Noam Chomsky pp 165-184 | Cite as

Chomsky and Revolution

  • Milan Rai
Part of the Critical Explorations in Contemporary Political Thought book series (CEPT)


Noam Chomsky is a revolutionary twice over, something of a reluctant revolutionary in both cases. Chomsky has led a revolution in our thinking about higher human mental capacities, with a wide-ranging impact on modern thought. With rigorous logic and a wealth of evidence, Chomsky has refuted the prevailing view that the human mind is initially empty and unstructured, with just an all-purpose learning capability accounting for all its higher processes. In relation to language, Chomsky demonstrated that adult humans know many more (abstract and complex) grammatical rules than they are ever explicitly taught, or that could be derived from the limited and imperfect information they receive while growing up (Chomsky, 1979). Initially, Chomsky considered what turned out to be the beginnings of his political revolutionary work to be merely an interesting hobby, compared to the procedural linguistics that dominated the profession. He famously realized that ‘maybe the hobby was really the right way to proceed and the other one was a dead end’ during a bout of seasickness while crossing the Atlantic (Chomsky, 2001: 209–210). While his early breakthroughs in linguistics were to a considerable extent an individual struggle against the dominant empiricist framework of the 1950s, Chomsky was quick to unearth, and connect his work to, the longer history of rationalist thought going back to the 17th century (Chomsky, 1966).


Nuclear Disarmament Contemporary Relevance Spiritual Transformation Decent Society Revolutionary Process 
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© Milan Rai 2015

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  • Milan Rai

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