Today, we’re revisiting the clash of two intellectual titans, Noam Chomsky and Michel Foucault. In 1971, at the height of the Vietnam War, the American linguist and the French theorist/historian of ideas appeared on Dutch TV to debate a fundamental question: Is there such a thing as innate human nature? Or are we shaped by experiences and the power of cultural and social institutions around us? The thinkers answered these questions rather differently, giving viewers a fairly succinct introduction to their basic theories of language, knowledge, power and beyond.
42 years later, you can watch the debate on YouTube in parts or in its entirety. Above you will find two excerpts that show you the highlights, complete with subtitles. Below you can watch the entire debate, from start to finish — though, unfortunately, no subtitles are provided. There is one good workaround, however. You can read a full transcript of the debate online (it’s entirely in English), or purchase a copy in book format.