There are basically two kinds of philosophy: one’s called "prickles," the other’s called "goo." And prickly people are precise, rigorous, logical. They like everything chopped up and clear. Goo people like it vague.
For example, in physics, prickly people believe that the ultimate constituents of matter are particles. Goo people believe it’s waves. And in philosophy, prickly people are logical positivists and goo people are idealists.
And they’re always arguing with each other, but what they don’t realize is that neither one can take his position without the other person, because you wouldn’t know what a prickle was unless you knew what goo was, because life is not either prickles or goo: it’s gooey prickles and prickly goo.
"Self-regulating" carries, in this case, an unfortunate connotation of 'agent' and 'agency'. The distinction [a previous LL commenter] makes above between language and markets is an artifact of this: in the latter he believes he can identify agency but in the former he can not. However, this notion of agency in both cases, and perhaps all similar, is illusary.
Order often arises spontaneously in natural systems; as systems become increasingly complex, qualitatively distinct dynamic features often emerge. It's difficult for us to interpret such behavior as anything but the product of agency — we are social animals and theory of mind is central and essential to our existence. We're carpenters with a hammer and we see everything as a nail. Agents and agency are everywhere, and their behavior is understood teleologically.
Thus we tend to impute both agency and intent to complex phenomena, which centers our thinking on matters of who is doing this, why they are doing it, and whether we approve of their goal. This perspective haunts much of our discourse about the natural world, it's notably and problematically the case in discussion about biology (as with evolution) but I think it's equally problematic with regard to language qua language. There is no agent and there is no purpose, no goal. To be blunt, normative framing is a category error with regard to language and linguistic change.
That's not to say that normative framing is never appropriate — it can be with regard to an individual speaker in a particular context. Just as, say, a genetic mutation may be adaptive in one environment but maladaptive in another. There is no "agent" driving such changes, there are no "goals" — so-called "self-regulation" is agentless. It just is.
Note that this pervasive teleological error manages to find its way into otherwise sophisticated analysis. People who understand evolutionary biology a little, but not a lot, think in terms of "more" or "less" evolved, as if evolutionary change arrows toward perfection. It does not. Likewise, free market theorists make similar errors.
Language is vast, complex, and organized and this invites the human mind to imagine architects and purpose and to make comparisons about how well that purpose is served. Even when someone like Greene, who in his analysis is clearly descriptivist, one can find these notions of agency in word choices like self-regulating, and notions of teleology in thinking about change. Even if, strictly speaking, one knows these things don't exist, they still hover there, like phantoms, over the discourse.
Perhaps ostensibly. In practice, it's most often the case that they're doing quite the opposite: making their disapproval clear and encouraging others to follow suit. This is exclusion, not inclusion.
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