[KB] "Deacon"-structing Burke Part Whatever

Edward C Appel edwardcappel at frontier.com
Tue Oct 28 10:34:29 EDT 2014

An addendum  to my "sermon" for today:

None of us Burkean cognoscente should wax too smug at the perfectionistic excess we see all around us, much of which is destroying this planet's resources and ecosystems.  We are all afflicted.  No "theological motive of perfection": No drama.  Yes, no distinctly human being.  We are all "moralized by the negative" in ways that tempt toward "empire" of one kind or another.  The most we can hope for is to comedically channel that urge into more constructive, less destructive paths of endeavor, and to temper its incentives via the "comic corrective."  There are "stars" in the fields of communication and literature, etc., on this list.  They did not attain that pinnacle by getting up each morning and obssessing on how they could tamp down the urge toward professional distinction.  It's just that the "scholars' dollars" don't impact air, earth, fire, and water like those of the captains of industry.

On Tue, 10/28/14, Edward C Appel <edwardcappel at frontier.com> wrote:

 Subject: Re: [KB] "Deacon"-structing Burke Part Whatever
 To: "Gregory Desilet" <info at gregorydesilet.com>
 Cc: kb at kbjournal.org
 Date: Tuesday, October 28, 2014, 9:55 AM
 Thanks for the link.  I'll give the interview a listen
 and get back.
 Two things:
 First, Deacon is not one of the plagiarizers of Burke's
 thought.  He has told me he knows nothing about Burke,
 and I believe him.  Deacon is, after all, in two fields
 not noted for Burkean connections, anthropology and
 neuroscience.  I've been forwarding to Deacon my kb
 posts.  After the most recent one, he got back to me
 with near assurance he wants to start reading Burke. 
 It's actually more confirming, I believe, that these
 similaries in theory, philosophy, and conclusions from
 research appear independently---especially from a
 significant source in a hard science.
 Second, as I read it, the connection Burke makes between
 Hitler's fascistic rants and religion in "Hitler's 'Battle'"
 is offered to the detriment of Hitler, not religion. 
 Burke calls what Hitler has done a "bastardization" of
 religious rhetoric, meaning, in Burke's typically elliptical
 way, an illigitimate use of the motive of perfection, a
 taking-to-the-end-of-the-line his depiction of this
 arbitrary and quite earth-bound, untranscendent scapegoat,
 whose demise will supposedly '' +"cure" the ills of the
 German people.
 This harks back to what Burke says in ATH about "heroic,"
 tragic-frame rhetoric approaching "coxcombry" when employed
 for nonreligious reasons.  God and the devil are
 "perfected" conceptions, or can be so idealized.
 Now, this does not mean given expressions of religion, like
 Islam today in various formulations---in terms of its
 fanatical quest to make its earthly environment confirm
 exactly to its extreme, and one can say I think, socially
 and historically backward standards---are not
 facistic.  Nor is it to say that fundamentalist
 religion of any kind, even when thoroughly
 transcendentalized, isn't to be "discounted" for language as
 a source of conceptual excess.  "Perfection" of
 whatever variety, when grimly pursued in respect to the
 here-and-now or the graat beyond, is to be taken  with
 salt and viewed with suspicion, Burke surely hints at, if
 not in each case clearly proclaims.
 Religion in general is not the customary "enemy" in Burke's
 writings.  More frequently, it's the immanent
 expressions of that "theological" motive in the "quest for
 empire" in this world that earns Burke's strongest disdain.
 That's my sermon for today.  As the Stage Manager isn
 Our Town said, "Twan't much."
 On Mon, 10/27/14, Gregory Desilet <info at gregorydesilet.com>
  Subject: Re: [KB] "Deacon"-structing Burke Part Whatever
  To: "Ed Appel" <edwardcappel at frontier.com>
  Cc: kb at kbjournal.org
  Date: Monday, October 27, 2014, 3:08 PM
  You make a good case, Ed, for
  Deacon’s debt to Burke. Hopefully he will eventually
  something more to say about that. 
  Speaking of unacknowledged “debt” to Burke, I came
  across a YouTube video recently in which Hamed Abdel Samad
  is interviewed. It seems he wrote a controversial book on
  what he calls “Islamism.” In the interview he explains
  the connection he makes between religion and fascism—a
  connection Burke also makes in his 1938 review of
  Mein Kampf. Exploring this connection is indeed
  controversial but Samad makes an interesting case of it.
