Noam Chomsky's intellectual approach (and what it lacks)
In his dealing with the relations between that Thinking, and the Reality it was attempting to describe, he only considers the internal relations and inadequacies of such Thinking, as the only possible-and-effective means of in any way addressing our world.
It was a wholly intellectual approach!
However, in spite of great historical breadth and an increasing intellectual depth, he also insisted upon what he saw as its intrinsic and sometimes unavoidable failures, as well as its seemingly built-in limitations.
But, Chomsky is neither a Scientist nor an Artisan of any kind: he only contributed conceptions concerned solely with Thinking-as-such, without involving any concrete means of, not only testing his ideas in Reality, but also, as Mankind had always done, not finding solutions in any consequent, concrete interactions within that Reality-as-is!
And, towards his conclusion, it also became clear that he was exclusively describing the imposed, if diverse, stances of various sections of the Ruling Class, as the only possible, as well as unavoidable-and-natural consequences of the processes involved, in only that developing system, over time.
He considered it as the sole engine of all development. He is clearly an Idealist!
So, in spite of his apparently "leftist" reputation, he had literally nothing-to-say about what had occurred in Socialist Thinking, throughout his extensive and detailed contribution. It, overall, reflected the dominant Liberal/Left Stance, most clearly exemplified in US politics, and, consequently-and-crucially also had absolutely nothing to say about real Social Alternatives, or amazingly, even intellectually about the major Pluralist/Holist diversions in Human Thinking within the last 2,500 years!
He was, therefore, wholly preoccupied with only what he saw to be both the only real means of progress, as well as the Natural and unavoidable limitations of that same Human Thinking: and consequently-but-inadvertantly, went on to demonstrate that very same limitation, even in his own analysis, dictated by his chosen-and-privileged ideas of intellectuals ONLY!
Noam Chomsky on Natural Law
At no point, did he ever address the Idealism and Materialism aspects of Philosophy, and, in particular, had zero to say upon the Dialectical Materialism of Karl Marx, and its role in the Major Social Revolutions of the 20th century. Nor, of course, did he trace the declines, both in historical gains, and within its own self-defeating short-comings, in the hands of its Theoretical developments and Political Organisational Forms.
Frankly, by his contribution in this event, you would think that he had given an extremely comprehensive account, but that was very far from the Truth. Indeed, the actual significant interactions of openly Marxist Parties in the active motivation of the Masses, into effective political action, including their damaged successes in the largely still-feudal countries, such as Russia and China, and their universal failures in the advanced Capitalist Countries of the West.
And, of course, absolutely NO acknowledgement of the fact that Dialectical Materialism was never ever comprehensively extended beyond the area of Capitalist Economics - including absolutely no such attempt to develop that key methodology across the whole range of Sciences, or absolutely crucially into either Philosophy or Language - so that consequently, it had nothing to say upon the reactionary developments in Sub Atomic Physics, and no absolutely essential and transforming contributions in Biology - particularly concerning the study of Evolution.
It was clear that throughout this presentation, Chomsky was NOT explaining his position to ordinary working people - for his whole approach was aimed at privileged middle class intellectuals, like himself, as the language he used totally betrayed his target audience, very clearly indeed!
And, I have myself suffered from exactly that type of deliberate exclusion - for though I have worked as a professional educator all my adult life, my paternal Grandmother could neither read nor write, and my Father (her son) was always an unskilled labourer. Throughout my successful career, I always refused to ape "my betters", and kept my Northern Working Class accent! So, I was usually treated as someone, who wouldn't understand the intricacies of Real Intellectual Argument, until I deigned to join in and prove the theses of "my self-assumed betters" wrong!
The method always employed in such Public Lectures (and Discussions) always uses the Names or Titles of Arguments, rather than explaining their actual contents, so that, unless you are constantly involved in such ideas with all of your time, you would not know what they meant, and your consequent "lack of understanding" would invariably be put down to your stupidity. And so, to terminate any possible explanations from me, the deliverer would show great surprise at one's ignorance of such essential Titles!
My own education, concentrating primarily upon Theoretical Physics and Mathematics, of course suffered from the same "Intellectualism", as I am here describing with Chomsky. But my Working Class background indelibly imprinted by my upbringing and status, always impelled me to attempt to transcend its clear limitations. Initially this broadened my interests to include, first Painting, and then Sculpture, and finally Computing - and slowly, in particular, due to the way I was treated in my chosen career. I was first a schoolteacher among my own Social Class, and then later in a Grammar School (educating the children of the Middle Class), after which I spent 10 years in a Further Education College teaching mature Working Class students how to program computers, along with the very best skill training Engineers for Local Industries.
I finally, after many rejections, I got a post in Higher Education, but it was only possible by attempting to get such a post abroad. I got a job in a Polytechnic in Hong Kong, where I was soon promoted to Senior Lecturer. And returning home to the UK on completion of my contract, I got a similar post in Glasgow in Scotland, where within 2 years, I was promoted to Principle Lecturer.
