Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Chomsky's acclaim

I guess even the National Review makes a plausible statement occasionally, even if it's vacuous. They are running a review of Thomas Sowell's new book, Intellectuals and Society, called "The Divine Right of Intellectuals: Too many intellectuals believe they have a duty to make decisions for the rest of us" by David Hogberg. In it, Hogberg writes:
Chances are slim that Noam Chomsky would ever have achieved the acclaim that he did if he had stayed in the field of linguistics instead of venturing into U.S. foreign policy.
I think we can agree on this. If he had stuck to linguistics, he would by definition not be famous as a media critic, critic of US foreign policy, etc. But there's something really wrong about this perspective. First, Chomsky the Public Intellectual, unless I'm seriously missing something, specifically urges people to think for themselves, examine evidence, etc. Definitely has strong opinions, but I wonder how you figure that he wants to make decisions for us. (Seems like the claim is from Hogberg, but maybe Sowell argues this — I've read some of his earlier work, but not this.) Second, there's this odd hint in here that Chomsky's acclaim as a linguist is something less than remarkable. And his influence in a variety of other fields.

By the way, Sowell concludes with a warning that "the intellectuals’ vision is still dominant": “Not since the days of the divine right of kings has there been such a presumption of a right to direct others and constrain their decisions, largely through expanded powers of government.” Really? In fact, this piece suggests once more how deep anti-intellectualism runs in this country.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Intellectuals are the real terrorists! We should trust people based on their possession of billions of dollars in oil wealth rather than brain power.

Lodo Grdzak said...

Thoams Sowell is a moron and a complete sell-out.

Anonymous said...

But why is Chomsky so famous in linguistics? His early work was groundbreaking, but he seems to have set back to the field intellectually to the dark ages. I've never understood how he can be so wrong yet so trusted.