Looking at Michael Tomasello’s Book (2014) “A Natural History of Human Thinking” (Part 22 of 22)

0383 Chapter five is titled “Human Thinking as Cooperation”.

Tomasello considers other theories of human cognitive evolution (but not including Razie Mah’s masterwork, The Human Niche, available at smashwords and other e-book venues).

He draws four general propositions.

0384 One, for the era of individual intentionality, competition with groupmates leads to sophisticated forms of primate social and practical cognition, characteristic of great apes.

Two, for the era of joint intentionality, obligate collaborative foraging favors the evolution of new forms of hominin social coordination and thinking, without (what a modern anthropologist would label) culture.

Three, for the era of collective intentionality, intergroup competition, exploration of novel ecologies and environments, and larger group size favors the evolution of conventionalized culture.

Fourth, in regards to whatever may be missing in the first, second and third points, culture accumulates and allows specializations that cultivate a wide variety of cognitive skills and types of thinking.

0385 This examination demonstrates that each of these four general propositions coheres with the hypothesis contained in The Human Niche.

This may not be a surprise, since Razie Mah’s masterwork summarizes commentaries on four works in evolutionary anthropology, published within the past three decades.

0386 Here is a list of the four commentaries.

Comments on Steven Mithen’s Book (1996) The Prehistory of The Mind

Comments on Clive Gamble, John Gowlett and Robin Dunbar’s Book (2014) Thinking Big

Comments on Derek Bickerton’s Book (2014) More Than Nature Needs

Comments on Robert Berwick and Noam Chomsky’s Book (2016) Why Only Us?

0387 Along with A Primer on Natural Signs and the masterwork, The Human Niche, these four commentaries constitute A Course on The Human Niche, available at smashwords and other e-book venues.

0388 But, that is not all.

This examination of Tomasello’s arc of inquiry continues.


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 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 16 of 20)

0157 Now that I have arrived at a technical definition of the term, “meme”, within the framework of postmodern scholasticism, I may examine chapter nine of Dennett’s book (“The Role of Words in Cultural Evolution”) and chapter twelve (“The Origins of Language”).

0158 Dennett’s argument goes like this.

Words are a key ingredients to culture, because they belong to language.  Spoken words make excellent examples of memes.  Spoken words are like viruses.

But, I wonder, what about hand-talk words?

0159 Apparently, the idea that language evolves in the milieu of hand talk does not cross Dennett’s mind.  Indeed, many evolutionary biologists treat culture, in general, and language, in particular, as the actuality independent of the adapting species2a, rather than an adaptation2b.  Why?  They are convinced that humans have no ultimate niche, only a blend of proximate niches, all of which offer material or instrumental advantages or challenges.

0160 Au contraire.

According to the masterwork, The Human Niche (by Razie Mah, available at smashwords and other e-book venues), our lineage adapts to an ultimate niche1bthe potential1b of triadic relations2a, as well as diverse proximate niches, including various Pliocene and Pleistocene ecologies and environments.

Practical language2b is an adaptation to team activities and contributes to the expansion of the hominin neocortex between 2000kyr (thousands of years ago) and 800kyr.  Hand talk evolves from pantomime to rudimentary (team-specific) grammars.

General language2b is an adaptation that evolves within the milieu of hand talk, after the domestication of fire, around 800kyr (800 thousand years ago).  Hand talk evolves from rudimentary team-specific languages to fully grammatical general languages.

Here is a picture of the latter step.

0161 What is language in the milieu of hand talk?

Hand-talk consists of manual-brachial gestures.  Manual-brachial gestures work (that is, have the character of memes) because they picture or point to their referents.  In terms of semiotics, manual-brachial gestures are icons and indexes.

When these are routinized, symbolic processing starts to occur, enhancing the distinctiveness of each gesture, and turning each into a word-gesture in a system of differences.  The modern linguist, Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913 AD) defines “spoken language” as two arbitrarily related systems of differences, parole (speech) and langue (mental action).  A finite system of differences (for Saussure) is a symbolic order (for Peirce).  Grammar consists of operations within a symbolic order.

