Chomsky v. Zizek, Part 1

Having read Chomsky’s book On Language and Zizek’s book The Parallax View, I found Chomsky to be less intellectually entertaining. Chomsky talked about a Universal grammar, while Zizek blew me away on a number of topics, most interesting of which was a discussion of Henry James’ book The Wings of the Dove as well as the concept of anti-anti Semitism. Chomsky clearly defeated Alan Dershowitz in a debate about Israel (See:… but he did not defeat Foucault in the sense that as was stated in the debate by Elders that Foucault was “working on a completely different level and with a totally opposite aim and goal,” which Foucault agrees to when he says: “Therefore I have, in appearance at least, a completely different attitude to Mr. Chomsky apropos creativity, because for me it is a matter of effacing the dilemma of the knowing subject, while for him it is a matter of allowing the dilemma of the speaking subject to reappear.”

I think Chomsky has an agenda, where he states, for example: “What I’m arguing is this: if we have the choice between trusting in centralized power to make the right decision in that matter, or trusting in free associations of libertarian communities to make that decision, I would rather trust the latter. And the reason is that I think that they can serve to maximize decent human instincts, whereas a system of centralized power will tend in a general way to maximize one of the worst of human instincts, namely the instinct of rapaciousness, of destructiveness, of accumulating power to oneself and destroying others.” This is versus Foucault’s position, where he states: “I would say that our society has been afflicted by a disease, a very curious, a very paradoxical disease, for which we haven’t yet found a name; and this mental disease has a very curious symptom, which is that the symptom itself brought the mental disease into being… You can’t prevent me from believing that these notions of human nature, of justice, of the realization of the essence of human beings, are all notions and concepts which have been formed within our civilization, within our type of knowledge and our form of philosophy, and that as a result form part of our class system; and one can’t, however regrettable it may be, put forward these notions to describe or justify a fight which should-and shall in principle–overthrow the very fundaments of our society. This is an extrapolation for which I can’t find the historical justification,” (See:….

Chomsky might be contradicting himself when he said in his book On Language that, “Language serves essentially for the expression of thought… Perhaps the instrumentalist conception of language is related to the general belief that human action and its creations, along with the intellectual structure of human beings, are designed for the satisfaction of certain physical needs (food, well-being, security, etc.). Why try to reduce intellectual and artistic achievements to elementary needs?” (From:
Language and Responsibility, pp. 88-89.)

He was critical of George Lakoff too when he said that Lakoff was “Working on ‘cognitive grammar,’ which integrates language with nonlinguistic systems.” Chomsky said he didn’t “See any theory in prospect there,” Ibid, p. 150. Chomsky said that Lakoff proposed “arbitrary” relations between meaning and form.

If we take the idea of “Anti-anti Semitism,” for example, what Zizek is talking about is fundamentally important. His assertion is that people are changing their once sacred and protective views of Israelis because it would appear that like an abused child, Israelis have grown up to abuse. It is a slow awareness but one that legitimizes Zizek because his theory both predicts the future and explains the present and so the idea is not arbitrary, but rather it is profound.

I think Lakoff and Zizek have a lot in common, where Lakoff’s book Philosophy in the Flesh talked about how science was no greater than what man could conceive through the context of his mind as in metaphors, which is a bit like Chomsky’s idea of organs having a memory and that language was already built in.

Whenever someone attacks another person because of the type of language that person uses, as in Chomsky’s statement: “I’m not interested in posturing–using fancy terms like polysyllables and pretending you have a theory when you have no theory whatsoever,” it fails to address the meaning of those terms separately or conjoined. I found Zizek to be clear and informative, where I found Chomsky to be narrowly focused and repetitive.

I think Chomsky may be loosing his sense of humor and taking himself too seriously. How can someone “kind of like” another person? The world is full of ideas. Philosophers look over the shoulders of scientists and discuss the application of discoveries. Chomsky says that we never change, which is a bit like saying that what scientists discover is nothing new. And Lakoff would agree. Chomsky generalizes the “posturing” Paris intellectuals and I believe he commits the sins of the argument ad hominem and arbitrariness he blames Lakoff for. I believe he is projecting his own failure to change a world that has allowed him to theorize. Funny, he says, “Humans may develop their capacities without limit, but never escaping certain objective bounds set by their biological nature.” (Chomsky, Ibid., p. 124)

See also:


One comment

  1. Re: Your opinions of Chomsky

    It would be better not to write about what your worthless opinions are concerning things said by people who are way above your head. Just give up.

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