Looking at David Graeber and David Wengrow’s Chapter (2021) “Why The State Has No Origin” (Part 2 of 13)

0184 Chapter ten is the only chapter on theory in the entire book.  The rest of the book concerns the inadequacy of current theory in archaeology and anthropology.  The authors intuitively zero in on a problem.  Neither science imagines that people have minds of their own.  For example, modern histories do not admit that the so-called “Western Enlightenment” is influenced by reports coming from the Americas, including an indigenous critique of late-medieval and early-modern European civilization.

However, Graeber and Wengrow cannot pass into their promised land, because they have no models for appreciating or diagramming what is going on in people’s minds.

0185 Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913 U0′) has a model for speech-alone talk.  Spoken language contains of two arbitrarily related systems of differences, consisting of parole (speech acts) and langue (mental acts).  A model of langueshould provide a picture of what is going on in people’s minds.  So, how can we model langue?

One answer is provided in Razie Mah’s first masterwork, The Human Niche, plus its companion work, Comments on Robert Berwick and Noam Chomsky’s Book (2016) Why Only Us?.  These are available at smashwords and other e-book venues.  Langue may be modeled by diagrams of triadic relations.

In the ongoing commentary, two triadic relations are presented: the category-based nested form and judgment.  If talk (parole) is related to a triadic relation (langue) then Saussure’s definition of language is satisfied.  Plus, our innate sensibility that words are associated to the things that they refer to is satisfied.

0186 Our innate sensibility that words refer to things and states of things arises in the milieu of hand talk.  Here, the relation between parole and langue is not arbitrary, because langue (mentally) reproduces the icons and indexes of parole(well-executed manual-brachial gestures).  This is the nature of natural signs.

Curiously, the word, “semiotics”, does not appear at all in Graeber and Wengrow’s weighty volume.  Yet, the term is crucial to their claim that people have minds of their own.  People have minds of their own because they are adapted to sign-processing.

0187 Fast forward through human evolution to the first singularity, dramatically portrayed in Razie Mah’s second masterwork, An Archaeology of the Fall.  The first singularity consists in a cultural change.  Hand-speech talking cultureslose the hand-component of their hand-speech talk, leaving them with speech-alone talk.  The Ubaid of southern Mesopotamia is the first culture to practice speech-alone talk.  The Sumerian language is a speech-alone creole, originating from two hand-speech languages.  Speech-alone talk spreads from the Ubaid to the far corners of the world.

0188 The first singularity is a complex transition.  There is great uncertainty about how it happens.

But, we can set down two markers with great certainty.

Before the Ubaid, in the Lebenswelt that we evolved in, all cultures practice hand-speech talk.

In the present, 2023 U0′, in our current Lebenswelt, all civilizations practice speech-alone talk.

0189 Speech-alone talk does not picture or point to its referents.  Instead, speech-alone talk projects meaning, presence and message into a purely symbolic label.  This label belongs to parole.  Parole consists of a system of differences.  Langue is arbitrarily related to parole.

So, if we are to display… or imagine… or depict what people think, we may be begin with the proposition that those thoughts have the structure of triadic relations, such as the category-based nested form.

This is the proposition underlying Razie Mah’s third masterwork, How To Define the Word “Religion”.  The propositionconcerns the nature of definition.  The category-based diagram offers ways to picture the meaning, presence and message underlying the spoken word“religion”.

0190 Here is a picture.

Figure 25

The normal context of definition3 brings the actuality of a spoken word2 into relation with the possibilities inherent in meaning, presence and message1.

0191 Such a diagram offers sites for explicit abstraction, without short-changing implicit abstraction.  Standard dictionaries define spoken words with combinations of other spoken words, emphasizing the idea that words are placeholders in systems of differences (that is, “languages”).  It does not evoke the idea that a spoken word (parole) is arbitrarily related to what people think (langue).  In contrast, the category-based nested form for how to define a spoken word conveys what standard dictionaries cannot tell.


Looking at David Graeber and David Wengrow’s Chapter (2021) “Why The State Has No Origin”(Part 3 of 13)

0192 Graeber and Wengrow begin their wide-ranging discussions concerning everything anthropological with a question on the origins of social inequality.  In chapter ten, they implicate the state.  But, they face a problem.  Can the stateaccount for the origins of social inequality if there are no origins to the state?

