Looking at Michael Tomasello’s Book (2008) “Origins of Human Communication” (Part 1 of 12)

0083 In 2008 AD, Michael Tomasello, then co-director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, publishes the work before me (MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts).

This book is the second marker in Tomasello’s intellectual journey.  I start following his journey with Looking at Michael Tomasello’s Book (1999) “The Cultural Origins of Human Cognition” (appearing in Razie Mah’s January 2024 blog).  That is the first marker.

0084 The second marker starts as an academic presentation in 2006.  His Jean Nicod Lectures, in Paris, concerns his work on great ape gestural communication, human infant gestural communication and human children’s language development.  These lectures attempt to construct one coherent account of the evolution of hominin communication.

Oh, that terminology.  Where Tomasello inscribes, “human”, I say, “hominin”.

0085 From my examination at the first marker, I already have a guess about Tomasello’s vision.

Here is a picture.

0086 Note that the titles of the levels have changed.

Also note that human ontogeny2c or models of child development currently built by psychologists2c, associates to phenotypes and genetics.  Joint attention2a or models in evolutionary psychology concerning hominin cognition2a,associates to adaptations and natural history.

0087 Tomasello uses the word, “origins”, in his title.  Does this suppose that human communication may be regarded as a phenotypic trait or as an adaptation?  Or maybe, the conjunction is “and”.

In the above figure, I get the idea that the phenotype virtually contextualizes the adaptation.  But, that is not really the case.  The phenotype2b virtually situates a species’ or individual’s DNA2a.

Here is a diagram.

0088 Not surprisingly, this diagram in genetics has the same two-level relational structure as Darwin’s paradigm for natural history.

0089 What does this imply?

A mystery stands at the heart of evolutionary biology.

The adaptation is not the same as the phenotype.

Yet, together, they constitute a single actuality, which may be labeled a genus, a species or an individual.

Two category-based nested forms intersect in the realm of actuality.  It is like two streets that meet.  The intersection is constituted by both streets.  As far as traffic goes, intersections are sites of dangerous contradictions.  Traffic from one street should not collide with traffic from the other street.  I suppose that the intersection of adaptation and phenotypecarries irreconcilable contradictions as well.

0090 Perhaps, Tomasello’s vision may be resolved by considering both joint attention2a and human ontogeny2c as adaptations, even though the latter is technically, phenotypic.

I suggest this because selection is the normal context for all three levels in Tomasello’s vision.  Since natural selection goes with adaptation, the vision is one of natural history.

0091 That implies that the potentials for all three levels are like niches.

Human ontogeny2c is an adaptation that emerges from and situates the potential of human culture2b, where human culture2b is like an actuality independent of the adapting species of individuals undergoing development3c.

Human culture2b is like an adaptation that emerges from and situates the potential of joint attention2a, where joint attention2a is like an actuality independent of the adapting ways of doing things3b.

Joint attention2a is like an adaptation that emerges from and situates sociogenesis1a, where sociogenesis1a is the potential of… what?… I have run out of actualities independent of the adapting species.

0092 Here is where the foundational Tomasello-Mah synthesis enters the picture.

Ah, so here is a problem.

Tomasello’s vision of the origins of human communication conceals the actuality underlying sociogenesis1athe potential1a giving rise to joint attention2a.  The human niche is the potential of triadic relations.

0093 What about the subscripts in the preceding paragraph?

They belong to Tomasello’s vision.

0094 This subscript business can be confusing.

To me, the concealment in Tomasello’s vision is not necessarily a drawback.  Rather, it presents an opportunity to re-articulate Tomasello’s arc of inquiry using the category-based nested form and other triadic relations.

0095 In the prior series of blogs, examining a book published in 1999, I introduced an interscope for the way humans think that derives from work by medieval schoolmen, the so-called “scholastics” of the Latin Age.

Here is a picture of the scholastic version of how humans think, packaged as a three level interscope.


Looking at Michael Tomasello’s Book (2008) “Origins of Human Communication” (Part 12 of 12)

0176 Once again, here is Tomasello’s adjustment to the scholastic interscope.

Is this the [substance] of Tomasello’s research?

The exemplar sign is foregrounded.

A hominin perception2b (SVe) stands for a judgment2c (SOe) in regards to a common conceptual ground3c operating on the potential of ‘mutual expectations’1c (SIe).

0177 Here is the original scholastic interscope for how humans think.

The exemplar sign is foregrounded.

A species expressa2b (SVe) stands for a species intelligibilis2c (SOe) in regards to what makes sense3c operating on the potential of ‘contextualizing the situation’1c (SIe).

0178 With these two signs in juxtaposition, consider the three processes that Tomasello identifies as basic to the evolution of hominin cooperation: informing, requesting and sharing.

All three processes associate to the exemplar sign.

