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.


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.


What Is A Meme? (C of G, Part 11 of 20)

0101 With a single chomp of her mighty mouth, along with some head thrashing, Daisy can put an end to the neighbor’s cat.  I suppose that I restrain her from what her species expressa2b calls her to do, because I have her on a leash.  The leash puts Daisy’s species expressa2b into perspective.

0102 Does this imply that there is another sign?  Does this sign connect the situation and perspective levels?

Daisy’s fear and loathing of the cat2b (SVe) stands for her being restrained by the leash and thereby confounded2c (SOe) in regards to the question, “Does this makes sense?”3ccontextualizing the possibility of putting the situation into perspective1c (SIe).

The subscript, “e”, stands for “exemplar”.

Here is a picture.

0103 The exemplar sign-vehicle (SVe) coincides with the specifying sign-object (SOs).

Correspondingly, the exemplar sign-object (SOe) puts the specifying sign-object (SOs) into perspective.  This perspective includes both Daisy and myself, along with the catnip, the cat and my trash-toting neighbor.

0104 Plus, there is a question about nomenclature.

For scholastics, the specifying sign starts with subjective content and ends with objective situation.  The exemplar signstarts with an intersubjective situation and ends with a suprasubjective perspective.  So, the situation-level actuality is “objective” (SOs) for the former and “intersubjective” (SVe) for the latter.

For moderns, only two terms are employed, “subjective” and “objective””.  Scholastic terms shift when stepping from the specifying sign to the exemplar sign.  For moderns, “subjective” opinions often address the question, “What does it mean to me?”3b, while “objective” facts raise the question, “Does this make sense?”3c.

This terminological shift is discussed in Razie Mah’s blog for October 2023, Looking at John Deely’s Book (2010) “Semiotic Animal”.

0105 The exemplar sign object2c (SOe) makes sense3b because it may be true, or believable, or commonly accepted, or logical with respect to an affordance.  What is that affordance?  May I call it, “intelligibility”?  Oh, that could bring a smile to the face of a philosopher and a grimace to the face of a scientist.

0106 Let me return to the scholastic manifest image for the example of Daisy, my dog, who I knowingly place into proximity to the neighbor’s miserable feline, soon after the neighbor lady takes out her trash.  Is there a problem with planting catnip in the verge near where we regularly stroll?  Surely, the neighbor’s husband, who is rarely at home to tend the verge, does not mind.  Plus, the cat clearly loves the mint.

Here is a picture.

0107 The exemplar sign-object (SOe) contains a judgment.

Recall, a judgment is a relation between what is and what ought to be.

0108 In order to arrive at my judgment2c, I first look at the virtual nested form in the realm of actuality.

To me, Daisy’s confoundedness2c serves as a virtual normal context that brings the actuality of unnerved Daisy2b into relation with the possibilities inherent in her tail tucked between her legs2a.

I next transfer the virtual nested form into the triadic structure of judgment.

Daisy’s confoundedness (relation, thirdness) brings her tucked tail as an universal being (what is, secondness) into relation to Daisy’s fear and loathing as an intelligible being (what is, firstness).

0109 Yes, whatever is going on in Daisy’s mind2c contributes to my judgment2c, even though it (whatever “it” is) cannot be articulated.

0110 For Daisy, a relation that I am not privy to2c virtually brings fear and loathing2b into relation with that catnip-addled feline2a.

0111 The triadic structure of judgment fits neatly into the sign-object of the exemplar sign as well as the perspective-level actuality2c of the scholastic’s three-level interscope.


What Is A Meme? (D of G, Part 12 of 20)

0112 Here is a scholastic picture of the way humans think.

0113 What is the nature of the Latin term, “species intelligibilis“?

Typically, this actuality2c attempts to bring the ‘what is’ of a species impressa2a into relation with the ‘what ought to be’ of a species expressa2b.

There is another way to describe the perspective-level judgment.  A relation2c brings together the universal aspects of the species impressa2a (what is) and the intelligible aspects of the species expressa2b (what ought to be).  As such, the elements belonging to the perspective-level actuality2c are not exactly the same as the situationb and contenta level actualities2.  They must be qualified as elements of judgment.  The scholastics accomplish this task by adding the word, “intelligibilis”.

Here is a picture.

0114 Daisy cannot ask the question, “Does this makes sense?”3b.

Consequently, Daisy cannot contextualize the potential1c of her species expressa2b by formulating a species expressa intelligibilis2c.

Or, maybe she can.

