Four Ways from Universal to Particular: How Chomsky is Not Selectionist

4waysquareFollowing the development of the selectionist theory of the immune system, there was an attempt to characterize many biological mechanisms as being “selectionist” as juxtaposed to “instructionist.” But this broad definition would group Darwinian evolution, the immune system, embryonic development, and Chomsky’s language-acquisition mechanism as all being “selectionist.” Yet Chomsky’s mechanism (and embryonic development) are significantly different from the selectionist mechanisms of biological evolution or the immune system. Surprisingly, there is a very abstract way using two dual mathematical logics to make the distinction between genuinely selectionist mechanisms and what are better called “generative” mechanisms. This note outlines that distinction.

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