforcement, namely that instrumental/operant reinforcement is as much a matter of maintaining ongoing behaviour as of acquiring new patterns. Another principle which had been around for a long time, but which has only recently begun to make its mark is that demonstrated by Miller & Konorski (1928; Konorski 1948) when they showed that underlying every case of instrumental/operant learning there is a classical conditioning to the kinaesthetic feedback from the instrumental/operant response as it develops of the autonomic response elicited by the instrumental/operant reinforcer in the case of a positively reinforced response and by the aversive stimulus in the case of a negatively reinforced response. More recently, this observation has been given added significance by the work of the associative learning theorists (Rescorla & Wagner 1972) which suggests, if it does not actually demonstrate, that what the organism learns in a classical conditioning situation is to "expect"(1) the US, given the CS, that such expectations develop in accordance with the Principle of Association by Contiguity (Hume 1739), whenever a stimulus of one type is regularly followed by a stimulus of another type, and that the function of the autonomic UR in the classical conditioning situation is simply to make this expectation visible in the form of an autonomic CR. Combining this view of classical conditioning with the Miller-Konorski evidence on the one hand and the evidence (Adams & Dickinson 1981) of the effect of reinforcer-devaluation on an instrumental/operant response on the other shows that in instrumental/operant learning the organism learns to expect certain consequences, given a particular combination of discriminative stimulus and the feedback of an instrumental/operant response. It also suggests that the way the organism behaves in response to that expectation will depend on the value it currently attaches to those consequences (Rescorla 1991). From this it would seem that the learning principle that applies depends on the level of analysis under discussion. Thus at the neuro-synaptic level some version of the Hebb (1949) Principle would seem to apply. I find the version proposed by Montague, Gally & Edelman (1991) the most convincing. At the mental process or, to use Edelman's (1987) term, the "neuronal group" level the Association by Contiguity or Stimulus-Stimulus Expectancy Principle applies; while at the molar behavioural level it is the Law of Effect (Thorndike 1911).

    Behaviourism in Linguistics

    The behaviourist approach to the science and philosophy of language, the position Place (1996) calls "linguistic behaviourism", is committed to the following principles:

    L1. Language as Communication in the Service of Technology.

    Language is a form of behaviour which has evolved in the first instance by virtue of allowing the development of the kind of social control and information transmission within the social group which are needed for the implementation of the technology required to adapt to the environment in which the group finds itself.

    L2. Language and Thought.

    Language has an equally important but ontologically derivative function of allowing its possessors to solve problems, both technological and personal, through symbolic representations of the consequences of doing one thing rather than another. It seems tolerably certain that the ability to solve problems by means of iconic representations (mental images) of the past consequences of emitting or omitting different kinds of behaviour in circumstances resembling those currently prevailing is part of our common mammalian heritage. But, not only are such iconic representations incommunicable from one organism to another, in the absence of language they are necessarily restricted to behaviour-consequence relations which the organism has experienced in its own case.

    L3. The Sentence as the Functional Unit in Linguistic Communication.

    The sentence is the functional unit of language, the unit which must be completed if an utterance is to effectively control the listener's behaviour and secure the reinforcement from the listener on which the continuation of the speaker's turn and hence the conversation as a whole depends.

    L4. Novel Sentence Construction.

    As Chomsky (1957 etc.) has always insisted, though they are made up of units, words, phrases and sentence frames, which are repeated, sentences, in so far as they are used to convey information, are seldom repeated word for word, and are typically constructed anew on each occasion of utterance. But although any reasonably intelligent speaker can break down her sentences into their constituent words when called on to do so, in practice, sentences are assembled, not from their individual constituent words, but from what Miller (1998) calls "prefabricated chunks", phrases, embedded sentences and sentence frames which, in the overwhelming majority of cases, are borrowed by imitation from other speakers.

    L5. Novel Sentences and the Representation of Unfamiliar Contingencies.

    The speaker's ability to construct and the listener's ability to construe sentences the like of which neither party need have encountered before, allows the speaker both to induce the listener to emit behaviour which he or she may never have emitted before and communicate to listener information about contingencies (antecedent-behaviour-consequence relations) the like of which he or she need have had no previous experience.

    L6. Sentence-Construction and the Win-Shift/Fail-Stay Contingency.

    Unlike the situation presented to the organism by the Skinner box which is a win-stay, fail-shift contingency, at the level of sentence construction verbal behaviour is on win-shift, fail-stay contingency in which what are variously referred to as "back-channels". "response tokens" or "verbal reinforcers" play an essential role in indicating to the speaker that his or her sentence has been successful, thus allowing the speaker to proceed to the next sentence. Only when the listener's response indicates failure to communicate or persuade is a sentence repeated. Even when it is repeated, it is usually with a different intonation, if not with different words.

    L7. The Picture Theory of the Meaning of Sentences.

    According to the picture theory of meaning (Wittgenstein 1921/1961) in the form in which I subscribe to it, a sentence is complete when it depicts, in a manner capable of being deciphered by any competent listener, a complete situation (Barwise and Perry 1983). A situation is either an event whereby a change occurs in either the properties of an individual entity or the relations between two or more individuals, or a state of affairs in which a property of an individual or a relation between two or more individuals remains unchanged for a period of time. The nature of what persists or changes is indicated by the verb phrase or predicate, the individual or individuals involved by noun phrases or arguments.

    L8. The Associative Learning of Word and Phrase Meaning.

    Unlike the sentences of which they form part and to whose meaning they contribute, the constituents of sentences, words, phrases and sentence frames, are repeated. Unlike the sentences of which they form part and to whose situation-depicting function they contribute, words, phrases and sentence frames acquire their semantic function by virtue of a repeated past association between the linguistic unit (word or phrase) and the aspect of the various situations into whose depiction it enters and which it depicts.

