Looking at Ian Hodder’s Book (2018) “Where Are We Heading?” (Part 1 of 15)

0001 Consider the title of archaeologist Ian Hodder’s recent book.

What is the question really asking?

Are we heading somewhere?

0002 The problem?

Who would purchase a book with an honest title, such as, “Are We Heading Somewhere?: The Evolution of Humans and Things”?

Everyone knows where we are going.

We are going to hell.

0003 So, maybe my first question concerns what Hodder’s titular question is really asking.

For my second question, I consider Hodder’s subtitle and ask, “Is there directionality to human evolution?”

A consensus among general biologists tells us, “Evolution has no direction, because direction implies an overall teleology or purpose.”

But, this is not the case.

0004 Why is it not the case?

An answer can be found in a series by Razie Mah, titled, A Course on Evolution and Thomism, available at smashwords and other e-book venues.  This course includes Speculations on Thomism and Evolution and Comments on Dennis Venema and Scot McKnight’s Book (2017) Adam and the Genome.

0005 Here is a quick summary.

The normal context of natural selection3b brings the actuality of adaptations2b into relation with a niche1b.

Plus, a niche1b is the potential of an actuality2a independent of the adapting species.

In order to digest this statement, consult Razie Mah’s A Primer on the Category-Based Nested Form and A Primer on Sensible and Social Construction, available at smashwords and other e-book venues.

0006 Here is a picture of the quick summary.

Figure 01

0007 What is a niche1b?

A situation-level niche1b is the potential of a content-level actuality independent of the adapting species2a.

0008 Does that mean that biological evolution has direction?

0009 On the one hand, biologists confuse everyone with their declaration that evolution has no direction.  For living systems, natural selection3b encourages adaptations2b in response to a variety of proximate niches1a, which are actualities, more or less independent of the adapting species2a. There is no telling which proximate niche1b will turn out to be decisive.  Most likely, the proximate niche1b is the potential of an actuality2a that directly benefits or challenges the creature’s reproductive success2b.

Plus, there are various surprises, like a huge meteor striking the planet Earth, which changes all proximate niches so dramatically that mass extinctions occur.  So, biological evolution, on a grand scale, appears to play out as a contest to adapt to proximate niches, which are themselves contingent on planetary conditions.

0010 On the other hand, the above diagram shows that biological adaptations are directional.  They are teleological.  There is an actuality2a, independent of the adapting species that either encourages or inhibits reproductive success1b.  Genetic recombinations will throw up a variations among a species’ phenotypes.  Some of these phenotypic variations will prove more successful than others at exploiting the actuality2a or avoiding the actuality2a.  Biologists label this eventuality, “differential reproductive success”.

0011 Adaptations2b reveal that the niche1b is… to use a theological term… teleological.  The niche1b is the potential that becomes manifest when a biologist reflects upon the adaptations of a particular species2b in the normal context of natural selection3b.  The niche is like a boulder in a river than causes water to flow around it.  The rock is an independent actuality.  The river adapts.

0012 Does that mean that biological evolution has a direction?

In the same way that a river of water running to the sea has a direction?

0013 The difference between a river of water and the river of life concerns altitude.  Water runs downhill.  When it gets to the sea, its niche is exhausted.  Life runs uphill.  It converts a huge amount of energy (think of water running downhill) into a little amount of energy that the organism can use (think of a waterwheel grinding grains of wheat into flour).  Consequently, life is precarious.  Death is ubiquitous.

So, a niche1b is all about staying alive.

0014 Actualities independent of the adapting species2a pose opportunities and hazards.  These have the potential to constitute niches1b.  A niche1b is relevant enough to increase the reproductive success of some in the adapting species, as opposed to others, in the normal context of natural selection3b.  The successful ones adapt2a to their niche1b.  Life is always climbing uphill.  Death is tumbling down.

0015 So, where are we heading?

Ian Hodder suggests an answer.

Things can keep us alive.  So, it behooves our ancestors, the hominins, as well as ourselves, the humans, to attend to the things that keep us alive.

He calls this adaptation: “entanglement”.


Looking at Ian Hodder’s Book (2018) “Where Are We Heading?” (Part 2 of 15)

0016 Hodder’s desires to extend entanglement theory to all of biological evolution.  

Am I already there?

The concept of the niche1b entangles the adapting species2b with independent actualities2a (that is, things2a).

Hominins are only doing what biological evolution has been doing for a long time.

But there is a difference.

Unlike most other species, where the actuality independent of the adapting species is a thing or state of things, our species adapts into a purely relational niche.  Such is the bold hypothesis of Razie Mah’s masterwork, The Human Niche,available at smashwords and other e-book venues.