0179 So, chapter five invites a question, asking, “What are the conditions where exercising the exemplar sign increases reproductive success?”

The answer must be cooperative activities that increase reproductive success.

That is the topic of the next book in this series.

0180 But, before I leave this examination, I would like to return to prior expositions of the three steps of hominin evolution (points 0097 and 0132).

0181 The adaptations of joint attention and mutual intentionality associate to step one in the origins of hominin communication.

0182 The zeroth period stretches from the last common ancestor to the start of the Pliocene, where the first bipedal apesappear in the fossil record.  Bipedalism is an adaptation away from tropical forest and into mixed forest and savannah.  In these new conditions, collaborative foraging pays off.  As soon as cooperation in foraging activities increases reproductive success, the niche of sociogenesis opens up.  The team is the first social circle to benefit from joint attention and mutual intentionality.

The last common ancestor dates to around 7Myr (million of years ago).  The earliest bipedal apes appear around 4.2Myr.  So, I give an additional 0.7 million years for these walking creatures to start to realize that collaboration pays off.

0183 The first period nominally starts at 3.5Myr.  During the next 1.7 million years, natural selection explores the adaptive spaces generated by joint attention.  This includes the space for the evolution of hand talk within collaborating teams.  The Homo genus appears in the fossil record around 1.8Myr.  The expansion of the hominin neocortex is testimony to an increasing number of successful teams.  For each team tradition that increases reproductive success, subsequent adaptations routinize that success. More common grounds and styles of mutual intentionality are programmed into an expanding brain.   Each hominin team becomes better and better at what it does.

The second period begins around 0.8Myr. Homo erectus has already migrated out of Africa and into Eurasia.  The domestication of fire ensues. This is the beginning of the next phase, where hominin hand talk becomes fully linguistic.

0184 Even though Tomasello proposes a significantly different timeline, the following list expresses this examiner’s opinion of what Tomasello’s timeline should be.

The discrepancy between Tomasello’s proposed timeline and this examiner’s list needs to be accounted for.

0185 This commentary is not a substitute for Tomasello’s text.  It is a complement to his explorations.  Tomasello is an excellent, well-organized writer.  My examination may be scattered and disorganized, but it adds value by re-articulating his arguments in a semiotic framework.

The term, “semiotics”, does not appear in the index of Tomasello’s book.  But, that is not a drawback.  That is an opportunity for me, a semiotician, to demonstrate a deep correspondence between Tomasello’s arc of inquiry and Razie Mah’s masterwork, The Human Niche (available at smashwords and other e-book venues).

0186 Sociogenesis is the potential of triadic relations.


Looking at Daniel Dennett’s Book (2017) “From Bacteria To Bach and Back” (Part 1 of 20)

0001 Let me start with an admission.  In this particular examination, I am not myself.  I am someone who I am not.  I own a dog named, “Daisy”.

The book before me is by Daniel C. Dennett and is titled, “From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds”.  The book is published by W.W. Norton (New York, London).  The book wrestles with issues both philosophical and scientific.  How does our world come to be?  How do we come to be?

Who are we?  We are people with minds.  Minds intelligently design artifacts using tools of production and tools of the intellect.  The first tools are handy.  The second are… well… not exactly the same as “handy”.

0002 The hand grasps a tool then uses it to manipulate things.  The word, “prehensile” applies.  Our hands are full of prehensions.  We are aware of the heft and feel of material instruments.

The mind grasps an intellectual tool with its… um… brain.  Is there such a word as “comprehensile”?  How about the term, “comprehension”?  Once we become competent using an intellectual tool, we comprehend.  We become familiar with its heft and feel.

0003 The hand is unlike the appendages of other mammals.

For example, cats and dogs only have feet.  The cat uses its front feet as “paws”, in a manner similar to the way humans use their hands.  Not really, because the cat’s paws cannot hold anything.  The cat cannot pick up a tool.  May I say that the cat’s front paws are part of the feline toolkit?  Evolution builds tools right into the cat’s body.  Most mammals are fashioned this way.  Tools are part of their bodies.

0004 The mind serves as a metaphorical appendage, because it grasps ‘something’, and in doing so, may manipulate it.  The dog, whose practical toolkit includes feet and a formidable mouth, has an advantage over the cat, in this respect.  The dog’s mind grasps ‘something’ and, in doing so, manipulates humans into serving as the leader of its pack.

To me, the dog is testimony to the inhospitality of wolf “culture”, in general, and the inadequacy of wolf “leadership”, in particular.  Wolf pack-leaders often behave like aristocrats, always expecting deferential treatment.  They are often filled with paranoia and treachery.  Yet, their followers know that they need a leader.  Otherwise, there is no pack.  Without the pack, there is only death.

