Volume 7, Issue 2, 2007
James Robert Brown
Platonism in Linguistics
Jim Brown (1991, viii) says that platonism, in mathematics involves the following: 1. mathematical objects exist independently of us; 2. mathematical objects are abstract; 3. we learn about mathematical objects by the faculty of intuition. The same is being claimed by Jerrold Katz (1981, 1998) in his platonistic approach to linguistics. We can take the object of linguistic analysis to be concrete physical sounds as held by nominalists, or we can assume that the object of linguistic study are psychological or mental states which presents the conceptualism or psychologism of Chomsky and that language is an abstract object as held by platonists or realists and urged by Jerrold Katz hinlself.
I want to explicate Katz’s proposal which is based on Kant’s conception of pure intuition and give arguments why I find it implausible. I also present doubts that linguists use intuitive evidence only. I conclude with some arguments against the a prioricity of intuitive judgements in general which is also relevant for Jim Brown’s platonistic beliefs.