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 Peter Redpath’s Essay (2000) “The Homeschool Renaissance” (Part 1 of 17)

0001 Twenty years pass since Professor Peter Redpath publishes an article, titled, “The Homeschool Renaissance and the Battle of the Arts”, in the Summer 2000 premier issue of Classical Homeschooling Magazine.

Homeschooling is one alternate to failing public schools systems, which are unlikely to be reformed, because these systems are governed by acolytes of the religion of big government (il)liberalism.

0002 Homeschool parents face difficult choices.  There are no paths to guaranteed success.

But, certainly, homeschooling is better than the path to failure embodied by public school systems.  Even the child who is accepted to a fast-track program or School of the Arts or Sciences, becomes a loser in a house divided.  There is only one house, the House of God.  No one knows that more than the newly minted postmodern disciplines of resentment.

Homeschools seek guidance about the Big Schoolhouse, where everything that rises must converge.

0003 Often, homeschooling parents turn to great books programs.  The classics are ideal for recovering the former glory of Christendom.  Here is where Peter Redpath stands, 20 years past.  He is a guide to the big Schoolhouse, where the liberal arts are born again.

Classical Homeschooling Magazine illuminates the way.

0004 Today, the winds are more insistent.  The leaves of disenchantment rustle through public schoolyards, as entrepreneurs follow Redpath in offering their wares, for the Big Schoolhouse, to many little schoolhouses, and to many many home schools, networked in patterns hitherto unimagined.

0005 In the following blogs, Razie Mah looks at Redpath’s whirlwind tour of a failure in the Italian, later European, Renaissance.  Mah uses tools derived from the first postmodern philosopher, Charles Sanders Peirce.  These simple tools, wares on offer for the education of young minds, include the category-based nested form, the three-level interscope and the triadic structure of judgment.


Looking at Peter Redpath’s Essay (2000) “The Homeschool Renaissance” (Part 2 of 17)

0006 Small mistakes at the beginning of a grand enterprise become larger mistakes at the end.

So notes Thomas Aquinas, at the opening of his overtures to both God and fellow man.

0007 Peter Redpath wants to avoid making initial errors.

Small errors may eventually culminate in misfortune.

To magnify this insight, Redpath tells a tale…

0008 … about the last great rebirth of Western civilization.

Oh, to be born again.  We wash away the sins of prior eras.  So, we imagine.  Then, we don white garments with tiny flaws that will unravel slowly, at first, then exponentially, at the terminus, when the once-birthed era ages and rips apart.

Redpath identifies the start of the Italian Renaissance with humanist Francesco Petrarch (7104-7174 U0′).

Why the strange dates?

Subtract 5800 in order to get to AD.

0 Ubaid Zero Prime nominally corresponds to the formation of the Ubaid culture of southern Mesopotamia.  The First Singularity and Its Fairy Tale Trace addresses the importance of this culture, at the dawn of our current Lebenswelt.  The current year is 7822 U0′.

The time-distance between today and Petrarch is one tenth the distance between Petrarch and Adam.

0009 Petrarch reads the ancient Latin writers and longs for the days of Rome.  Petrarch envisions a return to political actuality, arising from Christendom’s spiritual potential.  The actuality of Rome is political.  Yet, Petrarch lives in a world where the capitol, Rome, governs a theological and organizational network and weighs upon sovereign states.  The network is based on a religious construction, seeking to portray itself as sensible, operating according to the criteria of the most sensible philosopher to have walked the face of the Earth, Aristotle.

One could say that the Catholic worldview, where God encompasses both reason and revelation, might have entangled a small error.  The tear becomes a harbor, for Petrarch and his fellow travelers, to lobby for a political capitol arising from the spiritual capitol.

0010 The Italian humanists offer an alternate to Christendom’s vision.

0011 First, philosophy is not sensible.  It is apocryphal, initiated by the most prophetic person to have walked the face of the Earth, Moses.

Second, Moses is a humanist.  He is a poet.Third, a new politics, that is, a new “polis” or “city”, will arise from the network of Christendom, as humanist learning, the poetry of governance, flowers in the rebirth of Rome.


Looking at Peter Redpath’s Essay (2000) “The Homeschool Renaissance” (Part 3 of 17)

0012 Poetry, what is it worth?

Surely, it is valuable in the arts of seduction, inspiration and adornment.

But who needs these, when God is Love, Commitment and Awesomeness incarnate?

0013 The Italian humanists face a problem.  How do they place poetry and the writings of classical Rome front and center?

The academics in the room have an easy answer, “First of all, get rid of logic in the curriculum.”

0014 Ah, does that not sound like a small error?

Starting with Petrarch, Italian humanists alchemically place the actualities of Greek philosophy and Western history2 into the novel context of the liberal arts3, emerging from the potential of five disciplines1: grammar, rhetoric, poetry, history and ethics.

The result can be portrayed as follows, according to A Primer on the Category-Based Nested Form.

Figure 01

0015 The dyadic actuality of Greek philosophy [and] Western history2 is placed in an alchemic vessel3 alien to its original, natural and organic milieu1.  Plutarch’s liberal arts3 is a normal context that excludes Aristotle’s realist philosophy3.  The pentagram of grammar, rhetoric, poetry, history and ethics1, whose points operate independently and in combination, constitutes a digestive organ potentiating transformation.