  And, Ed, in doing so, he seems to follow certain aspects
  our line of argument about conflict management in our
  Rhetoric of the Enemy article. Here is a link to the
  On Oct 21, 2014, at 3:36 PM, Edward C Appel <edwardcappel at frontier.com>
  > Burkophiles,
  >     I want to summarize what I see as
  fifteen or so points of intersection between Burke’s
  dramatism/logology and Terrence W. Deacon’s semiotic
  theory.  I do so in no particular order.  I’m
  basing my assessments on Deacon’s most recent book,
  Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged from Matter, and three
  of his academic articles or book chapters: “The Symbol
  Concept,” “The Emergent Process of Thinking as
  in Language Processing,” and “Beyond the Symbolic
  Species.”  Seven times so far, I’ve posted here on
  Deacon at some length.  I’ll make reference to the
  dates of those postings, or a few of them, where you might
  find further treatment, when appropriate.
  > 1.    Deacon’s notion of an
  “absential feature” in human symbolic action, as 
  > well as in whatever we want to call the nonsymbolic
  activity of the “lower animals,” echoes Burke’s
  primary emphasis on the “negative” as author and
  motivator of the human drama.  This “absential
  feature,” as extant in the “Creatura,” but not in
  “Pleroma” (Deacon here borrows language from the
  Gnostics by way of his mentor Gregory Bateson), is the
  elephant in the living room scientistic theorists
  recurrently ignore in their efforts to reduce anthropology
  to biology, biology to chemistry, chemistry to physics.
  > 2.    From this absential feature at the
  core of the “entelechy” that 
  > characterizes beings in the Creatura (yes, Deacon
  references Aristotle and the Four Causes), a list of
  ancillary features built around “purpose” and
  of Burke’s pentad emerges.  See Deacon’s analogous
  idea of “teleodynamics.”  8/7/14, 8/9/14.
  > 3.     Deacon, like Burke,
  claims that action, so to speak, cannot be reduced 
  > to motion, phrasing the concept somewhat differently
  from Burke.  For Deacon, it’s the absential feature
  itself that eludes the scientistic rationale.  “There
  are no components to what is absent,” he emphasizes.
  > 4.    Deacon’s definition of what a
  symbol is and is not appears to mirror 
  > well enough Burke’s conception.  I say seems to
  mirror “well enough” because Burke does not as
  exclude, or even much refer to, mathematical, signal- or
  code-like, computational-type “symbols.”  Deacon
  argues convincingly that math-type “symbols” do not
  possess the airy abstractiveness, web-like relatedness to
  and embeddedness in, a whole lexicon of terms none of
  can be “mapped” in relation to objects in the real
  world, a “system-internal web of relationships”
  requiring “an associated indexical operation  . . .
  in order to point outside this system.”  Neither
  Melia’s book chapter “Scientism and Dramatism: Some
  Quasi-Mathematical Motifs in the Work of Kenneth Burke”
  (The Legacy of Kenneth Burke), nor Burke’s references to
  the “statistical” in PLF, seem to undercut this claim.
  >     To put the matter simply: In the
  lingo of dramatism, numerals in themselves do not exude
  “drama” (make exception for the indirect, the
  derivative), whereas the words, phrases, and sentences of
  the world’s conventional, arbitrary languages do. 
  That’s the implicit lesson Deacon’s semiotics would
  to highlight. 9/16/14.
  > 5.    Deacon’s conception of the
  origins of language sounds a lot like Burke’s 
  > speculations in those QJS articles (1952/1953),
  reprinted in LASA (pp. 419-79).  Deacon speaks of “an
  undifferentiated starting condition.”  “We must
  ask: What’s the form of a thought”---or “the idea
  a sentence conveys”---“before it is put into words,”
  the “’mental images’ not quite formed or desires and
  intentions to achieve some imagined goal only vaguely
  formulated?”  These “embryos of a speech act”
  would be “focused on aiming for and achieving expressive
  > ”
  >     For Burke, those “expressive
  goals”---“connotative,” “suggestive,”
  “loaded,” “fraught . . . with significance”; I’m
  deep into Roget’s here---might stem from a
  “’pre-negative’ . . . tonal gesture,” “calling
  attention-to “ “danger” with “sound[s] . . .
  hav[ing] a deterrent or pejorative meaning” (LASA, pp.
  423-24).  Deacon’s “lexicality,” a pre-linguistic
  “pointing to” would serve as basis for this transition
  into morally-tinged negation of the kind that
  “dramatically” invests the danger or opportunity in
  question with quasi-theological import.  The negative
  as “engine of intentionality” with its now-infinite
  vistas (indeed, now “rotten with perfection”), would
  begin to indict as well as beckon, accuse as well as
  highlight, come upon its denizens with an aura of
  hazard, as well as material consequence. 9/16/14.