0005 Surely, a reasonable human would serve as a more hospitable leader, especially since humans know how to get food in surprising ways.  Humans give dogs food.  Until, of course, starvation fills the land.


Looking at Daniel Dennett’s Book (2017) “From Bacteria To Bach and Back” (Part 2 of 20)

0006 Unlike the cat, the dog has a tool of the intellect, whose application is so relevant that it fashions the ways that the species adapts into its niche.  This raises the question, “What is a niche?”

0007 First, an aside.  The interscope for the Darwinian paradigm is developed in Comments on Dennis Venema and Scot McKnight’s Book (2017) Adam and the Genome and is represented in other e-books and blogs by Razie Mah.  The two-level interscope is presented in A Primer on Sensible and Social Construction, available at smashwords and other e-book venues.

0008 Second, an answer to the question.

A niche is the (situation-level) potential1b of a (content-level) actuality that is independent of the adapting species2a.  As such, the niche1b underlies the actuality of adaptation2b in the normal context of natural selection3b.  Here is a picture.

0009 On the situation level, the normal context of natural selection3b brings the actuality of an adaptation2b into relation with its niche1b, which is the potential1b of an actuality independent of the adapting species2a.

As mentioned earlier, the dog has a tool of the intellect and this tool must be an adaptation2b.  What is the dog’s niche1b?  It must be us, humans, of course.  We are the actuality independent of the adapting species2a.  When we look at the dog’s adaptations2b from our point of view, we call the result, “domestication”.  The dog finds a pack in the human household.

0010 Of course, the dog’s domestication is a recent process.  

How did it happen?

Certain wolves, empowered by humans, learn to identify the human as a candidate for a pack leader.  Surely, humans are more… um… humane, depending on how one defines the word, “humane”.  When a dog is treated like a member of the family, more or less, its descent from wolves serves it well, since a wolf knows that it belongs to a pack.  A lone wolf is unlikely to survive on its own.  Dogs know this and therefore, accept the leash.

0011 I wonder whether Dennett would call the dog’s affection for its new-found pack leader “an evolved user illusion”.  Whatever label one wants to apply, the dog’s affection serves as a conviction, or rather, a judgment.  A judgment is a triadic relation with three elements: relation, what is and what ought to be.  A relation (in the dog’s being) brings what is(a human, especially when it provides food and family) into relation to what ought to be (a pack leader for the domesticate).

The dog signifies its joy, as well as its distress, through its tail.

What a tale the dog’s tail tells!

0012 No matter what the content-level normal context3a or potential1a, the dog’s tail specifies its consciousness of whether its gambit2b is working.

But, with that said, I seem to have entered a different paradigm.  This paradigm belongs to old-fashioned Latin schoolmen, called “scholastics”, who prospered between say, 800 to 1700 AD, from the very end of the Roman empire to the start of the modern era.

0013 If I say that the canine’s tail tells me something about what is going on in the dog’s mind, irrespective of what is happening3a and the potential of ‘something’ happening’1a, then I may conclude whether the dog is happy or not2b, by situating a dog’s tail action1b in the normal context of what it means to me3b.  

The specifying sign is a triadic relation where a sign-vehicle (SV) stands for a sign-object (SO) in regards to a sign-interpretant (SI).

My dog’s tail action2a (SVs) is the sign-vehicle for a specificative sign-relation.

The happiness or unhappiness of my dog2b is the sign-object (SOs).

What it means to me3b and the potential of ‘situating content1b is the specifying sign’s interpretant (SIs).

If my dog wags its tail (SVs), then I know that my dog is happy (SOs).

If my dog tucks its tail between its back legs (SVs), then I know that my dog is not happy (SOs).

0014 I wonder whether one dog notices the tail-action of other dogs.  After all, for all dogs, only content and situation levels matter.  So, I suppose that they do.  The tail-wagging and tail-tucking business may have been enhanced because humans are receptive to such signals.

0015 Would Dennett call a dog’s tail action a “meme”?

I suspect that he would.

0016 Meanwhile, premodern scholastics call the above two-level interscope, “specificative extrinsic formal causality”.  I call it “a specifying sign”.

Tail-action2a is the sign-vehicle (SVs).  My dog’s apparent attitude2b is the sign-object (SOs).  The normal context of what it means to me3b, operating on the potential of ‘situating content’1b is the sign-interpretant (SIs).  The subscript stands for “specifying”.

The sign-relation is discussed in detail in Razie Mah’s blog for November 2023, Looking at John Deely’s Book (2010) Semiotic Animal, as well as A Primer on Natural Signs and related e-articles available for sale at smashwords and other e-book venues.


Looking at Daniel Dennett’s Book (2017) “From Bacteria To Bach and Back” (Part 3 of 20)

0017 Evolution is the path that leads the reader from the earliest form of life, bacteria, to one of the West’s best musical designers, Johann Sebastian Bach.

