Friday, June 3, 2011

Chomsky, Authority, and Specialization: Another Quotation

This is a bit long, but it is a great quote from Noam Chomsky following up on two previous posts about what really matters in academic discussions. It is from pages 6 and 7 of Language and Responsibility. Chomsky says:
In my own professional work I have touched on a variety of different fields. I've done work in mathematical linguistics, for example, without any professional credentials in mathematics; in this subject I am completely self-taught, and not very well taught. But I've often been invited by universities to speak on mathematical linguistics at mathematics seminars and colloquia. No one has ever asked me whether I have the appropriate credentials to speak on these subjects; the mathematicians couldn't care less. What they want to know is what I have to say. No one has ever objected to my right to speak, asking whether I have a doctor's degree in mathematics, or whether I have taken advanced courses in this subject. That would never have entered their minds. They want to know whether I am right or wrong, whether the subject is interesting or not, whether better approaches are possible--the discussion dealt with the subject, not with my right to discuss it.
Think about that, and tomorrow I will post the next two paragraphs.

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