  >     Deacon does refine his description
  of this likely lengthy transition with: “I see this
  particular near universal [the “oral-vocal”] to be a
  relatively late emerging biological adaptation for
  communication.”  The “gestural embodiment”
  probably came first, since our primate ancestors were not
  good at vocality.  The vocal came to predominate
  because of its greater potential for myriad “sign
  > 6.    Which brings us to Burke’s
  hexadic acknowledgement of “attititude” as 
  > an ingredient in the symbolic mix, language primarily
  expressing an attitude, creating an orientation toward
  certain pathways of action, giving cues to action and a
  command to follow those cues.  For Deacon, that
  attitudinal, “expressive” dimension is denominated a
  “mood.”  In respect to symbolic origins, “Within
  this frame of social communicative arousal,” he
  “what might be described as the ‘mood’ of the speech
  or interpretive act is differentiated.”  “This
  ‘mood’ needs to be maintained.”  It’s “a
  focused readiness and expectation with respect to social
  > 7.     Burke famously defines
  humans as the “symbol-using animal.” 
  > Deacon’s “symbolic species” functions as a
  virtual synonym.  “In my work,” Deacon says, “I
  use the phrase symbolic species, quite literally, to argue
  that symbols have literally changed the kind of biological
  organism we are.”
  >     “Indeed, there is ample evidence
  to suggest that language is both well-integrated into
  every aspect of our cognitive and social lives, that it
  utilizes a significant fraction of the forebrain, and is
  acquired robustly under even quite difficult social
  circumstances and neurological impairment.  It is far
  from fragile.”
  >     “So rather than merely intelligent
  or wise (sapient) creatures, we are creatures whose social
  and mental capacities have been quite literally shaped by
  the special demands of communicating with symbols.  And
  this doesn’t just mean that we are adapted for language
  use, but also for all the many ancillary mental biases
  support reliable access and use of this social
  >     This defining human trait or
  attribute gets locked in globally via “the near
  regularities of human language.”
  > 8.    “Drama”---or, to put it more
  logologically, “theological drama”---as 
  > master “screen,” through which even the
  “positives of nature are seen through the eyes of moral
  negativity”?  Howabout Deacon’s approximation:
  “We are ‘symbolic savants,’ unable to suppress the
  many predispositions evolved to aid in symbol acquisition,
  use, and transmission . . . . We almost certainly have
  evolved a predisposition to see things as symbols, whether
  they are or not.”  E.g., “the make-believe of
  children,”  “find[ing] meaning in coincidental
  events,” seeing “faces in the clouds,” “run[ning]
  our lives with respect to dictates presumed to originate
  from an invisible spiritual world.”  “Our special
  adaptation is the lens through which we see the world. 
  With it comes an irrepressible predisposition to seek for
  cryptic meaning hiding beneath the surface of
  >     An approximation?  Sounds more
  like a paraphrase.  Always take note of “our special
  adaptation” and factor it into our interpretations of
  >     More later, I hope, by way of
  additional intersections between Burke and Deacon.
  >     Ed
  > --------------------------------------------
  > On Thu, 10/9/14, Edward C Appel <edwardcappel at frontier.com>
  > Subject: Re: [KB] "Deacon"-structing Burke Part
  > To: kb at kbjournal.org
  > Date: Thursday, October 9, 2014, 5:05 PM
  > Burkophiles,
  >     Let me reiterate, clarify,
  > It’s the dyadic grammatical pairing of subject and
  > predicate that Deacon says is not “innate” in the
  > mind and human discourse, as in Chomsky’s universal
  > generative conception, not the “symbolic” faculty
  > itself.  No evolutionary, genomic, or
  > evidence exists for Chomsky’s view.  It’s
  > implicit in these shorter works by Deacon, but
  > implicit, that symbolization itself does come
  > the Symbolic Species.  That is, you’ll recall,
  > title of his earlier book.
  >     You may wonder, too, at the
  claim that
  > children pick up on their own a facility for
  > combinatorial modes of symbolic reference, rather
  > that culminative syntax from the structures of the
  > conventional language into which they’re
  > The fact is, Deacon asserts, “The infant already
  > ‘knows’ the logic of these ‘rules’ of
  > indexicality,” which bring noun subject and verbal
  > predicate together.  Those necessary regularities
  > well absorbed the first year and a half by way of
  > itself.
