Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Noam Chomsky The Great Philosopher of Present World

Noam Chomsky ( 1928-), unarguably among the greatest linguists, living or dead, is a thinker of our times who has strode across our age like a colossus. He is identified with diverse fields such as philosophy, cognitive sciences, social sciences, psychology, studies in international relations, media studies, and so on. It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of his scholarly contributions to various fields of human endeavour. The political community of the world respects him for his passionate commitment to a moral social order and a welfare society. He has been honored for his academic distinction by more than thirty Universities of the world including Indian Universities. Being an American, he has been daring enough to expose the double standards of the American government on certain issues. He is a critique of imperialism and argues for a new world order. Chomsky is credited with the creation of the theory of generative grammar, considered to be one of the most significant contributions to the field of linguistics made in the 20th century. The Chomskyan approach to syntax, often termed ‘generative grammar’, studies grammar as a body of knowledge internalised by speakers. Chomskyan linguistics, beginning with his Syntactic Structures, a distillation of his Ph.D thesis Logical Structure of Linguistic Theory- challenges structural linguistics and introduces transformational grammar. This theory takes utterances (sequences of words) to be a process set in motion by a selection of items from the lexicon and then put together by various formal processes and rules. From Chomsky's perspective, the strongest evidence for the existence of a Universal Grammar, an inherited, biologically founded language faculty is simply the fact that children successfully acquire their native languages that are so intricate and complex in so little time. He challenged, successfully, the behaviorist approach to the study of verbal and nonverbal behavior dominant in the 1950s. His naturalistic approach to the study of language has had salutarily significant effects on the philosophy of language and mind. He is also credited with the establishment of the Chomsky hierarchy, a classification of formal languages in terms of their generative power. This is often taught in fundamental computer science courses as it confers insight into the various types of formal languages.Chomsky's work in linguistics has had major implications for modern psychology. For Chomsky, linguistics is a branch of cognitive psychology; genuine insights in linguistics imply concomitant understandings of aspects of mental processing and human nature. His theory of a universal grammar was seen by many as a direct challenge to the established behaviorist theories of the time and had major consequences for understanding how language is learned by children and what, exactly, the nature of the ability to use language is. Chomsky strongly disagrees with post structuralist and postmodern criticisms of science.Beginning with his critique of the Vietnam War in the 1960s, Chomsky has become more widely known for his media criticism and political activism, and for his criticism of the foreign policy of the United States and other governments. Specifically, he detects double standards (which he labels "single standard") in a foreign policy preaching democracy and freedom for all, while promoting, supporting and allying itself with non-democratic and repressive organizations and states, and argues that this results in massive human rights violations. He has argued that the mass media in the United States largely serve as a propaganda arm and "bought priesthood" of the US government and U.S. corporations, with the three parties all largely intertwined through common interests. Chomsky along with his coauthor, Edward S. Herman has written that the American media manufactures consent among the public. Critical of the American capitalist system and big business, he describes himself as a libertarian socialist who sympathizes with anarcho-syndicalism and is critical of Leninist branches of socialism.. He also believes that libertarian socialist values exemplify the rational and morally consistent extension of original unreconstructed classical liberal and radical humanist ideas to an industrial context. Specifically he believes that society should be highly organized and based on democratic control of communities and work places. He believes that the radical humanist ideas of his two major influences, Bertrand Russell and John Dewey, were "rooted in the Enlightenment and classical liberalism, and retain their revolutionary character." In response to U.S. declarations of a War on Terrorism in 1981 and the re-declaration in 2001, Chomsky has argued that the major sources of international terrorism are the world's major powers, led by the United States. His book Manufacturing Consent: The political economy of the Mass Media (with Edward S. Herman) explores this topic in depth, presenting their "propaganda model" of the news media with numerous detailed case studies demonstrating it. According to this propaganda model, more democratic societies like the U.S. use subtle, non-violent means of control, unlike totalitarian systems, where physical force can readily be used to coerce the general population. In an often-quoted remark, Chomsky says that "propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state." (Media Control)Chomsky argues that transnational corporate power is "developing its own governing institutions" reflective of their global reach. According to Chomsky, a primary ploy has been the co-opting of the global economic institutions established at the end of World War II, the IMF and the World Bank, which have increasingly adhered to the "Washington consensus," requiring developing countries to adhere to limits on spending and make structural adjustments that often involve cutbacks in social and welfare programs. IMF aid and loans are normally contingent upon such reforms. Chomsky claims that the construction of global institutions and agreements such as the WTO, the GATT, the NAFTA constitute new ways of securing √©lite privileges while undermining democracy. Chomsky believes that these austere and neo-liberal measures ensure that poorer countries merely fulfill a service role by providing cheap labor, raw materials and investment opportunities for the first world. Additionally, this means that corporations can threaten to relocate to poorer countries, and Chomsky sees this as a powerful weapon to keep workers in richer countries in line.It is difficult to confine such a multi faceted personality as Chomsky to only linguistics, although his initial contribution was in the field of Linguistics. Clearly, the seminar will be interdisciplinary and would focus on Chomsky’s ground-breaking contributions to philosophy, linguistics, psychology, international studies, political science, media and cultural studies. One need hardly say that scholars could do some creative criticism of any of Chomsky’s scholarly output. Nothing that someone says or does is ipso facto correct or valid

No comments: