Man and Sin by Piet Schoonenberg (1964) 2.3 AA

[In our current Lebenswelt, all word reference is socially constructed.

This poses a hidden weakness for people who think they are rational, sensible, practical, pragmatic, and so on. These are the people who think that they are right because they make sense.

What is their weakness?

Their stance does not allow them to see below their feet.

They cannot see (or even admit) that they stand on a social construction.

These are the useful idiots of every revolution.]


Man and Sin by Piet Schoonenberg (1964) 2.3 Y-2

[Hmmm. That raises a question:

What are the rules of science?

What is the rule that allows scientists to construct mind-dependent beings (ens rationis) that are true to the presumed mind-independent beings (ens reale)?

It seems that the mind-dependent being must image or point to ‘the subject of study’, thereby producing a sign-object in the mind of the scientist.

Models provide images.

Experimentation provides indexes.]


Man and Sin by Piet Schoonenberg (1964) 2.3 Y-1

[Even science builds on social construction.

Consider the idea that a glass of water has more molecules than all the people on the planet and all the people who ever lived. It makes no sense at all.

Technically speaking, ‘molecules’ are ens rationis (mind-dependent beings) constructed under strict conditions that presumes ‘the existence of ens reale (mind-independent beings)’.

Note, however, the presumption (that mind-independent beings exist) is itself an ens rationis (mind dependent being).

The presumption is a social construction.

The ‘molecule’ is a sensible construction that assumes the validity of the social construction of ens reale (mind independent being).]


Man and Sin by Piet Schoonenberg (1964) 2.3 W

Summary of text [comment] page 80

[Our current Lebenswelt exhibits a wide variety of symbolic orders.

We might distinguish them as ‘specialized languages that make sense of the world’ (sensible construction) in contrast to ‘specialized languages that inspire us to social construction’. This dichotomy matches the distinction between naturalism and theism.

This is a false dichotomy.


The ‘languages that make sense of the world’ are no longer obviously referential.


Just try to image a thing using purely spoken words.

Try to point to a thing with spoken words.

Tell me how your spoken words index your body.

Compare spoken words to pantomime and manual-brachial gestures. Hand-talk words were iconic and indexal. They were intuitively referential. That is not the case for spoken words. Even the most familiar speech-alone words do not intuitively image or point to their referent. Instead, reference is projected into word-sounds.

In our current Lebenswelt, meaning, presence and message are projected into our speech-alone words.]


Man and Sin by Piet Schoonenberg (1964) 2.3 V

[In the Lebenswelt that we evolved in, our ancestors exhibited constrained complexity.

So, what can we (humans) conclude about our evolved nature:

We innately expect words to be referential, facilitating seeking pleasure, avoiding pain and safely ignoring the rest.

We innately hold a self-centerness and a selfishness that expects to be contradicted by a (nonsensical) tradition within constrained complexity.

We innately expect sensible construction to be contradicted by social construction.

Social construction builds networks of cooperation based on objects that are ‘references constructed on references’.

We innately expect to conduct sensible construction on the basis of a reference, that cannot be fully talked about, generated by social construction.]


Man and Sin by Piet Schoonenberg (1964) 2.3 U

[In social construction, we expect images, pointings and presences that defy immediate gratification.  They do so by ‘not making sense’, thereby forcing the participants to construct meanings that are not the plain meanings of the words.

By acting as if the new references were Real, our ancestors (and we ourselves today) opened spaces for cognitive and cultural adaptations outside of ‘what we would expect from pursuing immediate gratification’ and ‘what we would expect from sensible construction’.

Our ancestors gained an adaptive advantage from ‘not making sense’. Social construction facilitated exploration of advanced social cooperation. This proved crucial in the milieu of intergroup competition.

We construct ourselves as distinctly human social beings through this second symbolic order.]


Man and Sin by Piet Schoonenberg (1964) 2.3 T

Summary of text [comment] page 80

[The second symbolic order, the one that did not make intuitive sense, evolved because the symbolic processing of grammar offered the opportunity.

The symbolic operations of grammar increased the efficacy of word-gestures. Yet, it also allowed nonsensical utterances. These forced the reader (remember that this is hand talk, working with the expectation of reference) to construct ‘a reference based on the nonsensical utterance’.

The secondary symbolic order facilitated the evolution of the mental synthesis that we now regard as ‘the religious mentality’. Here is a mentality that explores advantages outside the frame of sensible construction.

I call this secondary symbolic order ‘social construction’.]


Man and Sin by Piet Schoonenberg (1964) 2.3 S

Summary of text [comment] page 80

[The primary symbolic order, the one that made intuitive and natural sense, was the first to evolve. Reference is intended to make sense. By ‘sense’, I mean ‘different from nonsense’.

In the first symbolic order, the selfishness and self-centeredness of humans reflected a primal innocence. Just like all other animals, we expect our word-gestures to make sense, so we can seek pleasure, avoid pain, and know what to safely ignore.

This primary symbolic order serves ‘sensible construction’.]