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Croatian Journal of Philosophy

Issue no.27 /2009



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The Perils of Content    
Linguistics, Psychology, and the Ontology of Language    
Translated Title: Linguistics, Psychology, and the Ontology of Language
Publication: Croatian Journal of Philosophy (27/2009)
Author Name: McDonald, Fritz J.;
Language: English
Subject: Philosophy
Issue: 27/2009
Page Range: 291-301
No. of Pages: 1
File size: 106 KB
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Summary: Noam Chomsky’s well-known claim that linguistics is a “branch of cognitive psychology” has generated a great deal of dissent—not from linguists or psychologists, but from philosophers.  Jerrold Katz, Scott Soames, Michael Devitt, and Kim Sterelny have presented a number of arguments, intended to show that this Chomskian hypothesis is incorrect.  On both sides of this debate, two distinct issues are often conflated: (1) the ontological status of language and (2) the relation between psychology and linguistics.  The ontological issue is, I will argue, not the relevant issue in the debate. Even if this Chomskian position on the ontology of language is false, linguistics may still be a subfield of psychology if the relevant methods in linguistic theory construction are psychological.  Two options are open to the philosopher who denies Chomskian conceptualism: linguistic nominalism or linguistic platonism. The former position holds that syntactic, semantic, and phonological properties are primarily properties, not of mental representations, but rather of public language sentence tokens; The latter position holds that the linguistic properties are properties of public language sentence types.  I will argue that both of these positions are compatible with Chomsky’s claim that linguistics is a branch of psychology, and the arguments that have been given for nominalism and platonism do not establish that linguistics and psy­chology are distinct disciplines.
Keywords: linguistics; psychology; ontology; methodology; Chomsky; Katz; Devitt
Nativism: In Defense of the Representational Interpretation    
Medical Ethics, Ordinary Concepts and Ordinary Lives    
Michael Bergmann, Justification Without Awareness: A Defense of Epistemic Externalism    
János Kis, Politics as a Moral Problem    
Paul A. Boghossian, Content and Justification: Philosophical Papers