Wednesday, May 31, 2006


I have noticed a lot of parallels between Noam Chomsky and Bertrand Russell. Just like Russell (Philosophy and Mathematics), Chomsky made a groundbreaking contribution to his field (Theoretical Linguistics) at a relatively early age which assured his place in the history of that topic, after which he passed the peak of his abilities in that field. Just like Russell, Chomsky became known to a wide audience not through his original specialty, but through his outspoken views on social issues- Chomsky on US foreign policy and some other issues, Russell on almost everything. Both Chomsky and Russell became known as among the foremost intellectuals in the world.

Like Russell, Chomsky has become the foremost government dissenter in his own country, and is the bane of party liners. And just like Russell, Chomsky has published dozens of best selling books and articles, and given hundreds of speeches criticising what he believes is wrong. And also like Russell, about 50% of what Chomsky is saying in his old age is repeated in his books. ;)

But finally, just like Russell's work, Chomsky's work nonetheless remains enduring and very interesting in its own, unique way. What one review has called "his uncompromising moral sensibility, icy logic and withering sarcasm" remain commendable and attractive.

The one similarity which Chomsky does not share with Russell, is the award of the Literature Nobel prize. But if Russell could get the prize "in recognition of his varied and significant writings in which he champions humanitarian ideals and freedom of thought", then why couldn't Chomsky?

Chomsky incidentally has a framed photo of Russell in his MIT office.


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