Noam Chomsky Bio and Positions

Education

B.A., MA, PhD, University of Pennsylvania (1955)

Books

Chomsky, Noam, and Michel Foucault. The Chomsky-Foucault debate: on human nature. The New Press, 2006.

Chomsky, Noam. Language and mind. Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Chomsky, Noam, and David Barsamian. Manufacturing consent. National Film Board of Canada, 1992.

Notable Papers

Chomsky, Noam. “Chomsky, N. 1959. A review of BF Skinner’s Verbal behavior. Language, 35 (1), 26–58.” (1959): 26-58.

Hauser, Marc D., Noam Chomsky, and W. Tecumseh Fitch. “The faculty of language: what is it, who has it, and how did it evolve?.” science 298.5598 (2002): 1569-1579.

Chomsky, Noam. “The architecture of language.” (2000).

Linguistics and Activism: Famous For Two Things

Noam Chomsky was born in Philadelphia, and began attending high school at the age of 12 (his first essay was published at 10) and began college at 16 years old at the University of Pennsylvania. He has said that for someone in that area, the only decision was Penn State or UPenn and the idea of going anywhere (especially out of state) was “unthinkable.”

He briefly considered dropping out over boredom until a professor allowed him to sit in a graduate seminar where he observed the open exchange of ideas. He would finish his BA, MA, and PhD at Pennsylvania and promptly hired by MIT.

At 29 he was an associate professor at MIT and a full professor at 32. At 37 he was given an endowed chair and at 47 was given an endowed chair which is reserved for only the most senior and distinguished faculty at the school. He has authored over 100 books and most of them far too controversial to be reviewed or mentioned by mainstream publications. 

If had to be reduced to a dichotomy, Chomsky is famous for two things: his groundbreaking work in linguistics and his work as a political activist. 

That said his paradigm shifting work in linguistics (and cognitive science more generally) suited him well to his later years where he has emerged as a major figure in Philosophy of Science within the analytic tradition. At academic conferences, he’s had some well documented run-ins with the likes of Daniel Dennett over issues ranging from consciousness to materialism to evolution. 

Work as a Linguist

Chomsky’s ideas can be long and dense and complicated but also beautiful and elegant. We’ll briefly summarize his linguistic contributions here but hope readers (especially those who find it interesting) will continue to read more into his massive body of paradigm changing contributions. 

The foundations of Chomsky’s work can be distilled from the following view:

We say sentences everyday that have never been spoken in the history of the human language. How do we understand them? If it was just the understanding of definitions, it would take orders of magnitude longer than it currently takes to understand a sentence. Instead, we must therefore have structures within the brain specifically for language. 

It may sound obvious, but the impact of that sentence would overturn and ignite an entire field(s) that continues to this day. Linguistics often say that you enter the field either to “study Chomsky or oppose Chomsky” but, that said, it’s hard to imagine a figure more associated with the development of a field than Noam Chomsky is with Linguistics. As the data has come in over the decades it’s shown that, despite a few caveats, Chomsky’s work has been transformative in our understanding of human language acquisition. 

Political Activism

Noam began his political activism as an opponent of the Vietnam war. Initially his speeches in town squares turned out very small crowds. However as public sentiment toward the war turned aggressively negative, especially on college campuses, crowds began to turn out in droves. 

Since then Chomsky has become an extremely sought after social commentator and public speaker talking about everything from Obama to intervention to his expressed favored political affiliation, a type of Social Anarchism. His book “On Anarchy” walks through these beliefs and the importance of any state authority having to prove their legitimacy prior to letting their authority be accepted by the populous. 

His political activism has lead to high profile debates and encounters for more than forty years with his argument with conservative commentator William Buckley (in which Buckley remarked “I’d smash you in the Goddamn face”) as perhaps the most famous. 

Notable Positions

Ben Shapiro on Noam Chomsky

Ben Shapiro on Noam ChomksyThis one will be brief. Despite being one of the most famous and influential intellectuals in human history, political commentator Ben Shapiro hates (and hate is a strong word) Noam Chomsky. While it’s not terribly hard to imagine what one...

Christopher Hitchens on Noam Chomsky (and vice versa)

Christopher Hithcens and Noam Chomsky: it's complicated As two influential political commentators for many decades, Noam Chomsky and Christopher Hitchens had a long and, at times complicated, public relationship. Given Hitchens was a strong and believing socialist...

Noam Chomsky on Steven Pinker (and vice versa)

Noam Chomsky on Steven Pinker (and vice versa) The relationship between Noam Chomsky and Steven Pinker has been one of the more interesting relationships between two contemporary scientists and philosophers and recent history. Steven Pinker, a Harvard psychologist and...

Noam Chomsky on Abortion

Noam Chomsky on AbortionSpeaking in Dublin on April 13th, 2013 (we really had to go back to find his views on abortion) Noam Chomsky stated that he believed restrictive abortion laws were attacks on women. Stating that he believes that one of the areas where society...

Noam Chomsky on Language and Language Acquisition

Noam Chomsky on Language and Language AcquisitionGiven an entire field has been devoted just to Noam Chomsky’s views on language and language acquisition, it may seem dubious for us to try to tackle the issue in one article. However given it’s importance and, to some...

Noam Chomsky on Sports

Noam Chomsky on Sports (and a rebuttal)Noam Chomsky has famously been very critical of sports and their role in American life. As always, we'll give an unedited version of Noam's comments on sports, give some context, and then discuss some arguments against his...

Noam Chomsky on Donald Trump

Noam Chomsky on Donald Trump Noam Chomsky has been consistently critical of Donald Trump from the beginning of his campaign to whenever you may be reading this. Let's start with one of his most recent appearances (a zoom session with Shippensburg University professor...

Noam Chomsky on Joe Biden

Noam Chomsky on Joe BidenDespite being the presumptive 2020 nominee, Noam Chomsky has not had a tremendous amount to say about Joe Biden. Usually when Chomsky has little to say about someone, such as his comments about Jordan Peterson, it’s usually not a good thing....

Noam Chomsky On Jordan Peterson

Noam Chomsky On Jordan Peterson Despite sharing many similarities, Noam Chomsky has been critical of Clinical Psychologist Jordan Peterson. In an otherwise unbearable interview,  Noam was asked about Jordan Peterson. He responded: "Frankly I've paid very little...

Noam Chomsky on Obama Presidency

Noam Chomsky on Barack Obama and His PresidencyNoam Chomsky has had some fairly critical words on Barack Obama and his campaign running up to his first election as the U.S. president (as well as on his campaign overall. Perhaps speaking more to the lack of depth in...

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