Comparing Chomsky, Skinner and Harris: Thoughts on Politics and Human Nature

  • Feifei Zhou


From the readings I made of the three authors in this chapter, we can see that they offer interesting thoughts on political issues such as freedom, control and responsibility. Their discussions are informed by different views of human nature and corresponding political models, which is crucial to our understanding of ‘creativity’ and how it relates to other important aspects of human nature. Skinner does not believe in so-called human nature, instead he looks into how the environment is responsible for shaping human behavior. He emphasizes that if we can build a good environment based on behavioral science, no responsibility for the achievements needs to be attributed to individuals. Chomsky believes that language is a field of research of which possible insights are gained because our human nature allows it to be so. He explains the failure of behaviorism with the same logic, that is, it fails because ‘the true theory of behavior is beyond our cognitive reach’ (Chomsky, Language and responsibility: based on conversations with Mitsou Ronat. Pantheon Books, New York, 1979, p. 69). Moreover, his concern with creativity, freedom of speech, etc. is directly informed by his belief in fundamental human rights issued from a universal human nature. For Harris, though he never explicitly comments on human nature, he does emphasize the crucial role of creative integration for human survival (Harris, Introduction to integrational linguistics. Pergamon, London, 1998, p. 29). According to him, human beings do not choose to be creative; instead, they have to be creative to go through this integration of activities and the creative integration ‘is a necessary condition of life as we know it’ (ibid.).


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Feifei Zhou
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EnglishLingnan UniversityHong KongChina

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