I guess one does not have to speak the question3c in order to ask it.

0115 What is her conviction2c?

Is her phantasm2b effectively true, believable, commonly accepted, and logical with respect to an affordance1b?

What is that affordance1b?

I can only guess.

And then, there is the issue of the leash2c.

0116 Since I am able to put my species expressa2b into perspective2c, I can imagine what Daisy’s judgment might be2c.   I may not be correct.  But, I know that Daisy is fully capable of dispatching that cat, because, by my reckoning, she has already performed such duty on at least one other cat, a half-dozen squirrels, and a dozen rats.

On top of that, if Daisy suddenly throttles that indoor cat, whose only excursions into the wild lead directly to the catnip patch, then the cat’s owner would have to deal with me, her neighbor, whom she has studiously ignored for long enough.

0117 Hmmm.  I guess I should not have said that.

There is something about my species intelligibilis2c best be left unspoken.

How so?

My little addendum enters the reader’s slot for species impressa2a and, in the process, provides a clue to what is happening3a, as well as the potential of ‘something happening’1a.

0118 I know what you are thinking.

What sort of freak would create a situation where his dog kills the neighbor’s cat in order to gain her attention?


What Is A Meme? (E of G, Part 13 of 20)

0119 I have another label for what you are thinking.

You are thinking a meme.

According to Dennett, a meme is a unit of culture, bearing semantic information, offering ‘something’ that makes a difference and surviving through reproduction, such as gossip.

News of Daisy killing the neighbor’s cat is a meme.

0120 I snatch the cat’s corpse from Daisy’s mouth, after distracting her with one of her favorite treats.  I intend to bring the deceased to the neighbor lady.  I am sure that she will tell every person she knows about the incident, if she knows anyone.  She seems like a sailor’s widow, waiting for her husband to return.  But, she does not do what every woman whose man works the seas should be doing, going to church to pray for his safety.

I plan to carry the cat’s body in a bag and knock on her door.

When she answers, I aim to say, “I took the leash off Daisy this morning and she went right after your cat.  Your cat is dead.  I am sorry.  If you want, I will buy you a new cat.”

But first, I ought to address another question.

0121 How did Daisy manifest her judgment2c with such vigor?

I think that the leash says it all.

Removing the leash2c produced a species impressa2a in Daisy, which specified a species expressa2b, which inspired a canine species intelligibilis2c, which stood for an action, which took the cat completely by surprise and generated a new species impressa2a in me, as I came to realize the potential of ‘something’ happening1a underlying the normal context ofwhat is happening3a.

0122 What am I saying?

Am I saying that Daisy’s judgment2c produces a sign-relation that appears inside out, because the sign-vehicle is hidden within Daisy’s mind and the sign-object is what Daisy does, for me to witness?

0123 Yes, I call this inside-out sign-relation an “interventional sign”.

Here is a picture.


What Is A Meme? (F of G, Part 14 of 20)

0124 A meme involves an interventional sign-relation, whose sign-vehicle3c (SVi) fills in the slot for species impressa2a(SOi) while providing clues to a relevant content-level normal context3a and potential1a (SIi).

A meme also involves a specifying sign-relation, where a content-level species impressa2a (SVs) specifies a species expressa2b (SOs) within a situation-level normal context3b and potential1b (SIs).

0125 Here is a general picture of the specifying sign.

0126 Obviously, the interventional sign-object occupies the same content-level actuality2a as the specifying sign-vehicle.

The adaptiveness of the subsequent specifying sign weighs (takes into account) the initial bias (perhaps, affordance) provided by the interventional sign’s interpretant.

0127 In chapter nine, Dennett considers spoken words as paradigms of memes.

What about the gesture-words of hand talk… er… “sign language”?

Surely, these are even more paradigmatic because the gesture-word images and points to its referent.

0128 What if language evolves in the milieu of hand talk?

Here is a scenario to think about.

A warm rain falls all afternoon on my mixed forest location in eastern Africa, around a million years ago.  My Homo erectus comrades can’t do much, so they huddle under trees and nap.  The next day, the clouds have not given way, and I can smell something and I know what that something is.  Mushrooms are sprouting!

0129 How do I know this?

A mental module has evolved, over the course of generations, specifically devoted this opportunity, the smell and the taste and the weather conditions are all encoded, because those of my ancestors who responded to the mushroom-related opportunity reproduced more successfully that those who did not.

Plus, I don’t have a leash.

0130 However, I need to recruit others.  I need volunteers willing to work for food and share the riches with others.  In time, others will return the favor.  So, I initiate an interventional sign-relation.

