[KB] Deacon's Neo-Aristotelian Complication of Simple Action/Motion

de gava wblakesx at yahoo.com
Mon Aug 11 16:33:18 EDT 2014

If I carry on with my exposition on the 'hard' problem re the analysis of consciousness i'll try to remember to give it a differentiation mark.
But, let present a pov here: One might easily say that an proton capturing an electron represents one or several (depending on analytic/abstractive exclusions) quantae of information and that the resulting atom a new transcendental existence (all things are essentially infinite analytic povs, though not all are at present  relevant to us). There's a logical train that leads to brain/mind by degrees. I 'expect' you can fill in the gaps.


On Mon, 8/11/14, Payne, David <dpayne at usf.edu> wrote:

 Subject: Re: [KB] Deacon's Neo-Aristotelian Complication	of	Simple	Action/Motion
 To: "Edward C Appel" <edwardcappel at frontier.com>, "Carrol Cox" <cbcox at ilstu.edu>, "Herbert W. Simons" <hsimons at temple.edu>
 Cc: "kb at kbjournal.org" <kb at kbjournal.org>
 Date: Monday, August 11, 2014, 2:21 PM
 As far as
 "elaboration of its meaning" goes, I submit
 Burke's own explanation  in Terministic Screens (LAS p.
 I should make it
 clear: I am not pronouncing on the metaphysics of the
 controversy. Maybe we are but things in motion.  I don’t
 have to haggle about that possibility. I need but point out
 that whether or not we are just things in motion, we think
 of one another (and especially of those with whom we are
 intimate) as persons. And the difference between a thing and
 a person is that one moves whereas the other acts.  For the
 sake of the argument, I’m even willing to grant that the
 distinction between things moving and persons acting is but
 an illusion.  All I would claim is that, illusion or not,
 the human race could not get along with itself on the basis
 of any other kind of intuition.  The human animal, as we
 know it, emerges into personality by first mastering
 whatever tribal speech happens to be its particular symbolic
 From: kb-bounces at kbjournal.org
 <kb-bounces at kbjournal.org>
 on behalf of Edward C Appel <edwardcappel at frontier.com>
 Sent: Monday, August 11, 2014 1:24 PM
 To: Carrol Cox; Herbert W. Simons
 Cc: kb at kbjournal.org
 Subject: Re: [KB] Deacon's Neo-Aristotelian
 Complication of     Simple  Action/Motion
         Actually, it’s
 not a gloss on the blink and the wink distinction that may
 be called for.  It’s modification of Burke’s
 action/motion pair, or a needed elaboration of its
         So way
 back when, Jim Chesebro criticized Burke’s stinting on
 nonverbal motivations, and I did not, at the time, think
 through the full implications of that caveat.  Deacon’s
 tour de force points up that possible problem with a sharper
 differentiation between mechanistic causation and the
 dynamical dislocations that came with nonverbal living
 beings and the possibly teleological, “absential”
 dimensions of process they introduced to the ecology of
 planet earth.
 label Deacon’s analysis “Neo-Aristotelian.”  As Burke
 emphasizes (Appendix A, Dramatism and Development, p. 58),
 “Aristotle’s concept of the entelechy . . . could be
 applied to any being or ‘substance,’ such as an amoeba
 or tree . . . .  In these pages . . . we are concerned
 solely with a ‘logological’ tendency intrinsic to the
 resources of SYMBOLIC ACTION.”
         But can we usefully and uniformly
 conflate the “nonsymbolic motion” of stars, planets,
 oceans, and atoms, on the one hand, and whatever it is
 living animals in the wild are capable of, on the other? 
 Are there some attributes these “lower” creatures share
 with us symbolizers that Burke’s dramatism deflects
 attention from, terministic screen that it is, and that
 Burke acknowledges (PLF, 124; LASA, 44-62).
         Burke surely hints
 at a chasmic difference between the “motions,” if we can
 still call them that, of fish, and the motions of stars,
 planets, and moons.  He describes fish, indeed “All
 Living Things,” as “critics” of their environment,
 capable of “the changed behavior that goes with a new
 meaning” (P&C, p. 5).  The “new meaning” in the
 experience of the fish he talks about is “’jaw-ripping
 food’” in the form of a fisherman’s bait.  Fish might
 steer clear of a lure like that after such a trauma. 
