August 6 2016AD – Thinker of the Month – Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky

“The study of human moral nature, within a biological framework, has developed into a rich and exciting inquiry in recent years…Why does everyone take for granted that we don’t learn to grow arms, but rather, are designed to grow arms? Similarly, we should conclude that in the case of the development of moral systems, there’s a biological endowment which in effect requires us to develop a system of moral judgement and a theory of justice, if you like, that in fact has detailed applicability over an enormous range…We are, after all, biological organisms – not angels. If humans are part of the natural world, not supernatural beings, then human intelligence has its scope and limits, determined by initial design. We can thus anticipate certain questions will not fall within [our] cognitive reach, just as rats are unable to run mazes with numerical properties, lacking the appropriate concepts. Such questions we might call ‘mysteries-for-humans’, just as some questions pose ‘mysteries-for-rats’. Among these mysteries may be questions we raise, and others we do not know how to formulate properly or at all…We will discover what we can about the nature of the world, and, among the truths about it, I believe we will find that part of our genetic capacity, which evolved over millennia, is that certain moral principles are incorporated in it; probably genetically determined. To try to discover them is, of course, a big task”

~ Noam Chomsky

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