(A street in Siena, Italy)
A good thing about working in Italy is that you can just take a train and see some of the most extraordinary places on Earth. These pictures, taken with my phone, are from Siena and Firenze. They have a distinct “medieval” feel in them, and in this connection the term has positive meaning. It was a rich experience. But sometimes the implication of “medieval” is negative.
Last year, I submitted for publication two works that were concerned with my hopeless battle against what I perceive as harmful medieval tendencies in human thinking, one article (in Finnish) and one book (in English). As you know, the whole field of Finnish linguistics still lives in the medieval world.
When a scientific work is submitted for publication, it is first evaluated anonymously by the peers, meaning researchers who are experts on the topic the article addresses. The existence of this procedure made it possible for me to see what linguists working within the medieval context would really say when confronted with my argument. This is because I submitted the article for the leading linguistics journal in Finnish. Here is what they said.
(Duomo, in Siena, at the top of the hill)
The first and foremost principle of medieval thinking, as I have documented here numerous times, is that substance (truth or falsity) has no relevance. What matters is who the writer is and which school of thought s/he champions, Protestant or Catholic, Freudian or Chomskian.
Thus, after the reviewer of my article complained that s/he was not “motivated” to engage with me on any of my arguments (truth or falsity of my claims), s/he proceeds to analyze me as a person. The reviewer speculates, for example, that I am “not a linguist” and not familiar “at all with the literature”. To remedy this, the reviewer suggests that I should read. That pretty much summarizes the whole evaluation. It reads like a personal insult.
But it is not an insult; it is the norm. As I have explained, in the medieval system the value of any scientific contribution depends solely on the amount of “illumination” radiating form the author; thus, evaluation of scientific work can be based solely on the personal qualifications of its author, not truth or falsity. Complete “lack of motivation” on the subject matter is thus not a problem for evaluating a scientific argument. It suffices to gossip about the author’s identity.
But you can see that this just proves my point, doesn’t it? My argument in the paper was precisely that (a) this is how medieval science works and (b) this is how linguists in Finnish conduct their research. And voila!
The second reviewer proposes that I should review my own manuscript. That is so far out there that I cannot and will not say anything.
(Duomo in Firenze, this is a gigantic structure that no picture can depict. You have to stand there yourself.)
If you are interested in reading about their comments in more detail, you can find the manuscript here. My discussion of the reviews is in the last chapter. Unfortunately, the text is in Finnish. The journal proposed that I make changes to the paper and then resubmit it, but I have no time to do it now — and there were no subject matter points in the reviews to begin with — so I will post it here instead. It will be published later in some way.
But, as I did not find any subject matter arguments against the points I presented, only personal insults, all this only reinforces my point. The emperor has no clothes.
(Bridge in Firenze. I spend hours here.)
A side matter: I haven’t updated this blog for a while. This is because I am engaged with matters that are technical and complicated, to me at least. I will write updates if and when something gets published. I am working with a hypothesis that language comprehension uses the same Merge (recursive computation) as production. I believe that this is true. The complication comes from the fact that, to prove that this idea has any wings, I have to show that it actually works, by writing a computer program that instantiates the model. And it’s not very easy thing to do. But in the 17th century science, contrary to the medieval science based on personal insults, I have to have a rigorous empirical proof.