Looking at Peter Redpath’s Essay (2000) “The Homeschool Renaissance” (Part 4 of 17)

0016 What is this [and] between Greek philosophy and Western history?

Figure 02

0017 According to Charles Peirce (7639-7714 U0′), the category of secondness is the realm of actuality.  Secondness consists of two contiguous real elements.  The nomenclature is one real element [contiguity] other real element.

Here, the contiguity, [and], describes a substance that coheres to the most rudimentary causality, the contiguity between matter and form.  Or, should I say, style and form?  The nomenclature is Greek philosophy [and] Western history.

0018 The [and] composed by Thomas Aquinas (7025-7074 U0′) takes Aristotle as Greek philosophy and the Bible as the foundation of Western history.  Does that sound like matter [and] form or style [and] form?  The normal context is scholastic inquiry3 and the potential is understanding1, formatted according to the synthetic and analytic logics of Aristotle’s four causes.

0019 The tradition of Petrarch alters the normal context to the liberal arts3 and the potential to the pentagrammatic disciplines: grammar, rhetoric, poetry, history and ethics1.

Do these alterations elevate style [and] form over matter [and] form?

Do these alterations serve as an alchemic vessel3 and digestive juices1 for the meat of scholastic inquiry2?

Is the contiguity, [and], the same for the scholastics and the Renaissance humanists?

Figure 03

0020 Petrarch and his fellow travelers assert that common folk, traditional Christians, cannot appreciate the lofty metaphysical grammar and moral realities offered by the ancient poets.  A Christian knows that the Greek and the Roman pantheons are simply not true.  These gods are idols.

But, change the normal context, and let rhetoric, poetry and history work their magic, then newly digested truths become palatable.

These pre-digested morsels are valid in the normal context of the liberal arts3, which excludes all other normal contexts, and thus is universal.  Only after digestion by pentagrammatic modes of inquiry1, do the allegorical and figurative meanings of Moses2 turn into the stuff of Renaissance, and later, Enlightenment ideals.  Only a nominalist can delineate the pathways from Moses to Socrates and onwards to the Christians and Neoplatonists.  Only a nominalist can reveal the mysterious [and], the contiguity between Greek art, philosophy and wisdom and Western history.

0021 [And], the contiguity between ancient Greek and Roman literature and the glories of Rome, takes on the substance of revival.

Figure 04

Looking at Peter Redpath’s Essay (2000) “The Homeschool Renaissance” (Part 5 of 17)

0023 The Renaissance program sets the humanities against Aristotle’s logic and naturalism.  It undermines the union of philosophy and scholastic theology.

Poetry gains attention.

Logic is neglected.

Before: Philosophy (including logic) stands as a handmaiden to theology, the queen of the sciences.

After: Poetry is the transcendent queen of the arts.

0024 Of course, I speak allegorically.

According to Redpath, the humanist ascent of allegory has historic precedent.  Allegory appears in Hesiod’s attack on Homer’s veracity, the Ionians critique of mythological reasoning, and Plato’s interpretations of epic poetry.  Then, allegory is used to counter-attack, arguing for the truth of Homer, myths and epics.  The truth is found, not in fact, but in fiction.  The truth is concealed within a rhetorical facade.  By the time of Augustine, rhetorician and philosopher are one and the same.

0025 I pause and ask myself, “What on Earth is allegory?”

Allegory is a technique, characteristic of our current Lebenswelt (and perhaps, the Lebenswelt that we evolved in), whereby symbols associate to concrete or material forms.

For Renaissance humanists, the forms are literary.  The symbols are political.

Style becomes matter.  Symbols of the glory of Rome are matter, and ancient literary works are the corresponding forms.

On the one hand, matter [substantiates] form.  On the other hand, form [informs] matter.

Now, style [substantiates] form.  Form [informs] style.

What is [informs]?

[To inform] is [to be substantiated by].

0026 Here is a comparison.

Figure 05

Looking at Peter Redpath’s Essay (2000) “The Homeschool Renaissance” (Part 6 of 17)

0027 I left off with the following pair of hylomorphes.

Figure 06

0028 These two actualities associate to Redpath’s argument.

First, starting with Petrarch, Italian humanists elevate the disciplines of rhetoric, poetry and history in their search for symbols that (1) trace back to antiquity and (2) exploit the dual charisms of Moses and Greek philosophy.

Second, these symbols, isolated in the digestion of Greek philosophy [and] Western history2 by the solvents of rhetoric, poetry and history1, alchemically coagulate (or “occult”) into universals and abstractions that can be read as the grammar1and the ethics1 of nature and revelation.

Third, these grammatical and ethical slogans concern political matters.  They announce a revival of the Roman polity, a polis at once outside of the city of God and the city of man.

0029 Oh, what about tiny, initial flaws?

Even though, in the above figure, I associate this Renaissance vision to two hylomorphes, the dyadic structure of the hylomorphe is logical and thus disregarded in the normal context of the liberal arts3.