  >     Also, as he or she reads him, a
  > might be taken aback by Deacon’s occasional
  > the “predicate frame” (the “comment” on the
  > “subject” or “topic” that requires the
  > “indexing”) as the “symbolic” part of a
  > “complete” sentence or iteration.  This does
  > mean, for Deacon, that the noun subject and object,
  > referential parts, of the fully-formed utterance
  > been symbolically transformed by the symbolizing
  > species.  Even proper names, which, unlike common
  > nouns, can be indexically “mapped” a la Saussure,
  > still embedded a culturally conventional,
  > linguistic system.  What Deacon seems to be
  > here is that distinctive symbolization “emerges”
  > nonsymbolic indexicality—the “pointing”
  > vocalizations of lower animals that indicate some
  > “icon” that poses danger, potentially satisfies
  > appetite, requires territorial markings or
  >  signals of aggression or subservience,
  > symbolization emerges especially via an
  > “mood”-generating, “sense”-making,
  > ultimately abstractive vocalization that
  > to conceive of, proceed toward, exploit, or retreat
  from the
  > object or being so referenced.  As Burke has
  > “The true locus of assertion is not in the DISEASE,
  but in
  > the STRUCTURAL POWERS by which the poet encompasses
  > (PLF, p. 18, emphasis not added), a redemptive
  > “act”-centered predication.
  >     So, there seems to be an
  underlay of the
  > presymbolic in the indexical not so present in the
  > nonindexical.
  >     Constraining indexicality
  > anatomizes into four aspects, only one of which
  > mention here, the most basic, what he calls
  > constraints.”  These manifest themselves in
  > “predication constraints (symbols must be bound in
  > to refer)”; “transitivity and embedding
  > (indexicality depends on immediate correlation and
  > contiguity across the transitive)”; and
  > (symbolized indices need re-specification).
  > ” 
  >     In elaboration, Deacon says,
  “To state
  > this hypothesis in semiotic terms: a symbol must be
  > contiguous with the index that grounds its reference
  > to the world or to the immediate agreeing textual
  > which is otherwise grounded), or else its reference
  > fails.  Contiguity thus has a doubly indexical
  role to
  > play.  Its contiguity (textually or pragmatically)
  > the symbolizing sign vehicle [see paragraph 3 above]
  > to this symbol, and their contiguity in turn points
  > something else.  This is an expression of one
  > feature of indexicality: transitivity of
  > Or, more “simply stated, a pointer pointing to
  > pointer pointing to some object effectively enables
  > first pointer to also point to that object.”
  >     Ultimate grounding in the real
  > seems vital to Deacon for complete and satisfying
  > predication.
  >     Being the neuroscientist that
  he is,
  > Deacon asks, by way of “transitivity” as he calls
  > “How does this interaction between phases of
  > differentiation produce anything?  What sort of
  > are being sent in each direction” from one area of
  > human brain to another?  To simplify, what’s
  > happening is “counter-current information
  > that generally proceeds from “lower” to
  > structures of the brain, and from back to
  > limbic, peri-limbic, and peripheral, to
  > cortical regions; from “posterior
  > cortical systems” to “anterior (intention-action)
  > cortical systems”; i.e., from reptilian brain
  > like the thalamus, hippocampus, and amygdala, to the
  > advanced cerebral components of mammalian, primate,
  > early hominid ancestry.  And, of equal importance,
  > again, from “higher” to “lower,” etc., as
  > well.  These “counter-current”
  >  electro-chemical operations afford a kind of
  > provide checks and balances, generate
  >     Whether we’re neurologically
  > sensory, or motor, or cognitive, or linguistic
  > they all look pretty much the same, I interpret. 
  > each exhibit similarly “emergent”
  > terms of evolutionary origins and current sequential
  > functioning.
  >     What remains to be dealt with
  is a
  > summary of the complementary intersections between
  > dramatism/logology and Deacon’s semiotics, and also
  > challenge Deacon possibly poses to Burke’s
  > dichotomy.
  >     At a later date.
  >     And a P.S.  If you object
  to my use
  > of the singular form of the verb “to be” in the
  > remains” sentence, do read the Fowler-Nicholson
  > “Dictionary of American-English Usage,” pp.
  > 374-75.  Fowler and Nicholson don’t explain it
  > but they do get it right, unlike billions of
  > I’ve read, including the New York Times.  I’m
  > a grammarian of a kind at heart, even after the
  > Deacon-struction.