0193 The spoken word, “state”, is the topic of chapter ten of Graeber and Wengrow’s book.

So is the spoken word, “domination”.

Here is a diagram of what these authors may be thinking.

Figure 26

The “state” is a placeholder in a system of differences for speech.  Since the spoken word cannot picture or point to anything, as would be expected for hand talk, then we project meaning, presence and message into the langue that is arbitrarily related to this speech act.  Graeber and Wengrow explicitly abstract the term, “domination”, as a label for (what I suspect is) the presence or the message underlying the term.  The state2 emerges from (and situates) the potential of domination1.  

0194 The masterwork, How To Define the Word “Religion”, offers another option.

The option arises while trying to elucidate the presence1 underlying the word, “religion”2.  Religion includes institutions.  These institutions are different from sovereign power.  How so? Righteousness1a is the potential underlying institutions3a.  Order1b is the potential underlying sovereign power3b.  Order1b belongs to the situation-level of an interscope.  Righteousness1a belongs to the content-level.

On the situation level, sovereign power3b is the normal context where sovereign acts and decrees2b emerge from (and situates) the possibilities inherent in order1b.  Sovereign power3b virtually situates institutions3a.

What we call the “state”2b should correspond to the actuality2b of sovereign power3b contextualizing the potential for order1b.

Figure 27

0195 According to Graeber and Wengrow, the term, “state”, appears in the French lexicon in the late 1500s, about a century after Christopher Columbus’s voyage of 1492 U0′.  In the late 1800s, a German philosopher defines the “state” as an institution, within a given territory, claiming a monopoly on the legitimate use of coercive force.

This implies that the term, “state”, labels something more than the actuality of sovereign acts and decrees2b.

0196 Why does the state2b require a monopoly on coercive force?

How else can it enforce order1b?

0197 Does the above figure offer a definition of state2b that is familiar to modern social scientists?

No and yes.

No, this diagram of the “state” as an actuality2 located within a normal context3 and situating a potential1 is innovative.  It belongs to the first comprehensive picture in anthropology composed of triadic relations.  The diagram relies on the differentiation of nested forms.  The first differentiation yields a nested form composed of three terms: society3, organization2 and individual in community1.  Second, each of these terms differentiates into a nested form.  Third, each element in each nested form differentiates, resulting in a three-level interscope.  The result is three tiers of interscopes, corresponding to societyC, organizationB and individual in communityA.

0198 The first two levels of the societyC tier correspond to content-level institutions3a and situation-level sovereign power3b.

Figure 28

Graeber and Wengrow do not know this diagram.  Yet, they write as if they do.  Social complexityC arises as diverse institutions3aC pursue their organizational objectives2aC, based on a righteousness1aC that interpellates individuals in communityA.  In our current Lebenswelt, righteousness1aC calls individuals in communityA into organizationB.

The need for order1bC may arise when institutions compete with one another and come into conflict.

I suppose that may occur when institutions find something to fight over.


Looking at Daryl Domning’s Book (2006) “Original Selfishness” (Part 2 of 16)

0008 Here is a more technical presentation of the previous blog.

How does the term, selfishness, come to be?

The term comes into fullness through four waystations.

0009 What does it mean to define a spoken word?

A particular category-based nested form is foundational to the masterwork, How To Define The Word “Religion”.

A definition3 brings a spoken word2 into relation with the potential of meaning, presence and message1.

0010 The emphatic, I-myself (A), is the initial actuality2.

Figure 01

This emphatic is consistent with iconic and indexal sign-qualities of hand talk.  It expresses a psychological aspect of an ongoing situation.  Under what conditions would one have to emphatically POINT TO MYSELF, or emphatically POINT TO ANOTHER SELF, in the environment of evolutionary adaptation?  I suspect that social situations involving larger social circles, such as band (50), community (150), mega-band (500) and tribe (1500) might require emphatics.  So, the emphatic may have first appeared as a formality.

0011 The term, “self” (B), is the second term.  The step from “I-myself” to “self” involves an explicit abstraction.  Emphatic expressions are consolidated into a noun, indicating a thing.  Moral deliberation is not required.  Social intelligence is.