0017 Dr. Hodder’s theory of entanglement starts with a thing.  A thing is a content-level actuality.

Here is a picture.

Figure 02

0018 Entanglement starts with an actuality that is independent of people.  Only one slot is occupied in the initial configuration.  The others remain either empty or nascent.  “Nascent” means “yet to be manifested”.

0019 For an example, let me consider  a detail about the archaeological excavation that Dr. Hodder supervised (and is, no doubt, still involved), Catal Hoyuk in Anatolia.

The detail2a is riverbed clay.  This clay2a has the potential to be used as construction material for the walls of houses in the Neolithic settlement1b.  This potential1b goes onto the situation-level, and awakens a corresponding normal context3band actuality2b.

0020 Here is a picture.  The lighter colors denote “awakening” as well as emptiness.

Figure 03

0021 Awakening?  Emptiness?

The situation-level normal context3b is obvious to the archaeologist.  Shelter is an adaptation2b to a proximate human niche1b.  Humans need shelter to protect themselves from all sorts of dangers2a, especially at night.  As such, shelters are sensible constructions.

0022 Sensible construction?

For some background concerning this topic, consult Razie Mah’s A Primer on the Category-Based Nested Form and A Primer on Sensible and Social Construction, available at smashwords and other e-book venues.

0023 Dr. Hodder awakens to the sensible construction implicit in entanglement.

This is the entanglement that Hodder wants to convey.  Things become useful.  Then, humans end up entangled with useful things.


Looking at Ian Hodder’s Book (2018) “Where Are We Heading?” (Part 3 of 15)

0024 Here is a picture of Hodder’s general theory of entanglement.

Figure 04

0025 Here is a diagram of the relational structure of biological adaptation.

Figure 05

0026 Notice any similarities?

Does this summarize Hodder’s book?

Yes, it does, because Hodder, as a scientist, limits his vision to sensible construction.

No, it does not, because the two diagrams are different, even though they appear remarkably similar.

0027 There are two actualities.

Things2a occupy the slot for actuality2a in the content-level of both two-level interscopes.

The ways that people use things and take care of them2b occupies the slot for actuality2b on the situation-level, for the normal context of entanglement3b.

Biological adaptations2b occupies the slot for actuallity2b on the situation level, for the normal context of natural selection2b.

0028 What does that imply?

The logics of normal contexts3 include exclusion, complementarity and alignment.  I can rule out the first and the third options, leaving me with the second.

Entanglement2b complements natural selection2b.

Similarly, the potential ‘uses of things’1b complements the biological concept of niche1b.

0029 Where are we heading?

Are we heading to the realization that people’s use of things, as well as their care for things2b, complements the biological notion of adaptation2b?

Are we are heading to an awareness that what Hodder calls “entanglement”3b may be an adaptation2b into the human niche1b?

If the answers are “yes”, then perhaps the concept of biological adaptation2b relies on (and is therefore, formatted by) our innate capacity for using and caring for things2b.

0030 Does Darwin pick up on that?

What do natural selection and selective breeding by humans have in common?


Looking at Ian Hodder’s Book (2018) “Where Are We Heading?” (Part 4 of 15)

0031 Let me return to the example.

What is the problem with the following figure?

Figure 06

0032 The Neolithic houses at Catal Hoyuk are more than shelters.  They are more than sensible construction.  They are also social constructions.

0033 What is a social construction?

Please note A Primer on Sensible and Social Construction, by Razie Mah, available at smashwords and other e-book venues.

0034 Is there an obvious social construction that goes with the walls of a house?

Yes, the house2b is a home2c.

Figure 07

0035  A home2c puts a house2b into perspective.

One of the difficulties facing archaeologists at Catal Hoyuk involves the imagination.

The closely packed houses2b are obviously homes2c, because people live in them.  The inhabitants decorate various rooms.  They post the skulls of wild cows on their walls.  Are they trophies?  Or, are they symbols of divinity?  The archaeologist does not know.

Even worse, archaeologists do not know whether the people of Catal Hoyuk ideated any distinction between a trophy or a divinity.

My guess is that they did not.

0036 How so?

Consult the simple The First Singularity and Its Fairy Tale Trace and the complex An Archaeology of the Fall, by Razie Mah, available at smashwords and other e-book venues.

0037 My suspicion is that the people of Catal Hoyuk practice hand-speech talk, rather than speech-alone talk.  In hand speech talk, I cannot picture or point to the label, “home”2c.  If I picture or point to anything, it would be the house2b.

Here is a thought experiment.

Imagine that I live in Catal Hoyuk.

