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

Edward C Appel edwardcappel at frontier.com
Tue Aug 12 12:09:30 EDT 2014


	Before I start beating this horse again, I want to call attention to a new book based on Burke I just received in the mail.  It’s entitled, The Continuation War 1941-1944 as a Metanoic Moment: A Burkean Reading of Finnish Clerical Rhetoric.  The study is the doctoral dissertation of Jouni Tilli, done at a university in Finland the name of which escapes me.  Published by Peter Lang in Frankfort, it’s a really neat tome.  I read Jouni’s dissertation and made some comments before he defended it in front of Clarke Rountree, Jouni’s examiner at the oral.  Jouni’s handle on Burke was so deft and broad, I thought surely he had had some mentor along the way, steeped in Burke .  Not so.  Jouni had picked up dramatism on his own, via his wide reading in the originals and in North American secondary scholarship.  I was impressed, and still am.

	Jouni attended the conference in St. Louis.  He and his estimable dissertation/book add to the ever-widening influence Burke studies are having in Europe.

	Back, I hope briefly, to Deacon, Bateson, Burke, and action/motion.  Burke’s “agent-minus” serves well enough as an overall bridging term for nonverbal biological “organisms” as intermediate between insensate physical materials and forces, and us symbolizing gals and guys.  But it is an airy abstraction.  How does it address the action/motion quandary?

        No doubt a “blink” is motion, Burke style.  It surely involves a “because of,” and only a “because of.”  We don’t even realize it’s happening.  A “wink,” on the other hand, is dramatic action.  It manifests an “in order to” that’s not only a raw purpose of some kind.  A wink is an end-seeking act that also places the “winker,” however marginally or precariously, in a socially rule-governed context that could bring him a rebuke of some kind, a “cold shoulder,” a mild moral ego-hurtful setback, exiguous “passion” of a sort that so often results from such “action.”

        The operation of “negative entropy” in nonverbal biological life Bateson talks about, the “absential feature” Deacon vouchsafes in respect even to “simple life forms,” cognizance of a “difference” that “makes a difference” in respect to “trial and error”-type changed behavior that leads to “teleodynamic” (Deacon) “preference” and “correctiveness” (Batesaon), looks very much like an “in order to,” not a mere “because of.”   It’s a nondramatic “in order to.”  No moral aggrandizement beckons, no moral jeopardy threatens---or motivates---whatsoever.

        But that Bateson/Deacon nonverbal animal “activity” looks very much like an “in order to,” a raw, morally innocent “in order to,” but an “in order to” still. And Burke’s disquisition on the “fish” in P&C would seem to corroborate.

	I just reiterate here.

	The question stands as something of a theoretical probe.


On Mon, 8/11/14, Edward C Appel <edwardcappel at frontier.com> wrote:

