lakoff v. pinker: round 2

George Lakoff’s reply is a perfect illustration of the problems I pointed out in my review: He divides the world into blocs of angels and devils, based on his own fantasies of what the devil believes. Here he tries to deflect my criticisms by placing me in a Chomskyan faction that is implacably hostile to his theories and worldview. Not true. For almost two decades, I have defended Lakoff’s theories of metaphor and cognitive linguistics, both in scholarly and in popular books, and I have vehemently argued against some of Chomsky’s major positions on language. Lakoff cannot use a clash of ideologies as an escape hatch.

He does it again with his accusation that “Pinker interprets Darwin in a way reminiscent of social Darwinists”–hoping that the taint of this unsavory and long-discredited political movement might rub off. But, contrary to Lakoff’s pronouncement that competition in evolutionary science is merely an obsolete metaphor, it is inherent to the very idea of natural selection, where advantageous variants are preserved at the expense of less advantageous ones. This has nothing to do with Social Darwinism, which tried to rationalize the station of the poor as part of the wisdom of nature.

more from TNR here.