Looking at Daryl Domning’s Book (2006) “Original Selfishness” (Part 1 of 16)

0001 Biologist Daryl P. Domning and theologian Monika K. Hellwig collaborate in a work, entitled, Original Selfishness: Original Sin and Evil in the Light of Evolution.  Domning professionally studies the evolution of sirenians, sea cows, while maintaining an interest in Catholic theology.  The sea cows, like the whales and the seals, are land mammals that adapted to an aquatic environment… or should I say?… niche.

0002 In terms of human imagination, sea cows associate to mermaids.  Mermaids are chimeric.  They are half woman and half fish.

0003 The titular word, “selfishness”, is chimeric as well.  It starts in Germany as an emphatic, added to a pronoun (A).  For example, I can say, “I myself” or  “you yourself” or “he himself” or “she herself” and so on.  Then, in Old English, the emphatic coalesces into a noun, “self” (B).  Then, the noun becomes an adjective with an added,”-ish” (C).  “Selfish” denotes an emphasis on self by self.  Then, the adjective converts back into a noun with an added “-ness” (D).  Selfishness (D) is the state of being selfish (C).

0004 So, there is an evolution to the word, “selfishness”, as well.

What games we play with words.

It makes me wonder whether the evolution of this spoken word has anything to do with evil in the light of evolution.

0005 If I change the mode of talk to hand-talk, I may say POINT TO MYSELF.  I may not say I POINT TO MYSELF, because the pronoun, I, is signified by pointing to myself.  I may gesture, POINT TO MYSELF twice, or with dramatic flair, but that is not equivalent to the spoken word, “self” (B) or “selfish” (C).  It may be equivalent to the emphatic, “I, myself” (A).

0006 If language evolves in the milieu of hand talk, then our distant ancestors do not hand talk the equivalent of the spoken words, “self”, “selfish” or “selfishness”.

Does this fact provide a clue to original sin in light of evolution? 

At least, it provides a clue to a divide in the course of human evolution.

The emphatic, I-myself (A), associates to hand talk and the Lebenswelt that we evolved in.

The explicit abstractions of self (B), selfish (C) and selfishness (D) associate to speech-alone talk and our current Lebenswelt.

0007 Our current Lebenswelt is not the same as the Lebenswelt that we evolved in.

In 2006 (and perhaps, anytime before Domning reads this), the author does not suspect that there may be a twist in human evolution.  In general, evolutionary biologists have no idea.  Like Domning, they are focused on genetics and natural history, not cultural turns.  The hypothesis of the first singularity first appears in 2012 with the masterwork, An Archaeology of the Fall, available at smashwords and other e-book vendors.


Looking at Daryl Domning’s Book (2006) “Original Selfishness” (Part 16 of 16)

0097 Original sin is the absence of original justice.

That is what Saint Thomas Aquinas claims.

The association between original justice, the state of Adam before the Fall, and the Lebenswelt that we evolved in is developed in Comments on Daniel Houck’s Book (2020) “Aquinas, Original Sin and the Challenge of Evolution”.

0098 This examination of Daryl Domning’s book adds depth to that commentary.

By separating the universal (descent from common ancestor) and moral (the traditional definition of concupiscence) realities of original sin, Domning offers me a path to discover one of features of the Lebenswelt that we evolved in, as well as one of the features of our current Lebenswelt.

0099 What games we play with words.

My thanks to Daryl Domning and Monica Hellwig for their speculative effort, trying to reconcile evolutionary science and Christian doctrine.  Original Selfishness: Original Sin and Evil in Light of Evolution is first published in 2006 by Ashgate.  My copy is published in 2016 by Routledge.  The first edition in paperback is issued in 2021.  ISBN is 978-1-03-224358-0.


Day 1: Looking at Brian Kemple’s Essay (2020) “Signs and Reality” (Part 1 of 8)

0001 What is Reality?

Reality is a journal for philosophical discourse.

It is worthy of financial support by people of good will.

Reality is the only journal, to date, closing the gap between Thomistic philosophy and Peircean semiotics.

Brian Kemple Ph.D. is the editor of Reality.

0002 He is also the last graduate student of the late John Deely (1942-2017), of fond memory.  

0003 The essay at hand appears in 2020, volume 1, and covers pages 76-123.

The full title is “Signs and Reality: An Advocation for Semiotic Realism”.