Is that what Dennett claims?

If so, then the preceding blog offers an interesting comparison.

I wonder, can the specifying sign serve as an analogy for Darwin’s paradigm?

What about the other way around?

0018 Here is picture of the two-level interscope for the Darwinian paradigm.

Here is a picture of the two-level interscope containing the specificative sign of a dog’s tail action.

0019 Darwin’s paradigm and the specifying sign have a similar category-based structure.

So, may they serve as analogies for one another?

0020 If Darwin’s paradigm serves as a metaphor for the specifying sign, then my dog’s tail action2a is like an actuality independent of the adapting species2a.  My dog’s tail action2a harbors a potential that may be exploited or avoided1b.  Of course, the word, “niche”, seems a little awkward in this instance.  A clever fellow, named Gibson, comes up with a good substitute.  Gibson labels the potential with the term, “affordance1b“.

The dog’s tail2a provides an advantage to the human, that is, an “affordance1b“.  The dog’s tail might also offer a disadvantage, which is also an “affordance”.  Gibson’s term is ambiguous in this regard.  Nevertheless, “affordance1b” suggests that the adapting species exploits the opportunity or avoids the danger.

0021 So, what on earth is the adapting species in this example?

It must belong to me, since my situation-level normal context, what the dog’s tail means to me3bis like an episode of natural selection3b.

Dennett raises a very interesting option.  Maybe, evolution is going on in my head.

Maybe, the neural networks in my head are products of Darwin’s paradigm working on neural synapses.

According to Darwin, natural selection3b is a mindless proclivity to survive (or not survive) in the face of an affordance.  For neurons, “survival” concerns participation in a neural network that serves to exploit or avoid an affordance.

For example, neurons in the cerebellum coordinate signals for fine-tuned motions.  They are in business as long as the appendage or musculature that they are involved with is present and working.  Neurons in the neocortex tend to be more enterprising.  These cells are busy creating new synapses with other neurons.  They network, so to speak.  They fish for business… er… affordances.  The selection process is guided by… shall I say… the best of all possible affordances1b: an answer2b to the question of what the dog’s tail action2a means to me3b.

Yes, I want to be Candide, in this regard.

0022 This leaves the specifying sign-object2b (SOs) as analogous to an adaptation2b.

Isn’t that curious?

If Darwin’s paradigm serves as a metaphor for the specifying sign, then the inquirer may visualize a hypothesis concerning how the brain operates.  The actuality independent of the adapting species2a is my dog’s tail action.  The adaptation2b is a circuit built from synapses (along with their entrepreneurial neurons) that somehow conveys the mental perception that my dog is either happy or upset2b.  

This particular instance of natural selection is a variation of Darwin’s paradigm, because synapses are entities that either survive or don’t survive and neocortical neurons are long-lived prospectors that make (or cut loose) synapses in order to stay in business.  The synapses are selected for or against.  The neurons breed synapses.  The neurons select for synapses that participate in sign-processing networks.

0023 Here is a revised picture for a dog’s tail as a specifying sign.

0024 Perhaps, the analogy works, but the adapting species3b is not so clear.  Is it the synapse, the neuron or the local network?  Or maybe, it is all three, with the synapse similar to a member of a species, the neuron similar to a breeder of the species, and local networks serving as a motivation for why a neuron breeds synapses.

Plus, what is the affordance1b in this instance?

0025 On top of that, what about memes?

My dog’s tail action may be labeled a “meme“.

Dennett associates memes to affordances.  And here, one affordance is clear.  The meme survives because it satisfies a particular specifying sign.  Perhaps, all that a researcher needs to do is look for specifying signs that have survived for a long time in order to formulate hypotheses on the ways that memes survive.

Does that sound like circular logic?

0026 To me, here is one affordance1b.  If a dog’s tail-action is an index of its attitude, then that is an advantage to me, because it makes my dog’s behavior comprehensible.

With this adaptation2b at hand, er… in mind, Daisy, my dog, becomes reasonable, as long as she stays on her leash.


Looking at Daniel Dennett’s Book (2017) “From Bacteria To Bach and Back” (Part 4 of 20)

0027 What about the other way around?

What if the specifying sign-relation is analogous to Darwin’s paradigm?

Well, let me just transfer the sign-labels from one to the other.

0028 Gibson’s term, “affordance”1b, replaces “niche”1b, as the potential of the specifying actuality2a.

To me, “affordance”1b suggests an immediate potential, which I associate to a proximate niche.  An affordance is like money in one’s pocket.  That is always good and should be sought after.  An affordance is like owing someone who wants to be paid.  That is always bad and should be avoided.