Even though hand-speech talk cannot label the word, “home”, I can implicitly commit to the conviction that my house2b is my home2c.  After all, I use riverbed clay2a to repair the walls of my house2b.  I live there.

My house2b is implicitly my home2c, but I cannot explicitly articulate that conclusion, because hand-speech talk only can image and indicate “house”2b.

0038 Hodder does not know this, because the professor has not encountered the hypothesis of the first singularity.

The perspective level can evolve as an adaptation, but it cannot be explicitly abstracted.  Instead, it is implicitly abstracted.

See Razie Mah’s e-book, A Primer on Implicit and Explicit Abstraction.

0039 The following diagram places a fine mesh underneath the elements of the perspective level, indicating that this level can adapt to the realness of houses2b, without explicit abstraction of the perspective-level elements.  What we call belonging3c, home2c and settlement1c are explicit abstractions that veil the fact that our capacity to “sense” these elements is innate

Figure 08

0040 Today, with speech-alone talk, I say, “I am going home.”

At Catal Hoyuk, with hand-speech talk, I manual-brachial gesture, “I-GO (point in direction of) HOUSE.”


Looking at Ian Hodder’s Book (2018) “Where Are We Heading?” (Part 5 of 15)

0041 Clearly, Hodder’s theory of entanglement requires embellishment.  Sensible construction alone will not do.  Social construction is another facet of entanglement.  In the houses of Catal Hoyuk, no one ever uses the terms, “belonging”3c, “home”2c or “reside”1c.  Instead, they know the meanings, the presences and the messages of these terms in their hearts.  They are habits of being.

What is it like to dwell in a living world where gesture-words are defined by things and events that one can picture or point to?

0042 Here is another application of Hodder’s sensible theory of entanglement.

Most likely, each filled-in element has corresponding manual-brachial gesture-words.

Figure 09

During the epipaleolithic, humans sow an original wild wheat on newly exposed riverbeds on the edges of streams.  Why?  Well, they observe that the riverbeds are nice little plots of land, free of weeds, that can be used to grow a preferred brand of grass.  Why sow grass?  There are lots of practical uses for grass, including mixing with clay to make stucco for houses and tinder for lighting fires.

0043 That is just the start.

The grass responds with an adaptation honoring the seeds that the humans sow.  Human habits increase the potential for robust rachis, rather than delicate rachis.  Grass with delicate rachis drop their seeds when humans cut the stalk.  Stalks with robust rachis retain their seeds for humans to thresh and use again.  Plus, they are edible.  Put some in a pot with milk and place the pot in the fire for a while and the result is a delicious and teeth-rotting mush.

Figure 10

0044 Today’s technical name for the new variety is “emmer wheat”.  During the early Neolithic, emmer wheat becomes common throughout southwest Asia.  Mush gets added to the menu.  But, soon enough, new culinary adaptations arise, including bread and beer.


Looking at Ian Hodder’s Book (2018) “Where Are We Heading?” (Part 6 of 15)

0045 Here is the application of Hodder’s sensible theory with respect to emmer wheat2a as a thing2a.  In human-thing dependency, processing food2b virtually situates emmer wheat2a.  Humans2b depend on things2a.  I call this H2b-T2adependence.

Figure 11

0046 Chapters four (“Humans and Things”), five (“Webs of Dependencies”), six (“The Generation of Change”) and seven (“Path Dependency and Two Forms of Dependencies”) fill in details.

0047 For example, the potential of ‘the growing, harvesting and threshing’1b of emmer wheat2a designates a human-thing (HT) dependency.

One could say that the biological adaptations occurring in the wheat designate a thing-human (TH) dependency.  But, a more obvious designation of thing-human dependency are the tools that were invented in order accomplish specific tasks, including baskets for holding seeds and clay pots for cooking mush.  These tool-things would not exist were it not for humans.

0048 For example, cutting grass stalks is one of the tasks in processing food2b from emmer wheat2a.   This task2b situates a content-level nested form in such a manner as to project an artifact2a into the slot for thing2a.   That artifact is a stone sickle2a.  Some things2a depend on humans2b.  I call this T2a-H2b dependence.

Figure 12

0049 On top of that, there is a subsidiary of H2b-T2a dependence that associates to the desirability of the tool1b for its particular task2b.  Certain tools work better than others.  A stone sickle made of obsidian is better than one made of granite.  The obsidian from a volcano near Catal Hoyuk2a makes great tools, not only sickles, but knives and arrowheads.  This obsidian is found throughout the ancient Near East, showing evidence for down-the-line trading during the early Neolithic.

