LINGUIST List 6.73

Thu 19 Jan 1995

Disc: Kant and Innateness

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  1. , Kant and Innateness

Message 1: Kant and Innateness

Date: Tue, 17 Jan 1995 09:13:45 Kant and Innateness
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Subject: Kant and Innateness

References to innateness in Kant are not easy to find, but here is one
that is relevant to the current controversy regarding linguistic "realism"
vs. "conceptualism."

 A middle course may be proposed bewtween the two above
 mentioned, namely, that the categories are neither
 self-thought first principles apriori of our knowledege
 nor derived from experience, but sujective dispositions
 of thought, implanted in us from the first momement, so
 ordered by our creator that their employment is in complete
 harmony with the laws of nature in accordance with which
 experience proceeds -- a kind of preformation-system
 of pure reason...there is this DECISIVE ojection ... that
 the necessity of the categories...then would have to be
 sacrificed. (B167-168._Critique of Pure Reason_trans. Kemp Smith.)

Noam Chomsky observes that "rationalist" as well as "empiricist" theories
of language incorporate "innate dispositions." (_Reflections on Language_.
Pantheon. 1975. p.215) Whether the logical modalities enter the linguistic
picture is uncertain, but one can imagine that on some formulation of
minimality the connection with economy of derivation may be necessary in
some sense, to choose a possible example just for the purpose of
illustration. If so, then such modalities may NOT exclude "psychologism"
in linguistics and with it conceptualism ala Chomsky. One consequence would
be that arguments against extending linguistic "psychologism" to logic
would not be barred for the Fregean reasons sometimes cited by linguists
(e.g. Katz and Postal in _Linguistics and Philosophy_. 14, 1991. p.520.

The importance of Kant for the history of the philosophy of linguistics
is not innateness, rather it is in recognizing that concepts are RULES.
(ibid. A106).These rules allow the identification of the forms of
"judgments." Within a framework of rules ("principles") and parameters,
Kant's view of concepts takes on special significance, eventually pointing
toward a possible resolution of the question of the place of linguistics within

Steven Bayne
(grad student)
UCONN, Linguistics
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