 Nonverbal animals can thus learn, can strive, so to speak,
 in a different direction than they did in the past.  The
 “absential feature,” Deacon’s term, the
 “difference” in future experience that “makes a
 difference,” will be some “preferred state” which will
 “activate the corrective response,” namely, a bite into
 fish food that doesn’t have the hook.
         I quote in that last sentence from
 Steps to an Ecology of Mind, by Gregory Bateson (Ballantine,
 1972, 381).  That “difference” that “makes a
 difference” in generating “preference”  is
 “information” derived via “negative entropy,”
 according to Bateson, “information” an important term
 for Deacon in respect to the “absential feature,” or
 absential “functioning.”  Bateson’s “negative
 entropy” results, one presumes, in a “lack of
 predictability” of the kind that characterizes a
 mechanistic system (see “entropy” in the Shorter O.E.D.,
 6th Edition, Vol. 1).
     “Let me list,” Bateson says, “what seem to me to
 be those essential minimal characteristics of a system,
 which I will accept as characteristics of mind”:
 (1)     A “system” operating
 “with and upon DIFFERENCES.”
 “Closed loops or networks of pathways” transmitting
 “news of a difference.”
 “Many events within the system . . . energized by the
 respondent part,” not just the “triggering part.”
 (4)      The system “showing
 self-correctiveness,” self-correctiveness implying
 “trial and error” (482).
         Borrowing terms from something Carl
 Jung wrote, who in turn got
 these notions
 from the second-century Gnostic Basilides, Bateson contrasts
 operations in the “PLEROMA” and those in the
 “CREATURA.”  “The pleroma knows nothing of difference
 and distinction,” Bateson avers.  “It contains no
 ‘ideas’ in the sense I am using the word.”  “In the
 creatura, effects are brought about precisely by
 difference.  In fact, this is the same old dichotomy
 between mind and substance” (456).
         Now, if we’re going to credit
 nonverbal animals---let’s soften the blow, for the sake of
 argument, by referencing those on an advanced level of
 development in particular---if we’re going to ascribe to
 such nonverbals, activity motivated by a sense of a negative
 of some kind, we have to characterize that negative
 intuition differently.  Those denizens of the
 “creatura” are not “MORALIZED by the negative”
 (LASA, 9-13, 16).  Or, as I’ve put it (1993a, 1993b,
 2012), nonverbal animals would have no conception of the
 “infinite negative,” the global negative that confers
 guilt and shame upon a weak and finite being that has nary a
 chance of measuring up to its vision of “perfection.”
         Thus, a second
 “dislocation” of chasmic proportions in the evolution of
 beings on planet earth.
       That’s enough to chew on for now, except to pose
 this question: Do these ruminations suggest a need for
 modifying Burke’s perhaps simplistic action/motion
 dialectic in any way?  Is some intermediate notion called
 for, in respect to the nonverbal “creatura”?
         I forwarded to
 Terrence W. Deacon some of the things I’ve posted on his
 book.  He has answered back.  He is interested in dialogue
 with us on these matters.  I have asked permission to post
 his reply on kb, and will do so if granted that request. 
 Professor Deacon is on vacation now, and, currently, mostly
 away from e-mail.
   Have a good day, everyone!
 On Sat, 8/9/14, Edward C Appel <edwardcappel at frontier.com>
  Subject: Re: [KB]
 Deacon's Neo-Aristotelian Complication of Simple 
 "Carrol Cox" <cbcox at ilstu.edu>,
 "Herbert W. Simons" <hsimons at temple.edu>
  Cc: kb at kbjournal.org
  Date: Saturday, August 9, 2014, 3:48 PM
      At a Burke
 panel at
  ECA, Portland Maine, 1992, Jim
 Chesebro raised an objection
  to Burke that
 is possibly pertinent to the basic
 action/motion distinction Herb just reiterated, and
  complicated by Terrence
 Deacon.   A lacuna in
 is the failure to take cognizance of nonverbal
  motives, Jim offered.  At the time, I
 surmised that Jim
  meant the classic motion
 of chemical processes of the kind
 Kagan (Harvard social scientist) examined in his
  book, Galen’s Prophecy: Temperament in Human
  (BasicBooks, 1994, Kagan’s
 research updated in a fairly
  recent NYT
 Magazine piece).  Kagan homed in on human
 anxiety.  It is aggravated by an excess of
  a neurochemical, in the
 baso-lateral area of the amygdala,
  and in
 its projections to cortical and autonomic targets.
  From such motions of nature derive inhibition,
  and neurosis, Kagan
 convincingly argues.
