Looking at David Graeber and David Wengrow’s Chapter (2021) “Why The State Has No Origin”(Part 13 of 13)

0255 Graeber and Wengrow’s exploration of the dawn of everything ends with a cruel joke.

The “state”2b, as defined by social science, cannot indirectly emerge from (and situate) righteousness1aC, while, at the same time, manifesting the characteristics of “domination”2a.

So, how is the contemporary left’s dream of achieving the virtues of liberty, equality and fraternity through the apparatus of the state2b going to work?

Thus ends the third layer, C:C’, of the author’s wide-ranging exercise in the semitic textual style.  The Dawn of Everythingis contemporary postmodern social science at its finest.  The authors start by searching for the origins of social inequality.  They end with the promise of a new history of humanity.

These authors do not know what they do not know.  But they do suspect this…

0256 …A new history of the world awaits.  There is a new way to describe the dawn of everything, where “everything” corresponds to “our current Lebenswelt”.

Yet, their explorations play out as a dark joke, almost as cruel as the joke that, long ago, a talking serpent plays on a naive young woman.

My thanks to the authors.  My condolences as well, on more than one level.

These comments provide views that dramatically re-present the vistas intimated in David Graeber and David Wengrow’s book.  Welcome to a new age of understanding: The Age of Triadic Relations.


Fantasia in G minor: A Speech Written for Gunnar Beck MEP

0001 Gunnnar Beck of the Alternative Fur Deutschland Party, a member of the European Parliament, schedules a speech for the current session.  A few members mill about an almost empty chamber.  The speech lasts for around fifteen minutes.  In that brief span, this statesman provides a true alternative for Germany, as well as all of Eurasia.

He reads the following text.

0002 “Today, I want to address a topic that has recently come to my attention.  The topic concerns the start of our current Lebenswelt.  The topic should be of interest to all Europeans.

Remember the stories of Adam and Eve?  

(laughter by the few in attendance)

We know that they are myths.  But, we cannot imagine what the myths are about.

So I ask: Can we imagine that these myths point to a scientific project that calls all the nations in Eurasia to contribute?

0003 During the past dozen years, a literary figure, Razie Mah, has published a dramatically new approach to human evolution.  He offers three works: The Human NicheAn Archaeology of the Fall and How to Define the Word “Religion”The Human Niche covers the Lebenswelt that we evolved in.  An Archaeology of the Fall introduces the first singularity.  How To Define the Word “Religion” explores our current Lebenswelt.

0004 I will briefly elaborate the proposals of this scholar.

Here is the first hypothesis.  Our current Lebenswelt is not the same as the Lebenswelt that we evolved in.  The transition from the latter to the former occurs in recent prehistory and is called ‘the first singularity’.

0005 The second hypothesis concerns the Lebenswelt that we evolved in.

We are all familiar with the biological principle that natural selection brings adaptations into relation with a niche.

0006 I ask, ‘What is a niche?’

A niche is the potential of something independent of the adapting species.  Typically, the niche is a material condition, say, the presence of a predator or an environmental influence.  For humans, the niche is not a material condition.  The human niche is the potential of triadic relations.

The philosopher Charles Peirce initiates the study of triadic relations in the modern era.  Examples includes signs, mediations, judgments and category-based nested forms.  Triadic relations encompass mechanical cause and effect, even as they transcend it.  Triadic relations are immaterial, yet they entangle the material.

0007 Consequently, triadic relations offer a new avenue for investigating the Lebenswelt that we evolved in.  The book, The Human Niche, plus its attending commentary, starts the inquiry.

0008 The third hypothesis concerns our current Lebenswelt.

Consider the spoken word, “religion”.  This spoken word belongs to a system of differences.  “Religion” is not the same as “spirituality”.  “Spirituality” is definitely not the same as a “church”.   A “church” is not the same as “a popular belief that there is more to reality than material being”.  In short, the word, “religion”, is purely symbolic and symbols belong to systems of differences.

0009 Do systems of differences have anything to do with language?

Yes, according to Ferdinand de Saussure, language consists of two related systems of differences: parole (or talk) and langue (or thought).

