There are many paths into linguistics. Some meander in from various languages, some from math, CS, psych, and bio. I came from philosophy. In fact, when I was a young lad, linguistics was pregnant almost to bursting with philosophical implications and lessons. It was the modern venue for the great debate between Empiricism and Rationalism, a major challenge for neuro-reductionism (of the connectionist variety), and the poster child for the computational theory of mind. In other words, discoveries in linguistics seemed to have implications for the great questions of the ages and this was (and still is, IMO) what made (and makes) it so exciting.
If your tastes run in the same direction that mine do, here is a recent little paper by Chomsky that might interest you. It touches on a host of themes, including: “the creative aspect of language use,” the mind-body problem, the limits of scientific inquiry, scientific intelligibility, the reduction of chemistry to physics as a model for the reduction of cognition to neuro-science, among others. These are themes that Chomsky has developed over his linguistic/philosophical career, and he brings them together here in a very accessible form. Let me say a word or two about some of the issues he touches on.
He starts the paper with a discussion of how the creative aspect of language use (i.e. the fact that the “ordinary use of language is typically innovative without bounds, appropriate to circumstances but not caused by them –a crucial distinction- and can engender thoughts in others that they recognize they could have expressed themselves” (1)) motivated Descartes’ dualistic distinction between mind and body. Chomsky’s makes two interesting points. First, that Descartes’ mind/body dualism was a reasonable scientific theory given the prevalent (and by prevalent I mean the entire whose who of 17th century scientific revolution) contact mechanical doctrine of physical interaction (viz. the position, that implied, for example, that there could be no action at a distance). And second, that Newton’s discovery of gravitational action at a distance effectively exploded Descartes’ dualistic position not by exorcising the mental ghost in the bodily machine, but by dispensing with the machine. Newton’s work led to the collapse of contact mechanics as the overarching criterion of scientific legitimacy and so exploded the notion of body on which Descartes’ position relied. No body, no well posed mind/body problem.
Chomsky observes that this consequence of Newton’s very successful physical theory was widely appreciated both in his time and later. Indeed, it was understood by Locke, Hume, Newton, Lange, Koyre (indeed everyone really until the modern period) that Newton’s work rendered materialism (the body part of the dualism) an insignificant (actually contentless) doctrine for after Newton there was no principled way of distinguishing the material from the non-material forces save sociologically (viz. materialism being whatever physicists decided to accept as part of physics).
Chomsky further notes some of the consequences that this had for the relation between minds and brains. It was quickly assumed that mentation was what brains secrete, though how this was possible (i.e. how mental activity could supervene on brain activity) was somewhat mysterious, as remains more or less true to this day (see especially Chomsky’s quote of Vernon Mountcastle on p. 5).
All of this has consequences for the reduction of cognition to neuro-biology. Chomsky touches on this, and helpfully illuminates the issues at stake by reviewing the history of the “reduction” of chemistry to physics. Yes, those are scare quotes. For as Chomsky notes reduction was quite tortuous, with the principles of chemistry more or less preserved in a radically reconfigured physics. Chomsky points to relevant morals for the current concerns of how to reduce minds to brains and points to something that IMO is very important: that the best way to proceed is not to worry too much about evident “explanatory gaps” (6). In fact, the best thing to do is emulate the earlier history of chemistry and physics which means “developing a body of doctrine” (Joseph Blacks’ phrase) in each discipline before worrying too much about how to unify them. Right now, as Chomsky notes, neither cognition (and even linguistics!) nor neuro-science are as advanced as chemistry and physics were in the 19th century so there is likely still to be a lot of doctrine worth developing in both domains independently of any issues of unification or reduction. And, just as happened in the chemistry/physics unification, there is no reason to think that the right way to proceed will be via reduction of cognition to neuro-science. In fact, given how little we know about the brain it is just as likely that any unification awaits deeper understanding of the latter (a point that Gallistel has also frequently made).
The last part of the paper addresses the common view that there is nothing opaque to scientific understanding. The opposite is called “mysterianism.” Chomsky dismantles this view, and linguists should read it for it touches on a concern that non-professionals often have with Generative Grammar (GG). What is it?
GGers argue that humans come with a lot of specific built in structure that allows humans to learn Natural Languages (NL). Many object to this kind of nativism for they see it as a reactionary doctrine that treats human characteristics as immutable, thereby limiting human potential. This is incorrect, but it is a pervasive reaction. Chomsky’s discussion provides a useful contrary picture. As he notes, our prized powers are the flip sides of our necessary limits. No limits, no scope. If you prize human creativity and originality, then you must also prize the structures that support these. And any structures will impose limits, for that’s what structure does.
There is one last overarching theme of this little paper: intellectual modesty. It seems that the great Enlightenment figures were less prone to scientism than modern scientists are. They seemed to appreciate not only what they knew but what they didn’t know and didn’t disparage the latter because it resisted our efforts at explanation. Chomsky proposes some modesty regarding these matters. As he notes: “The quest for better explanations may well be infinite, but infinite is of course not the same as limitless. English is
limitless infinite (thx MJ), but doesn’t include Greek” (9). Similarly, there is no reason to
doubt that some questions might forever be beyond human understanding (at least
of the scientific kind), as Hume and Locke and Descartes (and most other
Enlightenment luminaries) thought. There is no reason to think that among the
animals only humans have no cognitive limits. Indeed, the contrary view comes
close to being a modern form of Dualism.
In sum, there is a lot packed into this paper’s 10 pages. Enjoy. I did.
 This creative aspect of language use is different from the recursive hierarchy that natural languages display though it is related to it (Note the “innovative without bounds” above). This creative aspect is a feature of action, not a property of knowledge, which is why Descartes saw this sort of activity as indicative of something like free will and Hume saw it as a manifestation of imagination. Neither philosopher believed that these powers would ever be fully comprehensible to us.
 There is still a hot debate about this mysterious connection that flies under the banner of qualia, e.g. why does firing of fiber X result in my perception of red?