Here is a link to Stephen Pinker’s presentation at Google.
It seems that Pinker is applying some of the ideas of physics or spatio-temporal thought to the rules of grammar and language. It would be an excellent lesson for a non-native speeaker of English, and it’s also very interesting. Perhaps no one has done so before.
The point I want to make is that in doing so, Pinker is likely engaging in thought that is philosophically ideal. He may be assuming (by taking ideas from other disciplines, physics, for example) that the knowledge of those disciplines is fixed. In fact, he may be assuming that knowledge itself is fixed (in these disciplines), but not in his own.
Most Christians believe in an afterlife. Plato argued for the existence of a world of forms. Some physicists argue that Math is pure. Many people deny the existence of a world beyond their knowledge (life is a dream), but act every day as though there were.
Idealism is a matter of deep debate.
“How then should we view language? If it’s not the case that language determines how we see the world, and it’s not true that the world itself determines language, what is it? If you’re adept enough with it, then language is a paradox: revealing the universal concerns of our species, while at the same time enabling us to see, at least a little bit, beyond them.”
Addition: Douglas Hofstadter reviews Pinker’s new book here.
Another Addition: Here is a Pinker NY Times article, The Moral Instinct