0029 So, what are biologists doing when they “reverse engineer” an apparent adaptation in order to explain it?

They start with something like a specifying sign-object2b and end up with something like a specifying sign-vehicle2a.  They reverse engineer something that is analogous to a specifying sign.  A specifying sign-interpretant (natural selection3band affordance1b) designs a sign-object (an adaptation2b) in regards to a sign-vehicle (an actuality independent of the adapting species2a).

The result?

An actuality independent of the adapting species2a (SVs) stands for an adaptation2b (SOs) in regards to natural selection3b operating on an afforance1b (SIs).

0030 If Darwin’s paradigm is like a specifying sign, then biologists work from something like a sign-object towards something like a sign-vehicle.

0031 The term, “design”, is a point of contention.

Replace the word, “adaptation2b” with the term, “designed product2b“.

For an engineer, the normal context is design3b.  Aristotle’s causes are material, instrumental, final and formal.  Design is a formal cause.  Note how all four of Aristotle’s causes come into play in the following figure.

For a biologist, the normal context is natural selection3b, the actuality is an adaptation2b and the potential is labeled “niche”1b.

For a philosopher or an engineer, the normal context is design3b, the actuality is a developed product2b, and the potential is labeled “afforadance”1b.

0032 In the final chapter of Dennett’s book, the author asks the question, “When will experts start using natural selection3b as one of their tools for designing3b in their various enterprises?”

What a wonderful question.

I think the answer has something to do with arrangements for payment1b.

Exactly who are engineers working for?

God or mammon?


Looking at Daniel Dennett’s Book (2017) “From Bacteria To Bach and Back” (Part 5 of 20)

0033 Where does this notion of specificative extrinsic formal causality come from?

Comments on John Deely’s Book (1994) New Beginnings is a good place to start.

The specifying sign is embedded in a formula for sensible construction, arrived at by Latin schoolmen during the later Middle Ages.

Obviously, the scholastics did not know that.  The discovery of the triadic nature of the sign-relation comes towards the end of centuries of philosophical inquiry and debate (say nothing of political intrigue), during a period labeled, “Baroque scholasticism”.  Baroque scholars witness the end of the Latin Age at the same time that mechanical philosophers usher in the beginning of the Age of Ideas (that is, the modern period).  This terminology comes from John Deely (1942-2017 AD) and appears in his massive tome, The Four Ages (2001).  The four ages are the Greek Age, the Latin Age, the Age of Ideasand the forthcoming Age of Triadic Relations.

0034 The category-based nested form comes in handy when portraying sensible construction.  Here is a picture for how humans think.

0035 There are several items to note.

First, the actualities are Latin terms.  “Species” (say it with an Italian accent, with lots of cheese) means “type of”.  “Impressa” means impression or sensation or feeling.  “Expressa” means perception or phantasm or emotional reaction.

Second, the situation level emerges from (and virtually situates) the content level.  The vertical elements are nested.  Species expressa2b virtually situates species impressa1a.  The qualifier, “virtual”, means “in virtue”, for the mind, and “in simulation”, for the brain.

Third, Aristotle’s four causes allow me to appreciate normal context3 and potential1.  The four causes allow me to comprehend an actuality2.  Material, instrumental, final and formal causes elucidate a category-based form that incorporates the actuality at hand.

0036 Say what?

At the start of chapter three in Dennett’s book, titled “On the Origins of Reasons”, the author lists Aristotle’s four causes.  Two of the four causes are familiar to scientists.  These are the material and efficient (or instrumental) causes.  The other two causes are ruled out by the positivist intellect.  These are formal and final causes.  Today, formal and final causalities are not regarded as “scientific” at all.

0037 What does this imply?

Without all of Aristotle’s four causes, only actualities are relevant.  The normal contexts and potentials cannot be considered, much less appreciated.  A species impressa2a and a species expressa2b constitute a manifest image of sensible construction.  The following figure is the corresponding scientific image.

0038 Well, there goes the whole discussion on how Darwin’s paradigm and the specifying sign may be analogies of one another.

Indeed, there goes the specifying sign, along with comprehension.

0039 The scientific picture only allows for material and instrumental causation.

Yet, we cannot comprehend any actuality without final and formal causation.

What can we do if we cannot comprehend?

We can assess competence.

0040 We can measure phenomena of perceptions in response to particular sensations.

How does a human brain come to recognize that the dog is happy because it wags its tail?

Can I fashion a mechanical or mathematical model, using a disciplinary language, describing neurons selecting for synapses which either exploit or avoid an affordance?

How does one build a model on observations and measurements of species impressa1b and species expressa2b?

One scientific model would be like a giant betting parlor filled with neocortical neurons, where each successful bet raises the stakes.  A perception, a species expressa2b, is like a winner2b, in this regard.  A phantasm2b depends on the survival and demise of synapses, so the qualia of the species impressa2a (those impressions, sensations and feelings) constitute the “winnings’ that perception2b rakes in (and must use to bet again).

