The ancient city-state of Athens created one of the richest and most influential cultures in Western history.
They adopted the Phoenician alphabet (adding vowels to it) to create a written Greek language and they adopted papyrus from the Egyptians to preserve their ideas in books.
In addition to geometry, astronomy, philosophy, physics, engineering, drama and medicine, the Athenians introduced the modern concepts of reason and logic. Prominent Greek philosophers included:
Thales (born around 600 BC) – asserted the entire physical world could be worked out through reason and mathematics and correctly determined the approximate shape of the earth and its orbit around the sun.
Pythagoras (born 570 BC) – led a religious cult that used mathematical proportions to understand musical harmony and the movement of the planets and stars.
Democritus (born 460 BC) – theorized everything in the universe is made up of atoms.
Hippocrates (born 460 BC) – the first physician to to systematically classify illnesses based on points of similarity and difference.
Socrates (born 470 BC) – asserted knowledge can only be obtained through constant questioning.
Plato (born 427 BC) – (most famous disciple of Socrates) deduced planets move in a circular pattern around the sun and that day and night result from the Earth spinning on its axis.
Aristotle (born 384 BC) – Plato’s most famous pupil, founded the Lyceum and taught Alexander the Great. More focused on data than Plato, he studied and documented the physiology of all animals, and expounded on ethics, virtue and good character.
In this lecture, Benjamin also discussed the Greek gods and their origin myths, as well as the Cult of Dionysus and efforts by Athenian to channel the Cult’s drunken and lascivious behavior into lavish open air theatrical events. Seating as many as 20,000 people, these events featured plays by Aeschylus, Sophocles and other playwrights.
The film can be viewed free on Kanopy with a library card.
The purpose of this book is to outline a dispute in the linguistic community between those who believe that language is acquired – that human beings develop language as a cultural tool – and “nativists” who believe that people develop language because of their genetic programming.
Noam Chomsky, who is better known as an activist and dissident, is also considered the founder of modern linguistics. Nativists like Chomsky argue that language development is genetic mainly because all human beings acquire language, regardless of their intelligence, all languages have a similar core grammar, including Creole languages invented by children (actually they don’t, as Everett demonstrates) and all children follow the same developmental stages in learning language.
By examining linguistic research into the structure and function of language, as well as the biological requirements necessary to create it, Everett essentially demolishes all of Chomsky’s arguments – but in a nice way. As a former Wycliffe bible translator, Everett lived for many years in the Amazon and has researched over a dozen indigenous languages of Brazil. He has special interest in the language and culture of the Piraha tribe.
Everett takes the side of Aristotle, who first proposed that language is a tool 2300 years ago. Soviet psychologist Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934) was the first to articulate this view in the modern area. He believed human language was developed and shaped by the needs of social interaction.
I’ve always been troubled the unquestioning adulation Chomsky receives from the activist community, especially in view of his dismissive attitude towards an extensive body of research pointing to a government role in 9-11 and the John F Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King assassinations. Thus I was intrigued to learn of similar concerns in the linguistic community about the unquestioning embrace of his linguistic theories.