01/31/24

Looking at Michael Tomasello’s Book (1999) “The Cultural Origins of Human Cognition” (Part 1 of 12)

0001 In 1999 AD, Michael Tomasello, then co-director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, publishes the work before me (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts).

To me, this work marks the start of the author’s twenty year journey, culminating in a theory of human ontogeny, published in 2019.  The word, “ontogeny”, refers to human development and associates to the human phenotype.

0002 What interests me in Tomasello’s journey?

As noted in Comments on Dennis Venema and Scot McKnight’s Book (2017) Adam and the Genome (available at smashwords and other e-book venues), “phenotype” and “adaptation” are not the same.  Instead, these labels apply to distinct actualities that coalesce into a single actuality.  One may call that single actuality, an individual, a species or a genus.  One may also call that single actuality, “a mystery”.

I am interested in the natural history side of the mystery of human evolution.  However, the genetic (or ontogenetic) side cannot be ignored.  Plus, natural history cannot be reduced to genetics, or visa versa

0003 Chapter one of Tomasello’s book is titled, “A Puzzle and a Hypothesis”.

Of course, a puzzle is not a mystery.  A puzzle can be resolved.  A mystery cannot.

The puzzle starts with genetics.  Geneticists have examined the DNA of chimpanzees, bonobos and humans and predict that the last common ancestor lives 6 or 7 Myr (six or seven million years ago).

In contrast, physical anthropologists (natural historians) propose the fossil record noted in the following figure.  With terminological sleight of hand, they refer to human ancestors as “hominins”, even though the old term for any bipedal primate (ape or human) is “hominid”. 

0004 Hmmm. Does the puzzle concern time?

According to genetics, the last common ancestor (LCA) between chimpanzees and humans lives 7 Myr (millions of years ago).  But, little significant shows up in the fossil record until 4 Myr.  Our lineage obviously evolves feet first.  As it turns out, starting around 5 Myr, the extent of tropical vegetation in Africa decreases due to desiccation.  Bipedality is an adaptation to mixed forest and savannah.

0005 The fossil record provides other clues, especially stone tools.

The first stone tools are Oldowan.  Oldowan stones tools are constructed on site.  They are used to scrape meat off of bone and to crack long bones (that are full of fatty marrow).

Acheulean stone tools appear later in the archeological record.  Acheulean stone tools are made beforehand and carried with some intention in mind.  They have the appearance of a giant tooth.  Notably, Acheulean stone tool technology remains unchanged for over a million years.  Innovations in stone-tools follow the domestication of fire.

0006 Surely, these two tables are puzzling.  In the first, the fossil record pertains to changes in hominin phenotypes.  In the second, the fossil record pertains to hominin adaptations, but these adaptations are not phenotypic. They are artifacts.  Are these adaptive artifacts cultural?  Are they behavioral?  I wonder, “Do the words, ‘culture’ and ‘behavior’, capture the matter and the form of these artifacts?”  It is as if an adaptation recognizes matter and generates form.

0007 What is the nature of the adaptation that maintains (and occasionally changes) artifacts, as if these artifacts are phenotypes?

Tomasello suggests that an adaptation is a novel form of social cognition.  Our lineage adapts to a new way of thinking about one another, eventually allowing sociogenesis, new styles of learning and cultural evolution.

0008 Tomasello proposes that there is one adaptation that potentiates subsequent adaptations.

Razie Mah proposes that there is one ultimate niche for our lineage.  The hypothesis is presented in the e-book, The Human Niche (available at smashwords and other e-book venues).

0009 Do Tomasello (in 1999) and Mah (in 2018) propose that our lineage is defined by the same adaptation… er… niche?

What is the difference between an adaptation and a niche?

To these questions, I next attend.

01/18/24

Looking at Michael Tomasello’s Book (1999) “The Cultural Origins of Human Cognition” (Part 12 of 12)

0072 Chapter five is titled, “Linguistic Construction and Event Cognition”.  The perspective-level linguistic communication2c participates in ongoing events2a.

Tomasello claims that joint attention is the key adaptation from which subsequent adaptations proceed.  Surely, the three-level interscope depicted above does not contradict this claim.

After all, the evolution of joint attention should precede the evolution of linguistic communication.

0073 However, there is a disjunction, because great apes show few (if any) tendencies that may be characterized by joint attention.  Even the occasional monkey hunt by chimpanzees is best characterized by several individuals deciding to pursue the same thing at the same time.  The monkey-prey is the focus of attention, but the attention is disjointed, not really coordinated.

So, there must be a period before the evolution of joint attention, where individual intentionality reigns, even when group action takes place.

0074 So, when are these eras happening?

Tomasello wants to place the evolution of joint attention before the time of Homo heidelbergensis, who appears in the fossil record between 800 and 400kyr (thousands of years ago).

