Presentation on theme: "Nativism: Noam Chomsky. John Locke (1632-1704): “ Essay Concerning Human Understanding ” “ Since it is the understanding that sets man above the rest."— Presentation transcript:
Nativism: Noam Chomsky
John Locke ( ): “ Essay Concerning Human Understanding ” “ Since it is the understanding that sets man above the rest of sensible beings, and gives him all the advantage and dominion which he has on them; it is certainly a subject even for its nobleness, worth our labour to inquire into.. ” Introduction, p.26 (Dover publication)
Chapter 1: No Innate Speculative Principles “ There is nothing more commonly taken for granted than that there are certain principles … universally agreed upon by all mankind; which therefore, they argue, must needs be the constant impressions which the souls of men receive in their first beings, and which they bring into the world with them, as necessary and really as they do any of their inherent faculties.. ”
“...It would be sufficient to convince unprejudiced readers of the falseness of this supposition, if I should only show … how men, barely by the use of their natural faculties, may attain to all knowledge they have, without the help of any innate impressions …” (p.37-38)
The concept of Infinity- competing explanations A Rationalist claim (Descartes) would be that a finite and limited creature, such as a human, has no capacity to learn of infinity from his experiences in a finite environment. And since, being finite, he could not invent the idea of infinity, this idea has to be innate in him. Descartes claims God has given it to us at birth.
An Empiricist claim (Locke) would argue that we can indeed acquire the idea of infinity through experience: one should add to a number the number 1, for instance, and then add to it another 1, and another 1, and find out that there is no constraint on continuing adding. In this way one acquires the concept of Infinity.
“ Every one that has any idea of any stated lengths of space, as a foot, finds that he can repeat that idea; and joining it to the former, make the idea of two feet; and by the addition of a third, three feet; and so on, without ever coming to an end of his additions …” (p.278). This is an empiricist explanation, which does not require presupposing innate knowledge.
“… This argument of universal consent, which is made use of to prove innate principles, seems to me a demonstration that there are none such: because there are none to which all mankind give an universal assent …” (p.39). Take, as an example, the law of contradiction- the most basic rule of logic- which the rationalists claim to be innate. Locke argues that it is an example of laws which:
“ Are far from having an universal assent … for, first, it is evident, that all children and idiots have not the least apprehension or thought of them. ” (p.40)
Are children indeed knowledge-free, in the same status as idiots?
Nativism Main question: what is the cognitive code? Infant is born with complete world knowledge Infants count Infants have a concept of objects Infants have physics concepts Infants have language
Nativism Evidence for the claim of complete world knowledge Youngsters learn an extremely complex system (language) effortlessly Youngsters learn an extremely complex system (language) in a short amount of time Youngsters do not need instruction to learn their mother tongue
Nativism Do youngsters who are born deaf can learn an impoverished language at a level that is higher than the level they hear? Youngsters develop Creole from pidgin Infants do not hear grammar; they hear a string of words and infer the syntactic rules language (impoverishment of the stimulus) Infants often hear ungrammatical sentences, yet they learn the grammar
Nativism: Learning Paradox Fodor ’ s learning paradox: one learns something only if one knows it in advance To learn a language you have to know that language in advance What you know is at a higher level than what you learn
Nativism In the case of language, infants are born with: a universal grammar (UG) - a data base of grammar language acquisition device (LAD) - hypothesis tester
Nativism If the child is born with a LAD and no UG, he doesn ’ t have anything to hypothesize on If the child is born with a UG and no LAD, he cannot hypothesize about the language
Nativism The UG is the cognitive code. Unique to humans Universal for humans If one can describe it, one has cracked the cognitive code.
Nativism Relations between learning and development Only learning (deductive) No development Similar to classical behaviorism
Nativism: Language Acquisition Device hypothesize the grammar in the language you are exposed to see if the hypothesis fits the grammar if yes, continue with the hypothesis if no, make a new hypothesis
Nativism If that is how children learn language, it is impossible, in principle, to develop to a higher level How can you hypothesize something that is not already there? Nativists say you cannot
Nativism As a consequence, it is best to build the most powerful system so that it is there in infancy
Argument between Piaget and Chomsky CHOMSKY ’ S POINT: Chomsky: One cannot construct more powerful structures because hypothesis testing cannot take place at a level that is higher than one ’ s highest level e.g., conservation: a child cannot hypothesize conservation if he is at the intuitive stage
Argument between Piaget and Chomsky Chomsky: One cannot construct more powerful structures because hypothesis testing cannot take place at a level that is higher than one ’ s highest level Fodor ’ s learning paradox e.g., conservation: a child cannot hypothesize conservation if he is at the intuitive stage
Piaget Rebuttal Piaget: I don ’ t have to accept hypothesis testing as the mechanism for learning I believe children learn and develop through disequilibrium
Piaget Rebuttal I can describe learning and development in Child development (ontogeny) History of disciplines (Piaget & Garcia; Kuhn) My system allows me to describe two disparate developments: ontogeny and historical development
Piaget Rebuttal You, the nativists cannot describe the development of disciplines in history in terms of innate modules within humans Bottom line: I can describe two developments and you can describe one I don ’ t believe the description you give to language acquisition
Nativism: Modularity 1. Encapsulation - it is impossible to interfere with the inner workings of a module. 2. Unconscious - it is difficult or impossible to reflect on the operations of module. 3. Speed - modules are very fast. 4. Shallow outputs - modules provide limited output, without information about the intervening steps that led to that output.
Nativism: Modularity 5. Obligatory firing - modules operate reflexively, providing predetermined outputs for predetermined inputs regardless of the context. 6. Ontogenetic universals - modules develop in a characteristic sequence. 7. Localization - modules are mediated by dedicated neural systems.
Nativism: Modularity 8. Pathological universals - modules breakdown in characteristic fashion following insult to the system. 9. Domain specificity - as discussed above.