Looking at Michael Tomasello’s Book (1999) “The Cultural Origins of Human Cognition” (Part 1 of 12)

0001 In 1999 AD, Michael Tomasello, then co-director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, publishes the work before me (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts).

To me, this work marks the start of the author’s twenty year journey, culminating in a theory of human ontogeny, published in 2019.  The word, “ontogeny”, refers to human development and associates to the human phenotype.

0002 What interests me in Tomasello’s journey?

As noted in Comments on Dennis Venema and Scot McKnight’s Book (2017) Adam and the Genome (available at smashwords and other e-book venues), “phenotype” and “adaptation” are not the same.  Instead, these labels apply to distinct actualities that coalesce into a single actuality.  One may call that single actuality, an individual, a species or a genus.  One may also call that single actuality, “a mystery”.

I am interested in the natural history side of the mystery of human evolution.  However, the genetic (or ontogenetic) side cannot be ignored.  Plus, natural history cannot be reduced to genetics, or visa versa

0003 Chapter one of Tomasello’s book is titled, “A Puzzle and a Hypothesis”.

Of course, a puzzle is not a mystery.  A puzzle can be resolved.  A mystery cannot.

The puzzle starts with genetics.  Geneticists have examined the DNA of chimpanzees, bonobos and humans and predict that the last common ancestor lives 6 or 7 Myr (six or seven million years ago).

In contrast, physical anthropologists (natural historians) propose the fossil record noted in the following figure.  With terminological sleight of hand, they refer to human ancestors as “hominins”, even though the old term for any bipedal primate (ape or human) is “hominid”. 

0004 Hmmm. Does the puzzle concern time?

According to genetics, the last common ancestor (LCA) between chimpanzees and humans lives 7 Myr (millions of years ago).  But, little significant shows up in the fossil record until 4 Myr.  Our lineage obviously evolves feet first.  As it turns out, starting around 5 Myr, the extent of tropical vegetation in Africa decreases due to desiccation.  Bipedality is an adaptation to mixed forest and savannah.

0005 The fossil record provides other clues, especially stone tools.

The first stone tools are Oldowan.  Oldowan stones tools are constructed on site.  They are used to scrape meat off of bone and to crack long bones (that are full of fatty marrow).

Acheulean stone tools appear later in the archeological record.  Acheulean stone tools are made beforehand and carried with some intention in mind.  They have the appearance of a giant tooth.  Notably, Acheulean stone tool technology remains unchanged for over a million years.  Innovations in stone-tools follow the domestication of fire.

0006 Surely, these two tables are puzzling.  In the first, the fossil record pertains to changes in hominin phenotypes.  In the second, the fossil record pertains to hominin adaptations, but these adaptations are not phenotypic. They are artifacts.  Are these adaptive artifacts cultural?  Are they behavioral?  I wonder, “Do the words, ‘culture’ and ‘behavior’, capture the matter and the form of these artifacts?”  It is as if an adaptation recognizes matter and generates form.

0007 What is the nature of the adaptation that maintains (and occasionally changes) artifacts, as if these artifacts are phenotypes?

Tomasello suggests that an adaptation is a novel form of social cognition.  Our lineage adapts to a new way of thinking about one another, eventually allowing sociogenesis, new styles of learning and cultural evolution.

0008 Tomasello proposes that there is one adaptation that potentiates subsequent adaptations.

Razie Mah proposes that there is one ultimate niche for our lineage.  The hypothesis is presented in the e-book, The Human Niche (available at smashwords and other e-book venues).

0009 Do Tomasello (in 1999) and Mah (in 2018) propose that our lineage is defined by the same adaptation… er… niche?

What is the difference between an adaptation and a niche?

To these questions, I next attend.


Looking at Michael Tomasello’s Book (1999) “The Cultural Origins of Human Cognition” (Part 12 of 12)

0072 Chapter five is titled, “Linguistic Construction and Event Cognition”.  The perspective-level linguistic communication2c participates in ongoing events2a.