To me, this makes sense only so far as this.

Homo heidelbergensis leaves traces of cultural behavior in the archeological record.

To me, such traces indicate that these hominins are in the subsequent build-on era.

So, Tomasello’s timeline may require clarification.

0075 Okay, now that I am nitpicking, I must ask, “Is there a problem with making joint attention2a the foundation of an evolutionary theory?”

Allow me to return to Tomasello’s vision.

0076 According to Comments on Dennis Venema and Scot McKnight’s Book (2017) Adam and the Genome (by Razie Mah, available at smashwords and other e-book venues), adaptation2 and phenotype2 belong to two independent scientific disciplines: natural history and genetics.  Since both belong to situation-level nested forms that rely on different potentials, one cannot situate or contextualize the other.  However, this is precisely what occurs in Tomasello’s vision.

Of course, Tomasello’s vision remains a breakthrough in the framework of modern science.  At least, the phenotype does not correspond to the adaptation.  Instead, the phenotype2c puts culture2b into perspective.  Then, culture2b virtually situates the adaptation of joint attention2a.

Yes, to repeat, the phenotype2c does not directly situate the adaptation2a.  Tomasello’s vision leads upwards from joint attention2a to human culture2b and then to human cognitive development2c. Cognitive development2c puts culture2b into perspective, just as culture2b virtually situates joint attention2a.

Tomasello’s vision is truly remarkable.

0077 And, it is difficult to achieve.

This book is the start of a twenty year journey.

0078 As noted in points 0055 through 0058, the last few chapters cover the cultural (situation) and ontogenetic (perspective) levels of Tomasello’s vision.  As far as I can see, these chapters labor to show how human ontogeny2c (the scientific study of human development) virtually contextualizes human culture2b (a somewhat vaguely defined term that refers to all situations where joint attention2a pertains).  In the process, Tomasello must also explain how human culture2b, especially spoken language and symbolic representation, virtually emerges from and situates joint attention2a.

How ambitious is that?

0079 Here a picture of the virtual nested form in the realm of actuality (the vertical column in secondness in Tomasello’s vision, portrayed as a nested form).

The normal context of the behavior of newborns and infants2c virtually brings the actuality of spoken language and symbolic representation2b into the potential of a foundational adaptation2a.

0080 Yes, this is very ambitious, and the final three chapters of this book strain to meet the challenge.  They should be read with this in mind.  The last three chapters are well composed.  Tomasello is an excellent writer.  He is very organized.  But, his exposition is like lifting a two-hundred pound octopus out of the water.  As soon as one arm is lifted, a different one slides back into the murk.

0081 Plus, there is the lingering issue of natural history.

Here is a picture with Tomasello’s guesses.

Tomasello makes two associations that make no sense at all, when considering joint attention2b as an adaptation to sociogenesis1b in the normal context of natural selection3b.  Sociogenesis1b is the human niche1b.  The human niche1b is the potential1b of triadic relations2a.  Consequently, the adaptation of joint attention2a should be marked in the archaeological record with the appearance of the Homo genus, around 1.8Myr (millions of years ago).

0082 With that in mind, I close this examination of the first step in Tomasello’s journey, scientifically exploring who we are.  The next step is a book that expands and clarifies this first step.  It is published nine years later.

01/17/24

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.

01/4/24

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.

12/23/23

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.

12/22/23

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.

12/21/23

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.

12/16/23

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.

12/13/23

What Is A Meme? (B of G, Part 10 of 20)

0092 According to Dennett, a meme is a unit of information worth having.  If a meme is worth having, then it is worth paying attention to.  A meme is a unit of cultural information.  “A meme” rhymes with “gene”, a unit of information coded by DNA.

Of course, I can also say that a “meme” sounds like “mean” and “gene” sounds like “jean”.

0093 That raises the question, “What is information?”

Well, “semantic information” is encoded and specifies its own interpretation. 

0094 Surely, that sounds like the work of the specifying sign.

So, a meme behaves as if it contains semantic information because it activates (what the scholastics call) specificative extrinsic formal causality, otherwise known as a specifying sign.  The specifying sign connects the content and situation levels of the scholastic manifest image.

0095  In terms of semiotics, an impression2a (SVs) stands for a perception (SOs) in regards to the question, “What does it mean to me?”3b contextualizing the possibility of situating content1b (SIs).

Dennett calls the coupling of a content-level sign-vehicle (SVsto a situation-level sign-object (SOs), “semantic information”, because, often enough, the species impressa2a merely decodes spoken words and grammar.  The qualifier, “semantics”, associates to spoken language.  Semantic information offers designs worth getting, differences that makes a difference, and opportunities that go with Gibson’s term, “affordance”.

