By Christopher Wise (auth.)

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Extra resources for Chomsky and Deconstruction: The Politics of Unconscious Knowledge

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But how do we know that a connecting link exists, if the notion is merely a notion, rather than an observable object? Is this object “sometimes elusive,” as Chomsky occasionally asserts, or as he suggests in more Kantian moments, is this object forever out of our reach? To cite Chomsky, a person who has successfully acquired a language is someone who has attained “a system of ‘pragmatic competence’ interacting with his grammatical competence, [that is] characterized by the grammar. Thus we distinguish grammatical and pragmatic competence as two components of the attained cognitive state [my emphasis]” (3).

He also states that, “one should not be misled by unintended connotations of such terms as ‘logical form’ and ‘represent’ adopted from technical usage in different kinds of inquiry” (4). Chomsky wants to keep all connotative and polysemous meanings of these terms at bay, affirming only his words’ strict denotative meanings. In other words, Chomsky seeks to keep his language about human language in place. “Note that the term ‘representation’ is a technical one,” Chomsky insists, “with no ‘representation’ relation in the sense of representational theories of ideas, for example” (Minimalist Inquiries: The Framework 3).

On the other hand, actual spoken language is an “epiphenomenon,” a word that refers to the voiced utterance, which is a trace of the real (110). But if the “abstract mental representation” is an object that is as real as the liver, the liver is more akin to the epiphenomenon (or voiced utterance) than it is to the abstract mental structure, because the liver is not an abstract structure. A surgeon can open up my body and hold my liver in his hand, even if he cannot perceive its metaphysical essence.

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