Chomsky–Foucault debate

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The Chomsky–Foucault debate was a debate about human nature, between Noam Chomsky and Michel Foucault in the Netherlands, in November 1971. Chomsky and Foucault were invited by the Dutch philosopher Fons Elders to discuss an age-old question: "is there such a thing as 'innate' human nature independent of our experiences and external influences?"[1][2][3]


As the moderator summarized the topic: "All learning concerning man, ranging from history to linguistics and psychology, are faced with the question [of] whether in the last instance, we are the product of all kinds of external factors, or if, in spite of our differences, we have something we could call a common human nature by which we can call each other human beings."[4] Chomsky and Foucault assumed opposing viewpoints on the question. Chomsky argued human nature was real, and identified it with innate structures of the human mind, consistently with his theory of universal grammar. Foucault explained the same phenomena by reference to human social structures.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Noam Chomsky & Michel Foucault Debate - 'On human nature'". ONscenes. 1971. Retrieved 6 November 2017.
  2. ^ "Clash of the Titans: Noam Chomsky & Michel Foucault Debate Human Nature & Power on Dutch TV, 1971". Open Culture. Retrieved 6 November 2017.
  3. ^ "Noam Chomsky debates with Michel Foucault (1971) - Classroom - Art & Education". Retrieved 6 November 2017.
  4. ^ "Human Nature: Justice versus Power". Retrieved 2019-04-16.

Further reading[edit]

  • The Chomsky-Foucault Debate: On Human Nature, The New Press, 2006 ISBN 978-1595581341
  • Wilkin, Peter (1999). "Chomsky and Foucault on Human Nature and Politics: An Essential Difference?". Social Theory and Practice. 25 (2): 177–210. doi:10.5840/soctheorpract199925217.

External links[edit]