This post will be a bit of a mess since it’s mostly me trying to systematize some issues I’ve been grappling with for a while now. I have discussed my research with people who come from very different backgrounds: theoretical linguists, computer scientists, molecular biologists, physicists, and so on. Many of these discussions have involved a fair amount of talking past one another. To some extent that’s unavoidable without a large shared common ground. But ironically, most of the talking past one another actually didn’t occur with, say, biologists, but with theoretical linguists, in particular Minimalists. The rest of this post presents my personal explanation for what might be going on there. I believe there are two factors at play. Both concern the horribly fuzzy notion of a linguistic theory.