Tomasello claims that joint attention is the key adaptation from which subsequent adaptations proceed.  Surely, the three-level interscope depicted above does not contradict this claim.

After all, the evolution of joint attention should precede the evolution of linguistic communication.

0073 However, there is a disjunction, because great apes show few (if any) tendencies that may be characterized by joint attention.  Even the occasional monkey hunt by chimpanzees is best characterized by several individuals deciding to pursue the same thing at the same time.  The monkey-prey is the focus of attention, but the attention is disjointed, not really coordinated.

So, there must be a period before the evolution of joint attention, where individual intentionality reigns, even when group action takes place.

0074 So, when are these eras happening?

Tomasello wants to place the evolution of joint attention before the time of Homo heidelbergensis, who appears in the fossil record between 800 and 400kyr (thousands of years ago).

To me, this makes sense only so far as this.

Homo heidelbergensis leaves traces of cultural behavior in the archeological record.

To me, such traces indicate that these hominins are in the subsequent build-on era.

So, Tomasello’s timeline may require clarification.

0075 Okay, now that I am nitpicking, I must ask, “Is there a problem with making joint attention2a the foundation of an evolutionary theory?”

Allow me to return to Tomasello’s vision.

0076 According to Comments on Dennis Venema and Scot McKnight’s Book (2017) Adam and the Genome (by Razie Mah, available at smashwords and other e-book venues), adaptation2 and phenotype2 belong to two independent scientific disciplines: natural history and genetics.  Since both belong to situation-level nested forms that rely on different potentials, one cannot situate or contextualize the other.  However, this is precisely what occurs in Tomasello’s vision.

Of course, Tomasello’s vision remains a breakthrough in the framework of modern science.  At least, the phenotype does not correspond to the adaptation.  Instead, the phenotype2c puts culture2b into perspective.  Then, culture2b virtually situates the adaptation of joint attention2a.

Yes, to repeat, the phenotype2c does not directly situate the adaptation2a.  Tomasello’s vision leads upwards from joint attention2a to human culture2b and then to human cognitive development2c. Cognitive development2c puts culture2b into perspective, just as culture2b virtually situates joint attention2a.

Tomasello’s vision is truly remarkable.

0077 And, it is difficult to achieve.

This book is the start of a twenty year journey.

0078 As noted in points 0055 through 0058, the last few chapters cover the cultural (situation) and ontogenetic (perspective) levels of Tomasello’s vision.  As far as I can see, these chapters labor to show how human ontogeny2c (the scientific study of human development) virtually contextualizes human culture2b (a somewhat vaguely defined term that refers to all situations where joint attention2a pertains).  In the process, Tomasello must also explain how human culture2b, especially spoken language and symbolic representation, virtually emerges from and situates joint attention2a.

How ambitious is that?

0079 Here a picture of the virtual nested form in the realm of actuality (the vertical column in secondness in Tomasello’s vision, portrayed as a nested form).

The normal context of the behavior of newborns and infants2c virtually brings the actuality of spoken language and symbolic representation2b into the potential of a foundational adaptation2a.

0080 Yes, this is very ambitious, and the final three chapters of this book strain to meet the challenge.  They should be read with this in mind.  The last three chapters are well composed.  Tomasello is an excellent writer.  He is very organized.  But, his exposition is like lifting a two-hundred pound octopus out of the water.  As soon as one arm is lifted, a different one slides back into the murk.

0081 Plus, there is the lingering issue of natural history.

Here is a picture with Tomasello’s guesses.

Tomasello makes two associations that make no sense at all, when considering joint attention2b as an adaptation to sociogenesis1b in the normal context of natural selection3b.  Sociogenesis1b is the human niche1b.  The human niche1b is the potential1b of triadic relations2a.  Consequently, the adaptation of joint attention2a should be marked in the archaeological record with the appearance of the Homo genus, around 1.8Myr (millions of years ago).