0004 The issue is captured on page 115.

Kemple writes (more or less), “If we are to have a living, thriving realism, it must be a realism capable of dealing with the entirety of the real; not only the reality that we engage directly through our senses, but the reality we experience perceptually and intellectually as well, a reality comprising the relations and especially the sign-relations that constitute so much of our experience.”


Looking at Brian Kemple’s Essay (2020) “Signs and Reality” (Part 2 of 8)

0005 Matthew Minerd Ph.D. pens a commentary that follows Brian Kemple’s essay.

Thomists currently exhibit an attitude when it comes to semiotic things.

0006 He notes (more or less), “For contemporary scholastics, the domain of cognition-dependent reality generally is a kind of terra non-considerata.  Real being is ens naturae and is separate from the domains of knowledge, technical craft and moral freedom.  These are entia rationis (mind-dependent beings) that, honestly, belong in the shadow.”

0007 How so?

The shadow is not the causalities inherent in ens rationis.

The shadow is the awfulness of the topic.

Look at the shadow side of the domains that Minerd mentions: ignorance (shadow of knowledge), incompetence (shadow of technical craft) and depravity (shadow of moral freedom).

Entia rationis are the things of original sin.

0008 What Thomist wants to wade into that mess?


Looking at Brian Kemple’s Essay (2020) “Signs and Reality” (Part 3 of 8)

0009 Now, I regard Kemple’s article “Signs and Reality”, in the journal, Reality, and Razie Mah’s Comments on Brian Kemple’s Essay (2020) “Signs and Reality” (available at the smashwords website).

Is there a crack in the mirror of the scholastic world, as it reflects on res (thing)?

Things are real.

So are sign relations.

If so, are sign relations things?

0010 If sign relations are real, then the consequences of their realness cannot be denied.

This if-then statement applies to biology.

Are sign-relations so real that they are able to support a niche, into which some hapless creature may adapt?  A niche is the potential of an actuality independent of the adapting genus.  Could sign-relations, or triadic relations in general, be so real as to constitute a niche?

Consider the masterwork, The Human Niche.

0011 There are more consequences.

If sign relations are real, then a cultural change in the natural-sign character of talk may account for a rapid, inexorable alteration of a Lebenswelt.  Does such a transition explain why our current Lebenswelt is not the same as the Lebenswelt that we evolved in?

Consider the masterwork, An Archaeology of the Fall.

0012 Finally, if our current Lebenswelt turns the evolutionary progression upside down, elevating stipulation over custom and custom over nature, then how do we validate our spoken words?  If the meaning, presence and message underlying a spoken word is stipulated, upon what thing do we staple our stipulation?  How about this: If we construct an artifact, then that artifact should validate our stipulation.  The artifact validates what we stipulate it to be.

What can go wrong with that?

Consider the masterwork, How to Define the Word “Religion”.


Looking at Brian Kemple’s Essay (2020) “Signs and Reality” (Part 4 of 8)

0013 Three masterworks, all available on smashwords, The Human NicheAn Archaeology of the Fall and How to Define the Word “Religion”, expose scientific implications of Brian Kemple’s claims.

If sign-relations are things, then we have an entirely new way to appreciate human evolution, including a recent, and revelatory, twist.

0014 Another triadic relation, the category-based nested form, proves invaluable in discussing these issues.

A Primer on the Category-Based Nested Form and A Primer on Sensible and Social Construction provide the background.

A category-based nested form consists in a normal context3, an actuality2 and a potential1.  The subscripts refer to Peirce’s categories.  These three elements fulfill four relational statements.

0015 Here is a picture.

Figure 1

Looking at Brian Kemple’s Essay (2020) “Signs and Reality” (Part 5 of 8)

0016 Comments on Brian Kemple’s Essay (2020) “Signs and Reality”, available on the smashwords website, examines Kemple’s work using the category-based nested form and the three-level interscope.

0017 Kemple presents three actualities: species impressaspecies expressa and species intelligibilis from various texts by Aquinas.

These fit into a three-level interscope in the following fashion.

Figure 2

0018 Of course, one may contest these associations.

But, how else would these terms fit into the empty slots of a three-level interscope?

Perhaps, I could put in the word “normal context” for the normal context3 for all three levels and “potential” for the potential1 of all three levels.

But, that would not change the overall picture.

0019 Even more curious, these three actualities serve as sign-objects and sign-vehicles in sign-relations.  There are three sign-relations in this figure.  So each actuality may serve as both a sign-vehicle and a sign-object.

The interventional sign couples the perspective and content levels.

