Philosopher Patricia Churchland wrote a damning review of Steven Pinker’s new book, ‘The Stuff of Thought’, for Nature and it’s caused a bit of a rumble.
One particular highlight was that she described a theory from Pinker’s book, that suggests that language and thought can refer to meaning in a similar way, as:
…about as applicable to real meaning as ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ is to real life. Aptly ridiculed by critics as ‘font-change semantics’, the theory still has its disciples. Including Steven Pinker.
Apart from showing a woeful misunderstanding of Dungeons and Dragons, Churchland also failed to notice that Pinker had never proposed this theory in his book. In fact, his book argues against it.
The book apparently stimulated the reviewer to free-associate to her own beliefs that psychological phenomena can be explained at the level of neurons and that human thinking is in the service of motor control. The fact that I (like most cognitive psychologists) have not signed up to these views is the only point of contact between my book and her review.
While definitely being more entertaining than your average book review , it doesn’t even come close to matching the slanging match between Hans Eyesenck and Stephen Jay Gould, where they ending up arguing over the ‘relative exposure of our respective arses’ in The New York Review of Books.