01/31/24

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.

01/18/24

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.

01/17/24

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.

10/30/23

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.

10/2/23

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.

06/30/23

Looking at Ian Hodder’s Book (2018) “Where Are We Heading?” (Part 1 of 15)

0001 Consider the title of archaeologist Ian Hodder’s recent book.

What is the question really asking?

Are we heading somewhere?

0002 The problem?

Who would purchase a book with an honest title, such as, “Are We Heading Somewhere?: The Evolution of Humans and Things”?

Everyone knows where we are going.

We are going to hell.

0003 So, maybe my first question concerns what Hodder’s titular question is really asking.

For my second question, I consider Hodder’s subtitle and ask, “Is there directionality to human evolution?”

A consensus among general biologists tells us, “Evolution has no direction, because direction implies an overall teleology or purpose.”

But, this is not the case.

0004 Why is it not the case?

An answer can be found in a series by Razie Mah, titled, A Course on Evolution and Thomism, available at smashwords and other e-book venues.  This course includes Speculations on Thomism and Evolution and Comments on Dennis Venema and Scot McKnight’s Book (2017) Adam and the Genome.

0005 Here is a quick summary.

The normal context of natural selection3b brings the actuality of adaptations2b into relation with a niche1b.

Plus, a niche1b is the potential of an actuality2a independent of the adapting species.

In order to digest this statement, consult Razie Mah’s A Primer on the Category-Based Nested Form and A Primer on Sensible and Social Construction, available at smashwords and other e-book venues.

0006 Here is a picture of the quick summary.

Figure 01

0007 What is a niche1b?

A situation-level niche1b is the potential of a content-level actuality independent of the adapting species2a.

0008 Does that mean that biological evolution has direction?

0009 On the one hand, biologists confuse everyone with their declaration that evolution has no direction.  For living systems, natural selection3b encourages adaptations2b in response to a variety of proximate niches1a, which are actualities, more or less independent of the adapting species2a. There is no telling which proximate niche1b will turn out to be decisive.  Most likely, the proximate niche1b is the potential of an actuality2a that directly benefits or challenges the creature’s reproductive success2b.

Plus, there are various surprises, like a huge meteor striking the planet Earth, which changes all proximate niches so dramatically that mass extinctions occur.  So, biological evolution, on a grand scale, appears to play out as a contest to adapt to proximate niches, which are themselves contingent on planetary conditions.

0010 On the other hand, the above diagram shows that biological adaptations are directional.  They are teleological.  There is an actuality2a, independent of the adapting species that either encourages or inhibits reproductive success1b.  Genetic recombinations will throw up a variations among a species’ phenotypes.  Some of these phenotypic variations will prove more successful than others at exploiting the actuality2a or avoiding the actuality2a.  Biologists label this eventuality, “differential reproductive success”.

0011 Adaptations2b reveal that the niche1b is… to use a theological term… teleological.  The niche1b is the potential that becomes manifest when a biologist reflects upon the adaptations of a particular species2b in the normal context of natural selection3b.  The niche is like a boulder in a river than causes water to flow around it.  The rock is an independent actuality.  The river adapts.

0012 Does that mean that biological evolution has a direction?

In the same way that a river of water running to the sea has a direction?

0013 The difference between a river of water and the river of life concerns altitude.  Water runs downhill.  When it gets to the sea, its niche is exhausted.  Life runs uphill.  It converts a huge amount of energy (think of water running downhill) into a little amount of energy that the organism can use (think of a waterwheel grinding grains of wheat into flour).  Consequently, life is precarious.  Death is ubiquitous.

So, a niche1b is all about staying alive.

0014 Actualities independent of the adapting species2a pose opportunities and hazards.  These have the potential to constitute niches1b.  A niche1b is relevant enough to increase the reproductive success of some in the adapting species, as opposed to others, in the normal context of natural selection3b.  The successful ones adapt2a to their niche1b.  Life is always climbing uphill.  Death is tumbling down.

0015 So, where are we heading?

Ian Hodder suggests an answer.

Things can keep us alive.  So, it behooves our ancestors, the hominins, as well as ourselves, the humans, to attend to the things that keep us alive.

He calls this adaptation: “entanglement”.

