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.

12/23/23

Looking at Daniel Dennett’s Book (2017) “From Bacteria To Bach and Back” (Part 1 of 20)

0001 Let me start with an admission.  In this particular examination, I am not myself.  I am someone who I am not.  I own a dog named, “Daisy”.

The book before me is by Daniel C. Dennett and is titled, “From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds”.  The book is published by W.W. Norton (New York, London).  The book wrestles with issues both philosophical and scientific.  How does our world come to be?  How do we come to be?

Who are we?  We are people with minds.  Minds intelligently design artifacts using tools of production and tools of the intellect.  The first tools are handy.  The second are… well… not exactly the same as “handy”.

0002 The hand grasps a tool then uses it to manipulate things.  The word, “prehensile” applies.  Our hands are full of prehensions.  We are aware of the heft and feel of material instruments.

The mind grasps an intellectual tool with its… um… brain.  Is there such a word as “comprehensile”?  How about the term, “comprehension”?  Once we become competent using an intellectual tool, we comprehend.  We become familiar with its heft and feel.

0003 The hand is unlike the appendages of other mammals.

For example, cats and dogs only have feet.  The cat uses its front feet as “paws”, in a manner similar to the way humans use their hands.  Not really, because the cat’s paws cannot hold anything.  The cat cannot pick up a tool.  May I say that the cat’s front paws are part of the feline toolkit?  Evolution builds tools right into the cat’s body.  Most mammals are fashioned this way.  Tools are part of their bodies.

0004 The mind serves as a metaphorical appendage, because it grasps ‘something’, and in doing so, may manipulate it.  The dog, whose practical toolkit includes feet and a formidable mouth, has an advantage over the cat, in this respect.  The dog’s mind grasps ‘something’ and, in doing so, manipulates humans into serving as the leader of its pack.

To me, the dog is testimony to the inhospitality of wolf “culture”, in general, and the inadequacy of wolf “leadership”, in particular.  Wolf pack-leaders often behave like aristocrats, always expecting deferential treatment.  They are often filled with paranoia and treachery.  Yet, their followers know that they need a leader.  Otherwise, there is no pack.  Without the pack, there is only death.

0005 Surely, a reasonable human would serve as a more hospitable leader, especially since humans know how to get food in surprising ways.  Humans give dogs food.  Until, of course, starvation fills the land.

12/1/23

Information on the Series: Phenomenology and the Positivist Intellect

In the Fall of 2021, the American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly publishes three essays on phenomenology.  Each author asks, “Why does phenomenology exclude other philosophical traditions, such as Thomism, when they share similar concerns?”  The essays are not only remarkable for what they say, they are also remarkable for what they do not say.  None mention natural science.

Of course, this lacunae demands exploration.  Edmund Husserl (1856-1938 AD) lives in the heyday of modern science.  He calls for a “return to the noumenon”.  He names his method, “phenomenological reduction”.  So, phenomenology concerns the noumenon and its phenomena.

The series on empirio-schematics serves as a resource.  The noumenon and its phenomena appear in the Positivist’s judgment, initially derived in Comments on Jacques Maritain’s Book (1935) Natural Philosophy.

Contributions to this series are listed below, in order of production.  Most are available at smashwords and other electronic book vendors.  Those that appear on the blog at www.raziemah.com are noted, along with dates.

Reverie on Mark Spencer’s Essay (2021) “The Many Phenomenological Reductions”    (e-article, note on blog September 2021)

Comments on Joseph Trabbic’s Essay (2021) “Jean-Luc Marion and … First Philosophy”   (e-article, note on blog October 2021 

Comments on Richard Colledge’s Essay (2021) “Thomism and Contemporary Phenomenology”   (e-article, note on blog October 2021)

Comments on Jack Reynolds’ Book (2018) “Phenomenology, Naturalism and Science”.    (e-article, note on blog March 2022)

Looking at John Perez Vargas, Johan Nieto Bravo and Juan Santamaria Rodriguez’s Essay (2020) “Hermeneutics and Phenomenology in… Social Sciences Research”      (blog only, www.raziemah.com, April 2022)

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.

09/29/23

Looking at Appendix 1.1 in Brian Kemple’s Book (2019) “The Intersection” (Part 1 of 18)

0028 This is the second blog in a series.

 Looking at Brian Kemple’s Book (2019) “Intersection” appears in Razie Mah’s blog from May 15 through 18, 2023.  In that brief examination (points 0001-0027), a technical category-based definition of the term, “intersection” is shown to mesh with the theme of Kemple’s book, whose full title is The Intersection of Semiotics and Phenomenology: Peirce and Heidegger in Dialogue (Walter de Gruyter, Boston/Berlin).

