Monday, May 19, 2008


I was reading an article I'd found a link to. It was interesting, but what was really interesting to me is that the cadence and word choices seemed very familiar. Who wrote it?

Oh, of course. It was Pinker.

I'd recently finished reading his book "The Stuff of Thought", so I remembered his style. Of course, the book is carefully edited - both by himself and by others - so it's not quite as raw.

As theorists go, Pinker always struck me as very interesting but a bit of a lightweight. As linguistic theorists go, Pinker can't be considered a lightweight: that would imply that there are heavyweights somewhere in the field.

Any way you measure him, I really enjoy reading Pinker and find his point of view just different enough to make me think, while not being so different as to make me flat-out reject him.

If you're in the mood for a rather interesting essay on dignity and bioethics, here it is. It's quite long, though. That's also par for the course for linguistic theorists, sort of like mathematicians who can't help but fill their books with formulas.

These days I have found myself becoming very strict about specialists: if you aren't a specialist in the subject you're writing on, I'm likely to dismiss you as a kook, wannabee, or even worse: some idiot with a poorly-thought-out agenda.

So the idea of Pinker writing on bioethics leaves me nervous in the beginning... however, Pinker is not writing about bioethics. He's writing about the meaning of the word "dignity".

That's well within his specialty, even if the essay frequently branches out into some other topics. So I lend the essay some credence.

The fact that it agrees with me on almost all counts probably helps, too. :D

1 comment:

Michael said...

Long discussion inspired by a random throwaway comment:
My fiancée and I (both mathematics grad students) were talking one time about how people seem to think maths writing looks intimidating because of all the formulas (someone had said something like this to one of us recently). We both said that the papers we were currently reading didn't have any at all.. or maybe just one or two.
When we looked at them again later we noticed that they were both full of them. It was like, oh yeah there's that, but that's just explaining that, it's not important.
I don't know. Some kind of perception filter.