 Subject: Re: [KB] Deacon's Neo-Aristotelian Complication	of	Simple	Action/Motion
 To: "wessr at onid.orst.edu" <wessr at onid.orst.edu>
 Cc: "kb at kbjournal.org" <kb at kbjournal.org>
 Date: Monday, August 11, 2014, 8:11 PM
 Thanks a bunch for calling attention
 to that passage, Bob.  I've got it underlined in my
 ancient and tattered copy of GM, but forgot about it long
 since.  "Agent-minus" is a very serviceable descriptive
 for the beings that stand between the more unambiguously
 inanimate materials moved by insensate physical forces, and
 the marginally "free," we think, guilt-obsessed symbolizers
 we are.  What's noted by the "minus" is the absence of
 moral drama, "interference" (RM) with more spontaneous
 causes in nature, spontaneous animal impulses, spontaneous
 tendencies and inclinations generic to, say, primates in
 It's an entitlement to build on.
 On Mon, 8/11/14, wessr at onid.orst.edu
 <wessr at onid.orst.edu>
  Subject: Re: [KB] Deacon's Neo-Aristotelian Complication
 of    Simple    Action/Motion
  To: "Edward C Appel" <edwardcappel at frontier.com>
  Cc: "Carrol Cox" <cbcox at ilstu.edu>,
 "Herbert W. Simons" <hsimons at temple.edu>,
 "DavidPayne" <dpayne at usf.edu>,
 "kb at kbjournal.org"
 <kb at kbjournal.org>
  Date: Monday, August 11, 2014, 6:20 PM
  Ed, perhaps add another passage to
  those under consideration, this one  
  from the Grammar, page 157:
  "In reducing all phenomena to terms of motion, biology is
  unambiguously scenic as physics. But as soon as it
  encounters the  
  subject of self-movement, it makes claims upon the areas
  covered by  
  our term agent. We have improvised a solution, for our
  purposes, by  
  deciding that the biologist's word, "organism," is
  Grammatically the  
  equivalent of `agent-minus.'"
  Quoting Edward C Appel <edwardcappel at frontier.com>:
  > But the question I am asking, David, is not the one
  that has to do  
  > with what Burke says here in "Terministic Screens"
  concerning the  
  > difference between "persons" and "things," in regard
  > "negative intuition" of some kind.  The question
  has to do with the  
  > difference between us symbolizers and nonverbal
  animals, in respect  
  > to negative intuition of some kind, and the possible
  > between the so-called "motion" of those life forms
  that of  
  > inanimate matter.  That's the focal problem, if we
  are to credit  
  > both Deacon and Bateson---and I would say, too, the
  Burke of the  
  > opening of P&C---on the subject of negativity, a
  possible "absential  
  > feature," trial and error, self-correctiveness of a
  sort, can we say  
  > "purpose"?
  > And by the way, we don't treat dogs and chimps and
  > pets/work animals exactly like ocean waves,
  impulses, the  
  > wind or the rain.  I'm surely not saying the
  symbolic dislocations  
  > of 200,000 years ago ware not profound.  I'll
  reference Chapter 6 in  
  > my book on the "Anthropology of Dramatic Action." 
  I'm asking  
  > whether Deacon and Bateson are on to something in
  respect to our  
  > doctrinaire labeling of the "activity" of animals,
  particularly the  
  > "higher" ones, as "motion" not to be distinguished
  > "motions" of the cosmos.
  > Ed
  > --------------------------------------------
  > On Mon, 8/11/14, Payne, David <dpayne at usf.edu>
  >  Subject: RE: [KB] Deacon's Neo-Aristotelian
  > of    Simple   
  >  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.
  >  53):
  >  I should make it
  >  clear: I am not pronouncing on the metaphysics of
  >  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
  >  whatever tribal speech happens to be its
  particular symbolic
  >  environment.
  >  David
  >  Payne
  >  ________________________________________
  >  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
  >  Burkophiles,
  >          Actually, it’s
  >  not a gloss on the blink and the wink distinction
  that may
  >  be called for.  It’s modification of
  >  action/motion pair, or a needed elaboration of
  >  meaning.
  >          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. 
  >  tour de force points up that possible problem
  with a sharper
  >  differentiation between mechanistic causation and
  >  dynamical dislocations that came with nonverbal
  >  beings and the possibly teleological,
  >  dimensions of process they introduced to the
  ecology of
  >  planet earth.
