• Epistemology,  Philosophical Theology,  Philosophy of Education,  Philosophy of Language,  Philosophy of Linguistics

    Classical Education: Loving the Rock of Reality

    “Why Latin? Why Logic? Why only ‘great’ books?”  Such are the questions levied at the classicist. They are good questions, but the best answers are not found in pragmatics, a list of the benefits of a classical education. Instead, the reason anyone ultimately prefers a classical approach to education is that she holds to a classical worldview. I say ‘ultimately’ because pragmatic answers don’t count for nothing. One cannot help using them in class to garner support for Latin verb endings. “Throughout history, the best authors were great Latinists” I said the other day. I had in mind one student whose mother had told me that she would like to…

  • Language,  Philosophy of Linguistics

    The Logical Problem of Language Acquisition

    In a recent interview, linguist, Noam Chomsky, repeated his claim that there must be some innate feature of human beings that makes it possible for them to acquire natural languages: “No one holds that the rules of language are innate. Rather, the faculty of language has a crucial genetic component. If that were not true, it would be a miracle that children acquire a language. That is obvious from the first moment of birth, when the child begins to pick out linguistically relevant information from the noisy environment, then following a predictable course of acquisition which, demonstrably, goes far beyond the evidence available, from the simplest words on to complex…

  • Apologetics,  Language,  Philosophy of Linguistics

    From Sentences to God

    From a very young age, we can recognize the quality of sentences. We evaluate sentences according to some standard, some criteria of good, bad, better, or worse. If God created the world then it is likely that he would endow human beings with some way to recognize good and bad sentences according to some standard. One might think that this would entail that human beings know what makes sentences good or bad. But recognition of the value of an entity does not entail knowing what makes it valuable. This is true of good and bad actions as much as it is true of good or bad sentences. One might not…

  • Ethics,  Language,  Philosophy of Linguistics

    Sentence Conscience?

    In Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace, Williams and Bizup present several pairs of sentences and invite the reader to consider which of the two he prefers. Here is an example: A: Once upon a time, as a walk through the woods was taking place on the part of Little Red Riding Hood, the Wolf’s jump out from behind a tree occurred, causing her fright. B: Once upon a time, Little Red Riding Hood was walking through the woods, when the wolf jumped out from behind a tree and frightened her. B is clearly better than A even though both sentences are, strictly speaking, grammatically correct. What is interesting is how…

  • Philosophy of Language,  Philosophy of Linguistics

    Katzching Platonism

    Jerold Katz According to Chomskian nativism, the necessary condition for language acquisition is the possession of an innate knowledge of the rules of grammar. His reasoning for thinking that human beings have an innate knowledge of grammar is that human beings are able to learn vastly complex natural languages from a relatively limited exposure to those languages. Thus, Chomsky suggests that there must be some innately possessed knowledge of grammar that is universally possessed by human beings. Such a grammar must also be sufficiently similar across the brains that possess it. Jerold Katz argues that Chomsky’s psychologism is insufficient to account for necessary truths: Chomsky’s psychologism actually denies the possibility of…

  • Linguistics,  Philosophy of Education,  Philosophy of Language,  Philosophy of Linguistics

    Snowflakes and the Origin of Language

    According to Chomsky, nothing has happened to language in about 50,000 years. Take any child from any place from any time within the last 50,000 years and put him in a family in Boston in 2017 and he will grow up speaking like a Bostonian. Prior to 50,000 years ago, there was no such thing as language. Something happened in a small space of time that gave us language. Some rewiring of the brain occurred and gave rise to a mechanism. The mechanism is like a snowflake – it is the way it is because nature produces it that way. In the same way a snowflake is need of no…