0041 In many respects, the survival and demise of synapses1b corresponds to what psychologists might call “priming” or “training”.  Neurons perform natural selection3b on synapses2b.  The result is not comprehension.  The result is competence.

My brain’s reading of my dog’s attitude2bmy species expressa2b, turns into an example of competence, stimulated by observations of my dog’s tail2a.  My brain is competent at conjuring a phantasm2b that seems, upon subsequent reflection, to be perfectly sensible.

0042 My brain’s competence even extends to Daisy’s reaction to the neighbor’s cat.

Here is a diagram.

0043 At this juncture, I feel that I am on the verge of slipping from my brain to my mind.

Oh, I meant to say, “the user-illusion of my brain”.

0044 The first aspect of the slippage goes with chapter eight, titled “Brains Made of Brains”, more or less applying the Darwinian paradigm as a metaphor for the specifying sign.  Neurons3b selectively breed synapses1b in order to participate in adaptive neural networks2b.

0046 The second part of the slippage starts with chapter three, titled “The Origin of Reason”, and concerns the fact that, on the occasion of my reactionary dog encountering the neighbor’s revolutionary cat, the process of natural selection3b of neural synapses3b, provides me with a phantasm2b, a manifest image2ba species expressa2b, that avoids the affordance1bimplied by my dog’s tail action2a.  I pull Daisy back on her leash in order to prevent her from engaging in an impetuous action.

Yes, my brain provides its user with an illusion.  The phantasm2b that occupies my mind is a solution to a challenge similar to the Turing test.  The Turning test asks a question, “Can a human observer distinguish whether an action or behavior is in virtue or in simulation?”  If the answer is no, then the action passes the test.  My phantasm2b is a human thought that passes Turing’s test. It has the virtue of being human. But, that does not mean that I created my phantasm.

0047 No, a specific application of the Darwinian paradigm “designed” my phantasm2b.

I do not comprehend how I obtain the phantasm2b in my mind, because it has been designed without a designer.  It has been conjured by an evolutionary process.

Even more, the phantasm in my mind swarms with formal and final causalities, which cannot be recognized by a positivist intellect, er, I mean to say… a scientist.

The positivist intellect has a rule.

Metaphysics is not permitted.


Looking at Daniel Dennett’s Book (2017) “From Bacteria To Bach and Back” (Part 6 of 20)

0048 In science, metaphysics is not allowed.

Yet, Aristotle’s four causes allow comprehension, because they step out of the physics of material and instrumental causalities, even as they include them.  Comprehension wraps actuality2 with a normal context3 and a potential1.  The resulting category-based nested form entangles actuality, even as it transcends actuality.

Are triadic relations real?

Are they real enough to provide the ultimate human niche?

0049 Surely, the similarity between the relational structure of Darwin’s paradigm and the specifying sign is unsettling. Dennett writes this similarity out of his many scenarios.  Why?  The similarity stinks of metaphysics.

0050 Say what?

The absence and the presence of metaphysics is on display when comparing the content-level of the Darwinian paradigmand the content level of the human mind, as depicted by those medieval Aristotelian scholastics. 

0051 For the Darwinian paradigm, metaphysics is not allowed.

There is no content-level normal context3a and potential1a.

Biologists do not worry about comprehending the actuality independent of the adapting species2a.  All they worry about is the potential of the actuality2a in defining a niche1b.

0052 For the scholastic picture of the way humans think, metaphysics is allowed.


Signs cannot be understood without metaphysics (that is, final and formal causation).

The species impressa2a is the sign-vehicle of the specifying sign (SVs), regardless of what is happening3a and the potential of ‘something happening’1a.  Yet, the specifying sign-vehicle2a becomes affordance-rich when the content-level normal context3a and potential1a are available.  The normal context3a associates to formal causation.  The potential1aassociates to final causation.  Without a content-level normal context3a and potential1asituating an impression1b becomes difficult and prone to error.  The impression2a becomes less comprehensible.

0053 When I take my dog on a walk and the beast suddenly puts her tail between her legs (SVs) , I know that she is upset (SOs).  That is the specifying sign-relation in action.

When she does so when encountering the neighbor’s cat, I see the cat as well.  The cat triggers a species impressa2a.  She has prehensile paws that may claw my dog’s nose.

In this instance, what is going on in my brain is more like the selective breeding of synapses, because the actuality independent of the adapting synapses2a… er… the species impressa2a presents within a non-empty normal context3a and potential1a.

0054 On other occasions, I do not know what is happening3a nor what possibilities are raised1a when her tail goes between her hind legs2a.  

In these instances, what is going on in my brain is more like a wide-open exercise in synaptic selection.  No phantasm seems adaptive until an affordance becomes obvious.