0131 By Dennett’s account, my hand talk words constitute “a meme,” a unit of culture, containing semantic information, a difference that makes a difference, and a piece of know-what worth having.

0132 By a scholastic’s account, my hand talk words constitute the sign-object of an interventional sign-relation (SOi).

I don’t know whether medieval schoolmen successfully formalize the causality inherent in the interventional sign as a relational being.  According to Comments on John Deely’s Book (1994) New Beginnings, Latin-writing scholars formalize the specifying and the exemplar sign-causalities.  The discovery of the interventional sign, which has all the characteristics of Dennett’s notion of “an inversion of reason”, appears in Comments on Sasha Newell’s Article (2018) “The Affectiveness of Symbols”.  Both commentaries are available at smashwords and other e-book venues.

0133 Whatever the accounting, my intervention sign initiates a specifying sign, leading to a wonderful mushroom harvest and contributing to our team (and our band’s) reproductive success.

0134  What is this “inversion of reason” business?

The interventional sign-relation inverts the commonplace notion that the sign-vehicle is visible (and thus, a subject) and the sign-object is mental (and thus, an object).

The specifying sign-relation reverts the inversion back into the commonplace notion.

0135 Both sign-relations intimate an affordance.

In this instance, the two affordances speak with one voice, saying, “Our team can gather many more mushrooms than a single individual.  We can gather enough to feed all the other potential (but not, at this weather moment, actualized) teams in the band.  Plus, we can dry and hide the rest.  Time is short.  Get to work!”

0136 Notably, this affordance cannot be articulated using hand talk.

How can one picture or point to “team”, “potential” or “affordance”?

Nonetheless, the affordance includes the potentials within the purely relational structure of the scholastic interscope for how humans think.

Clearly, each member of the team conjures the same relational structure, even though each individual possesses a different brain.

Only one more step is required to answer the question, “What is a meme?”


What Is A Meme? (G of G, Part 15 of 20)

0137 From the previous blogs, I know that the meme is bound to the species impressa2a.

In the species impressa2a, the sign-object of the interventional sign (SOi) weds the sign-vehicle of the specifying sign(SVs).

The question arises, “How are the two united?”

0138 Aristotle’s hylomorphe meets the definition of Peirce’s category of secondness.  The category of secondness consists of two contiguous real elements.  My nomenclature puts the contiguity into brackets: one real element [contiguity] other real element.

0139 The two real elements are subject to the law of noncontradiction.

Plus, the contiguity is not a real element, even though it seems to be.

Ironically, I intend to use the word, “substance”, to label the contiguity.  The word has a long pedigree.  After being used for philosophical discourse for thousands of years, the word does not have much use in our current modern Age of Ideas.  Some people call table salt, “a substance”.  Some moderns call addiction to cocaine, “substance abuse”.  So, my technical postmodern adoption of the term, “substance”, as the contiguity between matter and form, marks a turning point, the dawn of a new age of understanding.

More or less.

The hylomorphe stands at the beginning of the Greek Age of philosophy.

0140 Here is a picture of Aristotle’s hylomorphe.

0141 For this application, the meme is a species impressa2a manifesting the following hylomorphic structure.

0142 Dennett devotes several chapters to memes, including chapter ten (“The Meme’s Eye Point of View”) and eleven (“What Wrong with Memes?  Objections and Replies”).

0143 This picture of the meme satisfies Dennett’s concept of the meme.

How so?

Memes are units of cultural information.  Memes allow competence without comprehension.  At the same time, memes play a role in comprehension.  

0144 Of course, this picture also challenges Dennett’s notion of the meme.

How so?

The meme is a hylomorphe constructed with sign-elements of two sign-relations.

This brings me back to competence, as opposed to comprehension.

Competence merely requires both signs to function.

Comprehension depends on how apparent the interventional sign is.  How well does the interventional sign-action2a(SOi), which like inversion of what we imagine a sign-object to be, convey what is happening3a and the potential of ‘something happening’1a (SIi)?

After all, comprehension implies that a person registers what is happening3a and the potential of ‘something’ happening1a(SIi), while decoding an ongoing event2a (SOi).

0145 This raises a related issue, asking “What is the proper metaphor for memes?”

According to Dennett (following Richard Dawkins, who originally promotes the idea that memes are phenomena subject to scientific inquiry), memes are like viruses.  Each meme pursues own reproductive fitness.  So, a cultural unit may have traits that exist simply because they are advantageous to its replication.  Yet, the host must matter, because the host carries the meme, just like host carries a virus.