In hand talk, the relation between parole and langue is motivated by the natural sign characteristics of hand-talk words.  Manual-brachial gestures are icons and indexes. Gestures image and indicate their referents.  At the same time, hand talk also routinizes gestures into words.  Words operate as symbols.  They form a symbolic order.  A symbolic order allows grammar.  Grammar makes hand talk linguistic.

0162 Our ancestors never imagine that their gesture-words are icons, indexes or symbols.

Nevertheless, they become better and better at hand talk.

0163 How do manual-brachial word gestures fit the definition of meme?

A perspective-level actuality2c may be a conviction that cannot be explicitly expressed using iconic and indexal signs.  After all, how can a hand-talk word point to or picture a species impressa2a, a species expressa2b or a species intelligibilis2c?

Nevertheless, the conviction2c is real.  Plus, if the hypothesis proposed in The Human Niche is credible, and if the scholastic interscope for how humans think describes what it claims to describe, then conviction2c is an adaptation.

So, how do our ancestors express their convictions2c?

They express their convictions through hand-talk expressions2a (SOi) in the normal context of what is happening3a and with the potential of ‘something’ happening1a (SIi).

Then, the hand-talk words2a are linguistically decoded into an icon or index (SVs).

0167 Here is a picture of hand-talk as a meme.

0168 Before general language, the practical hand-talk languages of each team activity are distinct and only occur within the normal context of each team activity.  Many of the characteristics that we associate with spoken words remind me of how hand-talk languages adapt to the crucible of team activities.  

During the team activity, conviction2c judges whether the ongoing content-level normal context of what is happening3asupports the ongoing situation-level normal context of what this means to me3b.  This conviction2c (SVi) substantiates hand-talk words (SOi) that either maintain the situation-level potential1b in the face of content-level potentials1a or not.

0169 For example, we don’t gather mushrooms at locations where lions are known to prowl.  Plus, when a lion is nearby, everyone wants to get back to the band.  There are hand-talk words that convey these tidbits of semantic information.  We expect that our words refer to things and states of things.  We expect our words to be honest.  We insist that certain words are used appropriately.  We expect words to contribute to our awareness of the ongoing situation.  We expect words to convey, sometimes with comic zeal, what is happening and what it means to me.

0170 So, is there a problem with this scenario?

Have you noticed that no one talks with their hands anymore?

According to the masterwork, An Archaeology of the Fall (by Razie Mah, available at smashwords and other e-book venues), around 7800 years ago, the only culture on Earth practicing speech-alone talk is the Ubaid of southern Mesopotamia.  All other Epipaleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic cultures practice hand-speech talk.

0171 Why?

For one, speech is added to hand talk at the start of our species, before 200kyr.  Our human ancestors practice a dual mode of talking, hand-speech talk, for over 190 thousand years. Then, the first singularity occurs.  

For two, the first singularity starts with the Ubaid of southern Mesopotamia.  Today, all civilizations practice speech-alone talk.  In fact, every civilization throughout history practices speech-alone talk, raising the question, asking, “Did the adoption of speech-alone talk potentiate civilization?”

For three, the answer is yes.

0172 Here is a picture of speech-alone talk as a meme.

The difference between hand-talk words and speech-alone words may seem subtle.  Nevertheless, the difference is substantial.

0173 Hand-talk and hand-speech talk facilitate constrained social complexity.

Speech-alone talk potentiates unconstrained social complexity.


Looking at Glenn Diesen’s Book (2019) “The Decay … And Resurgence…”  (Part 2 of 21)

0007 Diesen builds his theory on two key terms, gemeinschaft and gesellschaft.  These terms are distinct.  These terms are separate.  Both terms rely on the capacity of speech-alone talk to apply labels.

These terms cannot exist in the world of hand-speech talk.  What is there to picture or point to in hand talk?  Oh, the most elder woman in the band can carry the rod of tradition.  The smartest young man in the band can carry the rod of complexity.  Okay, but how does hand talk image and indicate the qualifiers, “tradition” and “complexity”?  These terms cannot be articulated in hand talk, the semiotic foundation of hand-speech talk.