0082 With that in mind, I close this examination of the first step in Tomasello’s journey, scientifically exploring who we are.  The next step is a book that expands and clarifies this first step.  It is published nine years later.


Looking at Michael Tomasello’s Book (2008) “Origins of Human Communication” (Part 1 of 12)

0083 In 2008 AD, Michael Tomasello, then co-director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, publishes the work before me (MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts).

This book is the second marker in Tomasello’s intellectual journey.  I start following his journey with Looking at Michael Tomasello’s Book (1999) “The Cultural Origins of Human Cognition” (appearing in Razie Mah’s January 2024 blog).  That is the first marker.

0084 The second marker starts as an academic presentation in 2006.  His Jean Nicod Lectures, in Paris, concerns his work on great ape gestural communication, human infant gestural communication and human children’s language development.  These lectures attempt to construct one coherent account of the evolution of hominin communication.

Oh, that terminology.  Where Tomasello inscribes, “human”, I say, “hominin”.

0085 From my examination at the first marker, I already have a guess about Tomasello’s vision.

Here is a picture.

0086 Note that the titles of the levels have changed.

Also note that human ontogeny2c or models of child development currently built by psychologists2c, associates to phenotypes and genetics.  Joint attention2a or models in evolutionary psychology concerning hominin cognition2a,associates to adaptations and natural history.

0087 Tomasello uses the word, “origins”, in his title.  Does this suppose that human communication may be regarded as a phenotypic trait or as an adaptation?  Or maybe, the conjunction is “and”.

In the above figure, I get the idea that the phenotype virtually contextualizes the adaptation.  But, that is not really the case.  The phenotype2b virtually situates a species’ or individual’s DNA2a.

Here is a diagram.

0088 Not surprisingly, this diagram in genetics has the same two-level relational structure as Darwin’s paradigm for natural history.

0089 What does this imply?

A mystery stands at the heart of evolutionary biology.

The adaptation is not the same as the phenotype.

Yet, together, they constitute a single actuality, which may be labeled a genus, a species or an individual.

Two category-based nested forms intersect in the realm of actuality.  It is like two streets that meet.  The intersection is constituted by both streets.  As far as traffic goes, intersections are sites of dangerous contradictions.  Traffic from one street should not collide with traffic from the other street.  I suppose that the intersection of adaptation and phenotypecarries irreconcilable contradictions as well.

0090 Perhaps, Tomasello’s vision may be resolved by considering both joint attention2a and human ontogeny2c as adaptations, even though the latter is technically, phenotypic.

I suggest this because selection is the normal context for all three levels in Tomasello’s vision.  Since natural selection goes with adaptation, the vision is one of natural history.

0091 That implies that the potentials for all three levels are like niches.

Human ontogeny2c is an adaptation that emerges from and situates the potential of human culture2b, where human culture2b is like an actuality independent of the adapting species of individuals undergoing development3c.

Human culture2b is like an adaptation that emerges from and situates the potential of joint attention2a, where joint attention2a is like an actuality independent of the adapting ways of doing things3b.

Joint attention2a is like an adaptation that emerges from and situates sociogenesis1a, where sociogenesis1a is the potential of… what?… I have run out of actualities independent of the adapting species.

0092 Here is where the foundational Tomasello-Mah synthesis enters the picture.

Ah, so here is a problem.

Tomasello’s vision of the origins of human communication conceals the actuality underlying sociogenesis1athe potential1a giving rise to joint attention2a.  The human niche is the potential of triadic relations.

0093 What about the subscripts in the preceding paragraph?

They belong to Tomasello’s vision.

0094 This subscript business can be confusing.

To me, the concealment in Tomasello’s vision is not necessarily a drawback.  Rather, it presents an opportunity to re-articulate Tomasello’s arc of inquiry using the category-based nested form and other triadic relations.

0095 In the prior series of blogs, examining a book published in 1999, I introduced an interscope for the way humans think that derives from work by medieval schoolmen, the so-called “scholastics” of the Latin Age.