Figure 02

This explicit abstraction is consistent with the purely symbolic qualities of speech-alone talk.

0012 However, this first step carries a suggestion of an implicit abstraction.


This first step feels very natural, even though few other animals succeed in self-recognition experiments.  Animals act as if they are selves, but they don’t realize that they are selves.  So, there is something implicit in the abstraction.  The “self” involves a theory of mind.

0013 Then, “self” is turned from a noun into an adjective, with the addition of “-ish” (C).

This involves an explicit abstraction.  “Selfish” is a quality where the “self” puts its own interests ahead of others.  One gets the impression that the interests of others should be taken into account.  This implies that morality enters the picture.

Figure 03

This explicit abstraction requires the purely symbolic character of speech-alone talk.

0014 Then, “selfish” is turned back into a noun, with the addition of “-ness” (D).  The message1 underlying the term, “selfish”, becomes the presence1 underlying the term, “selfishness”.  The quality of “selfish” becomes a psychological state.  Moral overtones cannot be ignored.  “Selfishness” entails moral deliberation.

Figure 04

“Selfishness” has another notable facet.  The term is scientific.  One can observe and measure behaviors where the interests of one party obviously override the interests of others.  These situational measurements may be modeled as instances of “selfishness”. 

0015 The sequence of development for the term, “selfishness”, is as follows.

(A) The first term appears as it would in hand-talk.  Its definition is nascent.  Moral deliberation is not required.

(B) The second term is an abstraction to noun.  This abstraction may be implicit (more on that, later).  Here, it is explicit, since I am discussing the steps in the development of another spoken term.  Moral deliberation is not required.

(C) The third term is an explicit abstraction, requiring fully symbolic speech-alone talk.  The noun is turned into an adjective, describing a particular behavioral quality.  Moral deliberation is implied.

(D) The fourth term is another explicit abstraction, building on its immediate predecessor. The adjective is turned into a noun.  A quality is turned into a general property.  Moral deliberation is required.

0016 Domning intends to connect the doctrine of original sin to the scientific facet of the term, “selfishness”, leading me to wonder, “Do our ancestors adapt to the niche of selfishness, in the same way that the ancestors of sea cows adapt to the niche of waterways?

Or, is selfishness itself an adaptation to a niche?

What interesting questions.


Looking at Daryl Domning’s Book (2006) “Original Selfishness” (Part 3 of 16)

0017 If “selfishness” is a noun with a scientific affiliation, then what about Domning’s titular adjective, “original”?

What is “original selfishness”?

0018 To Domning, “original” means “evolved”.

“Original selfishness” is an adaptation into (what I will call) the niche of natural selection and genetics.  This niche is more complicated than my quick-and-dirty labeling.  See Comments on Dennis Venema and Scot McKnight’s Book (2017) Adam and the Genome. (Search for Razie Mah and this title.  It is available in smashwords and other e-book venues.)

This niche operates since the origin of multicellular eukaryotic life on Earth.

The adaptations promote self-preservation and reproductive success.

Here is a definition.

Figure 05

0019 Of course, “original selfishness” locates Adam as the earliest microscopic creature, perhaps the first eukaryote, appearing hundreds of millions of years ago. 

On one hand, this association may seem to be a disadvantage to Domning’s association of original selfishness to original sin.

On the other hand, Domning’s association accounts for the universality of original sin, as well as its moral reality.

Yes, that is the claim.

0020 These deficits and benefits are wrestled with in chapter 10, in a paragraph starting with, “in regards to concupiscence”.  Our disordered selfish desires act out our original selfishness.  So, the moral character (the acting out of a disorder) is distinct from the universality of selfishness (as an evolved trait, an adaptation into the niche of natural selection and genetics).  The former calls for grace and salvation.  The latter is what Christ transcends.

In sum, Domning separates the source of original sin’s universality (which, traditionally is descent from Adam, but now, Adam is a microorganism at the base of the tree of life) and its moral character (which is tied to human free will, and, to me, is the noun that “selfish” applies to).