The specifying sign couples the content and situation levels.The exemplar sign couples the situation and perspective levels. 


Looking at Brian Kemple’s Essay (2020) “Signs and Reality” (Part 6 of 8)

0020 Comments on Brian Kemple’s Essay (2020) “Signs and Reality” tells a story and suggests associations between Kemple’s… er…. Aquinas’s terminology and the category-based nested form.

First, three kinds of sign-objects correspond to three actualities in a three-level interscope.

Second, three sign-relations couple the levels, so that each object may serve as both a sign-vehicle and sign-object.  The only sign that does not serve as both a sign-vehicle and sign-object is the interventional sign.

0021 Here is a picture.

Figure 3

0022 The interventional sign couples the perspective and content levels.

The specifying sign couples the content and situation levels.

The exemplar sign couples the situation and perspective levels.

0023 Kemple specifically mentions three types of signs.  These correspond to the character of the sign-vehicle for the interventional sign.

These types are nature, custom and stipulation.  

These three types associate to periods in human evolution.

0024 The first two are discussed in Comments on Chris Sinha’s Essay (2018) “Praxis, Symbol and Language”.  See this blog for the middle of May, 2021.

Early in the Lebenswelt that we evolved in, natural events serve as sign-vehicles for interventional signs.  Since hominins adapt into the niche of triadic relations, the sign-objects of the interventional sign, sensations and feelings, turn into sign-vehicles for specifying signs.

Later in the Lebenswelt that we evolved in, linguistic manual-brachial word-gestures serve as sign vehicles for interventional signs.  The sign-objects decode the interventional signs according to custom.  Specifying signs are trained by timeless traditions.  Exemplar signs cannot be articulated using hand talk, yet they involve crucial adaptations, because the exemplar sign-object manifests as a commitment.

0025 Finally, after the first singularity, in our current Lebenswelt, the exemplar sign is able to be symbolized by speech-alone talk.

This turns out to be most problematic, since speech-alone allows the interventional sign-vehicle to be stipulated.  Comments on Brian Kemple’s Essay (2020) “Signs and Reality” tells a story about a stipulation.  The story also tells about concupiscence.

0026 The sign-object of the exemplar sign occupies the same position in the three-level interscope as the sign-vehicle of the interventional sign.  This is significant.  Thomas Aquinas’s theology of original sin conducts itself precisely along the circuit depicted above, as discussed in Comments on Daniel Houck’s Book (2020) “Aquinas, Original Sin and the Challenge of Evolution”.


Looking at Brian Kemple’s Essay (2020) “Signs and Reality” (Part 7 of 8)

0027  Comments on Brian Kemple’s Essay (2020) “Signs and Reality”, available at smashwords, includes a story of a rot consuming the Age of Ideas, the third age of understanding.  Modernism is frozen in its gaze upon a thing, an innocent thing.  Certain modern elites hunger to financialize and harvest such innocence.  Call it what you will.  The yearning goes by many names.

In time, the rot will run its course.

Modernism will fail.

However, in this theodrama, the premodern Thomism of the Latin Age, the second age of understanding, may transubstantiate into the postmodern Thomism of the Age of Triadic Relations, the fourth age of understanding.  Deely predicts it.  Kemple aims to manifest it.  Signs are real, just like things.

0028 This is not the only fissure to appear in the scholastic mirror of the world.

Shall I elaborate?

0029 Smashwords contains an entire series of commentaries devoted to the question, “Is Aristotle’s hylomorphism an expression of Peirce’s category of secondness?

Another series is devoted to empirio-schematics, starting with Comments on Jacques Maritain’s Book (1935) “Natural Philosophy” and Comments on Nicholas Berdyaev’s Book (1939) “Spirit and Reality”.

Several commentaries in the series, Reverberations of the Fall, expand on Aquinas’s breakthrough concept of original justice.

0030 These series are not anomalies.  They are features of what happens when Thomists take seriously the very topic that they struggle to avoid.

Kemple’s advocation leads the way.


Looking at Brian Kemple’s Essay (2020) “Signs and Reality” (Part 8 of 8)

0031 Look to Reality: A Journal of Philosophical Discourse.

Visit the website.

Donate to its flourishing.

Read the works.

Take a course.

0032 Most challenging of all, hire a budding scholar to compare and contrast Kemple’s article “Signs and Reality”, in the journal, Reality, and Razie Mah’s Comments on Brian Kemple’s Essay (2020) “Signs and Reality”.

The assignment will not disappoint.