On Biolinguistics

The biolinguistic perspective views a person’s language in all of its aspects – sound, meaning, structure — as a state of some component of the mind, understanding “mind” in the sense of 18th century scientists who recognized that after Newton’s demolition of the “mechanical philosophy,” based on the intuitive concept of a material world, no coherent mind-body problem remains, and we can only regard aspects of the world “termed mental,” as the result of “such an organical structure as that of the brain,” as chemist-philosopher Joseph Priestley observed. Thought is a “little agitation of the brain,” David Hume remarked; and as Darwin commented a century later, there is no reason why “thought, being a secretion of the brain,” should be considered “more wonderful than gravity, a property of matter.” By then, the more tempered view of the goals of science that Newton introduced had become scientific common sense: Newton’s reluctant conclusion that we must be satisfied with the fact that universal gravity exists, even if we cannot explain it in terms of the self-evident “mechanical philosophy.” As many commentators have observed, this intellectual move “set forth a new view of science” in which the goal is “not to seek ultimate explanations” but to find the best theoretical account we can of the phenomena of experience and experiment (I. Bernard Cohen).

Noam Chomsky, Biolinguistics and the Human Capacity, p1.