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? (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?


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

0196 Razie Mah offers three masterworks on human evolution.

The Human Niche concerns the Lebenswelt that we evolved in.

An Archaeology of the Fall dramatizes the first singularity, the transition from the Lebenswelt that we evolved in to our current Lebenswelt.

How To Define The Word “Religion” concerns our current Lebenswelt.

These works sustain this examination of Dennett’s book.

0197 In these blogs, the term, “meme”, is technically defined using the scholastic interscope for how humans think.  This interscope is also in play in Razie Mah’s blog for October 2023, Looking at John Deely’s Book (2010) “Semiotic Animal”.  A “meme” corresponds to a species impressa2a with a hylomorphic structure whereby the sign-object of an interventional sign substantiates a sign-vehicle for a specificative sign.

0198 According to Dennett, a spoken word is a good example of a meme.

Notably, our current Lebenswelt must face the question, asking, “What is the nature of spoken words?”


Spoken words facilitate explicit abstraction, while hand-talk words allow only implicit abstraction.  We innately expect that spoken words image and point to their referents.  But, they do not.  Symbols are natural signs whose sign-objects are defined by convention, habit, law, tradition and so on.  Yet, no hand-talk language has words that can picture or indicate these terms.  “Convention”, “habit”, “law” and “tradition” label explicit abstractions that cannot be articulated using hand talk.  They may exist, but cannot be named, while using hand talk.

0199 Recall that actualities2 are encountered.

Such actualities2 are understood by ascertaining an appropriate normal context3 and potential1.

0200 How To Define The Word “Religion” applies these lessons to a familiar and contentious term.  This examination of Dennett’s book applies these lessons to the word, “meme”.

Here is a picture.

0201 The message?  The meme exemplifies cultural evolution.

The presence?  The meme embodies neural selection.

The meaning?  A scientific image of the word, “meme”, should overlay what is going on in my mind, that is, the manifest image.  My consciousness is an user-end illusion produced by the message and the presence of cultural and neural selection.

0202 My thanks to the author.  This well-documented work conveys that impression that inquiry into memes may account for the evolution of the human mind.  Whether this impression is productive or unproductive depends on how one defines the word, “meme”.