Levi-Strauss and Chomsky

John McCreery (JLM@TWICS.COM)
Sat, 9 Dec 1995 12:53:52 +0900

Sheldon Klein asks about the relationship of Levi-Strauss and Chomsky. For
me, at least, the relationship is not a historical one in which Chomsky
influences Levi-Strauss. Reading Chomsky did, however, lead me to read
Levi-Strauss as expounding ideas which seemed similar to Chomsky's, i.e.,
"the Mendelevian table of the mind" and the (in L-S's case very loosely
defined) notion of "transformation." As I mentioned before, I came to
see both as expounding variants of the rationalist philosopher's dream
of a universal language that "underlies" and sets bounds to the scope of
all possible natural languages/myths/histories.

On L-S and the Kabbalah, I suspect that what we are seeing is similarities in
the dialectical style of argumentation that L-S himself describes in
_Tristes Tropiques_, i.e., a thesis,antithesis, subsumption of both in a
synthesis, that was, says L-S, the stock in trade of philosophical
education in France when he was a student. Hegel, Marx, Kabballah, L-S...
from this perspective all much of a muchness...ne?

John McCreery