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).


Looking at Chris Sinha’s Essay (2018) “Praxis, Symbol and Language” (Part 4 of 5)

0012 Sinha’s EcoEvoDevoSocio framework associates to all the terms in the title of Chris Sinha’s Essay.

0013 Eco-Socio are bookends describing the long arc of time from the emergence of the Homo genus to the appearance of Homo sapiens.  At the start, signification primarily comes from the ecology.  At the end, significations primarily come from social interactions.

0014 EvoDevo are the twin tomes of phylogenesis and ontogenesis, bringing me to the truth-bearing fiction within Sinha’s narrative.

What is this fiction?

Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny.

0015 Biologists have debunked this slogan, as fact.  But, it lives on as fiction.


It must be true, even though it is factually incorrect.

0016 How else can one draw a thread through these two terms: language and the human brain?

Language goes with phylogenesis.  As discussed in the masterwork, The Human Niche, plus its attendant commentaries, the biological capacity for language evolves in the milieu of hand talk.  Hand talk develops phylogenetically, from signaling, to functional representation, to symbolic communication, then to fully linguistic.  The adaptation of language occurs within the evolution of hand talk.

The human brain goes with ontogenesis.  The capacity to read ecological significations expands to reading intentional manual-brachial gestures.  Intentional gestures retain their semiotic qualities as icons and indexes as they become more conventional, habitual, lawful and so on.  They become more and more like symbols. The neural substrate in the hominin brain finds a way to process symbols.

0017 Ecological significations are icons and indexes.

Intentional manual-brachial gestures are perceived as icons and indexes, even though they increasingly operate as symbols.

0018 So, instead of the slogan, “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny”, we can adopt the saying, “ontogeny intersects phylogeny”.

A traffic intersection belongs to both roads. So does the intersection of ontogeny and phylogeny.


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

0019 Chris Sinha’s essay is a contribution to a huge, obviously well-funded, academic project, led by Prof. Michael A. Arbib, of the University of California at San Diego.  An outline is presented in the same issue of Interaction Studies(19:1-2 (2018) 370-389).  The title is “The Comparative Neuroprimatology 2018 (CNP-2018) Road Map for Research on How the Brain Got Language“.

0020 The project’s slogan is a little humorous.

It’s like How the Birds Got Flight.

Does anatomy tell the tale?

To me, comparing the neural structure of the great apes, including models of our hominin ancestors, tells the ontogenesis side of the story.

0021 What about the phylogenesis side of the story?

The story of how the brain got language cannot be restricted to DNA, genes, genotypes, phenotypes and body development.  Phylogenesis cannot be ignored.  In this regard, Chris Sinha’s essay is crucial.  

The intersection of ontogeny and phylogeny re-capitulates the intersection between body development and natural history appearing in Speculations on Thomism and Evolution.

Chris Sinha adds weight to the natural history side, covering environment, ecology, niche, adaptation and natural selection.

0022 To this end, I suggest that the seventeen authors on this magnificent quest consider Razie Mah’s Comments on Chris Sinha’s Essay (2018) “Praxis, Symbol and Language”.  The contribution may be unexpected.  Nevertheless, it is properly attired.


Looking at Daniel Turbon’s Article (2020) “…Human Being in Evolution” (Part 1 of 11)

0001 Daniel Turbon, hailing from the University of Barcelona, publishes an article in the journal, Scientia et Fides(8(2)/2020, pages 65-94).   The essay is available online.  The full title is “The Distinctive Character of the Human Being in Evolution”.  I place only the second focus in the header of my comments, while noting that the first character cannot be ignored.

0002 When I look at this essay, what do I see?

Does the title translate into a category-based nested form?

Here is a diagram, following the script in A Primer on the Category-Based Nested Form.

Figure 1

0003 Each of the above terms constitute an empty slot.

So, I ask, “How would words in the entire title correspond to the above empty slots?”

My answer is necessarily both speculative and synthetic.

The normal context3 is evolution3.

The actuality2 is (the origin of) human beings2.

The potential1 is a distinctive character1.

0004 The resulting application looks like this.

Figure 2

0005 The category-based nested form contains four statements.  The fourth is paradigmatic: The normal context of evolution3 brings the actuality of the origin of the human being2 into relation with the potential of a distinctive character1.

When I read the title of Daniel Turbon’s article, this is what I see.


Looking at Daniel Turbon’s Article (2020) “…Human Being in Evolution” (Part 2 of 11)

0006 From the prior blog, I know that evolution3 is the normal context for Turbon’s article.  The logics of the normal context include exclusion, complement and alignment.  One normal context will tend to exclude, complement or align with another.

Turbon’s abstract ends with a plea that is not re-iterated in the body of the article.  As scientists labor to “cook up” human natural history, they must strive to ensure that the essence of human evolution does not become “indigestible”.

0007 What on earth does this mean?

Do humans evolve to grasp metaphors?

Or, do humans adapt into the niche of grasping essentials?

0008 Does scientific inquiry into our natural history3 exclude human intuition3?

Of course it3 does.