    L9. Lexical Words, Syntactic Words and Bickerton's Proto-Language.

    Words as the smallest functionally discrete constituents of phrases and sentences are of two kinds; lexical words (nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs) and syntactic words or, as Skinner (1957) has it, "autoclitics". The developmental evidence shows that the earliest sentences that a child produces are ones consisting only of lexical words and in the first instance only of verbs and nouns (Bickerton's 1990 "proto-language"). There is also evidence (Morford et al. 1993: Morford 1996) from studies of "homesigning" (individual sign-languages developed by the deaf who have no access to other sign-language users) that iconic signs, those where the sign resembles the natural signs which regularly accompany and thus signal the presence of a particular object or kind of object or event, precede symbolic signs, those where the connection between the sign and what it stands for is arbitrary. Needless to say, all syntactic words, prefixes and suffixes are symbolic in this sense.

    L10. Mutations and the Facilitation of Language-Learning.

    There is evidence both from developmental events, such as the "naming explosion" and a "critical period" for the acquisition of syntax, and from the existence of corresponding structures in the human brain, Wernicke's area in the case of naming and Broca's area in the case of syntax, of mutations that have been selected in the course of human evolution which, together with the changes to mouth and larynx which have made speech possible, have given our species an ability to acquire language that no other species possesses. Nevertheless, the lack of continuity between these structures and the innate communication system of pre-linguistic organisms, a system which survives in our species in the form of the so-called "language of emotion", emphasises the fact that language is something that has to be learned by both speaker and listener. If it were not, it would not be able to adapt and contribute to the development of a new technology as the group moves into a new environment.

    Copyright U.T.Place 1998.

    References and notes

    Adams, C. D. & Dickinson, A. (1981) Instrumental responding following reinforcer devaluation. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 33 B, 109-112.

    Barwise, J. & Perry, J. (1983) Situations and Attitudes. Cambridge, MA: M.I.T. Press.

    Bickerton, D. (1990) Language and Species. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Chomsky, N. (1957) Syntactic Structures. The Hague: Mouton.

    Edelman, G. M. (1987) Neural Darwinism: The Theory of Neuronal Group Selection. New York: Basic Books.

    Ferster, C. B. & Skinner, B. F (1957) Schedules of Reinforcement. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.

    Harzem, P. & Miles, T. R. (1978) Conceptual issues in operant psychology. New York: Wiley.

    Hebb, D. O. (1949). The Organization of Behavior. New York: Wiley.

    Hume, D. (1739/1978) A Treatise on Human Nature, L.A. Selby-Bigge (Ed.), 2nd Edition, P.H. Nidditch (Ed.). Oxford: Clarendon Press.

    Konorski, J. (1948) Conditioned Reflexes and Neuron Organization. English translation by S. Garry. Cambridge: C.U.P.

    Michael, J. (1982) Distinguishing between discriminative and motivational functions of stimuli. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 37, 149-155.

    Miller, J. (1998) Acquiring spontaneous spoken language: the role of simple syntax and ready-made phrases. Paper presented to the 6th International Pragmatics Conference, Reims, 20th July 1998.

    Miller, S. & Konorski, J. (1928) Sur une forme particuli&#232;re des r&#233;flexes conditionelles. C. R. Soc. Biol. Paris, 99, 1155-1157. For a more detailed description of these experiments in English see Konorski (1948) pp. 211-235.

    Montague, P. R., Gally, J. A., & Edelman, G. M. (1991) Spatial signalling in the development and function of neural connections. Cerebral Cortex, 1, 199-220.

    Morford, J. P. (1996) Insights into language from the study of gesture: a review of research on the gestural communication of non-signing deaf people. Language & Communication, 16, 165-178.

    Morford, J. P., Singleton, J. L. & Goldin-Meadow, S. (1993) The role of iconicity in manual communication. In K. Beals, G. Cooke, D. Kathman, S. Kita, K.-E. McCullough & D. Testen (Eds.) Papers from the Chicago Linguistic Society, 29, Volume 2: The Parasession, pp. 243-253.

    Place, U. T. (1996) Linguistic behaviorism as a philosophy of empirical science. In W. O'Donohue & R. Kitchener (Eds.) The Philosophy of Psychology. London: Sage, Chapter 9, pp. 126-140.

    Rescorla, R. A. (1991) Associative relations in instrumental learning: The eighteenth Bartlett Memorial Lecture. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 43B, 1-23.

    Rescorla, R.A. & Wagner, A.R. (1972) A theory of Pavlovian conditioning: Variations in the effectiveness of reinforcement and non-reinforcement. In A. H. Black & W. F. Prokasy (Eds.) Classical Conditioning, Vol. 2: Current Research and Theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

    Skinner, B. F. (1957) Verbal Behavior. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.

    Skinner, B. F. (1969) Contingencies of Reinforcement. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.

    Thorndike, E. L. (1911) Animal Intelligence. New York: Macmillan.

    Wittgenstein, L. (1921/1961) Tractatus logico-philosophicus. Annalen der Naturphilosophie. Tractatus Logico-philosophicus With second English translation by D. F. Pears & B. F. McGuiness. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

    1. Provided its grammatical object is not an embedded sentence in oratio obliqua or indirect reported speech, and unlike the verb `predict' which is often used in this context by associative learning theorists, the verb `expect' is one of the mentalistic concepts that does not presuppose linguistic competence on the part of the organism concerned and is therefore immune to the objection raised to such expressions in Section B3 above.
    Last edited by Rosa Lichtenstein; 19th March 2008 at 03:54.

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