Here is a picture of the scholastic version of how humans think, packaged as a three level interscope.


Looking at Andrew Ter Ern Loke’s Book (2022) ” The Origin of Humanity and Evolution”   (Part 1 of 22)

0001 The book under examination is published by T&T Clark in New York, London and Dublin, carries an ISBN number: 978-0-5677-0635-5, and presents the full title of The Origin of Humanity and Evolution: Science and Scripture in Conversation.

This examination considers the book from the point of view of Razie Mah’s three masterworks, The Human Niche, An Archaeology of the Fall and How To Define The Word “Religion”, corresponding to the Lebenswelt that we evolved inthe first singularity and our current Lebenswelt, respectively.

Needless to say, in this volume, Andrew Ter Ern Loke is not aware of the scientific proposals offered by Razie Mah’s masterworks.  His goal is to formulate a point of view whereby the role of Adam and Eve in Augustine’s Christian tradition does not contradict the modern view of human evolution, which is surpassed by Razie Mah’s corrective.

The goal of this examination is to show that Loke intimates the proposed scientific corrective, even though he is unaware of its existence.

0002 According to the back cover, in 2022, Andrew Ter Ern Loke is an associate professor at Hong Kong Baptist University.  In the acknowledgements, the author thanks scientists, philosophers, a historian of science, biblical scholars and theologians for helpful discussions.  Among the list is William Lane Craig, whose recent book, The Historical Adam, is reviewed in November 2022 in Razie Mah’s blog.

Loke’s book is dedicated to a computational biologist, Joshua Swamidass, who proposes a technical solution that permits all humans to descend from one male, named “Adam”, and that one “Adam” corresponds to the one mentioned in Genesis 2.4 on.

0003 Technical solution?

There are two stories of human origins in the formerly Christian West, the Christian ones are found in Genesis and the modern Western ones concern the scientific disciplines of natural history, genetics and archaeology.  So the question arises, asking, “How do these match?”

They would match if “Adam” is the first human.  After all, the name, “adamah”, is ambiguous, referring to humankind, the male of the species, as well as one apparently ill-fated fellow once living on an island, in a special place called, “Eden”, near the confluence of four rivers, including the Tigris and Euphrates.

0004 Unfortunately, the scientific discipline of genetics rules out that option. Adam and Eve are not the first pair of humans.  Contemporary human population genetics shows no sharp bottleneck that would correspond to a single pair as the first humans (as proposed by Saint Augustine, over 1600 years ago, during the twilight of the Roman Empire).  This lack of correspondence opens the opportunity for other technical solutions, such as the genealogical approach by Joshua Swamidass and the approach formulated in Loke’s book.  Neither Swamidass nor Loke propose that Adam and Eve are the first humans.  Loke designates Adam as “God’s Image Bearer” and works from there.

0005 Here is a different way to look at the issue.

Imagine a map of the Nile, running up through Africa to the Mediterranean Sea.  Now, pick up a mental pencil and relabel parts of the great river.

0006 The first chapter of Genesis is the upper reaches of the southern Nile, with the great lake, named “Victoria” (to those who speak English).  Genesis 2.4-10 is like the lower reaches of the northern Nile, ending in the magnificent delta.  The Mediterranean is where history begins.

Imagine that there is a great waterfall between the upper and lower reaches, instead of a series of impassable rapids.  Upland from the waterfall is the time of De Nile.  Downland from the waterfall is the time of DeNial.  The waterfall is the first singularity.

A traveler, starting at the falls, can theoretically walk in both directions, along De Nile or along DeNial.  But, there is the challenge of the descent and the ascent.  Looking from the top of the falls, one cannot see the bottom.  Looking from the bottom of the falls, one cannot see the top.  However, at either location, the traveler knows that there must be a bottom and there must be a top.

Well, the traveler does not really know for certain.