When parole is speech-alone talk, its relation to langue is arbitrary.

If speech is arbitrarily related to thought and if words compose systems of differences, then how do we know what a spoken word refers to?

0010 This is a difficult question.

Razie Mah proposes that we project meanings, presences and messages into spoken words.  Then, we construct artifacts that validate our projections.

In How to Define the Word “Religion”, Razie Mah projects purely relational structures into the meaning, presence and message of the word, “religion”, creating artifacts that validate the term.  But, the artifacts do not quite match what most of us think when we say the word, “religion”.

0011 Remember Eve in the Garden of Eden?

She performs the identical operations.  She sees the fruit.  She names the fruit with a spoken word.  She projects meaning, presence and message into its name.  Then, the fruit becomes an artifact that validates her projection.  Until, of course, the moment that she bites into it.

Then, her eyes are opened.

This story should be familiar to all Europeans, because, right now, the eyes of many citizens are being opened, as our artifacts fail to live up to our projections.  Indeed, we find that our artifacts are not at all what we think they are.  We have tasted the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  And, we realize that we are naked and exposed.

0012 There is a foundational problem with our current Lebenswelt.

This problem does not operate in the Lebenswelt that we evolved in.

So, what is the difference between our current Lebenswelt and the Lebenswelt that we evolved in?

0013 This brings me back to Razie Mah’s first hypothesis.

What is the nature of the first singularity?

Let me start with this.  The evolution of talk is not the same as the evolution of language.

Hand talk is practiced in the Lebenswelt that we evolved in.  Speech is added to hand talk at the start of our species, over two-hundred thousand years ago.

The semiotics of hand talk is crucial.  Manual-brachial word-gestures image and point to their referents.  So, the referent stands before the gestural word.  Hominins cannot project meaning, presence and message into their gesture-words.  Such projections require symbols.  Manual-brachial gestures are icons and indexes.

0014 Consequently, our distant ancestors cannot perform explicit abstraction.  Rather, abstractions are implicit.  Implicit abstractions build our bodies and our minds.  Implicit abstractions build our social circles.  This is the way that we evolved to be.

Language consists of symbolic operations.  Symbolic operations start to function beneath the icons and indexes of hand talk.  Consequently, language evolves in the milieu of hand talk, as symbolic operations become more and more routine.  General grammar appears after the domestication of fire.  Hominins prosper with fire and linguistic hand-talk.  When humans evolve, speech gets added to hand talk.

Anatomically modern humans practice hand-speech talk for two-hundred thousand years.  Humans settle all habitable continents.  Then, around seven-thousand eight-hundred years ago, something strange happens.  A new culture appears on the edge of the Persian Gulf.  That culture practices speech-alone talk.  That culture is the Ubaid of southern Mesopotamia.

0015 At the beginning of the first singularity, the Ubaid is the only culture practicing speech-alone talk.  All surrounding cultures practice hand-speech talk.

Today, all civilizations practice speech-alone talk.

0016 Obviously, speech-alone talk expands from the Ubaid to all the world.  It does so, through mimesis.

The transition is easy.  All that a hand-speech talking culture needs to do is drop the hand-talk component of its hand-speech talk.

The motivation?

Speech-alone talk increases labor and social specialization.

Speech-alone talk makes people wealthy and powerful.

Speech-alone talk allows explicit abstraction.  Speech-alone talk permits people to project meanings, presences and messages into purely symbolic words.  Speech-alone talk encourages people to construct artifacts that validate those projections.  Consequently, speech-alone talk places no constraints on social complexity.  Speech-alone talk potentiates civilization.

 0017 The hypothesis of the first singularity explains why our current Lebenswelt is not the same as the Lebenswelt that we evolved.

If the hypothesis of the first singularity is plausible, then our appreciation of ourselves will never be the same. 