0008 So, what am I asking?

Does the distinction between these two terms precede the first singularity?  Is the distinction present before our current Lebenswelt?  How does the distinction express itself in the Lebenswelt that we evolved in?

0009 May I suggest that the distinction is built into the unity of hand-speech talk?  One language manifests in two modalities.  Here is way to appreciate hand-speech talk as it was most likely practiced by Homo sapiens before the first singularity.

Figure 01

0010 Hand talk pictures and points to its referents.  In this way, the relation between parole (gesture) and langue (mental processing of signification) is motivated by the semiotic qualities of icons and indexes.  Hand talk has been evolving since before the start of the Homo genus.  Hand talk becomes linguistic when the semiotic qualities of symbols start to operate beneath the surface of the iconicity and indexality of hand talk.  Language involves automatic symbolic sign processing.

Speech, in hand-speech talk, relies on the innate semiotic properties of hand talk. When speech talk is added to hand talk, it pairs with manual-brachial gestures as an adornment.  A sing-along, so to speak, which Neanderthals and Denisovans can appreciate but not perform well.  Slowly, but surely, since the advent of our species, speech talk becomes more and more independent of its manual-brachial counterpart. Spoken words start to take on a lives of their own, while remaining grounded in hand talk.  Consider the paleolithic art of the Lascaux caves and tell me that the artists were not singing as well as gesturing, as they spit paint upon the fat-lamp lit walls?

Speech does not replace hand talk.  Rather, the speech component of hand-speech talk expresses hand talk in a different register, conveying the situation in addition to word-content.  It adds a musical accompaniment.  It adds… how shall I say it?.. a variety of tones.

0011 The hand-talk component of hand-speech talk associates with content, tradition, and the physical presence of people in community. 

The speech-talk component of hand-speech talk associates with situation, adornment, and the relational presence of people in community.

0012 Consequently, certain ironies about our current Lebenswelt become obvious when I draw the following associations.

Figure 02

0012 At present, gesellschaft is called, “rational” and gemeinschaft is called, “irrational”.

Yet, as Diesen points out over and over again, whenever the rational orders the irrational without appreciation of the irrational, a civilization enters its autumn season.


Looking at Glenn Diesen’s Book (2019) “The Decay … And Resurgence…”  (Part 3 of 21)

0013 Already, the hypothesis of the first singularity enriches Diesen’s theory that civilization generates, maintains, distorts and loses balance between gemeinschaft and gesellschaft.  The distinction between hand talk and speech talk is built into the unity of hand-speech talk.  Distinction within a unity is natural to us. But, it is impossible to convey using speech-alone talk. Once both elements of a distinction are labeled, one has difficulty visualizing the unity.

For example, in Razie Mah’s May 2023 blog, Looking at Heather Heying and Bret Weinstein’s Book (2020) A Hunter Gatherer’s Guide to the 21st Century, Diesen’s distinction is described as between culture (gemeinschaft) and consciousness (gesellschaft), rather than irrational tradition and rational bureaucracy.

0014 Why is it so easy to attach labels to two sides of a distinction, then forget the unity?

Our kind adapts to a distinction within unity, not to each separate element.

Yet, only the distinct elements are labeled using speech-alone talk.  Subsequent explicit abstraction in our current Lebenswelt takes only the separate, labeled elements into account.

The unity is no longer apparent.

0015 The hypothesis of the first singularity proposes that hand-speech talk characterizes the Lebenswelt that we evolved inand that speech-alone talk associates to our current Lebenswelt

Here is a picture of talk, before and after the first singularity.

Figure 03

0016 In the Lebenswelt that we evolved in, the technical terms, “gemeinschaft” and “gesellschaft” could not be imaged or indicated using hand talk.  Yet, the distinction between them are built into to the nature of a dual-mode for talking.  The hand-talk component primarily delivers meaningful content, but also conveys emotion and personal presence.  The speech-talk delivers the same content as hand talk, but adds something that is um… like a message.  The message concerns intention.  Hear me as well as see me.