0055 My conclusion?

species impressa2a, an impression2a, a sensation2a or a feeling2a marks a human encounter with a thing or event.

If the content-level species impressa2a is embedded in the normal context of what is happening3a and the potential of ‘something’ happening1a, then the affordance1b is obvious and neuron-facilitated synapse selection3b produces a familiar species expressa2a through a Darwinian process similar to selective breeding1b.  Selective breeding of synapses1bcorresponds to rote learning.  That is, competence without comprehension.

If the content-level species impressa2a does not occur in the normal context of what is happening3a and if the potential of ‘something’ happening1a is not apparent, then affordance1b is not obvious and neuron-facilitated synapse selection3b will not produce a stable species expressa2b unless an affordance1b becomes obvious or another process (besides sensible construction) is initiated at a level higher than the situation level.

0056 I know what is happening3a when Daisy encounters the neighbor’s cat on our morning walk.  I worry that the cat’s fast moving paws may make mince-meat out of my dog’s precious snout.  So, I pull on the leash, in order to avoid confrontation.  That is my example of the selective-breeding of neural synapses.

At the same time, I wonder about other options.  Such wondering introduces an affordance that is not so obvious. Consequently, I have the user-experience of a phantasm2b that is odd and constantly in need of revision.  Do I call this option, “incompetence without comprehension”?  Or “temptation without a devil”?


Looking at Daniel Dennett’s Book (2017) “From Bacteria To Bach and Back” (Part 7 of 20)

0057 The preceding blog brings me to an unappreciated, almost subliminal, theme in Dennett’s book.  Dennett strives to defend scientific rationalism as opposed to… well… my blather about specificative extrinsic formal causality.  Phantasm2band manifest images2b are the stuff of opinions.  They2b merely situate content.  Even though they2b appear to concern reality, they2b are really user-end illusions, like the meanings of spoken words or the interfaces of mobile-phone applications.  They2b are the products of both evolutionary paradigms and explicit abstraction.  Evolutionary paradigms contribute to design in one way.  Explicit abstraction contributes to design in another way.

0058 Here is a picture of terms that apply to actualities in a two-level interscope.

0059 It makes me wonder about that word, “design”.

Is “design” an attribute of the manifest image2b that dwells in the user-end illusion that I call “my mind”?

Or does “design” apply to the neural networks2b that result from neurons3b naturally selecting for synapses1b?

Is my user-end illusion best described as a little homunculus capable of planning and carrying out those plans orcompetence without comprehension?

0060 Or, do these questions pose a false dichotomy?

Are my neurons like selective breeders of synapses?  Do synapses flourish when plugged into a neural network?  Do neurons and synapses serve as the material and instrumental support for an immaterial phantasm?  I suppose so.  Neurons are long-lived compared to synapses.  So, they may support selection through producing and sustaining synapses. Neurons are entrepreneurs who often outlive one particular business (neural network) and end up participating in another.  The pattern of synapses established by a neuron2b may be regarded as an adaptation2b.

0061 For classical biological evolution, natural selection operates on individuals within a species.  Each individual is on its own.

For the evolution that Dennett is interested in, synapses are not like individuals.  They are like toolkits, designed for neurons to network with other neurons.

0062 Okay, then let me take that to the next level.

I wonder whether the relation between human culture and our species expressa2b, have the same evolutionary configuration.  So, human culture reproduces neuronal natural selection3b and a meme2a, a species impressa2a,reproduces the role of the synapse.  After all, humans are long-lived compared to memes.  Memes are not individuals.  They are like toolkits, designed for humans to network with other humans.

Instead of “neural evolution”, Dennett proposes the label “cultural evolution”.

0063 This brings me back to the manifest image, produced mechanically and instrumentally by neuron-driven evolution,and, perhaps, mechanically and instrumentally producing cultural evolution.

Am I like a neuron of cultural evolution?

Think about it.

0064 Thank God that Daisy has not figured out that option.

The logic of this exposition would have Daisy as a short-lived synapse-like being held on a leash by a long-lived neuron-like master.

0065 What an incredible manifest image!   What portraits of neuronal and cultural Darwinian paradigms are on display in Dennett’s book.  Metaphysics-laden manifest images accord with the author’s physics-laden scientific images… er… models of biological and social phenomena.  Yet, Dennett does not clearly envision the accordance.

0066 Why?

Dennett’s work contains a subliminal, or maybe… a sublime, defense of the scientific worldview.

A versatile and productive diagram for the scientific enterprise is developed in Comments on Jacques Maritain’s Book (1935) Natural Philosophy, by Razie Mah, available at smashwords and other e-book venues.


Looking at Daniel Dennett’s Book (2017) “From Bacteria To Bach and Back” (Part 8 of 20)

0067 The year, 1935 AD, stands in the interim between the “First World War” and the “Second World War”.

Remember, these terms are modern labels for two brief historical periods.

