35 internautes sur 42 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
- Publié sur Amazon.com
As previous reviewers have observed, though this book is eight chapters long you really don't need to read the whole book to get the message - because however radical some readers may think it, the basic idea really doesn't amount to much.
To summarise the whole business:
1. Chomsky says that we can only explain grammar by assuming the existence of a mental organ which no-one has identified or located and wich, according to Chomsky, sprang into existence without the benefit of precursor or the influence of natural selection, just "appeared".
2. Pinker and Bloom have modified the gross unlikelihood of any such event by invoking natural selection as the "father" of grammar.
3. Both views of both incredibly unlikely (though not impossible), says Turner, and "trades Occam's razor for God's magic hat".
4. The mythical grammar organ is not needed because understanding how parable works can explain the rise of both language and grammar.
The rest of the book rambles on, and on, AND ON, about not much more than the idea that we can understand why parables are comprehensible by understanding that meaning does not transfer directly from the source (the parable) to the target ("real" life) but goes through an intermediate "blending" process.
This conflicts, somewhat, with the sweeping claims in the Preface:
"In this book, I investigate the mechanisms of parable. I explore technical details of the brain sciences and the mind sciences that cast light on our use of parable as we think, invent, plan, decide, reason, imagine and persuade. I analyze the activity of parable, inquire into its origin, speculate about its biological and developmental bases, and demonstrate its range. In the final chapter, I explore the possibility that language is not the source of parable but instead its complex product."
Well, I came to the book prepared to agree with Professor Turner's proposition, and I still do - but NOT on the basis of this thin volume.
Not surprisingly, despite the small font, in only 166 pages (plus notes), the book tends to skim its subject in all areas. And the fact that the author keeps going back to describe the source -> blending space -> target model - without a single diagram! (how "literary" can you get) - serves to minimise the space available for any other discussion.
It would also help if the writer had a better grasp of the English language. Numerous expressions which he seems to think are every day language read as though they were invented to fit the discussion, such as "he had almost arrived at the point of having the job in hand".
His translation of Proust produces the phrase "I must have overslept myself" - perfect Hercule Poirot, but not regular English, I think.
And he has begun to rewrite the English language so as to use phrases like "When we see someone startle as he looks in some direction ...". Now a person can BE startled, and a person can startle someone or something else, such as the proverbial horses; but I must confess that I was not aware that someone could startle.
My point, pedantic as these criticisms may appear, is that I got the *impression* that the book was written in a hurry and never properly edited by the author. Should that last quotation have actually read "When we see someone start as ..." for example?
In practise, the book itself, short though it is, might have benefitted considerably from the use of Occam's razor.
So, an interesting thesis, *some* good supporting material, but seriously undermined as a whole by poor presentation.
Definitely one for the academics.
2 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
Richard B. Schwartz
- Publié sur Amazon.com
I will try to be as clear as I can with regard to a book that is both obvious in certain respects and endlessly convoluted in others. The book’s thesis is that the ‘literary mind’, the mind that thinks in terms of stories and parables, is The Mind, not an adjunct to it or a development from it. Fundamentally, we think in terms of stories and we should acknowledge that. This point is then used to undercut the notion of a Chomskyan universal grammar or a Pinkerian universal grammar via natural selection. That grammar, Turner argues, comes from storytelling. “With story, projection, and their powerful combination in parable, we have a cognitive basis from which language can originate” (p. 168).
The latter point, if true, is quite interesting. It is certainly plausible that storytelling is at the root of everything, particularly if you are willing to take simple statements and then demonstrate the storytelling elements implicit in them. Most of the book consists of elaboration of the original claim through the use of endless examples, examples that represent variations of the kinds of statements that one might make.
My initial response is that there are statements that are not, implicitly, stories and that one could construct a grand schema for human perception and intellection in which all is not reducible to stories but rather to something else, for example, mathematical calculations or sex. A clever person, however (and Turner is certainly clever) can turn mathematical statements or sexual urgings into stories, so we’re back where he wished to start. On the one hand this is quite attractive. I certainly want to believe that storytelling is central to human experience, intellection and communication, but that is so ‘basic’ in a sense as to be trivial. Once you convert everything into storytelling you have explained ‘everything’, but then, of course, you have not yet explained a great number of things—the etiology of certain diseases, the actual nature of consciousness, the ultimate nature of physical reality.
The book is complicated by the author’s use of nonce words (parabolic, e.g., in relation to parables rather than parabolas), or common words with specialized meanings (‘projection’, ‘parables’ themselves). In some ways this is like reading literary theory from the 1980’s heavily inflected by the thought of the French Nietzscheans. One feels that sentences have somehow been left out, arguments short-circuited, even though the text is filled with ‘definitive’ statements. Ultimately, this is very dry neuroscience, not in the sense of dull neuroscience but in the sense of non-wet neuroscience. The author is attempting to explain, in detail, how the brain works, except we never get into the brain (except for some echoes of the thought of Damasio and Edelman). We observe forms of speech and forms of stories and then attempt to infer what is really going on, confirming our claims through the adducing of hundreds and hundreds (and hundreds and hundreds) of examples.
The text reads like this: “In the source action-story, there is a causal link between the actor who tears something down and the event of tearing down. This structure is image-schematic. In the target event-story, there is a causal link between the wind and the falling of the trees. This structure is image-schematic. Projecting one onto the other creates no clash in the target, since they match.” If you are prepared to read 168 pp. of such material, you will love this book. Alternatively, you can read a chapter or two and take it on faith that the author is capable of buttressing his fundamental claims with a plethora of examples.
I would like to read an extended account of Turner’s ideas by a John Searle or a Steven Pinker, with full contextualization of his insights within the debates of contemporary linguistics and neuroscience. I like Turner’s fundamental thesis, but I find his endless array of examples something that, in the end, I have to take on faith because ultimately they strike me as too clever by half. The reader is buried in verbiage rather than shown opposing ideas in full and fair detail.