This makes me wonder.

Are viruses the most appropriate analogy for memes?

Or are synapses?

Virus do not form connections.  Synapses do.  The meme as hylomorphe connects the sign-object of an interventional sign(SOi) with the sign-vehicle of a specifying sign (SVs).

0146 A Darwinian paradigm where memes are like viruses leads to different predictions than one where memes are like synapses.

Take a glance at the following figure where a meme is a hylomorphe and ask, “Does this figure look more like one neuron [cultivating] a synapse to another neuron or a virus [infecting] a host?

Okay, that was a rhetorical question.

0147 If memes are hylomorphic entities, then other characteristics of memes become obvious.  Memes offer competence without comprehension.  Memes are informational beings.  They survive because they encourage the evolution of neural networks.  Plus, they offer affordances.  Neurons make their living by trafficking in information. Information consists in opportunities to form relevant synapses and to cost-cut synapses that are no longer busy.

Here is a picture of Dennett’s characteristics of memes.

0148 The three characteristics of memes highlight the fragility of modern theories that account for cultural phenomenawith poorly-defined labels, such as “beliefs” or “ideas”.  Modern social theorists cannot account for why beliefs or ideas arise in the first place and how they are replicated among individuals.  Meme theorists can.

0149 So, what do social scientists say in response?

Do I hear laughter echoing down the hallways of the College of Social Science?

Or is it it the Colleges of Social Sciences?

0150 In chapter eleven, Dennett defends the meme research project against detractors, who tend to be modern social scientists. Some of these professionals employ the paradigm of natural history to explain human adaptations.  Some of them ignore human evolution altogether.

0151 Once again, here is the Darwinian paradigm, beloved by natural historians.

In the normal context of natural selection3ban adaptation2b emerges from (and situates) a niche1b, which is the potential1b of an actuality independent of the adapting species2a.   The biologist considers an adaptation2b, as a situation-level actuality, with the goal of first, identifying the actuality independent of the adapting species2a and second, delineating the specific potential that is either exploited or avoided1b.

0152 Now, replace the natural-historical terms with versions that derive from Dennett’s meme project.

In the normal context of cultural selection3b, an explanation for a meme2b emerges from (and situates) an affordance1b,which manifests the potential1b of the hylomorphic structure of the species impressa2aas pictured above.

0153 What does this imply?

The social scientist should consider the meme as an adaptation2b, as a situation-level actuality, with the goal of first, identifying the content-level actuality2a where a sign-object of the interventional sign-relation substantiates the sign-vehicle of a specifying sign-relation2a and second, delineating the specific affordance that is either exploited or avoided1b.

0156 Clearly, the modern anthropologist faces a more complicated and confusing task than the natural historian, because the meme2a is embedded in the scholastic interscope depicting the way humans think.


Looking at Daniel Dennett’s Book (2017) “From Bacteria To Bach and Back” (Part 17 of 20)

0174 When Dennett says that words are great examples of memes, he considers only spoken words.  He does not suspect that language (that is, grammar) evolves in the milieu of hand talk.  He knows that, today, all civilizations practice speech-alone talk.  Plus, his reading audience is civilized.

Consequently, Dennett’s claim that words play a role in cultural evolution carries an ironic overtone.  His assertion is much larger that he supposes.  In southern Mesopotamia, speech-alone is first realized by the Ubaid culture.

(This is discussed in The First Singularity and Its Fairy Tale Trace, as well as An Archaeology of the Fall, by Razie Mah, available at smashwords and other e-book venues.)

Outside of southern Mesopotamia, early civilizations are potentiated by the adoption of speech-alone talk.  After exposure to a speech-alone talking culture, hand-speech talking cultures drop the hand-component of their hand-speech talk. Mimesis is key.  Speech-alone talks spreads from a single site to the entire world.

0175 The different semiotic qualities of hand talk and speech-alone talk play a key role in human evolutionHuman evolution comes with a twist.  I label that twist, “the first singularity”.

The first singularity illustrates Dennett’s key point.  Speech-alone talk offers affordances that hand-talk lacks.  The consequences are obvious.  Cultures practicing speech-alone talk exhibit greater wealth and power than cultures practicing hand-speech talk.

Yes, the advantages are obvious.

The dangers are hidden.

0176 I wonder.

Is one of the main tasks of postmodern philosophers, such as Dennett, to reveal the dangers inherent to speech-alone talk?  Or, is their main task to conceal them?