Hand-talk may say, “OLAF BOAR GORE”, and the utterer may appear shaken. But, the reply, in speech talk, “Olaf boar gore.” transubstantiates the content, without distortion, to a musical register, singing of an alignment, which must be accepted.  A boar has gored Olaf.  The One Who Gives, Without Us Knowing Why, is also The One Who Determines What Cannot Be Imaged Or Pointed To.  That is our “fate”.

The term, “fate”, cannot be pictured or pointed to in hand talk.  

Our kind adapts to ‘something’ in the Lebenswelt that we evolved in.

We label that ‘something’, “fate”, in our current Lebenswelt.

0017 Likewise, in our current Lebenswelt, the technical terms, “gemeinschaft” and “gesellschaft” seem to image and indicate their referents.  But, those references really exist in the realm of possibility, rather than actuality.  In hand talk, an actual referent precedes the manual-brachial word-gesture.  Not so in speech-alone talk, where speech-alone words are purely symbolic.  They can label anything.  But, that reference is not guaranteed.  It always remains in the realm of possibility.

0018 A Primer on the Category-Based Nested Form allows me to depict the the nature of spoken words as a triadic relation.  This particular depiction stands in the introduction of Razie Mah’s masterwork, How To Define the Word “Religion”.  These works are available at smashwords and other e-book venues.

Figure 04

0019 When Diesen writes these technical terms, it seems to me that, in his mind, he actualizes the possibilities.  He knows what “gemeinschaft” and “gesellschaft” mean.  And, I wonder, “Do they mean what I am suggesting here?  Are these labels attached to something that cannot be pictured and pointed to?”

Well, no… and… yes.

Gemeinschaft is not like hand-talk.  Gemeinschaft is primal, body-oriented, directly connected to emotions, working and looking at others… well, maybe gemeinschaft is like the gestural-component of hand talk.

Gesellschaft is not like speech-talk.  Gesellschaft is adornment, song-oriented, directly connected to the congregation… er, social circle, breathing and sounding in unison… well, maybe gesellschaft is like the spoken aspect to hand-speech talk.

0020 Speech-alone talk changes our Lebenswelt.

Gemeinschaft includes people who work with their hands, people who walk and eat and live together, and people who worship the same God, the God Who Gives, Without Us Knowing Why and the God Who Establishes My Fate.  This God has a spoken name.  In our current Lebenswelt, this God can turn to you or me and ask, “Who do people say that I am?”

Gesellschaft includes people who work with their… tongues?… well, how about this?… people who work with their minds, such as inventors and bureaucrats, entrepreneurs and accountants, honest brokers and lawyers, pastors and politicians, mentors and professors and on and on.  The range of specializations, both labor and social, boggle the mind.  These professionals are educated.  They are often very interested in controlling the language, because spoken words order reality.  Plus, the experts are fully capable of destroying tradition, community and solidarity on the basis of their “rational” theoretical schemes.  Today, in 2023, Russians know all about that.  Americans are just learning.

0021 Here is a picture of the actuality2 and potential1 for Diesen’s key terms.

Figure 05

0022 Diesen describes civilization as a balancing act between the potentials underlying these two spoken words.


Looking at Glenn Diesen’s Book (2019) “The Decay … And Resurgence…”  (Part 4 of 21)

0023 What is the difference between irrational and rational?

Irrational thoughts are hard to put into speech-alone talk, because our evolved mental modules are adaptations realized in the milieu of hand talk.  They are spontaneous, yet responsive to training.  Character-building cannot be brought about by someone speaking precepts.  Instead, character-building relies on implicit abstraction, which may involving imagining how to live the precepts.  Good habits build character.

Rational thoughts rely on speech-alone talk.  Speech-alone words can label all the parts of a whole, then name relations among the parts, then be used to build mathematical and mechanical models.  Diesen defines the words, “gemeinschaft” and “gesellschaft”, as part of his sociological modeling of civilizational trends.  Yes, Diesen builds a model using the specialized terminology of German Sociologist Ferdinand Tonnies, who publishes Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft in 1887. The book is translated into English as Community and Society.

0024 Remember, the full title of Diesen’s book is The Decay of Western Civilization and Resurgence of Russia: Between Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft.

