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Selected Books by Edmund Blair Bolles

  • Galileo's Commandment: 2500 Years of Great Science Writing
  • The Ice Finders: How a Poet, a Professor, and a Politician Discovered the Ice Age
  • Einstein Defiant: Genius vs Genius in the Quantum Revolution

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David Rose

Another great blog, thanks. But to get from 'pattern recognition' to 'Meaningful thought, syntactic thought, sensual thought' involves a couple of extra steps :-) Edelman's explanation of what he calls 'higher order consciousness', which he associates with language, involves the brain recognising its own patterns, and categorising them, i.e. constructing patterns of patterns. Halliday's model of language is both metafunctional, including experiential and interpersonal patterns of meaning, and metaredundant, in which patterns of meanings are patterns of wordings which are patterns of soundings. It is these metaredundant patterns of patterns of patterns that give us the elaborate meaning potential of language. 'Pattern recognition' may have been given a bad name by the behaviourists, but it does seem to be a basic mechanism of consciousness. Its just not the whole story.


You're right to observe that behaviorist ideas have been sneaking in the back door of neural networks. In fact, most of the computational linguists I know are firmly against any idea of an LAD. What always amazes me is that they have almost no reason to think this from their own research. Just because you get a computer to create/understand certain aspects of human language, doesn't tell you anything about how human language works. To think otherwise is to admit a Cartesian dualism no modern scientist would like to be accused of.

Again, I'll observe that you set up Pinker and innate syntax as a straw man here. What structures you develop in the brain and how the structures develop are two completely separate questions.

BLOGGER: Argue as you will, but I resent being told I set up a straw man. I think I present matters honestly, although I admit to a capacity for error. There are all kinds of theories of innate ideas. Maybe Pinker's are more radical than yours, or maybe he has toned them down since he wrote his book. I'm responding to what I read, or what I thought I read and don't like to be told I'm being crooked on my own blog.


Sorry to have offended. It was unintentional.

I was responding to what I thought was a claim that Pinker thinks all individual brains are identical down to the neuron. He'd have to be completely ignorant of the past 20 years of brain science to think that.

What I think Pinker would say is that all brains work the same way, according to the same principles. But this is an entirely different claim than a claim that all brains have the exact same structure. Every normal child's bones develop a little differently depending upon how much exercise they get, how much calcium they recieve, etc. So there is some variation, but all normal children end up with similar skeletal structure that carries out similar functions. I think Pinker would say the same about the brain its topography might end up different in different individuals, but that all the relevant structures are there in everyone. I could be wrong (about him).

I know I play the foil here a lot, but in fact, I really appreciate the work of this blog and I do not believe its author to be intentionally deceptive in any way. In fact, since he's not a professional linguist, he doesn't have a reason to be - and that's kind of nice.

Semehani, mzee. Nakuomba buraa yako.

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