“We frequently see one idea appear in one discipline as if it were new, when it migrated from another discipline, like a mole that had dug under a fence and popped up on the other side.”
Taking note of this phenomenon, John Goldsmith and Bernard Laks embark on a uniquely interdisciplinary history of the genesis of linguistics, from nineteenth-century currents of thought in the mind sciences through to the origins of structuralism and the ruptures, both political and intellectual, in the years leading up to World War II. Seeking to explain where contemporary ideas in linguistics come from and how they have been justified, Battle in the Mind Fields investigates the porous interplay of concepts between psychology, philosophy, mathematical logic, and linguistics. Goldsmith and Laks trace theories of thought, self-consciousness, and language from the machine age obsession with mind and matter to the development of analytic philosophy, behaviorism, Gestalt psychology, positivism, and structural linguistics, emphasizing throughout the synthesis and continuity that has brought about progress in our understanding of the human mind. Arguing that it is impossible to understand the history of any of these fields in isolation, Goldsmith and Laks suggest that the ruptures between them arose chiefly from social and institutional circumstances rather than a fundamental disparity of ideas.
About the Author
John Goldsmith is Edward Carson Waller Distinguished Service Professor of Linguistics and Computer Science at the University of Chicago.
Bernard Laks is Senior Member of the Institut Universitaire de France and university professor of language sciences, phonology, and cognitive sciences at University of Paris Ouest.
“In this adventurous and animated volume, Goldsmith and Laks invite us to collaborate with many forgotten and misinterpreted figures who share present passions about the importance of understanding the nature of language and the mind. Reminding us that many earlier thinkers have, in their own inspired and often idiosyncratic ways, anticipated our present directions and identified commanding alternatives, the coauthors demonstrate that the texture and content of older ideas and controversies are an indispensable and rewarding resource for contemporary research at a time of significant reevaluation for the guiding concepts, models, and methods in the field.”
— Farrell Ackerman, University of California, San Diego
“We often pay a nod to the fact that our scientific models are molded by the historical and geographic environments in which they are forged. This book provides the authoritative and compelling argumentation that linguistic theory (and, eventually, the cognitive sciences) would have been otherwise if not for Napoleon, the Gospels, positivism, geology, Eurasianism, and numerous other underappreciated currents that influenced the dissolution and re-formation of the intellectual group identities that characterize two centuries of research in the language sciences.”
— Andrew Nevins, University College London
“Considering that this is really a book about linguistics, the attention and space it gives to other fields is unusual and impressive. I don’t think there is any other work in the mind sciences that compares to the depth and breadth of this one. Battle in the Mind Fields is highly informative, rich, engaging, and a lot of fun to read.”
— Ida Toivonen, Carleton University