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.


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 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.


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.