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Noam Chomsky and Tom Wolfe are Both Right and Both Wrong
by Rebecca Bynum
I just finished Tom Wolfe’s The Kingdom of Language in which he declares his belief that language is a human invention and artifact – a cultural production like any other. In this he refutes Noam Chomsky who for years has maintained that there is a universal structure to language and therefore that structure should be found as a structure in the brain – an evolved specialization. That structure, however, has never been found. Chomsky is right about a universal structure, but wrong about where it is located.
Both men fall into the usual scientific trap of reducing everything to matter and ignoring the non-material reality of MIND.
Wolfe is correct in surmising that language is a clear dividing line between animals and humans – not upright posture, not the opposable thumb, not tool-making, but true language is what most distinguishes man from ape. To this I would add awareness of VALUE – truth, goodness and beauty – which animals cannot perceive and thus cannot use to evaluate their reality the way human beings do.
Both language and value belong to a higher level of mind than animals can access.
All living things have access to mind in some degree – even the lowliest creatures “know” what to do and when to do it in order for their lives to continue and to reproduce their kind. Their electro-chemical systems are governed by mind. However, man is able to access an altogether higher realm of mind and it is that higher realm which contains the structure of language. This language is molded and refined to reflect and reinforce culture as culture itself is molded by, and is reflective of, value which is spirit.
Mind and value both exist independent of man. Both are pre-existent. The lower cannot by itself create that which is higher, but the higher can and does create and/or modify the lower. Mind and value exist outside and above matter. Mind is, in a way, an intermediary between matter and spirit. Our material beings, that is our brains, have access to mind and through mind, we have access to value, to spiritual awareness.
Scientist are forever trapped by seeking all things in matter. Sooner or later they will have to admit the reality of non-material mind, a reality entirely independent of the material brain.
Mind is accessed by the brain; it is not created by the brain. Language is therefore not created, it is bestowed.
In the beginning was the Word…