Skip to main content

The bold words could be the start of a new paragraph:

https://join.substack.com/p/plato-and-darwin

Regarding science in general, Chomsky is a methodological pragmatist—he thinks that there are several rules of thumb for successful inquiry. First, be ready for something to surprise you—inquiry probably isn’t for you if the capacity for surprise is beyond you.

Second, always try to explain the phenomena you find puzzling.

Third, always evaluate the current explanations to see whether they constitute real answers or simply masquerade as answers. Our “explanations” often simply redescribe a given problem—redescriptions can be useful, but you’ll spend most of your time spinning your wheels if you can’t tell the difference between explanation and redescription.

Fourth, realize that things are always more complicated. The trick is to formulate questions that actually do allow for nontrivial explanatory answers—don’t get discouraged when you fail to pull off this trick, since sometimes you’ll succeed at it. And don’t get discouraged when succeeding at this trick leads to new problems—every good answer to any good question will generate new problems.

And here's a simpler example (bold could be a new paragraph):

Bob told me three things. First, go to the store.

Second, buy some apples.

Third, make sure to run back home.

Last edited by Andrew Van Wagner
Original Post

Replies sorted oldest to newest

Thanks! What's the basis of your recommendation on this front?

I'm just asking because implementing this principle would mean doing this in many, many situations that fall into this same category, so I definitely want to feel good about my policy on this front, since I'll be implementing this many times in many pieces!

I personally don't like the colon at the end of a paragraph; I'm not someone who freaks out about such things, but I would never do it personally, since it's the end of a paragraph and there's nothing that clearly follows the colon...is the colon pointing to the entire remainder of the essay that follows the colon?

Last edited by Andrew Van Wagner

Hi, Andrew—Regarding your "simpler example," it is really a separate type of case, since there is not paragraph-length material in any of the enumerated sentences. It would thus be natural, in the default case, to put those four baby sentences all in the same paragraph—unless you're writing a text message or need the list to be something that a two-year-old can follow. Context matters.

Thanks, David! That makes sense!

So just forget the simpler example; in general what should you do on this front when you're dealing with substantive pieces of text and you have these numbered things and there's an option to include "First,..." in the same paragraph as the introductory paragraph or else to split it so that you have the introductory paragraph and then paragraphs starting with "First," and "Second," and "Third,"?

Last edited by Andrew Van Wagner

Here's a situation later on in the piece where I have a new paragraph for "First,". But it's a different context.

As for what Chomsky is excited about, we already discussed some of this.

First, MP is exciting because it puts Plato’s Problem and Darwin’s Problem—and the apparent tension between them—at the center of inquiry, which is a very ambitious move, since these two antagonistic tensions won’t be at all easy to reconcile. And more exciting still is the fact that we seem to have actually gotten some distance in explaining how the reconciliation might be possible—MH has the potential to be a big step in this direction.

Second, we’re finally developing deepish accounts of some fundamental properties of human language and grammar—interested readers can look at my 2017 paper “On Merge” where I explain how MH can actually derive seven properties that we’ve identified as characteristic of human language and grammar.

Add Reply

×
×
×
×
Link copied to your clipboard.
×