I decided to terminate my teaching, and concentrated instead solely upon devising and producing tailor-made Computer Software aids for researchers across the whole range of disciplines, which significantly adjusted my conceptions of Theory: as I had to help deliver exactly what my Discipline Expert Required!
And during the 1980s, many important Programmes and published research Papers were produced.
Finally, in a Director of Computing role, first in Bedford and finally in London University, I worked with an exceptional teacher of Dance Performance and Choreography, to deliver the Control and Flexibility she required, in using recorded footage of exemplar performances, that was subsequently used all over the world.
This career was sadly terminated early due to ill health, but working entirely from home I continued producing original research and software tools, and when this became impossible due to my failing eyesight, I worked with my son, Michael, who by then was a PhD, and a lecturer in Leeds University, to attempt to tackle the inadequacies of Intellectualism in Philosophy!
|SHAPE Journal was my attempt to tackle Philosophy differently...|
This undertaking has taken me 14 years, 12 of these publishing over 150 issues of SHAPE Journal and this blog, involving over 1,000 separate papers. The initial project was to tackle the mess descended into within Modern Sub Atomic Physics, particularly addressing the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Theory, and the Modern Version of Cosmology, arising from the Copenhagen Stance. And latterly an extension of Dialectical Materialism in dealing with Modern Science...
Now, I will not even try, at this stage, to "correct" Chomsky's claims on the impossibility of explaining Effective Causal Explanations, which is the universal cornerstone of all his diverse arguments about the Impossibility of Real Understanding - because, in his particular restricted presentation of that problem, he was correct!
And, to ever address explicitly such changes, situations would have to be Holistic - as was defined at the same time as the Greek Intellectual Revolution, but wholly separately, by The Buddha, many thousands of miles away in India!
Now, neither subsequent Western Plurality nor Eastern Holism, ever dealt comprehensively-and-explicably with a qualitatively developing World, and Mankind's uses of their consequent ideas to understand Actual Development does not yet exist!
For, Reality does not conform completely, with either of these simplifications of it, mainly because, in both cases, the occurrence of the many, clearly obvious Stabilities, were never understood correctly!
Plurality, in fact, made Stability the basis of Everything! Whereas Holism failed to understand their persisting occurrences, completely, making Constant Change its credo! And Mankind, for a very long period indeed, could countenance no other method, when relying exclusively upon a Single Conformity occurring straight-through all possibilities.
The idea of an actually-existing Hierarchy of different Rationalities, at different Levels, as well as the actual causal connections occurring between those apparently independent Levels, were for a long period, totally outside of any such considered possibilities - until thinkers like Karl Marx and Charles Darwin began to reveal irrefutable evidence of such important natural transitions, simultaneously with innumerable contradictory components, strongly keeping situations as they were over long periods of time!
How can you even approach these questions without reference to Marx and Darwin?
And until Contradiction was properly understood (outside of the formalisms of Logic), such changes would certainly remain wholly inexplicable - and so they are inexplicable to Chomsky! In the universally-applied Mathematical Rationality, all Contradiction was dismissed as impossible, and therefore revealing an error of Logic! And, it wasn't until Mankind's breadth of Study was extended well beyond the Strictly Local, in both Time and Space, that such things could no longer be avoided.
Nevertheless, most "theorists" had developed their theories separated from the Real World, and instead as a wholly cerebral exercise, and so could never personally implement any of their then necessary experiments, so to even carry them out they had to employ skilled artisans and engineers, to achieve behaving systems for them.Yet, their both avid and universal subscription to the Principle of Plurality, could not be lightly dumped, as it did successfully "legitimise" the reliable Production of manufactured goods, both solved-and-delivered by those artisans and workers, and especially for the leisured intellectuals, who were never involved successfully in such activities anyway, and so didn't consider whether they were legitimate or not - but only that they delivered the objects and services that they required.
Yet, an ever-growing army of artisans and engineers, whose credo pragmatic credo was "If it works, it is right!", were increasingly rejecting the intellectual, theoretical stances of the scientists, and, in particular, the incredible-but-necessary theoretical assumptions of Modern Sub Atomic Theory, and always instead trusted their own Pragmatic arrangements and understandings, at which they were the consummate masters, and were always relied upon by those theorists, to make their experiments fit their way-out theories!
You may well wonder how this arrangement ever worked out, until, that is, you see the kind of Mathematics that the theorists always resorted to, to make it fit. For that Discipline, being wholly Pluralistic, naturally extended well beyond Reality-as-is, and well-into Ideality, so when the technicians were setting up the required experiment, they too could do the Maths, so they would physically organise the experiment to artificially deliver exactly what the Pluralist Theory predicted!
It was an unhappy coalition, as far as the pragmatists were concerned, and they increasingly began to look elsewhere for Real Theory. This situation has led, in Physics, to what is termed The Electric Universe alternative! And while this alternative was compromised by its Pragmatism, it has certainly challenged the conformist position in both Sub Atomic Physics and Cosmology, with valuable and demanding alternatives!