A simple substitution shows as much, as shown below.

Figure 3

0008 To me, the crux of Daniel Turbon’s entire article is captured by the last sentence of the abstract.The normal context of human intuition3 (guided by philosophy) ought to be able to digest what the normal context of evolution3 (guided by science) provides.


Looking at Daniel Turbon’s Article (2020) “…Human Being in Evolution” (Part 3 of 11)

0009 The last sentence of Turbon’s abstract presents the crux, the point and the inspiration for the entire article.  Two category-based nested forms stand side by side.  The question now becomes, “Do these normal contexts exclude, complement or align?”

0010 Here they are.

Figure 4

0011 They look like the same cards of different suites, say clubs and hearts.

Can clubs exclude hearts?

0012 Clearly, Turbon does not publish an essay in the journal, Scientia et Fides, in order to support exclusion.  Exclusion is already in the cards.  The deck is stacked.  Science excludes human intuition.

Why is this so?

0013 One reason is formulated in Comments on Jacques Maritain’s Book (1935) Natural Philosophy.  Scientific judgment relies on the positivist intellect.  The positivist intellect rules out metaphysics.  What is the advantage?  The rule assists in distinguishing a noumenon from its phenomena.  Phenomena are subject to empirio-schematic judgments. Their noumenon is not.

0014 Science measures, models and discusses phenomena, the observable facets of a thing.

Philosophy guides inquiry into the thing itself, the noumenon.

Consequently, a noumenon cannot be objectified as its phenomena.

Yet, a noumenon is necessary for phenomena to exist.

0015 So, exclusion is not in the cards.  What about complement?

Clubs and hearts are suites with similar cards.  They complement one another.  They exist in the same deck.  But, if clubs are like science and hearts are like philosophy, and if science focuses on phenomena and philosophy explores their noumenon, then what about the contiguity?

The contiguity between a noumenon and its phenomena is “cannot be objectified as”.

Clubs cannot be objectified as hearts.

Philosophy cannot be objectified as science.

Is this what Turbon aims to tell the reader?

I don’t think so.

0016 Intuition3 and evolution3 cannot exclude or complement one another.  So, they must align.

This is Turbon’s deal.


Looking at Daniel Turbon’s Article (2020) “…Human Being in Evolution” (Part 4 of 11)

0017 In alignment, two category-based nested forms generate a two-level interscope.

Before rushing headlong into that fact, I want to pause to appreciate another aspect of Peirce’s philosophy: the category of secondness.

Peirce’s secondness is the realm of actuality.  Actuality consists in two contiguous real elements.  It2 may be written: one real element [contiguity] other real element.

0018 Cause and effect is one expression of this contiguity.  “Causality” is what most envision as the contiguity between any two real elements.  The dyad, cause [contiguity] effect, exhibits the logic of noncontradiction.  If nothing else, real causes do not contradict their real effects.

However, even though we (humans) typically (an perhaps, innately) anticipate causality to present itself as a dyadic actuality, one wonders what happens when two elements are juxtaposed in a speculative fashion.  This is an old philosophical problem.  Nothing demonstrates it as well as the contiguity between a noumenon and its phenomena.

Figure 5

0019 A noumenon is a thing itself.

Phenomena are observable and measurable facets of the thing.

Actuality2 is dyadic.  So is the contiguity between a noumenon and its phenomena.  But, obviously the word “not” presents a problem, casting the dyad into the realm of possibility, which exhibits the logics of inclusion and befuddlement.  Phenomena cannot exist without a noumenon.  Yet, they cannot objectify that noumenon.

Many of the causalities in evolutionary science are dyads in the style of actuality, because the contiguity is speculative.

0020 For example, Turbon states that human genes form the basis of extra-somatic culture and extra-somatic culture is an effective method for adapting to the environment.  Here is a picture of these two speculations.

Figure 6

0021 Does this observation, that Turbon’s causal chains follow the style of secondness, assist in figuring out the alignment between philosophy and science?

Surely, the observation suggests that philosophy situates science.So, if the two nested forms combine into a two-level interscope, following the script of A Primer on Sensible and Social Construction, then noumenon-oriented philosophy should situate phenomena-oriented science.


Looking at Daniel Turbon’s Article (2020) “…Human Being in Evolution” (Part 5 of 11)

0022  From the prior blogs, I arrive at a two-level interscope.

0023 The crux of Turbon’s article resides in the last sentence of the abstract.

Whatever2a makes humans distinctive1a in the normal context of evolution3a should be “digestible” by whatever2b makes humans distinctive1b in the normal context of our own intuition3b.

0024 Turbon’s appeal fails when evolution3 excludes intuition3.

Turbon’s appeal will succeed when evolution3a and intuition3b align.

0025 In order to be “digestible”, scientific origins of human beings2a ought to be capable of being virtually situated by a coherent origins2b, arising from the potential of ‘something distinctive’1b, in the normal context of human intuition3b.

What disciplines guide human intuition3b?

Philosophy and theology.