THE “EDUCATED” NOAM CHOMSKY.
The most puzzling thing about having supporters and critics is that they might never get to the core of your ideas, but they will definitely represent them and misrepresent them always better than you can.
To approach Chomsky’s way of thinking when you patiently read him and a nagging feeling of disagreement grows on you can seem at first, if not intimidating, at least, an extremely daunting task. But then, after so many hours, months and years of reading him you discover something as much enlightening as disappointing about the rigor of using data.
Are all Chomsky’s historical details and tapestry of statistical data really building the patterns of his thoughts or, on the contrary, is it the case that he meticulously and laboriously search for the necessary data to suit a pattern of political thinking that he has been brewing since his early political books back in the 80's?
Let’s make a hypothesis. What if data could match accurately right by 99% with the validity of a dogmatic truth that could be held consistently with the passing of time for as long as new data is found to fill that 99% validity while a 1% would prove how such validity has been fundamentally wrong all along.
And we might wonder; what is that 1% in Chomsky’s pattern of thinking that would prove that he is fundamentally wrong even when the thoroughness of the data he has put forward keeps proving to be 99% right?
Today, the hardest and most relevant task is not just to separate the right from the wrong, the true from the false, but to find high levels of gradients of truths (99%) whose 1% might prove the thing in question to be 100% wrong. That is what has resulted out of Hillary’s emails.
Reversibly, today, the hardest and most relevant task is to find high levels of gradients of wrong (99%) whose 1% might prove the thing in question to be 100% right. That’s what we might end up thinking of Trump’s dirty tongue.
Yet, we also know that not all 99% of right makes it for a fundamental 1% of wrong that would make it for 100% wrong and, concurrently, not all 99% of wrong makes it for a fundamental 1% of right that would make it for a 100% right.
And we might ask again; how would this apply to Chomsky’s pattern of thinking?
Chomsky is a self-proclaimed anarcho-syndicalist, or as other people like to call it, a libertarian socialist. By calling himself so, Chomsky’s rigorous research leads in one way or another to this kind of political leanings, which includes to be highly skeptical of both, government and corporation. It also includes a default mistrust of the media and a visceral anti-American stand.
What does this mean in term of the scholarly researches he does as a MIT professor? As with the old Marxism, no matter how rigorous Chomsky’s political and social research might be he will always end up criticising corporations, government and in particular whoever happens to be the president in place at the White House.
We see this repeated pattern over and over again in Chomsky’s writings and interviews.
In relation to climate change debates a pattern reemerges, but this time at the heart of the very topic Chomsky is addressing. As never before science, politics and finance are closely interrelated. In that sense, it is common to find conflict of interests not only in politics, but also in the practices of scientific research.
Along side the legitimate validity of global warming, climate change alarmism is an extremely lucrative industry. The federal government has already spent over $32.5 billions from 1989–2009 in grants that have funded climate change research.
The relevant factor in here is the parallelism of two o more validating statements running in which one and only one becomes the most scientifically valid while any others are less scientific or continue to fake their ways into scientific validation for lucrative purposes.
This financialisation (lobbyism) of science is a practice that extends far beyond the scientific community to engulf all areas of human competence but specially those areas which could lend themselves to lucrative speculation over issues that for decades not even science has reached common grounds.
The validation of the existence and the solution to real problems take time to settle in, so much so that by the time they do, already many ad hoc and counterfeited versions of the same validation, same set of problems and solutions have been tried under illegitimate grounds.
The fact that global warming is considered by certain sectors of society as a hoax (specially by Trump and right wingers) it shouldn’t come as a surprise, but neither should it be heavily politicised.
The politicisation of any insidious or ubiquitous problem tends to create the ill-suited habit of Marxification of our critical approach to the problem even when socialism might not be in the agenda.
Marxification of our critical approach means, finding a malady in human societies (usually Capitalism) that has existed for centuries (it can also include racism, patriarchy etc) which is so much part of us that a complete radical change or revolution is required in order to make any real progress.
Chomsky’s criticism of American society does such Marxification to great length and it ends up, as usual, in an utopian anarcho-syndicalism.
Can we really effort to continue to Marxify our analysis of societies and to believe that the main reason why right wingers believe global warming is a hoax is either because of greed (capitalism) or because of ignorance (lack of enlightenment)?
Global warming might not be a hoax, but if we really want to decelerate the forces which continue to increase it we will have to stop turning it into a Marxist political problem to be blame on capitalism.
When certain animal species died out before humans it was not obviously because of capitalism. When the Neanderthal died out it wasn’t either because of capitalism. We might disappear from the face of the earth and it might not be either because of capitalism or because of external forces, but because of internal forces beyond politics which we couldn’t tap into.
If we go extinct it might be not because some of us did something bad, but because none of us managed to do the right thing and we are not meant to do at all time the right thing. Then, we might disappear by a natural accident we couldn’t foresee.
We have to find ways of taking responsibility that transcends political parties and tap into our humanity without considering it bad or good according to your race, ethnicity or wealth.
In the 2006 documentary film about former United States Vice President Al Gore’s campaign to educate citizens about global warming we are presented with this very problem.
Al Gore tried to reach deep into the values of American conservatives to highlight that his cause was not liberal, but rather apolitical and beyond ideology.
Even when Al Gore got the science more right than wrong, you have to be naive to believe Gore’s apolitical intends. There is no doubt that Al Gore was using a biased presentation to exploit the fears of the public for his own political gain.
