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Louder than words : the new science of how the mind makes meaning

by Benjamin K Bergen

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Ignores and Misunderstands Pinker   (2013-08-04)

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by vleighton

Okay, I will admit that so far I have only read to page 43. Okay, if there had been more negative comments, I might have skipped this review. Okay, the writing is well-crafted and the text moves along briskly.

However, I am giving this book a two because of the fact that the author, Benjamin Bergen, is apparently ignorant of the fact that Steven Pinker wrote a more engaging book on the same topic back in 2007 called The Stuff of Thought. In chapter 2, Bergen gives a caricature of the concept of mentalese. The footnote cites Jerry Fodor's book from 1975 and Pinker's The Language Instinct from 1994. That's it. Maybe the caricature was accurate of Fodor's position in 1975, but even Pinker's mentalese in 1994 was more sophisticated than Bergen's portrayal. Nothing that Bergen has mentioned up until page 43 gives any indication that his text will surpass Pinker's 2007 treatment of semantics.

Part of my annoyance comes from the fact that I had heard a review of the book that suggested that Bergen had refuted Pinker's position on the science of meaning, and I was interested to see a critique of Pinker's ideas. This book fails to deliver on that claim. Refuted my foot! I paid full price for a hardbound copy of this sham. So I give this book a spiteful two. Bergen didn't do his homework, and the publicity for this book pretends that he did.

If I edit this review after reading more of the book, I will note the date of the revision, so that reader's can differentiate earlier and later observations.




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