Chomsky and cognitive structure

Noam Chomsky argues that mind must have some structure before it knows, and that without this structure it would have a deeply impoverished learning. At the same time, he sees very clearly that this definite structure makes certain things utterly unknowable to us, so much so that we can’t even be sure whether what we know is true (that is, whether it attains to what Kant would call the thing in itself or the Medievals would just call being).

Though I love Chomsky, and am not optimistic about my chances at debating the point with him, it strikes me that this opinion is incoherent. One can’t argue that our cognitive structures give rise to a richer sort of knowledge and that the absence of such a structure would make something and angel, and allow one to know things in themselves.

All Chomsky seems to be saying is that biologicalĀ cognitive structures are richer with structures that exist prior to knowing, which Aristotle would certainly agree with. At the same time, a richer sort of knowledge arises from transcending biology, and the human mind is the first step in this direction.


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