The traveler only looks down from the top or up from the bottom and makes a guess about the other realm.

0006 As if to repeat the pattern, Loke’s book takes a turn near the middle of the text, in section five of chapter five, carrying the title, “The Image of God”.

Loke writes that Adam and Eve, labeled by God as “Image Bearers of God”, are the first human beings.  This does not require them to be the first anatomically modern humans or the genetic founders of all humans.  Rather, the key issue is how humans are defined.

0007 It is sort of like that imaginary waterfall.

If one stands upstream, which is highland and south, human beings are defined by the scientific scenario summarized in section 5.1.

If one stands downstream, which is lowland and north, various philosophers and religious traditions offer opinions as to what humans are.  Loke mentions Plato, Aristotle, Upanishadic Hinduism, Buddhism, Marxism, existentialism, sociobiology and contemporary philosophy.  Each has a unique definition of “the human”.

The waterfall is neither upstream nor downstream.  The waterfall is contiguous with both.

How does this division within continuity work?

0008 The Greimas square may assist.  The Greimas square is a purely relational structure that is useful for discerning a constellation of meanings that surround a particular spoken term.

A century ago, the linguist Ferdinand de Saussure proposed that spoken language consists in two arbitrarily related systems of differences, parole (French for “talk”) and langue (French for “language”).  One system is external.  Parolecan be scientifically observed and measured.  Langue is internal, only certain changes in physiological conditions can be observed and measured.

0009 So, the question arises, “How does one define any particular spoken phrase or word?”

That is the subject of Razie Mah’s masterwork, How To Define the Word “Religion”, available at smashwords and other e-book venues.

0010 Happily, for this examination, there is method that respects the purely relational configuration posed by Saussure.

That method is the Greimas square.

0011 Here is a picture.

Figure 01

0012 The focal term goes with A.

The first contrast of A that comes to mind enters B.

Then, a term that contradicts B goes into C.  The term, “contradicts”, may be transliterated into “speaks against”.  So, C speaks against B.  Then, one finds that C complements A.

Finally, a contrast that comes to mind with C goes into D.  Then, one should find that D speaks against A and complements B.

0013 The Greimas square is a probe of the terms that are adjacent to (or metaphorically “near”) a focal term (A).

0014 The following figure applies to Loke’s discussion of Adam and Eve as the first “Image Bearers of God”.

Figure 02

0015 We are the descendants of Adam (A), so we are heir to his title, “Image Bearer of God”.

But, there is a problem.  Adam falls.  So do we.

In contrast, many philosophies and traditions define who we are (B) without regard to God’s original appellation.

Speaking against the philosophers and traditionalists, Adam is the first holding the title (C), which will be passed on to the rest of humanity by means that are not genetic.  So, despite all other opinion, Adam is… er, at least… was… until, you know, the unfortunate incident… the first bearer of this title.  I suppose he never lost the title…

…he just made a bad decision that doomed all of subsequent humanity.

In contrast, the Biblical use of adam (technically, “adamah”) is a pun which means “earth man” or “humanity” (D).

This raises the question as to whether adam as humanity (D) contradicts (A) humans labeled as the Image Bearers of Godand complements (B) “humans” defined by philosophers and other religious traditions.

I suppose that one could argue for “yes”, as well as “no”.

0016 As it turns out, the metaphor of a map of the Nile River, altered by a number 2 pencil, also fits into a Greimas square.

Figure 03

Looking at Andrew Ter Ern Loke’s Book (2022) ” The Origin of Humanity and Evolution”   (Part 22 of 22)

0184 In chapter seven, Loke concludes.

The concept of Adam and Eve as the “Image Bearers of God” stands at the core of this book.

Figure 39

0185 As much as the author tries to capitalize on the idea that Adam and Eve receive a title, and that this title passes to all humanity through a genetic… oh, a not genetic mechanism, Loke does not arrive at his destination, the answer to the question of the Fall.

How is Original Sin passed from Adam to us?

