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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Noam Chomsky on Postmodernism

Noam Chomsky is a world-renowned scholar, political analyst, and Professor Emeritus of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In a 1995 essay titled, Rationality/Science, Chomsky disparages the postmodernist critique of Western science, logic and rationality as being nothing more than "self-destructive tendencies". But Chomsky’s article is also an all encompassing critical assessment of postmodernism and its influence upon literature, music, and the visual arts. Chomsky wrote:

"I have spent a lot of my life working on questions such as these, using the only methods I know of; those condemned here as 'science,' 'rationality,' 'logic' and so on. I therefore read the papers with some hope that they would help me 'transcend' these limitations, or perhaps suggest an entirely different course. I'm afraid I was disappointed. Admittedly, that may be my own limitation. Quite regularly, 'my eyes glaze over' when I read polysyllabic discourse on the themes of poststructuralism and postmodernism; what I understand is largely truism or error, but that is only a fraction of the total word count.

True, there are lots of other things I don't understand: the articles in the current issues of math and physics journals, for example. But there is a difference. In the latter case, I know how to get to understand them, and have done so, in cases of particular interest to me; and I also know that people in these fields can explain the contents to me at my level, so that I can gain what (partial) understanding I may want. In contrast, no one seems to be able to explain to me why the latest post-this-and-that is (for the most part) other than truism, error, or gibberish, and I do not know how to proceed."