Head, Department of Linguistics and Philosophy
Few members of MIT’s Department of Linguistics and Philosophy have been both linguists and philosophers, and of course you are the leading member of this small group of remarkable individuals. Your contributions to our understanding of the mind-body problem, nativism, rationalism, mental representation, and the nature of language have stimulated and inspired generations of philosophers at MIT. Our philosophy graduate students, in particular, have benefited enormously from your generosity and encouragement. And many MIT philosophers can count themselves fortunate to have attended your seminars on philosophy and linguistics, myself included.
In Free Thought and Official Propaganda Bertrand Russell wrote: “What is wanted is not the will-to-believe, but the wish to find out, which is its exact opposite.” We philosophers are not immune to the will-to-believe, and your unflinching wish to find out should set an example for all of us. Philosophy, not just linguistics, is in your debt.
On behalf of MIT philosophers, past and present, Happy Birthday!