0096 So, right at the start, I know that the species expressa2b (SOs) virtually situates content2a in such a manner that the species impressa2a (SVs) is meaningful to me3b (SIs).  But, that is not all.  Species impressa2a (SVs) also offers clues to presence (who speaks to me?) and message (why speak to me?) (SIs).

0097 To Daisy, the cat (er… the species impressa2a of the neighbor’s cat2a (SVs) stands for a species expressa2b, a little monster… or maybe, an animated morsel… equipped with paws with claws2b (SOs).

To me, the fact that Daisy’s tail tucks between her hind legs2a (SVs)) stands for her fear and loathing of the neighbor’s cat2b (SOs) in regards to our morning walk3b (SIs).

Neither Daisy nor the cat know why this drama plays out with regularity.  The lady next door throws out her trash just before I take Daisy on her routine walk.  Her open door serves as an opportunity for the neighbor’s obnoxious cat to scamper out of its indoor enclave.

0098 I cultivated an additional incentive.  I planted catnip among the neighbor’s untrimmed verge, which the cat finds attractive.  Now, as soon as the neighbor lady opens her door, the cat scampers out and beelines to this destination, a garden of intoxication, where she is always surprised by Daisy and puts up a wonderful display of threats and hissing.

Daisy is so perplexed by this stoned feline that she either wants to protect me or expects me to protect her.  The leash pulls tight either forward or backward, depending on the suddenness of the realization of this dramatic species impressa2a(SVs).

0099 Clearly, the cat2a is a meme.

Plus, it2a is more than a meme.

Daisy’s tail going between her hind legs2a is a meme.

Plus, it2a is more than a meme.

0100 As the encounter achieves greater regularity (thanks to the catnip taking root, plus the morning routines), Daisy is slowly coming to a consistent species expressa2a (SIs).

Nevertheless, she is regularly confounded.

12/5/23

Looking at Daniel Dennett’s Book (2017) “From Bacteria To Bach and Back” (Part 18 of 20)

0183 If human culture is to be modeled as the replicative success of memes, then what would empirio-schematic researchentail?

Well, if the term, “meme”, labels a cultural adaptation2b, in the normal context of cultural selection3b operating on various affordances1b, then the actuality independent of the adapting species2a must relate to the scholastic interscope of how humans think2a.

Indeed, I may highlight one particular element in the scholastic interscope2a, the species impressa2a, as the premier feature of the actuality independent of the adapting species2a.

0184 But, didn’t I offer the above content-level actuality2a as a technical definition for the term, “meme”?

So, how can the term, “meme”, also stand for a situationb-level actuality2 in the normal context of cultural selection3b?

If that is not confusing enough, consider that the content-level actuality2a also belongs to the manifest image (which is described by all three actualities of the scholastic interscope).

Plus, we are conscious of a manifest image, not its scientific image.

0185 Consciousness is the user-illusion of competition among neurons for active synapses3b.  Synaptic networks form and are maintained in response to memes.  The qualia that we feel are most likely memes, sign-objects of interventional signs substantiating sign-vehicles of specifying signs.

Consequently, another term for [substance] is [implicit abstraction].  The sign-objects of interventional signs (SOi) are like matter.  The sign-vehicles of specifying signs (SVs) are like form.

So, a meme may be denoted as SOi [implicit abstraction] SVs.

0186 Another word for [substance] might be, “projection”.

In projection, the situation-level potential1b projects continuity into the content-level contiguity.

For example, there is no motion in cinema.  There is only a rapid sequence of images cast upon a screen.  The user illusion projects (or implicitly abstracts) smooth motion in time.  This is only possible if the situation allows it.

Similarly, there is no sweetness to the fact that the neighbor’s cat is dead.  There is only a corpse in the refrigerator and Daisy’s querying gaze, asking, “When are you going to give the dead cat back to me?”

So, the term, “meme”, also labels a neural network2b, in the normal context of neural selection3b operating on the potential of creating and destroying synapses1b, in the process of situating a species impressa2a.

But, once again, didn’t I offer the above content-level actuality2a as a technical definition for the term, “meme”?

Yes, but neural networks are clearly implicated, since they constitute the adaptation2b, and the adaptation is um… what?… a meme?

0187 If that is not enough, the designs of the most intelligent human designer cannot be compared to the adaptivity that arises from a variation of Darwinian natural selection operating on units of culture, in all their varieties.  Why?  There is always a cultural… er… cognitive space that even the most neurotic and attentive-to-detail engineer cannot plan for.  

Consequently, cultural selection3b yields memes that survive and flourish on their own and some of these memes are so strange and resilient that they appear miraculous, even to the positivist intellect.  Therefore, they must be ruled out as “not scientific”.

0188 Here is one confounded empirio-schematic judgment characterizing this discussion.

Here is another.