To begin with my wife is a die-hard objectivist and I apparently am very much not. So I’ve been reading a lot of Ayn Rand to better understand her philosophical point of view. I thought, who knows maybe I’ll come to agree. Instead I learned a great deal more about my own philosophical point of view. There was very little in Ayn Rand’s objectivism that I could agree with. Anyway I woke up in the middle of the night and found myself pursuing a line of thought that I ended up calling constructivism for lack of a term. I thought this term probably already existed so I had to get up and find out if it did and if it lined up with what I had been thinking. To my delight it did, and it did!
This brings me to my question. Before I got up and discovered I was not alone in my thinking, my train of thought had led me to linguistics. And this is where I seemed to get away from constructivism, or perhaps not. I’m told (I haven’t read them) that Wittgenstein and Chomsky take a linguistic approach to philosophy, but who else? And is this approach strictly related to constructivism? Or is it at all? Where do I go from here? Any suggestions?
You’re asking some enormous questions, rayne. I can only sketch a few short responses now.
(1) In general you’re right to contrast “objectivism” with “constructivism”; those are typically contrasting terms in philosophy. However, Ayn Rand’s “objectivism” is really just the name of her philosophy (which happens to be objectivist). There are many other objectivist philosophies that have nothing to do with Rand—indeed, virtually all of them are so. Rand’s philosophy has been accused of being cult-like in its practice, and morally bankrupt in its specifics, accusations I think have a great deal of merit. But those have nothing to do with its being objectivist.
(2) The linguistic turn in philosophy goes back at least to the middle of the last century, with the logical positivists of the Vienna Circle. They saw their task as one of the logical analysis of language, which was intended basically to demonstrate that abstruse metaphysical speculations (such as those of many famous european philosophers) were not only false, but meaningless. This tack is now seen as largely passé in analytic schools of philosophy in the US, having been replaced by a somewhat more open view towards careful metaphysical speculations and a closer alliance to the sciences, with linguistics and logic being one of many rather than the only ones.
(3) Positivists aren’t constructivists in any important sense. Constructivism is basically the position that we make stuff up rather than discovering it in the world. The positivists did not believe that of the sciences in general. Constructivism is generally held in certain schools of post-modernist thought, or in areas of more competent philosophy with topics that are believed not to be objective in nature (e.g., aesthetics, morality, culture, etc.)
(4) Chomsky did write some about philosophy, most particularly papers that were taken to have demolished strict behaviorism about the mind. But he never was a philosopher. His main aim is strictly linguistic: to come up with a theory that explains all of human language.
If you are interested in learning more about philosophy, I recommend the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on the web. Not all its subjects are completed yet, but the ones that are generally provide good if detailed intros.