Looking at Daryl Domning’s Book (2006) “Original Selfishness” (Part 4 of 16)

0021 Domning’s move is clever, except for a critical implication.  There is a sequence of adaptations within the Homo lineage that follows and builds on the primal adaptation into the niche of natural selection and genetics.  So, the universal aspect of Original Sin, dealing with descent from a progenitor, and the moral reality of Original Sin, concerning the disordered expression of original selfishness in humans, are not fully separate.

Domning offers a graphic.

Here is my re-enactment of figure 10.1.

Figure 06

0022 Original selfishness does not implicate moral deliberation.  Human selfishness does.

0023 What is “X”?

Domning places the word, “evolution”, here.

I ask, “How can this be?”

How can natural selection eventually yield human free will… er… selfish human free will?

Is selfish human free will an adaptation?

How does the Homo lineage pass from instinctive behaviors to deliberate choices?

0024 I suppose that Domning covers this challenge in chapter nine, titled, “Evolution and human ethics”. 

What does he say?

Evolutionary selfishness is one thing, corresponding to adaptation into a niche of natural selection and genetics.  Psychological selfishness is a second thing, corresponding to “original selfishness”.  Psychological selfishness that intentionally disregards the interests of others is a third thing, corresponding to “human selfishness”.

So, X describes the evolution of psychological states.  Selfish human free will, the foundation of human selfishness, evolves from original selfishness.

0025 However, I already am inclined to think that there must be another step, the evolution of self, that enters into the picture.  Why?  If human free will is to be selfish, then there must already be a self.

Here is a picture.

Figure 07

0026 Isn’t that curious?

The four waystations in the historic development of the word, “selfishness”, recapitulates the evolutionary sequence from “original selfishness” to “human selfishness”.

Okay, I immediately wonder, is there another word that also parallels some sort of evolutionary progression, from noun to adjective then back to noun?

Yes, there is.

0027 The term is “concupiscence”.

Concupiscence is a technical term used in theological discussions of the doctrine of Original Sin.  It may be derived from Latin roots in more than one fashion.

Here is a picture.

Figure 08

0028 Of course, my preferred derivation is the lower option.  To me, “concupiscence” is the state of being with Cupid.  Cupid is an implicit abstraction from two features of natural selection: cooperation (Venus) and competition (Mars).

What do I mean by the term, “implicit abstraction”?

In some way, Cupid may be stated in hand talk, in the same fashion that Cupid is portrayed in visual art.  PANTOMINE DRAWING A BOW, PANTOMIME ARROW FLYING, POINT TO MY OWN HEART.  This fully linguistic statement in hand talk does not make sense, at first.  Later, it does.

Cupid is the self, in the presence of other selves.

Cupid shoots arrows of desire, in the presence of other selves.

0029 I ask, “How could hominin awareness of the counterintuitive nature of Cupid evolve?”

This question does not surface in Domning’s chapter on evolution and human ethics.  

Ethics among animals is mediated through ritual and emotion.  The rules of the game say that cooperation may be necessary for surviving to the next competition.

In contrast, human ethics transcends an animal’s sensible and amoral tendencies.  Human ethics demands social construction.  Social construction is addressed in the masterwork, How To Define The Word “Religion”, available at smashwords and other e-book venues.


Looking at Daryl Domning’s Book (2006) “Original Selfishness” (Part 6 of 16)

0037 In prior blogs, I associate a sequence of four waystations in the history of the word, “selfishness”, to four elements in Domning’s visualization of original sin.

0038 Traditional theological accounts of original sin fuse its universal and its moral realities.  

The universal reality is direct descent from Adam and Eve, as proposed by Saint Augustine seventeen centuries ago.  This universal reality has been debunked by modern genetics.

The moral reality is a corruption of human free will.  People tend to be selfish, even with moral deliberation.  This implies a fall from full rationality and self-control.

0039 Domning’s theological account separates original sin’s universal and moral realities.  But, the separation is not complete, because original selfishness (A) evolves into the self (B).

Evolutionary selfishness (pre-A) culminates in psychological expressions of I-myself (original selfishness, A), which I associate to the initial terminus of the term, “human selfishness” (D).  The passage involves the terms, “self” (B) and “selfish” (C).  Moral deliberation enters the picture with the term, “selfish”.

The moral reality, the disordered practices of human selfishness, is nothing more than original selfishness, but now with moral deliberation.