Why is Jesus the New Adam?

0186 Before Traducianism is challenged by the science of genetics, these questions are easy to answer.

Afterwards, Traducianism itself becomes an example of langue, the mental processing that is arbitrarily related to parole, that is, speech-alone talk

0187 Yet, there is hope.  The first singularity coincides with the fall of Adam and Eve.  What is old is made new again.

Figure 40

0188 Future inquiry will extend beyond the book-ends of total depravity and the loss of original justice, into the natures of true versus false and honest versus deceptive.

0189 Who are we?

The behavior of humans in our current Lebenswelt is so different from the behavior of humans in the Lebenswelt that we evolved in, that we might as well label ourselves a different species.

0190 Here is my suggestion.

We should call all humans living in the Lebenswelt that we evolved in, Homo sapiens.

We should call all humans living in our current Lebenswelt, Homo boobiens.

0191 Only Homo boobiens can acquire specialized knowledge so exclusive that it makes them unbelievably stupid.  In our world of unconstrained complexity, high intelligence empowers profound Dummheit.  Just ask the experts.  They will tell you that their recipes for disaster are utterly sensible and moral.

0192 Perhaps, in future academic controversies, the coincidence of the fall of Adam and Eve and the hypothesis of the first singularity will inspire evolutionary scientists to compete with Christian theologians in accounting for the Pascal sacrifice.

The Christian theologian says, “Christ dies for our sins.”

The scientist replies, “No, Christ dies for our stupidity.”

Sin results in death.  So does stupidity.

Plus, we are never so stupid as when we play word games in order to lie to ourselves.

0193 The attraction of Loke’s theoretical framework, that Adam and Eve are the first to receive the God-given honorific, “Image Bearer of God”, is that the title is immediately spoiled in the Genesis 2.4-4 narrative, where Adam and Eve demonstrate that, while they are certainly created in the image of God, they cannot live up to the title.  None of us can.

0194 There is good reason.  Our current Lebenswelt is not the same as the Lebenswelt that we evolved in.  So, we cannot even live up to who we evolved to be.  We are tempted to believe that our own spoken words picture or point to their referents, when they are really placeholders in systems of differences (at least, according to Ferdinand de Saussure, the founder of modern language studies).  We can place a label on anything, then use those labels to manufacture a coherent network of relational elements that seems totally convincing, because every element of the relational structure is occupied by a label.

0195 Inadvertently, the author reveals this in his defense of Traducianism.

In his innocence and earnestness, Loke demonstrates how we may use spoken words to confuse ourselves.  Can we label the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, “intelligence” and “stupidity”?  The moment that we do, some customers will demand the “intelligent” fruits and leave the “stupid” fruits for the less choosy.

Are the picky customers ahead of the game?  

Or, are the less choosy correct in concluding that the fruits are all the same?

Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

0196 With that said, I conclude my examination of this work, full of intelligence and stupidity, just as one expects from a descendant of Adam and Eve.  My thanks go to the author.  The arguments offered in this book tell me that we stand on the verge of a new age of understanding, where everything old is made new again.


Looking at John Deely’s Book (2010) “Semiotic Animal”  (Part 1 of 22)

0001 The full title of Deely’s book is Semiotic Animal: A Postmodern Definition of “Human Being” Transcending Patriarchy and Feminism: to supersede the ancient and medieval ‘animal rationale’ along with the modern ‘res cogitans’.  The book is published in 2010 by St. Augustine’s Press in South Bend, Indiana.

John Deely (1942-2017 AD) starts as a Thomist interested in Heidegger and becomes a semiotician.  He becomes a really, really good promoter of the study of signs.  He writes a history of philosophy from the point of view of the revelation… or, is it discovery?.. that the sign is a triadic relation. For years, he teaches at University of Saint Thomas, Houston.  He retires, moves to Latrobe, Pennsylvania, home of St. Vincent’s College, then dies.

