“What is the logical form of this?” on Sen, Gramsci, Sraffa and Wittgenstein


In a perceptive book, Ray Kurzweil, chief engineer at Google, and responsible for the Hidden Markov Model that stays behind much of today speech and text recognition software (like Siri), restates  the position of the Logical Neopositivism as the following:
Amongst all possible worlds (Leibniz anyone?), in a multiverse where most realizations have faded into oblivion because they did not (randomly) stumbled upon information structures that could be algorithmically compressed, our world is such (from an anthropic cosmological principle) because it possess a recursive structure, hence information in it is susceptible of being encoded. For reason that are probably beyond investigation (recall Kant’s Ideen der Vernunft in the Dialectic of Reason, i.e. “God, the Soul, the World”: here of course, World is the idea of Reason).

To summarize:
1) Our world is such because it has a compressibility structure (based on recursion);
2) Our neocortex has a pattern structure based on recursion and
3) Our language has a recursive structure based on recursion (see this article by Chomsky).
(This is a brilliant way to restate, in three sentences, Wittgenstein.)

Then Antonio Gramsci came along, and as the Nobel prize Amartya Sen shows in this article, the ideas of the Italian marxist fed into the speculations of the great austrian philosopher. Nature versus Nurture, except there is not Nature per se, but the neocortex structure is the outcome of social processes as well as a (darwinian) adaptation to the world as it is.

It may be interesting to investigate the structure of power deep inside a concrete language.
The Grammars vs feedback control ideas in Artificial Intelligence is a restatement of the same dicotomy:
the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus as a Cartesian meditation very close home to Noam Chomsky,
whilst the (Gramsci-inspired) Second Wittgenstein as a feedback control type of investigation.

The causality vs correlation debate really got started there. See also Gramsci Linguistic Turn

As a final aside, a set of contributions by Italian scholar LoPiparo (see this) have identified glottology (i.e. the original field of study of Gramsci) as the source of the powerful idea of hegemony.

So: hidden within language there is power.The discovery of the true nature of power (i.e. (cultural) hegemony) comes from the study of glottology. The circle closes.

Categories: Chomsky, Episteme, Learning, Society

1 reply


  1. Apropos Joshua Oppenheimer | rtraba

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