    I didn’t much credit Jim’s naysaying
  at the time.  Burke was a philosopher and
 critic of the
  human drama, that aspect of
 observable behavior that, in one
  way or
 other, cannot be reduced to the motions of nature,
  and will boldly manifest its uniqueness in
  terms (see Chapter 6 in the
 Primer).  Sure, an
 characteristic “drama” will be modified,
  perhaps radically, by those “chemisms,” to
 use Theodore
  Dreiser’s word.  Burke
 gives enough heed to such
 thought I, in his description of the way
 different folks will react to the same stimuli, identical
  scenic pressures and circumstances (GM).  No
 need for
  elaborated neurochemistry, however
 germane in a scientific
      Deacon, I
  believe, challenges this chink in Burke’s
 thought in the
  sense of how to handle, what
 to call, the kind of
 “motion”---isn’t that what Burke calls
  it?---of what are commonly labeled the
  animals.  In what might be
 denominated Neo-Aristotelian
 Deacon “outline[s] . . . a theory of emergent
  dynamics that shows how dynamical processes
 can become
  organized around and with
 respect to possibilities not
 This is intended to provide the scaffolding for
  a conceptual bridge from mechanistic
 relationships to
 informational, and normative relationships
 such as are found in simple life forms [and, a fortiori,
  primates and mammals in general!].”
      Recall that
 in my first post on his
  book, I emphasized
 Deacon’s insistence on two
 “dislocations” in earth’s evolutionary history, not
  just one.   “Natural
  “teleodynamics” to use
 Deacon’s neologism, would
 characterize the putative transition from
 prokaryotic bacteria to eukaryotic bacteria around 2.6
  billion years ago, at the onset of the
 Proterozoic Eon.
  Something radically new
 came to planet earth:
 oxygen-producing, photo-synthesizing
 single-celled animals that pumped that oxygen into the
  oceans and then the atmosphere, changed the
 color of the
  water and likely the sky,
 generated the life-sustaining
  qualities of
 sea, land, and atmosphere, including the ozone
  shield, indeed transformed earth into the
  planet nothing we’ve
 discovered out there in space likely
 close to.  (I think of have this scenario roughly
  billion years later,
 after the hiatus of “Snowball
 had passed, the “Cambrian Explosion” could
    The Gaia guru
  Lovelock said
 it was the radically different composition of
  earth’s atmosphere---21 percent oxygen, 76
  nitrogen, 3 percent all the other
 stuff, including the
  growing concentration
 of carbon dioxide---that clued him
  into his
 notion of a kind of living planet Earth.  Both
  Venus and Mars?  About 97 percent carbon
 dioxide in both
  cases, albeit with
 strikingly different concentrations.
      Back to Herb’s
  blink and one-eyed wink next time, with, 
 perhaps, a gloss
  that Deacon’s Incomplete
 Nature might suggest.
  On Sat, 8/9/14, Herbert W. Simons <hsimons at temple.edu>
 Subject: Re: [KB]
  (no subject)
   To: "Carrol Cox"
 <cbcox at ilstu.edu>
   Cc: kb at kbjournal.org
   Date: Saturday, August 9, 2014, 10:03 AM
  theoretical explanation provides an answer to
 a why
   in a
 thought experiment. Example:
  Gilbert Ryle
 asked the
   question: What's
  the difference between a wink and a
  one-eyed blink? His answer
 took him to the mind-brain
 and could have taken KB to
   On Fri,
 Aug 8, 2014 at
   10:46 PM, Carrol Cox
 <cbcox at ilstu.edu>
  need to click "Reply All";
 otherwise it goes
   to the post's
   rather than to
  interested in your
 somewhat cryptic message because
 another list I am
 writing on the difference between theory on
 the one hand and
   "what needs to
   be explained" on
  other. And involved in that is a
 empirical generalization and theoretical
   From: kb-bounces at kbjournal.org
   [mailto:kb-bounces at kbjournal.org]
   On Behalf
  Of de gava
   Sent: Friday,
  August 08, 2014 9:34 PM
  To: kb at kbjournal.org
   Subject: [KB] (no
   I think I can add to
  discussion. In earlier days I
   replied to
   emails I received but
  they went to Ed so to kick off I'd
  to test
   kb at kbjournal.org
   an address to the e-list
 and ask if
  anyone has looked
 into the nature of 'explanations'. More to
   follow perhaps.
   KB mailing list
   KB at kbjournal.org
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