This examination is to be read in parallel with or after reading (and writing marginalia) in Deely’s book.  My argument may run like a dog on a long leash, compared to Deely’s argument.  But, there is reason for the analogy.  Thirteen years have passed since publication and five years since Deely’s burial, and the Age of Triadic Relations continues to manifest.

Semiotics is the study of signs.  A sign is a triadic relation.

0002 Chapter one considers a question that we ask ourselves.

Humans, what type of animals are they?

Chapter two addresses the answer.

0003 Modern philosophy starts (more or less) when Rene Descartes (1596-1650 AD) presents a sensation, as an idea and an image where the object of experience directs a construct of the mind.  Consequently, he regards humans as thinking things… or the owners of thinking things (minds)… or something like that.

In terms of Peirce’s philosophy, there are two contiguous actualities, characteristic of the category of secondness.  They are an object of experience and a construct of the mind.  The contiguity (which, for nomenclature, is placed in brackets) is “directs”.

Here is a picture of Descartes’ dyadic actuality.  In Latin, the title is “res cogitans“.

Figure 01

0005 As already noted, this hylomorphic structure is coherent with Peirce’s category of secondness.  The actuality corresponds to a sensation. Sensation exhibits a dyadic character.  Sensation is like cause [and] effect or matter [substantiating] form.

There is an implicit claim that this dyad describes the way humans think.

Plus, a superior claim (not realized until Charles Peirce (1839-1914 AD) wrote about it) may be asserted.  Humans think in terms of triadic relations, such a signs, mediations, judgments and category-based nested forms.

Say what?

See A Primer on the Category-Based Nested Form and A Primer on Sensible and Social Construction, by Razie Mah, available at smashwords and other e-book venues.

0006 With the superior claim in mind, it is no surprise that when later philosophers build epistemologies upon Descartes’ foundation, they end up shifting Descartes’ terms out of secondness, the realm of actuality, and into thirdness, the realm of normal contexts, and firstness, the realm of possibility.  

Here is a category-based nested form that sort of captures Kant’s epistemology.

Figure 02

The normal context of the mind3 brings the actuality of an object of experience2 into relation with the potential of a particular condition1. What is that condition? The thing itself [cannot be objectified as] what one sees, hears, smells, tastes or touches.

0007 So, the experience of the five senses2 becomes an object2 as it simultaneously is contextualized by the mind3 and arises from the potential of a particular condition1.  Plus, the particular condition1 is that the object of experience cannot be the thing itself1.

It sort of like saying that my image in a mirror is not me, even though I appear to be the object of experience.

0008 Welcome to modern… philosophy?… er… science?

The Positivist’s judgment formalizes the quasi-Kantian category-based nested form by thirdly, replacing the mind3 with a positivist intellect3.  The positivist intellect3 rules out metaphysics.  Secondly, the object of experience2 is replaced by an empirio-schematic judgment2, where disciplinary language (relation) brings observations and measurements of phenomena (what is) into relation with mathematical or mechanical models (what ought to be).  Firstly, the thing itselfand what one senses1 are replaced by Latin terms, the noumenon and its phenomena1.

Here is a diagram of the Positivist’s judgment as a category-based nested form.

Figure 03

0009 The implications of the conversion of Descartes’ dyadic formula for sensation to a modern quasi-Kantian nested form for how humans think are most curious.

It seems that the construct of the mind weaves a normal context3 and potential1, sort of like a spider spinning a web in the hope of catching a flying insect.  The metaphorical flying insect, is an experience2 that immediately becomes an object2as the manifestation of the realness of the normal context3 and potential1.  Plus, the object2 is inside of the observer and the thing itself1 remains (potentially) on the outside.

Similarly, for the Positivist’s judgment, the scientist weaves the normal context of the positivist intellect3 with the potential that phenomena1 may be the observable and measurable facets of a noumenon1, then waits for observations and measurements (what is) to reveal patterns that can be modeled (what ought to be) and discussed with disciplinary precision (relation between what is and what ought to be)2.  One of the oldest adages in science says, “First, observe phenomena.  Second, explain them.”

