Noam Chomsky is a deep thinker, and his theory of language is quite profound (from Wikipedia):
“Children are hypothesized to have an innate knowledge of the basic grammatical structure common to all human languages (i.e., they assume that any language which they encounter is of a certain restricted kind)… This innate knowledge is often referred to as universal grammar… “
“This is related to Rationalist ideas of a priori knowledge, in that it is not due to experience.”
Chomsky has been able to merge deep philosophical/rationalist thought, a good understanding of mathematical analysis and the study of language into a unified theory. It is quite an achievement.
Here’s a good page discussing the philosophical backstory: the debate between empiricism/rationalism and Chomsky’s Kantian influence.
However, what about Chomsky’s politics?
It’s a leftist politics of anti-imperialism, anti-capitalism (the media is an arm of capitalism) and what he calls libertarian socialism (sympathetic to anarcho-syndicalism and quite radical). He has written a stream of political screeds which attack, without necessarily understanding, all that fall outside of their bounds. Despite his depth, Chomsky is uncompromising and does not seem interested in unifying his ideas in such a way that would lend to an influential and applied political philosophy (thus having to account for his ideas in the tradition) and the moral consequences that such political ideas have already had in practice.
Here’s a debate between Chomsky and William F. Buckley:
A reader has suggested to me that it is precisely Kant’s influence (particularly that of German rationalism/idealism) that permits Chomsky to justify his own political idealism. Thus the hubris lies not only with Chomsky (I still find his linguistic theory compelling), but in Kantian transcendental idealism and the idealism of ideas like the categorical imperative.
It’s an interesting thought, though I don’t find it tenable. Perhaps a useful thought experiment might run: What if Chomsky was a libertarian statist, or a somehow extreme but irreligious social conservative..attacking the very leftist positions he supports now?
Can any political position be necessarily justified by Kant’s thought..let alone Chomsky’s extremism?
The burden of proof is on you dear reader…I’m willing to listen.
Addition: Chomsky’s position is one that recognizes injustice from a moral perspective, arguing that America has put its interests all across the globe, making deals with sometimes thuggish regimes to promote our interests (sometimes unintentionally so in a fog of idealism or jingoism and sometimes intentionally through military action). From such a moral perspective, all intervention is injustice, and a falling away from that ideal.
Yet, the initial reader’s point is exactly this: Kantian transcendental idealism, especially via Hegel and Marx, is easily directed into his communism and socialism (which Chomsky always embraced and in his later years supported through ridiculous hubris)…and is at the heart of this problem, and Chomsky is a good example of it.
I put up another post recently which may shed a little more light on this question: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”
Another Addition: The Kantian transcendentally ideal influence may well lead to a kind of liberal political philosophy.
See Also On This Site: Martha Nussbaum criticizing Chomsky’s hubris in Martha Nussbaum In Dissent–Violence On The Left: Nandigram And The Communists Of West Bengal…Jesse Prinz is trying to lead psychology and the cognitive sciences toward British Empiricism and away from Kant..A Brief Review of Jesse Prinz’s ‘The Emotional Construction Of Morals’ add:(and incorporate moral relativism and a strong Nietzschean influence).