0050 I call this T2b-T2a dependency.

Figure 13

0051 Hodder proposes one more dependency.  To me, this dependency is unlike the three types covered so far.  But, Hodder does not see that this additional dependency is unlike the rest.  I wonder whether there is evidence of it to be found in the archaeological site of Catal Hoyuk.


Looking at Ian Hodder’s Book (2018) “Where Are We Heading?” (Part 7 of 15)

0052 The first three dependencies, H2b-T2a, T2a-H2b and T2b-T2a are fully expressed within the two-level interscope of Hodder’s sensible theory of entanglement.

My next question brings in the hypothesis of the first singularity, mentioned in points 0029 and 0030.

Do these dependencies require explicit abstraction?

Or, do these dependencies roll out holistically, as if entanglement2b proceeds in the same fashion as natural selection2b?

If so, these dependences are guided by implicit abstraction.

0053 Plus, parallels between human evolution3b and Hodder’s entanglement3b, already noted in the third day of this blog (points 0017 to 0022) offer intriguing insights. 

0054 Here is a picture of the ultimate human niche.

Figure 14

0055 Note that triadic relations2a compose the actuality independent of the adapting species2a.  Triadic relations2a are immaterial (technically, purely relational) beings… er… things2a.  Yet, they are real enough to support the ultimate human niche.  The beauty of this proposal is demonstrated in Comments on Steven Mithen’s Book (1996) The Prehistory of The Mind, by Razie Mah, available at smashwords and other e-book venues.

0056 Compare the above figure to triadic relations2a as things2a in the normal context of entanglement3b.   Triadic relations include humans as one terminus and things as another terminus.  For example, a particular type of cloud may serve as a sign of coming inclement weather.  At the same time, humans may serve as one terminus and humans as another.  For example, a gesture pointing to a cloud of a particular type may signal that certain precautions should be taken, such as moving to higher ground or building a shelter.

Here is a picture of Hodder’s sensible entanglement theory with triadic relations as things2a.

Figure 15

0057 Of all the potential ‘uses of triadic relations’1b, one stands out: the use of manual-brachial gestures to sign to one another during team activities.  This connection is explored in Comments on Clive Gamble, John Gowlett and Robin Dunbar’s Book (2014) Thinking Big, by Razie Mah, available at smashwords and other e-book venues.

0058 Team cooperation3b brings manual-brachial gestures2b into relation with the potential of ‘sensibly picturing or pointing to salient things and events’1b.

I call the spectrum from pantomime to fully grammatical manual-brachial gestures, “hand talk”.

0059 On top of that, a juxtaposition of the situation-level category-based nested form for the human niche and for Hodder’s sensible entanglement theory suggests that the entire situation-level nested form for entanglement constitutes the actuality of human adaptation2b.

0060 Here is the comparison.

Figure 16

0061 Does the nested form at the top neatly fit into the situation-level actuality at the bottom?

It appears so.

Figure 17

0062 But, I add an important note.

Look at the situation-level potential1b.  It1b changes from the potential of triadic relations to implicit abstraction.

In human evolution, cooperative3b activities2b locate uses of triadic relations1b without an explicit awareness of the nature of triadic relations2a.  Indeed, an explicit awareness of triadic relations only appears on the stage of civilizationduring the past four-hundred years, first, with the Baroque Scholastic John Poinsot and second, with the American Postmodern Philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce.

Instead, our awareness of triadic relations is implicit.  Implicit awareness1b coincides with potential ‘uses of triadic relations’1b. Implicit abstraction is innate and explains why the neocortex size of hominin brains has systematically expanded during the past two million years.  See Comments on Derek Bickerton’s Book (2014) More Than Nature Needs,by Razie Mah, available at smashwords and other e-book venues.

In other words, entanglement theory applies to the evolution (and history) of the situation-level nested form of cooperation3b, where the potential for cooperation1b may be labeled with the term, “implicit abstractions1b“.


Looking at Ian Hodder’s Book (2018) “Where Are We Heading?” (Part 8 of 15)

0063 Where am I?

Okay, here is where I left off.

Figure 18

0064 I ask, “Why do hominins engage in cooperative activities3b?”

0065 Hodder’s book serves as a concrete example.

Hodder labors to share his knowledge and insights.

Hodder anticipates remuneration or acclamation for his efforts.

Hodder competes (labors) to cooperate (share knowledge), because the fruits of cooperation (remuneration and acclamation) increase his chances of reproductive success.

0066 Okay, that may sound reductionist.  It is.  But, anyone who reads books by social scientists is familiar with this type of nonsense.