0010 What a curious implication.

It is almost as if the construct of the mind is looking for an actuality2 that fits its ideals.  And when it does, it transforms whatever enters the realm of actuality, such as an experience2 or a measurement2, into an object2 or an empirio-schematic judgment2.


Looking at John Deely’s Book (2010) “Semiotic Animal”  (Part 22 of 22)

0172 Deely concludes with a sequel concerning the need to develop a semioethics.

The meeting of the two semiotic animals in the previous blog is a case study.

Surely, that brief clash of objective worlds entails ethics, however one defines the word, “ethics”.

Perhaps, the old word for “ethics” is “morality”.

0173 Deely publishes in 2010.

Thirteen years later, his postmodern definition of the human takes on new life.  This examination shows how far semiotics has traveled, swirling around the stasis of a Plutonic publishing world where Cerebus guards the gates.  Please throw a sop to the editors in order to publish, rather than perish.  While academics guard the way to the underworld of professional success, Deely looks down from the heavens above.

And what does he say?

Humans are semiotic animals.

0174 Okay, I have to correct myself.

I don’t know whether Deely is looking down from a heavenly perch.

Surely, many will sheepishly testify to his devilish, as well as his angelic, qualities.

As a shepherd, he is always trying to lead his rag-tag flock of semioticians, explorers and Thomists.  He gets so far as to impress upon every one in his flock the validity of his claim that humans are semiotic animals.

0175 Razie Mah takes that lesson to heart and asks, “If humans are semiotic animals, then how did they evolve?”

The resulting three masterworks are available at smashwords and other e-book venues.

An Archaeology of the Fall appears in 2012, followed by an instructor’s guide.

How to Define the Word “Religion” appears in 2015, followed by ten primers.

The Human Niche appears in 2018, along with four commentaries.

As it turns out, no contemporary scientist takes Deely’s claim seriously. Yet, the implications are enormous.  If humans are semiotic animals, then triadic relations must be key to understanding human evolution.

0176 This examination of Deely’s book takes that lesson one step further.

The specifying and exemplar signs step out from Comments on John Deely’s Book (1994) New Beginnings as expressions of premodern scholastic insight.

The interventional sign steps out from Comments on Sasha Newell’s Article (2018) “The Affectiveness of Symbols” and establishes a postmodern life of its own.

0177 Humans are semiotic animals and how we got here shines like a revelation.


Looking at David Graeber and David Wengrow’s Chapter (2021) “Why The State Has No Origin” (Part 1 of 13)

0180 If David Graeber and David Wengrow’s recent book, subtitled, A New History of Humanity, is a breakthrough in postmodern anthropology, then it is so because it displays a semitic textual structure, instead of a greek textual structure.

These two styles are discussed in An Instructor’s Guide to An Archaeology of the Fall.  Rather than eliminating possibilities in order to arrive at the most likely correct interpretation, these authors play literary tricks, coupling chapters one and twelve, A:A’, chapters two and eleven, B:B’, and chapters three through nine and chapter ten, C:C’.

Figure 24

0182 The semitic structure is A:B:C:C’:B’:A’.  In Comments on David Graeber and David Wengrow’s Book (2021) The Dawn of Everything (by Razie Mah, available and smashwords and other e-book venues), the work is discussed in the pattern A:A’, B:B’ and C:C’.  Notably, the bulk of the book covers the last layer, C:C’, and balances seven chapters (three through nine, C) against one chapter (ten, C’).  Chapter ten is twice as long as any other chapter.

0183 Plus, chapter ten stands on its own, allowing me to place an examination in Razie Mah’s blog, with the title Looking at David Graeber and David Wengrow’s Chapter (2021) “Why The State Has No Origin”.  If the reader first encounters the blog, the commentary is available.  If the reader first purchases the commentary, then the reader can call the blog to the attention of others.


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.


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.