Jacques Maritain publishes his book in the interim.  He lives in France, where Christendom faces an apparently mortal enemy: Modernity.

0068 Modernity has modern science in its arsenal.  Christendom has… um… a newly revived Thomism, apparently ill-suited for the intellectual fashions coming from allegedly “scientific” movements, such as Darwinism, Marxism, Saussure’s linguistics, Husserl’s phenomenology, quantum physics, and so on.  Catholic intellectuals in Paris, a former epicenter of medieval scholasticism, ask, “What is the nature of science?”

Maritain’s answer may be diagrammed according to the triadic structure of judgment.  A judgment contains three interlocking elements: relationwhat is and what ought to be.  A judgment is a relation between what is and what ought to be.  When each element is assigned one of Peirce’s categories, then the judgment becomes actionable.  Actionable judgments unfold into category-based nested forms.

0069 Here is a picture of the Positivist’s judgment.

0070 A positivist intellect (relation) brings a noumenon […and…] its phenomena (what is) into relation with an empirio-schematic judgment (what ought to be).

0071 Note that two judgments are entangled.  The empirio-schematic judgment is embedded within the Positivist’s judgment.  The empirio-schematic judgment is what ought to be.  It is also imbued with the category of secondness, the realm of actuality.  To the scientist, a model is more real than its supporting observations and measurements.  How so?  One may make predictions about future observations and measurements based on the model.

0072 Also note that what is has a hylomorphic structure, even though it belongs to the category of firstness, the realm of possibility.  Aristotle presents an exemplary hylomorphe: matter [substantiates] form.  This hylomorphe fits Peirce’s category of secondness.  Secondness consists in two real contiguous elements.  For Aristotle’s hylomorphe, the real elements are matter and form.  The contiguity is labeled “substance”.  For clear nomenclature, I place the contiguity in brackets.

In the above figure, the substance labeled “…and…” is far more complicated than it appears.  The full hylomorphe is a noumenon [cannot be objectified as] its phenomena.  […And…] is short for […cannot be objectified as…].

Perhaps, it will be no surprise that the noumenon associates to Dennett’s term, “manifest image”.

0073 Dennett’s scientific image is located in what ought to be for the Positivist’s judgment.  Here is a picture of the empirio-schematic judgment.

0074 How do diagrams of the Positivist’s and empirio-schematic judgment illuminate Dennett’s subliminal… or is it sublime?… defense of the Positivist’s judgment?

To start, I wonder, “What elements associate to the manifest image and to the scientific image?”

Well, obviously, the manifest image and the noumenon go together.

The scientific image matches mathematical and mechanical models.

0075 Here is a result of the substitutions.

0076 Ah, the manifest image is already proscribed by the rule of the positivist intellect.  The manifest image is not the thing itself.  It is a sensation2a, a phantasm2b or a judgment2c concerning the thing itself.  The manifest image calls to mind the actualities within the scholastic interscope about what is going on in an individual’s mind.

Plus, the scientific image is constructed from observations of phenomena that cannot fully objectify the manifest image… er… our mind’s response to a noumenon, a thing itself.

0077 Here is a comparison of what is for the standard version and for the adjusted version of the Positivist’s judgment.

0078 What does this imply?

Dennett’s defense of the Positivist’s judgment is neither subliminal nor sublime.  It is subtle, in precisely the way that philosophers employ subtlety.  The fact that the phenomena of neural synapses and (I will get to this later) cultural memessupport the manifest image as a multifaceted evolutionary adaptation (that may be modeled using neuronal and cultural Darwinian paradigms) implies that the manifest image may be dispensed with, because it is an user-illusion of the scientific image.

Does this tell me that the noumenon, the thing itself, is what humans are conscious of?

Or is the noumenon what humans adapt to according to neuronal and cultural Darwinian paradigms?

0079 My user-illusion is an adaptation, as substantial as a dog’s fierce jaws and a cat’s sharp claws.  It cannot be dispensed with, lest I die.

In the face of subtle distinctions between the noumenon and the manifest image and between the manifest image and the scientific image, the betting man would place his money on the manifest image, as that which will endure… er… survive, rather than the scientific image.  Dennett argues against this bet, but he cannot speak directly, because his scientific discussion supports the betting man’s conclusion.

0080 If our consciousness of species impressa2a and species expressa2b is an adaptation, then how is the proposed scientific accounting of our impressions2a and perceptions2b supposed to make them more adaptive?  And if Dennett’s argument succeeds, and a scientific image based on Darwin’s paradigm overlays our feelings2a and phantasms2b, then what about what humans think?

0081 The long-debated scholastic picture of the way humans think cannot be lightly discarded.

Only a subtle argument will suffice.