Tuesday, February 7, 2012

steven pinker's "Blank Slate" on critics


D - listen to it at the 16 minute mark to the 18 minute mark.

Before that, he does note that poetry with lines of 3 seconds then a break are universal.
This matches an effortless lungful of air for a sentence.


"The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony is bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power."

D - one sentence!
By Judith Butler. Pinker gets flamed on sites for that one.

D - that sentence exceeds working memory. Even with 'chunking' shortcuts, there is no way for a human being to keep that single sentence in their mind in a meaningful fashion.
This is one of my criticisms about the importance of recursion in language, at least within a single sentence. I think harping about complex sentences and recursion merely results in the above "academic-speak", NOT better thinking.

D - this type of complex writing is best understood as insecurity, or perhaps a tactical move to avoid criticism. After all, no fellow academic would admit they don't understand what the heck another one is talking about! No understanding = no criticism.

Recursion in languageLinguist Noam Chomsky theorizes that unlimited extension of any natural language is possible using the recursive device of embedding phrases within sentences. Thus, a chatty person may say, "Dorothy, who met the wicked Witch of the West in Munchkin Land where her wicked Witch sister was killed, liquidated her with a pail of water." Clearly, two simple sentences—"Dorothy met the Wicked Witch of the West in Munchkin Land" and "Her sister was killed in Munchkin Land"—can be embedded in a third sentence, "Dorothy liquidated her with a pail of water," to obtain a very verbose sentence.

The idea that recursion is an essential property of human language (as Chomsky suggests) is challenged by linguist Daniel Everett...

D - intra-sentence recursion may not be necessary for human thought - only for our human academia as practised. I prefer simple English and complex ideas, not vice versa.


D - when an author feels a need to drop in a "ten buck word" early on, which I then need to look up in a full size (not even compact) dictionary, I don't admire their strength. I sense their weakness.

D - a co-worker bought me the 'gift' of that Wallace po-mo book called "Infinite Jest". I suspect he may secretly hate me. First of all, it does not hold a candle to that actual American po-mo classic "Gravity's Rainbow", and is TWICE as long! Anyway, by page 5, Wallace felt a need to use the word "wen" (look it up).
Every 50 pages or so I have caught him in some misuse of a fancy term. First was confusing pre- and post- living praising speech. Some German term for it. Then he confused "plosive" with "vocalic". At this point, I pretty much have contempt for Wallace. It is too bad he waited until after writing that piece of excrement to make certain important life decisions.
If anybody wants to buy me a book in the future, make sure it is less than 100 pages, and does not require reading (also) poorly organized end-notes to make a modicum of sense.

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