0018 Here, I get down to business.

The hypothesis of the first singularity mandates an intercivilizational research project.  Can we visualize the spread of speech-alone talk, from the Ubaid to all the world, in recent prehistory?  We are looking for signs of increasing social complexity, eventually leading to civilization in various regions of the world.  But, that is not all.  The adoption of speech-alone talk leads to many other trends that appear in recent prehistory, such as the Indo-European and the Austronesian language expansions.  The question opens wide vistas.  Archaeologists of the world, hear our plea.  Nations of the Eurasia, hear our voice.

We look to Iraq, the site of the Ubaid, the Halaf, and the Hassuna cultures.  History begins in Sumer.  We look to Iran, the site of the Susa culture, showing signs of social complexity, then, collapsing in the face of a Uruk expansion.  We look to Egypt.  Could speech-alone talk have spread to Egypt from Mesopotamia, potentiating civilization along the Nile?  We look to the nations of the Aegean.  Could the adoption of speech-alone talk contribute to the rise of Bronze Age civilizations.  We look to Europe.  Could the secondary farming expansion have spread speech-alone talk?

We look to Russia, as the site where the Proto-Indo-European culture coalesces.  What is the prehistory of the Kurgan culture?  We look to Pakistan and India, asking them to explore the prehistoric cultures giving rise to the planned cities of the Harappan culture.  We look to China, for signs of increasing social complexity, leading to the Longshan culture, among others.  We look to Japan, for the emergence of social complexity during the Jomon period.

We look to China, Taiwan, Philippines, New Guinea, and other nations of the eastern Pacific, asking them to investigate the nature and the timing of the Austronesian language expansion.  We look to Peru and Ecuador, site of the oldest civilizations in the Americas.  We look to Mexico and central America for signs leading to Mesoamerican civilizations.  We look to North America, for the archaeology of the mound-building cultures.

0019 We propose that The First Intercivilizational Conference on the First Singularity be held, in the year 2025, in Berlin.  Within two years, archaeologists can collate existing information with the hypothesis in mind.  The intent of this conference will be to establish collaborative intercivilizational research programs.  Seven years later, a second conference should give the world an indication as to the credibility of the hypothesis of the first singularity.

0020 Razie Mah offers three works, The Human NicheAn Archaeology of the Fall and How to Define the Word “Religion”.  These three works transform our vision of human evolution.

First, our current Lebenswelt is not the same as the Lebenswelt that we evolved in.  The transition from the latter to the former is called “the first singularity”.  The first singularity involves a change in the way humans talk.

Second, the human niche is the potential of triadic relations.

Third, the semiotics of speech-alone talk potentiates unconstrained social complexity.  Unconstrained social complexity defines our current Lebenswelt.

0021 These three hypotheses should be of interest to all Europeans.  They address issues of intellectual concern throughout Western civilization.  What if the stories of Adam and Eve are fairy tales about social developments in the Ubaid of southern Mesopotamia?  What if our ancestors adapt to a niche that is unlike any other mammal’s niche?  How do we accept the claim that our spoken words encourage us to construct artifacts that then validate our spoken words? The implications are profound.

0022 Most of all, the hypothesis of the first singularity should inspire this body, the European Parliament, to address the continent of Eurasia, and ask, “Will you help us investigate?”

Archaeologists from all parts of Eurasia are called to participate in an intercivilizational research project. Can archaeological investigations of our local prehistories allow us to imagine the adoption of speech-alone talk as the historical condition that potentiates unconstrained social complexity?  This is a huge question.  This question extends beyond Eurasia.  However, the question applies first to Eurasia.

Further details of this proposal will be forthcoming.

0023 I thank you for the privilege of addressing this chamber.”


Looking at Manvir Singh’s Article (2021) “Magic, Explanations, and Evil” (Part 1 of 5)

0001 This blog compliments Comments on Manvir Singh’s Essay (2021) “Magic, Evil and Explanations”, available at smashwords and other websites selling electronic works.

0002 Singh’s article appears in Current Anthropology.

Manvir Singh is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse, France.

To me, his work contrasts with Sasha Newell, who, in 2018, publishes a theoretical piece titled, “The Affectiveness of Symbols”, also in Current Anthropology.

Singh aims for science.  Newell focuses on interpretation.