06/12/23

Looking at Ian Hodder’s Book (2018) “Where Are We Heading?” (Part 15 of 15)

0102 Where are we heading?

Where have we been?

Once Hodder’s entanglement theory encounters the hypothesis of the first singularityeverything we know turns inside out.  Hodder attempts to generate an explicit abstraction that, given time, will convey the essence of implicit abstraction.  The category-based nested form is instrumental in displaying the relational theatrics that Hodder performs.

0103 Hodder is clever.

Things are content level.

Humans are situation level.

A third level, the perspective level, appears as a complication in points 23 to 31.  Here is a wrinkle worth exploring.  A good place to start is A Primer on Sensible and Social Construction, by Razie Mah, available at smashwords and other e-book venues.

0104 My thanks go to Dr. Ian Hodder for opening an inquiry that nudges open the door to a new age of understanding.  These comments show that the latch is already unlocked.

0105 Where are we heading?

We are moving towards a fourth age of understanding: The Age of Triadic Relations.

05/31/23

Looking at Heather Heying and Bret Weinstein’s Book (2020) “A Hunter Gatherer’s Guide to the 21st Century” (Part 1 of 16)

0001 Twenty-two thousand years ago, during the maximum of the last ice age, people roamed (along with other large mammals) in a land that bridged modern-day Siberia and Alaska.  Glaciers on the eastern (or American) side prevented humans from advancing further.  Until they didn’t.

Humans found a way around the blockade.  By ten thousand years ago, humans occupy both American continents.

0002 The Siberian-Alaskan landmass displayed one type of ecology (some would call it a frozen wasteland).  Yet, Paleolithic people migrating into the Americas adapted to a large variety of ecologies (including the tropics).

0003 How could this be so?

The authors conclude that humans are adapted to niche switching.  Humans culturally adapt to novel ecological niches by operating as both generalists and specialists.  Humans are behaviorally flexible because they can oscillate between established traditions (which the authors call, “culture”) and problem-solving (which the authors call, “consciousness”). Consequently, humans can “switch” from one niche (such as ice-laden Beringia) to another niche (such as California’s San Joachim Valley).

0004 But, I wonder, “Are not traditions (‘cultures’) specialist oriented?  The specializations may not be wildly complicated, but meaningful enough.  For example, someone who does well at running with a lance might fit in to the specialty of hunting large game.  Someone who is good at identifying mushrooms may fit into the specialty of fungi forager.  So, everyone can be a generalist problem-solver, but also work as a specialist too.

“Plus, everyone, whether lance-bearer or mushroom-gatherer, must learn their craft, and must innovate in the face of new challenges.

“So, the human gift of ‘niche-switching’ indicates that humans can find ways to make a living in every ecology.  The recent territorial expansion of anatomically modern humans into the Americas serves as an outstanding example.”

0005 Okay, then what is a “niche”?

The authors are modern biologists.  When modern biologists hear the word, “niche”, they think “ecological or environmental conditions”.  But, there is another technical definition for the word, “niche”, that expands that narrow frame.

0006 What is a “niche”?

The Darwinian paradigm can be diagrammed by following A Primer on the Category-Based Nested Form (by Razie Mah, available at smashwords and other e-book venues).

Here is a picture.

Figure 01

The normal context of natural selection3 brings the actuality of adaptation2 into relation with the potential of ‘something’1, which biologists label “niche1.

05/18/23

Looking at Brian Kemple’s Book (2019) “The Intersection” (Part 1 of 4)

0001 According to Neoplatonic legend, the descent of the soul starts with a small immaterial gem resting on an undefinable pillow in the presence of transcendental beauty.  Then, a trap door opens and the little source of illuminationbegins to fall.  As it descends, it accrues matter.  Matter enters form.

One may say that the matter is evil and the soul, good, and conclude that the immortal soul becomes encased in corruptible matter.  But, the story is more complicated, because the term, “matter” slyly includes the capacity to become entangled with purely relational being.  Matter holds the capacity for meaning.  Matter substantiates form.  So Christians, following the complication, witness the baby as bearing a message.  The message?  Baptize me.

0002 The book before me is Brian Kemple’s The Intersection of Semiotics and Phenomenology: Peirce and Heidegger in Dialogue, published in 2019 by Walter de Gruyter Press (Boston/Berlin).  The masterwork is dedicated to the memory of John Deely (1942-2017 AD), who served as Kemple’s professor.