To me, that is fascinating.

0029 In this series of blogs, I examine Kemple’s appendices.

Yes, he has more than one appendix.

Plus, there are subdivisions.

0030 Appendix 1.1 is titled, “Presentative forms and the grounding of transcendence”.  My associations will draw upon A Primer on the Category-Based Nested Form and A Primer on Sensible and Social Construction, as well as A Primer on Natural Signs, Comments on John Deely’s Book (1994) New Beginnings, and Comments on Newell Sasha’s Article (2018) “The Affectiveness of Symbols”.  These primers and comments touch base with Razie Mah’s masterwork, How To Define The Word “Religion”, which is available, along with the other mentioned e-works, at smashwords and other e-book venues.

0031 The title of Appendix 1.1 contains two technical terms.

“Presentative forms” is a term coined by Jacques Maritain and literally means a form that is substantiated by its presentation, rather than by matter.  The hylomorphe is presentation [substantiates] form, rather than matter [substantiates] form.

“The grounding of transcendence” is a phrase used by Martin Heidegger.  It conveys what the presentative form accomplishes.  The presentative form accomplishes more than matter-substantiated form, because it leads to (grounds) another form, which is located at a higher categorical level (transcendence).

Figure 01

0032 Surely, this implies that presentative forms and the grounding of transcendence coincide in a particular way.  The “matter” of the presentative form associates to the adjacent lower category of its corresponding “form”

Is this is a general feature of presentative forms?

Well, the claim is a good working hypothesis.

09/5/23

Looking at Appendix 3 in Brian Kemple’s Book (2019) “The Intersection” (Part 18 of 18)

0161 What about Appendix 3, titled “Synechism and semiosis”?

0162 Well, I best look into Appendix 4, which presents a helpful list of definitions.

“Synechism” is a principle of continuity.  There are no hard and fast distinctions between possibilities, because firstness is monadic.  In the empirio-schematic judgment, the dyad, a noumenon [cannot be objectified as] its phenomena, exists in the realm of possibility and obeys this principle.  There are no phenomena without their noumenon.  There is no noumenon without its phenomena.  The hazards of synechism are yet to be deeply appreciated.  For scientific inquiry, what happens when certain actors claim to be observing the phenomena of a noumenon which is not… um… obvious to other people?

“Tychism” is a corollary of synechism.  Peirce envisions chance (er… possibility) as universal.  Without possibility, there is no actuality or normal context.  If there is an actuality that appears out of nowhere, in such a fashion that it has no normal context, then we are back to phenomena of a noumenon which is not… um… subject to understanding.

“Semiosis” is the action of signs.  Signs are triadic relations.  Triadic relations constitute the human niche.

0163 For the Lebenswelt that we evolved in, our ancestors adapt to an ultimate niche as well as many proximate niches.  This means that hominin evolution is both convergent, with respect to our ultimate niche, and divergent, with respect to many proximate niches.  The ultimate niche is the potential of triadic relations.  The proximate niches are regional ecologies and environments.

Language evolves in the milieu of hand talk.  Hand talk relies on the semiotic qualities of icons and indexes to motivate a relation between parole (hand talk) and langue (mental processing).  As this motivated relation becomes more and more conventional (that is, habitual within hominin social circles), hand-talk gestures become more and more like signs in an arbitrary system of differences (that is, symbols).  Grammar consists of symbolic operations within a finite set of symbols.  By the time anatomically modern humans appear, hand talk is fully linguistic.

0164 Speech is added to hand talk with the appearance of our own species, Homo sapiens.

Humans practice hand-speech talk for around 200,000 years, with great success.

0165 Around 7,800 years ago, the end of the previous ice age raises sea-levels, flooding shallow geological basins such as what is now the Persian Gulf.  In the process, two hand-speech talking cultures, one settled on the basin and one settled along the coast and river gorge, are forced into proximity.  A pidgin and then a creole ensues.  The creole is the Sumerian language (unrelated to the nearby Semitic languages).  But, more importantly, this creole is the first instance of speech-alone talk.

At its inception, the Ubaid of southern Mesopotamia is the only culture in the world practicing speech-alone talk.

It is no coincidence that the world’s earliest civilization arises in southern Mesopotamia.

Speech-alone talk potentiates civilization.

0166 Our current Lebenswelt is marked by speech-alone talk.  Speech-alone talk spreads from the Ubaid to the four-corners of the world, potentiating unconstrained social complexity wherever it goes.

7800 years ago, the world population may have been as many as seven million.

Today, it is seven billion.

Such is the significance of the first singularity, the transition from hand-speech talk to speech-alone talk.