0040 The association between four waystations in the history of the word, “selfishness”, with four elements in Domning’s visualization of Original Sin appears convincing.

So, I want try my luck with another composite term, “concupiscence”.

“Concupiscence” builds upon three technical expressions.  These technical expressions associate to waystations (B, C and D) in this development of the word, “selfishness”.

Figure 11

Note that these technical definitions do not correspond to traditional definitions of these words.  I will get to that difficulty later.

0041 Once again, where am I going with this?

0042 The development of the word, “selfishness”, parallels Domning’s argument about the nature of original sin, once its universal and moral realities are separated.

The key step is the transition from the emphatic, I myself (A), to self (B), a noun.  Domning attributes this step to evolution.  The next step is the adjective, “selfish” (C), describing a tendency towards placing one’s own self above others.  Here, moral constraints may come into play.  “Selfishness” (D) reifies the adjective.

0043 Now, I want to repeat the procedure with the word, “concupiscence”.  Concupiscence is traditionally used to describe the moral reality of original sin.  The universal reality is descent from Adam, which now has been debunked by science.


Looking at Daryl Domning’s Book (2006) “Original Selfishness” (Part 7 of 16)

0044 The development of the word, “concupiscence” (D’), from the originating emphatic, I-myself (A), produces technical definitions of words, that are at odds with traditional definitions.  Cupid (B’) starts by labeling the presence of self among other selves.

Figure 12

Cupid (B’) associates to self (B).  If self (B) labels the intensional awareness of an internal consolidation of various, situational I-myselves, then cupid (B’) labels an extension of that awareness.  This extension occurs, in the Lebenswelt that we evolved in, as individuals cooperate in social circles, the family (5), intimates (5), teams (15), bands (50), communities (150) and so on.  So, the consolidation that produces the self (B’) is motivated by a competition to perform as a self among other selves in various social circles.

That competition entails concupiditas (C’), the desire to perform as a self among other selves.  Concupiditas (C’) corresponds to selfish (C).  Concupiditas (C’) is an adaptation that satisfies the biological criteria of evolutionary selfishness and conforms to Domning’s criteria for original selfishness, manifested in the emphatic, I-myself (A).

0045 Here is a picture.

Figure 13

0046 Like cupid (B’), the technical term, concupiditas (C’), does not align with common parlance.

A contemporary example of a concupidic behavior (C’) takes place in bars and houses around college campuses.  Drinking games meld competition and cooperation.  Each participant is a cupid (B’), competing to shoot an arrow into a keg of beer, in order to endear oneself to others in the drinking group.

One must compete in order to cooperate?

How twisted is that?

0047 Concupiditas (C’) is situational.  Concupiditas entails human choice.  Concupiditas introduces rules to the game.  Concupiditas is being with others, in particular situations, where performance is congruent with belonging.

The rule of the drinking game is simple.  Drink as much beer as you can.  This rule is given precedence over other rules, such as long-term cooperation necessitates that other selves are not injured.  The drinking game entails risk.  Concupiditas (C’) entails a human choice about which game to play.  The games belong to concupiscence (D’).  The choice belongs to the person and concupiditas (C’).

0048 Concupiscence (D’) corresponds to selfishness (D).  One must compete to cooperate.  One must perform in every social circle that one belongs to.  That performance entails risk.  Sometimes one is born into a social circle (the family, band and community).  Sometimes one must choose (intimates, team).  Concupiscence (D’) is the state of competing to cooperate.  Each self desires to cooperate, because those who cooperate take the greater risks and enjoy the greater benefits.  Each self desires to be among other selves.  Each self has its own original selfishness.  Every game and every social circle has rules, established by tradition.

Figure 14

We compete to belong to and to flourish within social circles.  We compete to cooperate. 


Looking at Daryl Domning’s Book (2006) “Original Selfishness” (Part 13 of 16)

0079 Domning is on target, even while completely missing his intended endpoint.  Evolution is red in tooth and claw.  Evolution is also the most economic means to an end, the glory of God, in the abundance and diversity of life on Earth.  One cannot pick and choose.  God creates the world.  God calls it “good”.