  >          I
  >  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
  >  solely with a ‘logological’ tendency
  intrinsic to the
  >  resources of SYMBOLIC ACTION.”
  >          But can we usefully and uniformly
  >  conflate the “nonsymbolic motion” of stars,
  >  oceans, and atoms, on the one hand, and whatever
  it is
  >  living animals in the wild are capable of, on the
  >  Are there some attributes these “lower”
  creatures share
  >  with us symbolizers that Burke’s dramatism
  >  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
  >  planets, and moons.  He describes fish, indeed
  >  Living Things,” as “critics” of their
  >  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
  >  food’” in the form of a fisherman’s bait. 
  Fish might
  >  steer clear of a lure like that after such a
  >  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
  >  1972, 381).  That “difference” that “makes
  >  difference” in generating “preference” 
  >  “information” derived via “negative
  >  according to Bateson, “information” an
  important term
  >  for Deacon in respect to the “absential
  feature,” or
  >  absential “functioning.”  Bateson’s
  >  entropy” results, one presumes, in a “lack
  >  predictability” of the kind that characterizes
  >  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
  >  which I will accept as characteristics of
  >  (1)     A “system” operating
  >  “with and upon DIFFERENCES.”
  >  (2)     
  >  “Closed loops or networks of pathways”
  >  “news of a difference.”
  >  (3)     
  >  “Many events within the system . . . energized
  by the
  >  respondent part,” not just the “triggering
  >  (4)      The system “showing
  >  self-correctiveness,” self-correctiveness
  >  “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
  >  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
  >  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
  >  intuition differently.  Those denizens of the
  >  “creatura” are not “MORALIZED by the
  >  (LASA, 9-13, 16).  Or, as I’ve put it (1993a,
  >  2012), nonverbal animals would have no conception
  of the
  >  “infinite negative,” the global negative that
  >  guilt and shame upon a weak and finite being that
  has nary a
  >  chance of measuring up to its vision of
  >          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
  >  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
  >  Professor Deacon is on vacation now, and,
  currently, mostly
  >  away from e-mail.
  >    Have a good day, everyone!
  >          Ed
  >  --------------------------------------------
  >  On Sat, 8/9/14, Edward C Appel <edwardcappel at frontier.com>
  >  wrote:
  >   Subject: Re: [KB]
  >  Deacon's Neo-Aristotelian Complication of
  >     Action/Motion
  >   To:
  >  "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
  >   Burkophiles,
  >       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,
  >  surely
  >   complicated by Terrence
  >  Deacon.   A lacuna in
  >   dramatism
  >  is the failure to take cognizance of nonverbal
  >   motives, Jim offered.  At the time,
  >  surmised that Jim
  >   meant the classic motion
  >  of chemical processes of the kind
  >   Jerome
  >  Kagan (Harvard social scientist) examined in his
  >   book, Galen’s Prophecy: Temperament
  in Human
  >  Nature
  >   (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
  >  norepinephrine,
  >   a neurochemical, in the
  >  baso-lateral area of the amygdala,
  >   and in
  >  its projections to cortical and autonomic
  >   From such motions of nature derive
  >  melancholia,
  >   and neurosis, Kagan
  >  convincingly argues.
  >     I didn’t much credit Jim’s naysaying
  >   at the time.  Burke was a philosopher
  >  critic of the
  >   human drama, that aspect of
  >  observable behavior that, in one
  >   way or
  >  other, cannot be reduced to the motions of
  >   and will boldly manifest its
  uniqueness in
  >  anthropological
  >   terms (see Chapter 6 in the
  >  Primer).  Sure, an
  >   individual’s
  >  characteristic “drama” will be modified,
  >   perhaps radically, by those
  “chemisms,” to
  >  use Theodore
  >   Dreiser’s word.  Burke
  >  gives enough heed to such
  >   influences,
  >  thought I, in his description of the way
  >  different folks will react to the same stimuli,
  >   scenic pressures and circumstances
  (GM).  No
  >  need for