0167 Heidegger is a German philosopher who strives to restart Western philosophy after it fumbles its founding charisma.

Peirce is a precocious American post-modern who becomes fascinated with one of the crucial questions asked by scholastic philosophers, “What is the causality inherent to the sign-relation?”

0168 Both these philosophers propose ideas that address a single question, “What is the nature of our current Lebenswelt?”

Their answers apply to a single actuality.

0169 I do not know the name of this actuality, but I do appreciate the significance of Kemple’s attempt to delineate an intersection (without being aware that the term, “intersection”, might have a technical definition that supports his inquiry).

An intersection is an actuality composed of two actualities, each of which has its own nested form.

0170 For these reasons, Brian Kemple’s book, The Intersection of Semiotics and Phenomenology: Peirce and Heidegger in Dialogue, deserves interest.  While my examinations, so far, covering the term, “intersection”, and the appendices, are sparse, they are suggestive.  There is a lot at play within the pages of this book.

08/31/23

Looking at Glenn Diesen’s Book (2019) “The Decay … And Resurgence…”  (Part 1 of 21)

0001 The book before me is Dr. Glenn Diesen’s contribution to Routledge’s Series, Rethinking Asia and International Relations.  The text carries the full title of The Decay of Western Civilization and the Resurgence of Russia: Between Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft.  The series editor is Emilian Kavalski, the Li Dak Sum Chair in China-Eurasia Relations and International Studies at the University of Nottingham in Ningho, China.  At the time of publication, Dr. Diesen is a Visiting Scholar at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow and Adjunct Research Fellow at Western Sydney University.  Diesen’s research interests are in international relations, political science, international political economy and Russian studies.  Say nothing of history.

0002 So… um… how does this book overlap with my interests?

I am interested in civilization.  The persistent question that arises in Razie Mah’s masterwork, An Archaeology of the Fall,is, “What potentiates civilisation?”

0003 Consider the hypothesis of the first singularity.

The evolution of talk is not the same as the evolution of language.  Our capacities for language evolve in the milieu of hand talk.  The ancestor to our own species practices fully linguistic hand talk.  Very successfully, I might add.  The voice is recruited to assist in synchronizing large groups (plus, a little sexual selection gets thrown in).  Once the vocal tract is under voluntary neural control, speech is added to hand talk at the start of our own species, Homo sapiens.

Homo sapiens practices a dual-mode of talking, hand-speech talk, for over 200,000 years before the first singularity.  The first singularity starts with the Ubaid of southern Mesopotamia.

As the ocean levels rise at the start of our current interglacial, two hand-speech talking cultures in the then dry Persian Gulf are forced into the same territory.  One is a Mesolithic fishing culture occupying the river ravines and coast.  The other is a Developed Neolithic culture (agriculture mixed in with stockbreeding).  These two cultures meld, forming a pidgin then a creole language.  That creole language turns out to be the first instance of speech-alone talk.

0004 The semiotic qualities of speech-alone talk are significantly different than hand-speech talk (and hand-talk).  I won’t get into the details, but the consequences are enormous.

Hand-speech talk facilitates constrained social complexity (which, to me, calls to mind Diesen’s term, “gemeinschaft”, literally translated into the “rod of generality”, coinciding with tradition, intuition and, what modern scientists deride as “irrational thought”).

Speech-alone talk permits unconstrained social complexity.  Spoken words can be used to label things that cannot be pictured at pointed to, such as the term, “gesellschaft” (another one of Diesen’s key terms, literally translated into the “rod of the journeyman”, coinciding with specialization, analysis and, what scientists misleadingly call “rational thought”).

0005 The Ubaid of southern Mesopotamia starts, say, 7800 years ago, which I label 0 Ubaid Zero Prime (0 U0′ or “zero uh-oh prime”, with “uh-oh” expressed as if reacting to an accident or a mishap).

At 0 U0′, the Ubaid of southern Mesopotamia is the only culture in the world practicing speech-alone talk.  All the other Neolithic, Epipaleolithic and Mesolithic cultures of the time practice hand-speech talk.

Today, all civilizations practice speech-alone talk.  The only (now dying) cultures that remember their hand-speech traditions are the Australian Aborigines and the North American Plains Indians.  Both are losing the hand-component of their hand-speech talk, due to exposure to speech-alone talking cultures and civilizations.  The receding of original justice, when all social circles work in harmony towards human flourishing in a world of signification, is nearly complete.

0006 Weirdly, that recession lies beneath the surface of recently examined books in anthropology.

Consider the following reviews, appearing in the Razie Mah blog.

Looking at Ian Hodder’s Book (2018) “Where Are We Heading?” (June 2023)Looking at David Graeber and David Wengrow’s Chapter (2021) “Why The State Has No Origins” (March 2023)