Tag Archives: Gregory Radick

Chomsky’s Linguistics: Between Behaviorism and Cognitive Science

The March 2016 issue of Isis, the official journal of the History of Science Society, is now online. An article by Gregory Radick on the place of Noam Chomsky’s linguistics in the borderlands of the history of psychology may be of interest to AHP readers.

“The Unmaking of a Modern Synthesis: Noam Chomsky, Charles Hockett, and the Politics of Behaviorism, 1955–1965,” by Gregory Radick. The abstract reads,

A familiar story about mid-twentieth-century American psychology tells of the abandonment of behaviorism for cognitive science. Between these two, however, lay a scientific borderland, muddy and much traveled. This essay relocates the origins of the Chomskyan program in linguistics there. Following his introduction of transformational generative grammar, Noam Chomsky (b. 1928) mounted a highly publicized attack on behaviorist psychology. Yet when he first developed that approach to grammar, he was a defender of behaviorism. His antibehaviorism emerged only in the course of what became a systematic repudiation of the work of the Cornell linguist C. F. Hockett (1916–2000). In the name of the positivist Unity of Science movement, Hockett had synthesized an approach to grammar based on statistical communication theory; a behaviorist view of language acquisition in children as a process of association and analogy; and an interest in uncovering the Darwinian origins of language. In criticizing Hockett on grammar, Chomsky came to engage gradually and critically with the whole Hockettian synthesis. Situating Chomsky thus within his own disciplinary matrix suggests lessons for students of disciplinary politics generally and—famously with Chomsky—the place of political discipline within a scientific life.


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Physics in the Galtonian sciences of heredity

A forthcoming article in the journal Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, now available online through advance access, tackles the influence of physics on Galtonian science. The piece, authored by Gregory Radick (left), investigates physics’s influence on three Galtonians: Francis Galton himself, as well as W. F. R. Weldon and William Bateson. Title, author, and abstract follow below.

“Physics in the Galtonian sciences of heredity,” by Gregory Radick

Physics matters less than we once thought to the making of Mendel. But it matters more than we tend to recognize to the making of Mendelism. This paper charts the variety of ways in which diverse kinds of physics impinged upon the Galtonian tradition which formed Mendelism’s matrix. The work of three Galtonians in particular is considered: Francis Galton himself, W. F. R. Weldon and William Bateson. One aim is to suggest that tracking influence from physics can bring into focus important but now little-remembered flexibilities in the Galtonian tradition. Another is to show by example why generalizations about what happens when ‘physics’ meets ‘biology’ require caution. Even for a single research tradition in Britain in the decades around 1900, these categories were large, containing multitudes.

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