Rationalism or Empiricism: Chomsky or Popper?
Synthesis Philosophica, Vol. 3, pp. 179-188, 1987
10 Pages Posted: 28 Oct 2010
Date Written: October 27, 2010
In this paper the author has tried to show that the disjunction in the title is methodologically unsound. He goes on to argue that those who contend that language acquisition can be explained only within one of the models, Chomskyan or Popperian, are wrong in denying any possibility of rapprochement between these two conceptions. In the first section of the paper the author presents Sampson’s critique of Chomsky’s model in which Sampson comes to the conclusion that such a closed model is at odds with man’s infinite creativity. In the second section Stich’s counterargument is analyzed in which he proposes that the Sampson-Popper entropic acquisition device ought to be supplemented by some constraints. In the third section of the paper the author tries to show that both Sampson and Stich err in their interpretation of Popper. The author quotes from Popper trying to point out the importance of genetically determined dispositions and ideas in his work – this being one of Chomsky’s hallmarks as well. Finally, in the last section of the paper the author presents his own view on the nature of the language acquisition process and linguistic creativity, proposing a synthesis of the rationalistic and empiricist accounts.
Keywords: Rationalism, Empiricism, Chomsky, Popper, Sampson, Stich, Creativity in Language
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