0003 The book presents a complex argument.  I, a simpleton, fixate on the titular word, “intersection”.

For me, the term has a technical definition, as formulated in the chapter on message in the e-book How To Define The Word “Religion” (by Razie Mah, available at smashwords and other e-book venues).  An intersection is a single actuality composed of two actualities, each with its own category-based nested form.

Say what?

See A Primer on the Category-based Nested Form.

0004 A photon is an example of an intersection of two actualities: a wave and a particle.  The normal context of a diffraction apparatus3 brings wave properties of light2 into relation with the potential of ‘observations of wavelengths’1.  The normal context of a metal plate3 brings particle properties of light2 into relation with potential ‘observations of the photo-electric effect’1.

0005 Here is a picture.

Figure 01

0006 Here is another way to look at the photon as intersection.

Figure 02

0007 In the following blogs, I will endeavor to visualize whether Kemple’s use of the term, “intersection”, coheres with this technical definition.

In order to do so, I will locate two category-based nested forms, one for both Peirce and one for Heidegger, and see whether the two actualities meld into one. 

05/15/23

Looking at Brian Kemple’s Book (2019) “The Intersection” (Part 4 of 4)

0020 The term, Bildendwelt, sounds like the concatenation of the words, “Bilden” and “dwelt”, as in the English statement, “I dwelt in that Bilden, before it came crashing down.”

In order to appreciate my humor, consider the October 1, 2022, blog at www.raziemah.com, titled, “Fantasia in G Minor: A speech written for Gunnar Beck MEP”.

Da Bilden is coming down!

Oh, I meant to say… the Bildendwelt makes no sense at all.

0021 So much for wordplay.

The compound-word, Bildendwelt stands, waiting to be refined in the furnace of postmodern use.

0022 The third division of Kemple’s book weaves together divisions one and two, titled World and Sign, into an intersection.  In the process, Kemple focuses on two elements in the following figure: Sein1V and sign1H.

Figure 08

0023 To me, Kemple’s focus is remarkable, because Being1V and triadic relations1H are crucial for bringing our lineage from Umwelt, to Lebenswelt, and further into Bildendwelt.  Indeed, I wonder whether these compound terms should be used to label the single actuality of Peirce’s experience2H and Dasein2V.

0024 But, let me not ignore one further possibility, the single actuality is us.

Here is a list of labels for the single actuality.

Figure 09

0025 Now, I can portray our descent.

Imagine us, as purely spiritual illuminations, perched on undefinable pillows, in the presence of transcendent beauty in an era when all time is now.  A trap door opens and we descend into Being and Time.  As we fall, we accrete two actualities, coinciding with Peirce’s experience following his realization that signs are real1H and with Heidegger’s vision of Dasein1V.  These actualities are full of contradictions.

As we descend through Being and Time, we accrue World and Sign.  We pass through our primordial Umwelt, the Lebenswelt that we evolve in, the first singularity, our current Lebenswelt and now, our Bildendwelt.  Descent with modification.  Then we are born, in the present, and each one of us bears a message.  Baptize me.

0026 What does baptism do?

Baptism cleanses us of Gestell, the grammars of our world, carrying temptation, misdirections and lures that entrap us, confound us, and, in the end, convince us that the truth can never be found.

How so?

Truth is just a spoken word.  We create our own “truth”.  Spoken words are merely projections of our Innerwelt upon that which is outside ourselves.  After temptation fixes our occasions of sin, after our own projections redirect the projections of others and weave a veil of reality, and after we begin to believe in our own self-divinizing speculative grammar, we construct artifacts that validate our spoken worlds.  We build our own prison.  Heidegger calls it, Gestell.

0027 When the waters of baptism pour over an infant, the baby often cries. The baby represents all of us.

The waters of baptism disturb.  Dasein2V!  We enter a world perfused with signs.  We are welcomed into a world where the material finds meaning in the immaterial.  The human niche is the potential of triadic relations.  How all encompassing will Peirce’s experience2H be?  We stand on the threshold of a new age of understanding.

Kemple offers the reader a portrait of John Deely’s vision, in a book that lives up to its title, in more ways than one.  Bravo!