Rough Theory

Theory In The Rough

Reading Group Sing-Along: Out of Tune

It was a battered and bruised reading group that met yesterday to discuss our selected readings related to Pinker-Jackendoff vs. Chomsky-Hauser-Fitch debate over the evolution of the linguistic faculty. Two of us were sick; all of us were tired; my longstanding interest in questions of evolution was evidently a bit of outlier within the group (which makes some sense, as evolution is generally not the hot button topic in Australia that it often is in the US)… In spite of all of this, the discussion was actually quite good – I’ll hopefully find time tomorrow to post my impressions of the readings and our talk (today, unfortunately, must be given over to meetings – and you all know how much I love those…). For those who just can’t wait, L. Magee has discovered that we are not the first reading group to debate these works in recent times – readers might want to check out the discussion at Mixing Memory.

One of our members asked, given our collective decrepitude at the moment, whether we might want to take a brief break from the cognitive science tangent, drink some hot chocolate, and read a bit of intellectual comfort food. We have agreed to do this, and will spend the next couple of weeks reading an exchange between Derrida and Searle:

Derrida (1988) Limited Inc (Note: “Signature, Event, Context” is now available online.)

Searle (1977) “Reiterating the Differences: a Reply to Derrida” Glyph I

I gather that we’re starting with the first part of Derrida’s work for next week, but the details are still being nailed down…

This temporary change of course means, among other things, that I lied to Robert, when I promised we would have a more thorough discussion of Lakoff on the blog in a couple of weeks. It’s always possible, of course, to just start such a discussion in another appropriate location – perhaps as a belated addendum to the discussion here.

4 responses to “Reading Group Sing-Along: Out of Tune

  1. Zapaper December 5, 2006 at 2:00 pm

    I feel mildly shocked that Derrida counts as intellectual comfort food, since I have never been able to read him first hand without getting mental indigestion. However, I read the first few pages of Limited Inc. with the Amazon Look Inside feature (fat chance of getting that book here!) and thought I might note, for what it’s worth, that in Chinese the word “communication” in the physical/nonsemantic sense is also the word—not for communication in the sense of verbal exchange but—for the results of successful communication, i.e., understanding. Not just any understanding either, but complete/thorough/just about perfect understanding, what we would mean when we say “she got to the root/heart of the problem”. For verbal exchange the model/metaphor is more akin to one of the following: 1) commercial (that is, “exchange”); 2) physical motion (“going back and forth”) or 3) flow, as in a river flowing forward through time.

    This may be completely tangential, but I always think it is interesting to bring in non-Indo-European languages to keep from getting too attached to the way French or English divide things up.

    Btw, the evolution stuff looks interesting but hard. No wonder you’re all battered!

  2. N Pepperell December 5, 2006 at 2:28 pm

    That was a bit of a joke – mainly on me, who is the person in the reading group least comfortable with this tradition… I personally find discussions of evolution more comforting – in a Woody Allen, universe is expanding sort of way… ;-P

    We’ve actually had trouble getting these materials here, as well – we’ve delegated one of our number to seek out the sole copy from a neighbouring library (actually, our library does carry a copy, but we’d have to wait until January to get it… *sigh*), and… other copies will mysteriously and copyright-compliantly arrive in some other way…

    The issue of cross-cultural comparison is something we’ve been talking quite a lot about in our cognitive science tangent – so much to read, so many debates where people seem to be talking past one another… I agree that this is an important essentially empirical issue against which we all wish we could test some of the more speculative claims about the nature of cognition a bit more thoroughly…

  3. Roland Pada February 18, 2007 at 5:21 pm

    I am having some difficulty with acquiring Searle’s Reply to Derrida, do you know any sites that gives an electronic copy of Glyph I?

  4. N Pepperell February 18, 2007 at 7:33 pm

    We had the same problem – and had to obtain a hard copy from a local university. Limited Inc summarises Searle’s response, but I realise that’s a non-ideal option… The best thing I can suggest is going to a major university library (or requesting a local library obtain a copy for a major university library). Sorry not to be more helpful… (If you happen to stumble across an easily available electronic copy, please do post the link back here, as it would no doubt be helpful to others…)

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