Tuesday, July 6, 2010

It Is My Understanding that Steven Pinker Misunderstands Me Although I May Misunderstand What He Wrote About What I Wrote and He Does Understand Me

I just discovered that a letter of mine which was published in Science a few years ago was quoted almost in full by Steven Pinker in The Stuff of Thought. He lumps me in with Linguistic Determinists, perhaps understandably. I must now go get the book to see if his criticisms are just. Actually in the excerpt I have read he basically expresses amazement that Science would publish such a letter as mine. Granted I get lumped in with Wittgenstein and Barthes and all these people which to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, if it weren't for the honor of thing I would have just as soon been clearer in my phrasing, but then if I wasn't so unclear I might have been simply ignored.
In my defense I will note that I was not espousing linguistic determinism but rather citing the problem of habits of thought as a result of one's language, which was why I mentioned Kuhn, because it's not about being trapped by language at all, it's about not thinking outside the box of our habitual language, which we are perfectly capable of doing, but which we might not even think about if not for other people with other habits and other languages. Or some such thing. It therefore falls outside of linguistic determinism as I think Pinker would define it. However I haven't read the book. I will get back to you when I do.

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