But, one can misread the creativity of natural selection, by insisting that all niches are potentials of material things.  There is one niche that is the potential of an immaterial thing, the triadic relation.  That is the human niche.

When I consider this unique niche, then the evolution of concupiscence (D’) produces a definition that inverts the traditional theological term.

0080 There is a reason for this inversion of meaning.

These alternative definitions apply to the Lebenswelt that we evolved in.

Here is a list.

Figure 20

0081 What does this imply?

The traditional definitions apply to our current Lebenswelt.

Here is a list.

Figure 21

0082 The alternate definitions describe original justice.

The traditional definitions describe original sin.

0083 What else does this imply?

Our current Lebenswelt is not the same as the Lebenswelt that we evolved in.


Looking at Daryl Domning’s Book (2006) “Original Selfishness” (Part 16 of 16)

0097 Original sin is the absence of original justice.

That is what Saint Thomas Aquinas claims.

The association between original justice, the state of Adam before the Fall, and the Lebenswelt that we evolved in is developed in Comments on Daniel Houck’s Book (2020) “Aquinas, Original Sin and the Challenge of Evolution”.

0098 This examination of Daryl Domning’s book adds depth to that commentary.

By separating the universal (descent from common ancestor) and moral (the traditional definition of concupiscence) realities of original sin, Domning offers me a path to discover one of features of the Lebenswelt that we evolved in, as well as one of the features of our current Lebenswelt.

0099 What games we play with words.

My thanks to Daryl Domning and Monica Hellwig for their speculative effort, trying to reconcile evolutionary science and Christian doctrine.  Original Selfishness: Original Sin and Evil in Light of Evolution is first published in 2006 by Ashgate.  My copy is published in 2016 by Routledge.  The first edition in paperback is issued in 2021.  ISBN is 978-1-03-224358-0.


Looking at John Walton’s Book (2015) “The Lost World of Adam and Eve” (Part 3 of 22)

0018 What is proposition two?

In the ancient Near East and in the Old Testament, the Hebrew terms for “creating” (bara) and making (asa) applies to establishing order by assigning roles and functions.

0019 In the modern world, “creating” and “making” concern material production of things, irrespective of roles and functions.  Of course, moderns have the luxury of centuries of research into the material sciences.  Modern science follows the dictates of the Positivist’s judgment, which includes the empirio-schematic judgment.

The Positivists take the plain-speaking approach out of the reformed churches and into the natural sciences.  Mathematical and mechanical models eschew formal and final causalities (the stuff of roles and functions) and extol material and instrumental causalities (the stuff that one can explicitly abstract and specify).

0020 The empirio-schematic judgement does not apply to the old Hebrew terms.  Therefore, the Positivists declare, “Genesis is not scientific.”

Walton tries to respond, “But, that is not the point of Genesis.”

Then, the Positivists persist, “Then, are you saying that Genesis is esoteric knowledge?  If so, then plain-speaking interpretations of Genesis are not possible.”

0021 The Positivists, the heirs of the mechanical philosophers, place Walton in a difficult position.  Walton belongs to a plain-speaking tradition.  Positivists say that the only way to speak plainly, is to speak scientifically.

Walton replies, “Okay, let us look at the other appearances of the key words of Genesis 1, bara and asa, and fashion a scientific interpretation.”

0022 The results?

Bara means to create things with roles and functions.

Asa means to make things with roles and functions.

The ancients focus, not on material phenomenal reality, but on things themselves.

Here is a plain-speaking result that appeals to the science-minded.

0023 I would like to associate bara and asa to Aristotle’s hylomorphe, portrayed as an exemplar of Peirce’s category of secondness.  Like the Latin term, esse, being as existent, bara associates to being [substantiates].  Like the Latin term, essence, asa associates to [substantiating] form.

I write esse as esse_ce, the complement of essence.

In the following figure, I portray the Hebrew terms.

Figure 03

0024 In sum, key Hebrew terms in Genesis associate to later Greek philosophical insights.  Esse_ce (the fact that it exists) and essence (the fact that it has form) belong to the noumenon.  The noumenon stands outside the empirio-schematic natural sciences.  So, the noumenon is derided as “esoteric”.  Yet, the noumenon, described as a hylomorphe, is the gateway to natural philosophy.