0003 Will the discipline of Anthropology turn towards an empirio-schematic approach or towards an approach where the word, “science”, is no longer relevant?

Mark Horowitz, William Yaworsky and Kenneth Kickham publish a survey, under the title, “Anthropology’s Science Wars: Insights from an New Survey”, in 2019, in Current Anthropology.

0004 These three papers tell us much about the divided discipline of contemporary Anthropology.


Looking at Manvir Singh’s Article (2021) “Magic, Explanations, and Evil” (Part 2 of 5)

0005 Anthropology stands astride the narrower, more technical, disciplines of Sociology and Psychology.

Manvir Singh constructs a modern paradigm for a topic dear to Anthropology, but not to the narrower disciplines.

What is the nature of magic?

0006 Singh publishes the results of a Mystical Harm Survey, applied to 60 societies on the Probability Sample File of the electronic Human Relations Area Files.  He uses principal component analysis to reduce forty-nine raw variables to two principal dimensions with the greatest variation.

Principal components?  Greatest variation?

0007 Principal components are the dimensions with the greatest variation in a scatterplot.

Typically, principal component analysis shows variables that are relevant to the topic at hand.

For example, when considering mystical harm, one would expect significant variation between a common person and, say, a warlock, along some parameter that might be called, “warlockness”.

0008 Singh finds two parameters distinguishing common folk, sorcerers and witches.  Witches are high in PC1 and low in PC2.  Sorcerers are low in PC1 and high in PC2.

PC1 is witchiness.  Witches fly, meet in secret in the forest on a full moon, suddenly appear and disappear, and so on.  To me, witchiness is the embodiment of malicious magic.  Witches not only perform magic, they live it.

PC2 is the evil eye.  Sorcerers do not embody the magic that they perform.  Instead, the magic resides in their gaze.  The evil eye is a harmful mystical operation that signifies a whole range of magical works.  The evil eye is the worst.

0009 Singh does not dwell on the seemingly philosophical distinction between embodiment and gaze.  Neither do the anthropologists who are pleased with the scatterplot of PC1 and PC2 in Figure 1 (of the article).  Anthropology looks like science.


Looking at Manvir Singh’s Article (2021) “Magic, Explanations, and Evil” (Part 3 of 5)

0010 Singh identifies two principle components to harmful magic, witchiness (PC1) and the evil eye (PC2).

What happens next?

0011 Singh proposes a model to account for the observation.  The model consists of three schemes of cultural selection.

The first selection (F) is for intuitive techniques of harmful magic.

The second selection (G) is for plausible explanations of misfortune.

The third selection (H) is for myths that demonize a subgroup (in this case, sorcerers and witches).

0012 Singh misses the scaffolding beneath the glass that he stands on.  His exposition is on malevolent magic.  He does not seem to realize that malevolent magic recapitulates the open, generative magic of group living, including…

…intuitive techniques for beneficial magic (F’)…

…plausible explanations of fortune (G’)…

…myths that celebrate the group (H’).

0013 Here is a table.


Looking at Manvir Singh’s Article (2021) “Magic, Explanations, and Evil” (Part 4 of 5)

0014 For example, a number of ladies in the community, noting that berries are in season, set out to collect several baskets.  They perform the rituals of gathering to ensure success.  Then they set out, chattering, as always.  During the harvest, one mother is bit by a spider that no one can identify.  After hastily returning, they bring the spider’s remains to the shaman.

The shaman is concerned.  He makes a paste to put over the bite.  The next morning, the woman is dead and the berries, left overnight in the baskets, are mysteriously rotted.

0015 Later, questions arise.


Looking at Manvir Singh’s Article (2021) “Magic, Explanations, and Evil” (Part 5 of 5)

0016 To me, Singh’s three cultural selection schemas for malevolent magic recapitulate the scaffolding below them.  Evilis a privation of good.

0017 Malevolent magic is like a figure in a mirror.  It is not the good that stands before the mirror.  Instead, it is a purely relational being that recapitulates the figure that stands before it.  Something is wrong.  Something is missing.  There is nothing behind the surface of the mirror, even though the reflected image seems real.  The reflected image seems to stand behind the surface of the mirror as if occupying space in a real world.