  >   elaborated neurochemistry, however
  >  germane in a scientific
  >   context.
  >       Deacon, I
  >   believe, challenges this chink in
  >  thought in the
  >   sense of how to handle, what
  >  to call, the kind of
  >   nonsymbolic
  >  “motion”---isn’t that what Burke calls
  >   it?---of what are commonly labeled
  >  “lower”
  >   animals.  In what might be
  >  denominated Neo-Aristotelian
  >   fashion,
  >  Deacon “outline[s] . . . a theory of emergent
  >   dynamics that shows how dynamical
  >  can become
  >   organized around and with
  >  respect to possibilities not
  >   realized. 
  >  This is intended to provide the scaffolding for
  >   a conceptual bridge from mechanistic
  >  relationships to
  >   end-directed,
  >  informational, and normative relationships
  >  such as are found in simple life forms [and, a
  >  in
  >   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
  >  teleology,”
  >   “teleodynamics” to use
  >  Deacon’s neologism, would
  >   certainly
  >  characterize the putative transition from
  >  prokaryotic bacteria to eukaryotic bacteria
  around 2.6
  >   billion years ago, at the onset of
  >  Proterozoic Eon.
  >   Something radically new
  >  came to planet earth:
  >   nuclei-possessing,
  >  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
  >  “miracle”
  >   planet nothing we’ve
  >  discovered out there in space likely
  >   comes
  >  close to.  (I think of have this scenario
  >   correct,)
  >     Two
  >   billion years later,
  >  after the hiatus of “Snowball
  >   Earth”
  >  had passed, the “Cambrian Explosion” could
  >   begin.
  >     The Gaia guru
  >   Lovelock said
  >  it was the radically different composition of
  >   earth’s atmosphere---21 percent
  oxygen, 76
  >  percent
  >   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
  >  dioxide in both
  >   cases, albeit with
  >  strikingly different concentrations.
  >       Back to Herb’s
  >   blink and one-eyed wink next time,
  >  perhaps, a gloss
  >   that Deacon’s Incomplete
  >  Nature might suggest.
  >   Ed
  >  --------------------------------------------
  >   On Sat, 8/9/14, Herbert W. Simons
  <hsimons at temple.edu>
  >   wrote:
  >  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
  >    A
  >   theoretical explanation provides an
  answer to
  >  a why
  >   question
  >    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
  >    distinction
  >  and could have taken KB to
  >   action-motion.
  >  WINKS
  >    On Fri,
  >  Aug 8, 2014 at
  >    10:46 PM, Carrol Cox
  >  <cbcox at ilstu.edu>
  >    wrote:
  >  (You
  >   need to click "Reply All";
  >  otherwise it goes
  >    to the post's
  >  sender
  >    rather than to
  >  kb.)
  >    I'm
  >   interested in your
  >  somewhat cryptic message because
  >    on
  >  another list I am
  >  writing on the difference between theory on
  >  the one hand and
  >    "what needs to
  >    be explained" on
  >  the
  >   other. And involved in that is a
  >   differentiation
  >    between
  >  empirical generalization and theoretical
  >    Carrol
  >  -----Original
  >   Message-----
  >    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
  >   subject)
  >    I think I can add to
  >  this
  >   discussion. In earlier days I
  >    replied to
  >   the
  >    emails I received but
  >   they went to Ed so to kick off I'd
  >    like
  >   to test
  >    kb at kbjournal.org
  >   as
  >    an address to the e-list
  >  and ask if
  >   anyone has looked
  >    closely
  >  into the nature of 'explanations'. More to
  >    follow perhaps.
  >  _______________________________________________
  >    KB mailing list
  >    KB at kbjournal.org
  >    http://kbjournal.org/mailman/listinfo/kb_kbjournal.org
  >  _______________________________________________
  >    KB mailing list
  >    KB at kbjournal.org
  >    http://kbjournal.org/mailman/listinfo/kb_kbjournal.org
  >    --
  >  Herbert
  >   W.
  >    Simons,
  >  Ph.D.
  >    Emeritus
  >   Professor
  >  of
  >    Communication
  >   Dep't of  Strategic
  >  Communication,
  >   Weiss Hall 215
  >    Temple
  >  University, Philadelphia 19122
  >    Home
  >   phone:
  >    215 844 5969
  >    http://astro.temple.edu/~hsimons
  >    Academic Fellow, Center for
  >  Transformative
  >    Strategic Initiatives
  >  (CTSI)
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