Even the very scientific institutions which are meant to deliver scientific truth can at time pitch with confidence about problems which underneath are mere speculation driven to find fundings in new areas of research. This is specially acute not only in science like meteorology, but particularly in the fields of social science like, for instance, gender studies, which has created feminism almost as if it were a science.
Some scientific fact can give initial indication of invalidating some ideas and then after further years of research those initial ideas might get to be proven valid.
When a hoax coincides with the truth of certain phenomena that doesn’t make the hoax any more truthful. The steps of the hoax are still wrong. The steps of the hoax can be as accurate as 99% and still get it completely wrong by a margin of 1%. How come Chomsky is so alarmed and tells us that the Republican Party “is dedicated to racing as rapidly as possible to destruction of organised human life.”
I don’t think the Republican Party is dedicated to such race, not at least any less than the Liberal Party is dedicated not only to his bipartisan logic but also to making political Marxism out of any criticism to any of the global problems we face today.
Unfortunately, Chomsky’s posturing doesn’t escape its political Marxism no matter how rigorous his analytical mind tries to be.
SELF-REFERENCE, SELF-SIMILARITY AND THE SO CALLED FRENCH PHILOSOPHICAL NONSENSE.
I seriously think that there is a huge gap of understanding in the field of humanities due to the insidious reductionism of self-similarity to self-reference.
Most of the issues around self-similarity started by Mandelbrot’s studies in Mathematics and Physics, which have been badly translated as issues of self-referentiality in the fields of humanities, in particular when it has come to issues of consciousness and philosophy.
Lacan was a good starting point in terms of the understanding of structures, matrices of meanings and the mapping of mental realities, which find their mirrors in the jagged structures of reality. The only problem I see with Lacan is his metaphysic of the signifier, which Deleuze’s rizomatic flows made even worse with his deterritorialization metaphysics.
In that sense, Chomsky failed miserably to understand “French Philosophy” considering that the scope of the problems posed by Structuralism and Post-Structuralism were problems of the Gestalt of a period and not a merely local “French affair”. That was a gross historical misunderstanding by Chomsky.
It is my belief that Chomsky‘s misunderstanding originates, not in the gap between social an natural sciences, but in the gap between science in general and computational science in particular.
The way networks of algorithms are dealing with the semantic content of reality via machine learning are giving profound insides into the understanding of multi-tiers relationships which before were seen in very unpractical, opaque and fuzzy ways.
Algorithms can today pinpoint clusters of self-similarities and differentiation that before were not possible to detect and were easily considered as nonsense in the same way Chomsky considered “French Poststeucturalism” as nonsense. Yet, that doesn’t mean that Chomsky is not right about certain aspects of the nonsense he has attributed to some aspects of Poststructuralism, I would even agree with him, but it is his slippery generalisation what shows his gross misunderstanding.
In no way this means I’m advocating for any kind of fetishisation of computer’s algorithms, but the current state of data mining and machine learning are opening the doors to a more granular understanding of things and their meanings which were previously considered bluntly similar or bluntly different. It is not pure accuracy what algorithms are giving us, but vectorial accuracy in an increasingly complex and uncertain world.
My personal view is that the more we unveil or diagnose problems as problems of self referentiality and paradoxes, the more likely is to actually reveal them as problems of self-similarity.
Self-similarity breaks the Russell’s paradox of the set of all sets since the set of sets is not a metaphysical static entity operating in the background of things, but rather a non local property of all existing things, which acts upon things locally, like local ontologies.
CHOMSKY VERSUS DERRIDA.
The conversation between Michel Foucault and Noam Chomsky took place and basically they disagreed in fundamental issues, but never neirher of them called their theories nonsense.
The conversation between Chomsky and Derrida never took place, but Chomsky admitted that in whatever Derrida was right it was because he was hiding truisms under a highly complicated language. That was inaccurate from Chomsky to say even when Derrida’s followers have engaged in it.
Chomsky acknowledged his attempts to read Derrida’s work but quickly gave up. If I could summarise why Chomsky failed to go on reading it would be simpler than we could actually imagine. Derrida’s work was questioning what Chomsky traditional way of thinking wouldn’t possibly expect, namely, all principles of Aristotle’s Logic, which today is a common practice in topology and computational complexity.
However, to transfer or translate directly issues in topology into literary criticism or to assume that Derrida’s work was borrowing from the so called hard science would be inaccurate. There are resonances of practices, not mirroring.
A proper conversation between the legacy of Derrida’s ideas and rational empiricism is to be seen.
The question to answer before even going into a conversation is whether or not there are issues which we would distort even further by cleverly trying to make them simpler. Richard Feynman’s famous quote would validate such cases and not just in Physics:
“If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don’t understand quantum mechanics.”
I would say that Derrida’s ideas on Logocentrism as an enquiry into Western rationality on one hand helped great deal in our understanding of the limitations of Western values, but on the other exacerbated in subtle manners the extreme relativism of his followers. The same applies to his ideas on Phallocentrism, which have exacerbated extreme posturing against white men values.
Philosophical ideas are never followed as their creators intended, not even Chomsky’s. However, to assert that they are nonsense because they are not understood is not even part of the rational approach Chomsky himself stands by. Furthermore, Sokal’s work in debunking intellectual impostures, although valuable, failed to fully appreciate the work of Derrida’s literary criticism and philosophical contributions.