Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Quote of the Day: Chomsky on Past Thinking

"I approach classical rationalism not really as a historian of science or a historian of philosophy, bur rather from a different point of view of someone who has a certain range of scientific notions and is interested in seeing how at an earlier stage people may have been groping towards these notions, possibly without even realizing what they were groping towards.

So one might say that I'm looking at history not as an antiquarian, who is interested in finding out and giving a precisely accurate account of what the thinking of the seventeenth century wasI don't mean to demean that activity, it's just not minebut rather from the point of view of, let's say, an art lover, who wants to look at the seventeenth century to find in it things that are of particular value, and that obtain part of their value in part because of the perspective with which he approaches them.

And I think that, without objecting to the other approach, my approach is legitimate; that is, I think it is perfectly possible to go back to earlier stages of scientific thinking on the basis of our present understanding, and to perceive how great thinkers were, within the limitations of their time, groping toward concepts and ideas and insights that they themselves could not be clearly aware of."

— Noam Chomsky, The Chomsky-Foucault Debate: On Human Nature, p. 10

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