0025 What about the potentiation of civilization by the first singularity?  How does that enter the picture.

Speech-alone talk spreads, through mimesis, from the Ubaid to neighboring hand-speech talking cultures.  Why?  Talk about gesellschaft.  Speech-alone talk facilitates labor and social specializations.  So, the Ubaid quickly becomes wealthier and more powerful than surrounding hand-speech talking cultures.  When the Ubaid sends their emissaries, the difference must be obvious.  The neighboring cultures realize that all they have to do to become wealthier and more powerful is to drop their hand talk.  After some adjustments (like getting rid of the old shamans who resist progress and predict disaster if the people follow the ways of the Ubaid), neighboring cultures are soon practicing speech-alone talk and enjoying a strange blossoming of what gesellschaft can deliver.  They enter our current Lebenswelt of unconstrained social complexity.

0026 Social and labor specialization complexity adds more vocabulary to speech-alone talk.  Each specializationgenerates its own particular vocabulary.  Diverse specialized languages reside within each “mother tongue“.

How do specialized terms work?

0027 At the turn of the 1900s (AD, or should I say, the 7700s U0′?), the linguist Ferdinand de Saussure comes up with a new definition of spoken language.  Spoken language consists of two arbitrarily related systems of differences, parole(talk) and langue (what goes on in our minds when we talk).  Saussure’s new definition implies that each spoken word is merely a placeholder in two arbitrarily-related systems of differences.  So, spoken words have no intrinsic meaning, presence or message.  Decades later, “deconstruction” is the latest academic fashion to capitalize on this misinterpretation.

0028 Why do I say, “misinterpretation”?

Well, I already noted that we have an innate expectation that words (in hand talk) picture and point to their referents.  But, spoken words cannot picture or point to anything.  So, the question of how a spoken word works becomes significant.

Already, in point 0018, I showed one approach.  Each spoken word may be considered an actuality2 within the normal context of definition3.  The potential1 describes the meaning, presence and message that is projected into the actuality2.  This approach is similar to a dictionary’s approach, but nonetheless different.  How so?  Each actuality2 is undergirded by elements corresponding to Peirce’s categories of thirdness (meaning), secondness (presence) and firstness (message).

0029 Another approach uses the Greimas square.  Algridas Greimas (1917-1992 AD) is a French-Lithuanian semiotician concerned with how people conceptualize their world.  To me, that sounds like Diesen’s “gesellschaft”.  Conceptualization brings order.  The Greimas square is valuable because it is a purely relational structure that illuminates spoken-words that occupy positions of similar meaning, presence and message, and are essential to a focal word’s place in the economy of a system of differences.

Remember, when discoursing in a specialized language, one must choose the right words.

0030 The general Greimas square is a purely relational structure expressing a geometry built on four rules.

Here is a picture.

Figure 06

0031 Here are are the four rules, along with their application to the topic at hand.

0032 A is the focal term.  For Diesen, the focal term concerns civilization and its attributes (including international relations, political systems, historical changes and so forth).

0033 B is a term that contrasts with A.  For Diesen, gesellschaft and its attributes occupies this slot.  When I think of civilization, I conjure images of bureaucracies and politicians, temples and palaces, the transportation of goods, and so on.  All these images associate with gesellschaft.

One should never say, “civilization”, when one means politics, economics, philosophy, the arts and sciences (that is, “gesellschaft”).  The contrast is palpable.

0034 C is a term that contradicts B and complements A.  For Diesen, gemeinschaft and its attributes occupies this slot.  When I think of the people who live in a civilization, I conjure images of artists and their patrons, the architecture of temples and the solidity of palaces, how people cook and how they dress, and so on.  In this imagery, gemeinschaft (C) contradicts gesellschaft (B) and complements civilization (A).

0036 D is a term that contrasts with C, contradicts A and complements B.  This is the hardest term to locate in Diesen’s theory.  But, take a look at what Diesen asserts:

Civilization is a balancing act between the potentials of the spoken words, “gesellschaft” and “gemeinschaft”.

