Re: Julian Jaynes

David Baldwin (
28 Jan 1995 03:26:03 GMT

In article <>, Wayne Dyer <> wrote:

> [...] The question is then: is this structure innate (Chomsky), or a
>product of cognitive development (various connectionist theories).
>A strict connectionist might say that the brain is a general purpose
>learning machine that has certain circuits pre-wired for survival. It
>seems to me Chomsky's ideas simply place language acquisition in the
>pre-wired level, while other work suggests it could be placed in the
>"general-purpose" level.

I had thought that this debate was over, and that it is clear that language
can not be accounted for by a "general-purpose learning machine". I'm not
familiar with the "other work [that] suggests it could be placed in the
'general-purpose' level". Can you elaborate on this?

>I'm not sure we will find it so cleanly placed. Since the human
>brain continues to develop after birth, how would we go about declaring
>a particular structure innate?

Look at the old papers on "learning preparedness" by guys like Bolles,
Seligman, Rescorla and Solomon for good examples of this.
Also, on a somewhat different topic, look at Leda Cosmedes' (1989) paper
on the logic of social exchange, in Cognition, 31, 187-276.

>A concept that drives Chomsky's work, as I recall, is that without some
>common brain structure that compels us to a semi-formal system like grammar,
>then different civilizations would develop completely different and
>possibly incommensurable rational systems. We would never be able to
>understand each other, and there would be no shared humanity aside from
>species identity. If this were found, it would help to provide (and
>explain) a shared ethical framework for all cultures.

Good point. See Cosmedes, above.