The fascination of Chomsky’s theory of language is due to the fact that it seems to derive linguistic diversity and complexity from a simple starting point. After Chomsky, a whole generation of linguists was busy with drawing all these elusive inverted trees. Let us stick to a simple example:
Until the twenties of the last century, German was still the most common language of science. By 1933 Germany had won more Nobel Prizes than any other nation, more than England and the United States combined. Then came Hitler and his policy of systematic lies (and crimes). After the Second World War, German was just one language among others, and German science lost much of its former significance.
As human beings we are controlled by emotions and by our intellect – at any time both are invariably involved, even if it sometimes seems as if we are dealing with either purely emotional people or pure intellectuals. A mathematic formula, for example, which to an average person may seem as cold, lifeless and repellent as a prison wall, may produce enchantment and ecstasy in a mathematician who perceives it something extremely beautiful and elegant. In other words, he experiences much the same feelings as a musician who is playing Mozart or Bach. Feelings and the intellect don’t present themselves to us with an either-or, but we may definitely speak of prevailing tendencies.
We are used to measuring this form of government above all by the degree of freedom that a government grants its citizens. Viewed from this perspective, the picture is as bright as it is gloomy. No one prevents me from expressing even the most absurd opinions. I may even call publicly for the overthrow of the government, provided that this is done without insulting specific individuals and without denouncing the democratic constitution as such. Continue reading Is Democracy still alive?
A critical reviewer would probably have to accompany this essay in the manner of Wikipedia: “additional evidence required”. Nevertheless, I dare to publish it, because I fear that there will never be enough evidence on this topic – but instead lots of different opinions. What I may offer the reader are mere impressions, everyone may supplement them in his own way and with his – hopefully better – knowledge. Continue reading Strong Men, Weak Peoples – the Uncertain Future of Democracy
The intellectual jousting of scientists – let’s call it with Dr. Goldsmith “Battles in the Mind Fields” – may certainly arouse some interest among curious bystanders as it reveals both the open horizon of scientific discourse and its obvious limits. Continue reading Dr. Goldsmith’ deplorable Debacle while fighting his “Battles in the Mind Fields”
When it comes to Universal and Generative Grammar – undoubtedly a central topic of the modern science of language – the prevailing attitude of linguists – even that of its American representatives – is best described as hagiographic prostration vis-à-vis its prominent author: an attitude stifling to the critical mind and that furthermore stigmatizes all those as heretics who dare to proffer their “ceterum censeo”. Continue reading The Goldsmith Paper (Prof. John Goldsmith, University of Chicago, and Dr. Gero Jenner, author of “Principles of Language” criticize Chomsky’s Universal Grammar)
Steven Pinker’s book „The Language Instinct“ is certainly still one of the best books ever written on the rather elusive subject of language: comprehensive in its wealth of facts, intelligent in its argumentation and fascinating in the refreshing wealth of ideas. Continue reading Psycholinguist Steven Pinker: How a great scientist turned into an enemy of himself – and of truth
Military competition is certainly no invention of our time, nor is war. We saw that comparatively simple but revolutionary technical innovations such as the use of horses, stirrups and combat bows were able to wreak havoc in the hands of nomads. Continue reading Apocalypse – When?
In my opinion the underlying reason for the impending disintegration of Europe is free trade policy as pushed by Germany (see my essay the “The ugly German – a specter is coming back”). I am, of course, aware that this view is diametrically opposed to accepted wisdom as to be found in economic textbooks. Therefore, I would like to emphasize at the outset that I do not consider those textbooks to be wrong – their theory is, indeed, hard to refute and at first glance it seems to be morally sound as well. In my new book, “From Crisis to Chaos”, I even speak of “neoliberal idealists” – a wording which may sound rather queer to some ears (1). But if they are honest, neoliberals certainly strive for the best. Unfortunately, despite of all their endeavors, they always achieve the worst, and for this there is a very simple and basic reason: Their theory and the world we happen to live in, do not share much of a common ground. Continue reading Economic decline and the doctrine of free trade