Can anyone see what is behind a mirror?

0018 Perhaps, this explains why Singh cannot see the magic of everyday life that both underlies and supports his expert statistical analysis.  He cannot see through the glass upon which he stands.  He looks down and sees the world above him, full of witches and sorcerers, instigators of mystical harm.

0019 Razie Mah’s comments associate features of Singh’s essay to elements in a category-based nested form.  Singh’s argument retains its integrity, even as his vision is transubstantiated from a reflection into a real anthropological subject of interest.  What is the nature of magic?  Does magic touch base with the presence underlying the word, “religion”?

0020 Anthropologists take note.

Print out copies of Manvir Singh’s publication in Current Anthropology and Razie Mah’s Comments on Manvir Singh’s Essay (2021) “Magic, Evil and Explanations”.

Present the pair to a few graduate students, asking, “Which is real and which is fake?”

Is Anthropology a science? Or is it a discipline of interpretations?


Looking at Chris Sinha’s Essay (2018) “Praxis, Symbol and Language” (Part 1 of 5)

0001 Chris Sinha, writing from Hunan University, publishes another article on human evolution.  The journal is Interaction Studies (volume 19(2), 2018, pages 239-255).  The complete title is “Praxis, Symbol and Language: Developmental, Ecological and Linguistic Issues”.

The title of Razie Mah’s commentary is Comments on Chris Sinha’s Essay (2018) “Praxis, Symbol and Language”. The commentary is found at the smashwords website under the series: Buttressing the Human Niche.  Other vendors also sell the e-commentary.

0002 This blog complements the commentary.

0003 Sinha’s article covers from the start of the Homo genus, around two million years ago, to the speciation of Homo sapiens, around two-hundred thousand years ago. That is a lot of territory.

Several issues intertwine.  One is individual development (devo).  Another is a transition in natural selection (evo) from ecology-driven adaptations (eco) to adaptations driven by social interactions (socio).

0004 Sinha loves terminology.  He searches for a EcoEvoDevoSocio framework.


Looking at Chris Sinha’s Essay (2018) “Praxis, Symbol and Language” (Part 2 of 5)

0005 What about Sinha’s EcoEvoDevoSocio framework?

0006 The outer terms, “eco” and “socio”, signify a broad arc of human evolution.

Adaptation by a line of apes starts with ecological adaptations.  For example, bipedalism is evolutionarily ancient.

However, the fact that bipedalism frees the hands for communicative gestures creates new opportunities.  A truly human niche appears.  One hominin can intentionally gesture to another.  The other hominin can interpret that gesture.

0007 The frontpiece of the title captures Sinha’s EcoSocio vision.  The praxis (or habits) of intentional manual-brachial gestures for communication proceeds from signaling to functional representation.

Functional representation metaphorically runs around the symbol, defined as a sign-relation whose sign-object depends on conventions, habits, laws and so forth.  The more that intentional manual-brachial gestures act as words, the more symbolic they become.

In this way, hominins become symbol-ready and capable of engaging in language.


Looking at Chris Sinha’s Essay (2018) “Praxis, Symbol and Language” (Part 3 of 5)

0008 Allow me to further elaborate Sinha’s EcoEvoDevoSocio framework.

In the prior blog, the Eco-Socio bookends touch base with the title frontpiece of praxis, symbol and language.

0009 This implies that the EvoDevo inner coupling expresses the title endpiece of developmental, ecological and linguistic issues.

0010 Evo associates to phylogeny.  Phylogenesis consists of adaptations into a niche.  The human niche changes from one where ecology is the primary source of signification to one where symbol-ready hominins are the primary sources of signification.  

Devo associates to ontogeny.  Ontogenesis consists of alterations in DNA, genes, genotypes and phenotypes that permit the drastic shift in the primary source of signification.

0011 Sinha cleverly encapsulates the inner drama of phylogenic and ontogenic changes over evolutionary time(EvoDevo) within the outward motion from an ecology-centered Umwelt to a socially-centered Lebenswelt (Eco-Socio).