D must have something to do with “balance”.

0037 Here is a picture.

Figure 07

0038 Diesen does not stop there.

In chapter two, Diesen discusses the cyclical rise, decline and rebirth of civilizations.

He uses the metaphor of seasons: spring, summer, autumn and winter.

If I take a look at the above figure, where would the cycle turn?

To be, it turns on D, the foundational balance, and manifests in A, the attribute of civilization.  The other elements, B and C, operate as two independent poles within the unity of the Greimas square. B and C adjust to the season.

0039 Here is a diagram of the Greimas Square version of Diesen’s approach to theorizing civilisation, presented in part one (chapters one and two) of his book.

Figure 08

Looking at Glenn Diesen’s Book (2019) “The Decay … And Resurgence…”  (Part 5 of 21)

0040 In chapter two, Diesen offers several applications.

One paragraph catches my eye.

This paragraph demonstrates that Diesen’s Greimas square has relevance to our current Lebenswelt, all the way back to the first singularity.

How so?

The paragraph recounts one of the written origin stories of the ancient Near East.  Since Marduk is the primary actor, I associate this story to the Babylonians, who flourish thousands of years after the start of civilization in Mesopotamia.

Here is Diesen’s Greimas square, once again.

Figure 09

Allow me to recapitulate Diesen’s telling, adding a postmodern flavor.

0041 In the spring, Absu the father (representing order) and Tiamat the mother (representing chaos) comingle.  Any adult knows what that means.  Children may inquire and get the general impression that the two somehow get mixed up and offspring arise from the confusion.

Figure 10

0042 In the summer, the offspring conjure their own self-anointed revolution and murder the primal order, Absu, who is also their father.  They build a house upon his grave.  But, since it is summer, this is not any old house.  This construction is a party palace.  Without the old order to inhibit the offspring, the party house has many chambers.  Tiamat, absent Absu, changes from the chaos typical of nature to an induced chaos.  Soon, she wearies of all the racket.

Figure 11

0043 In the autumn, the house is assaulted.  I presume from within as well as without.  Who will impose order over Absu’s dead body?  An answer comes from within every chamber.  Every party room offers a replacement for Absu’s primal offspring-spawning order.

While everyone is busy naming their substitutes for Absu, a monster, Kino, arises from the tradition that… um… conspired to murder in the first place.  This monster (C) contradicts the naming of the one who will impose order over Absu’s dead body (B), while at the same time complements the fact that every offspring in every chamber in the party house screams their substitute in the echo-chamber of their own room (A).

Tiamat, the offspring’s mother, weighs in on the assault upon (and within) the offspring’s party palace (A).  Tiamat becomes Chaos Incarnate (D), which may be a harsh way of describing a total control freak.

Think of the second law of thermodynamics and ask the question, “What do control freaks accomplish?”  The answer? They create a bubble of anti-entropic perfection (a complex and apparently crystalline order) at the cost of dramatically increasing entropy outside the system (that is, producing disorder that is greater than the energy required to maintain the intended order).

Each chamber of the party house is ruled by a busy-body control freak…

…who is totally weirded out by Tiamat, the control freak of control freakdom, outraged by the clatter of the little busy-bodies.

Kino’s job is to tell the little control freaks to shut up.

Figure 12

0044 In the winter, a god, Marduk, answers the question of who will restore order.

Figure 13

0045 Marduk fights Kino and wins.  Then, Marduk makes humans from the undead blood of the monster.

Marduk restores the temple (the home for the gods) and the palace (ah, is that the architectural structure that goes over Absu’s grave?).

At the end of winter, Tiamat has been transformed into an enclosure of her former self.

Figure 14

0046 What does this imply?

Diesen’s Greimas square offers snapshots of civilisational cycles. Plus, some of the written origin myths of the ancient Near East depict civilizational cycles.

His two keywords, “gesellschaft” (rational analytical order) and “gemeinschaft” (irrational traditional community) command slots B and C, respectively.

The concept of civilizational cycles clarifies A (the manifestation of a civilizational balance) and D (the fulcrum, the balance point that dwells beneath the manifestation).