Anonymous asked: isn't it perfectly possible that despite being wrong on universal grammar, chomsky is nevertheless still right about the dangers of postmodernism?
in theory, maybe —
but in practice, I don’t think so, because postmodernism is almost by definition not a unified body of thought. The label encompasses a staggering variety of perspectives which have no unifying features save questioning the viability of any single all-encompassing theory of why the world is the way it is. when people are talking about “the dangers of postmodernism” they are in my experience usually —
a) Marxists or other Old Left types who believe in the primacy of class struggle as the root cause of any social development, and want the kids to get off their lawn, or
b) radical feminists who believe in the primacy of struggle between (fixed at birth, binary) genders as the root cause of any social development, and want the kids to get off their lawn and get changed into some sensible clothes, or
c) people who have an issue with the rampant individualism and inattention to material reality of the kids on the lawn, which is fair enough, but mistakenly attribute that development to postmodernism as such.
I’m not a linguist. But as I understand it, Chomsky’s deal is that he can’t believe that anything as complex and functional as language could come about without it being somehow inherent to the brain, innate, like sight. (like sight in that there are a lot of possible ways for brains to interpret light waves, but there’s really only one way that humans see, with some variation to be sure, but the experience of sight for any number of humans will be more essentially similar than a human’s sight and a dog’s sight, because of our neurology.) Others believe that it’s perfectly possible for complex systems to be spontaneously generated by something that’s not specifically focused on the generation of such systems. I’m talking about opponents of theories of universal grammar and innatist language acquisition, but I could just as easily be talking about, say, Foucauldians insisting that institutions don’t need to be set up as tools of the ruling classes to become sites of power and social control.
In short, I think Chomsky’s failure to grasp the idea that things don’t need to be purpose-built for any particular effect to have that effect is why he is wrong about both universal grammar and postmodernism.