0067 As an archaeologist, Hodder is honestly trying to puzzle out a difficulty.  How does one explicitly discuss implicit abstraction1b, the potential hiding within entanglement theory3b?

Oh, I know how.

Rely on implicit abstraction to convey the impression that entanglement theory coincides with a human adaptation.

Well, now, the message is explicit.


Looking at Ian Hodder’s Book (2018) “Where Are We Heading?” (Part 9 of 15)

0068 From the prior blog, I know that Hodder’s entanglement theory indirectly describes a human adaptation2b.  This adaptation2b exploits a niche1b in the normal context of natural selection3b.  The human niche1b is the potential of triadic relations1b.

Triadic relations2a are purely relational beings.  They rely on material beings.  But, they are not material beings.  They are like things, in the sense that they exist in the environment of evolutionary adaptation.  They are not mere things, like boulders resting on a valley floor.  They are like boulders changing the way that water flows in a river.  They are relational beings.

0069 Hodder writes as if things entangle us.  He wants to extend the idea to biological evolution.  Things create potentials1b that may be exploited by adaptations2b in the normal context of natural selection3b.

But the inverse is also true.  Life searches for opportunities to stay alive.  Life seeks ways to avoid death.  Sometimes, things provide those opportunities.  Sometimes, things provide dangers.  We know this in our bones.  Potential may be opportunity.  Potential may be dangerous.

Consequently, entanglement theory should fall into our mind’s lap, like manna from heaven.

0070 These comments add value to Hodder’s work.  Here is a way to articulate Hodder’s entanglement theory.

Figure 19

0071 Hodder refines his theory by isolating various dependencies.  Human-thing dependence is H2b-T2a.  Thing-human dependency, T2a-H2b, is an instance when the content-level normal context3a and potential1a come into play as a projection of implicit awareness1b.  Thing2a-thing1b dependency describes the nature of tools.

These dependencies are salient in the Lebenswelt that we evolved in.

0072 Oh, I almost neglected to mention one more dependency.  Human-human dependency.

Now, this dependency is like all the other dependencies.  At the same time, H-H dependency is not the same as all the other dependencies.  How so?  One of the elements of H-H must be a thing.  One element changes from a human to a thing. This transformation characterizes explicit abstraction.  In this regard, all the other dependencies may be re-enacted with specialized humans as things.

H-H dependency is salient in our current Lebenswelt.

0073 Plus, our current Lebenswelt is not the same as the Lebenswelt that we evolved in.


Looking at Ian Hodder’s Book (2018) “Where Are We Heading?” (Part 10 of 15)

0074 A terminological shift is appropriate when considering human-human dependency in our current Lebenswelt.  Instead of a “thing”, the person becomes an “object”.

Of course, in the Lebenswelt that we evolved in, one can never objectify a person within one’s own social circles.  What does one image or point to?  Hand-speech talk does not allow objectification, that is, explicit abstraction.

0075 Can I wrap my head around this idea?

In the Lebenswelt that we evolved in, linguistic hand-speech talk always referred to things and states of things that could be imaged or pointed to with manual-brachial word gestures.  In our current Lebenswelt, almost every spoken word that I know involves an explicit abstraction, where meaning, presence and message are projected into a formant-frequency placeholder (a parole) in a system of differences.  How mind boggling.

0076 When we project meaning, presence and message into a spoken word, the intended referent becomes an “object”.  A “baker” is someone who makes the dough to make bread.  A “ovener” is someone who makes sure that the fire heating an oven is constantly and correctly maintained.

Well, that is the nomenclature that I am going to use.

0077 Now, I can return to the diagrams of H2b-T2a, T2a-H2b and T2b-T2a presented earlier (points 0036-0041).

Emmer wheat is used to make bread.  This is an example of human-thing dependency, H2b-T2a, in our current Lebenswelt.

Figure 20

0078 Bread is a product of organized human activities.  Because spoken words may be used to label specialized features of the organization2b, explicit abstraction allows various tasks to become specialties, such as baker and ovener2a.  This follows the pattern of thing-human dependency, T2a-H2b.

Here is a picture.

Figure 21

0079 The specialties of “baker” and “ovener”, once defined, promulgate feelings of implicit abstraction.  These people-things become artifacts that validate our projections of meaning, presence and message into the spoken words.  These specialties2a are part of the toolset for producing product1a in the normal context of managing a bakery3a.  

Humans are now tools.  The question arises, “What makes a good ‘baker’ or ‘ovener’?”

Of course, these human-tools require training2a.

0080 Plus, these specialists2b better do their jobs well1b in the normal context of running a bakery business3b.  This criteria fits the style of thing-thing dependence.  However, now the things are objectified humans.

Figure 22