Indeed, Dennett’s postmodern philosophical approach distracts me from the manifest image of the scholastic interscope of how humans think and substitutes a scientific image of memes replicating and being selected through cultural evolution.

This is very similar to how I got the dead cat out of Daisy’s mouth, by offering one of her favorite treats as a substitute.

0177 Has the author come to a judgment2c?

0178 The species impressa intelligibilis2c, the universal aspect a content-level species impressa2a, corresponds to what is2c.

According to Dennett, the meme is a basic unit of culture, a word-like being, carrying semantic information, and offering ‘something’ that makes a difference.  The meme is the source of behavioral phenomena observed and measured by social scientists, who then build models, using the specialized languages of psychology, sociology, anthropology, economics and so on.

0179 The species expressa intelligibilis2c, the intelligible aspect of a situation-level species expressa2b, corresponds to what ought to be.

The meme offers models neglected by social scientists.  The meme offers models couched in the disciplinary language of the biological sciences.  Can a meme be accounted for by way of a Darwinian model of descent with modification, in the normal context of cultural selection?  Yes, a meme is a replicator that survives only because it replicates.  Therefore, the differential replication of memes offers a scientific image for cultural evolution.

0180 The relation between what is and what ought to be passes from biological evolution (“Bacteria”) to the pinnacle of human creative engineering (“Bach”) and back to cultural evolution (“and Back”).

0146 Here is a picture.

0181 If this judgment serves as a sign-vehicle for an interventional sign, then the resulting sign-object is a scientific account of the evolution of human brains (SOi).

Part III of Dennett’s book is titled, “Turning Our Minds Inside Out”.

Inside is the noumenon, the thing itself, the human mind.

Outside is a scientific model of a brain, the observable and measurable conjurer of the thing itself.

Or do I have that backwards?

Does the mind conjure the brain?

Or does the brain conjure the mind?

0182 Here is a picture of Dennett’s work as a meme.


Looking at Daniel Dennett’s Book (2017) “From Bacteria To Bach and Back” (Part 19 of 20)

0189 In Dennett’s version of the evolution of our minds, consciousness and user-end illusion coincide.  There is no example greater than the musical memes concocted by Johann Sebastian Bach.

Tunes are memes.

0190 Words are memes.

When it comes to spoken words, sometimes the less said, the better.  Fewer words allow the user to engage neurons with less forward guidance.  Clues to the content-level normal context3a and potential1a are not present to guide the evolution of an adaptive perception2b.

So, when I go to the neighbor, to present the dead cat, and to confess Daisy’s guilt, I only say, “I took Daisy off her leash this morning and she got away and killed your cat.  Here it is.  If you want me to bury it, then I will.  If you want me to buy you a new cat, I will.”

0191 Then she starts to cry and says, “It’s not my cat.  It’s my mother’s.”

Her mother died around five years ago.

The man who I thought was her husband?  That is her brother.  Her brother and her lived with mother until her death.  Mother would not let her children go.  She would not let anything go.  She was a maven of the world and her concerns were with the world.  She was an activist who took her children to demonstrations in order to signal that she, above all, cared for the children.  Her last request to her daughter?  Take care of the cat.

0192 My neighbor continued her tale.

The old house was too full of mother’s memes… er… memories of her mother.  So, she and her brother agreed to sell the old house and to move somewhere new.  They bought the house next door to mine.

Soon, her brother realizes that this is his opportunity to construct a life of his own.  That is why he comes by with less and less frequency.  The verge is overgrown.  Her brother is engaged to be married.  He has made a down-payment on a house in a different neighborhood.

0193 No, that is not her cat.  It is her mother’s.  I can go and bury it.  She does not want another.

After a pause, I say, “This Sunday, do you mind coming to church with me?  Service is at nine o’clock.  I can come by at eight-thirty.”

0194 The words that I speak are memes, units of culture, pieces of semantic information, offering something that makes a difference, a novel affordance, a clue to what is happening3a and a new sense that something can happen1a.  The reason that these memes are present, at this moment, is not because the words want to replicate, but because I want the words to bear a meaning, a presence and a message.

0195 Just as a biologist reflects upon an adaptation2b, according to a normal context3b and potential1b, in order to become aware of the actuality independent of the adapting species2a, my neighbor will reflect on the phantasm2b that adapts to this moment and provides an illusion3b of consciousness1b.  The entire scholastic interscope2a comes alive.  What is happening3a?  What does it mean to me3b?  Does this make sense3c?