  >     Ed     
  > --------------------------------------------
  > On Mon, 10/6/14, Edward C Appel <edwardcappel at frontier.com>
  > wrote:
  >  Subject: Re: [KB] "Deacon"-structing Burke Part
  >  To: kb at kbjournal.org
  >  Date: Monday, October 6, 2014, 3:34 PM
  >  Burkophiles,
  >      I’ve already said
  >  that Terrence W. Deacon’s semiotic theory
  > supports,
  >  partly enhances, and partly challenges Burke’s
  >  dramatism/logology, in my view.  Burke
  surely, we would
  >  maintain, enhances Deacon, as well.  Before
  I get to the
  >  “challenge”---as the song goes, “Don’t
  know where,
  >  don’t know when”---let me add to the themes
  of support
  >  and enhancement.  Here I’ll be
  referencing, in
  >  particular, two of Deacon’s shorter works, the
  >  article, “The Emergent Process of Thinking as
  > in
  >  Language Processing,” and Deacon’s book 
  >  “Beyond the Symbolic Species,” The Symbolic
  >  being the title of the
  >  tome that preceded Incomplete Nature: How Mind
  > from
  >  Matter, about which I previously bloviated.
  >      I would judge Deacon’s
  >  “god-term”/”rome-term” to be
  “emergent,” as
  > per
  >  the title of the here-featured treatise. 
  The word
  >  “emerge” plays a similar role, I think, in
  > the
  >  Symbolic Species.”  All roads seem to lead
  >  “emerge”/”emergent” to the two sets of
  >  opposites subsumed below:
  >      The primary polar matchup term
  >  “emergent” is pitted against, is
  “innate,” as in
  > the
  >  pre-processed, genetically-programmed and
  >  universal generative grammar of Noam Chomsky and
  >  epigoni.  No evidence of such a special
  facility can be
  >  found in the human genome or in the structures of
  > human
  >  brain, which actually look not that much
  different from
  >  those found in a mouse, let alone a
  chimpanzee.  (I’m
  >  referencing Incomplete Nature as well as
  > “Emergent.”) 
  >  We have here a “process of coming out,” a
  “rising .
  > .
  >  . out of a surrounding medium,” even “an
  > produced
  >  by a combination of causes but unable to be seen
  as the
  > sum
  >  of their individual effects” (The Shorter OED),
  >  through careful, detailed scrutiny of the natural
  >  and evolution of living organisms, pathways of
  >  electro-chemical discharge in the brain, the
  > neurology
  >  of sensory, motor, thinking, and linguistic
  > and
  >  outcomes,
  >   animal communication generally,
  >  even the listening and reading, as well as the
  > and
  >  writing, of symbolizers like us---all these
  >  recapitulating the same sequential steps. 
  >  appropriate here to note what Susan Greenfield
  > Christof
  >  Koch, both neuroscientists, said in an exchange
  >  Psychology Today: Electrochemical discharges in
  the brain
  >  can occur within time frames of 1/14th of a
  >      From this dialectical
  >  emphasis on “emergent” rather than
  “innate,” there
  >  is derived the contrasting concepts of
  >  “subject/predicate.”  They assume more
  >  “roles,” if not do “battle” with each
  >  seemingly asymmetrically, in a way that Chomsky
  would not
  >  likely entertain.  “Subject/predicate”;
  >  phrase/verb phrase”; “”topic/comment”;
  > “indexical
  >  support/predicate frame”;
  > or
  >  undesired result; “orientation component”/act
  >  accomplish in respect to that “orientation”;
  >  “function,” as in
  >  “reference/sense”; “indexical
  >  operation”; “slots” for “pointing,” or
  >  “addresses”/”operation”; “(embedded)
  >  indexes/symbolic operation”;
  “disambiguating” the
  >  “indexical”/successful “symbolic” action
  toward a
  >  desired end---these serve as various expressions
  of the
  >  “process” of
  >   “emergence,” left to
  >  right, in communication, part of which, the
  >  “indexical”-founded-on-the-“iconic”
  >  I’ve already spoken of, homo loquax/dialecticus
  >  with other living creatures.
  >      The major point Deacon makes is,
  >  is no built-in genetic-neurological template by
  which the
  >  symbolic species gets from subject to
  predicate.  That
  >  aptitude, that enabling juxtaposition, resides
  not in our
  >  biology, nor in our cultural conditioning. 
  It is a
  > faculty
  >  humans learn in early childhood via the bound and
  >  “logic” of successful symbolization. 
  >  “Disambiguating” indexicality---i.e.,
  >  via gestures or indexical words to what it is we
  >  symbolically talking about---is a requirement
  > successful
  >  human communication.  We must put those two
  >  elements together somehow to get what we’re
  after, or
  > tell
  >  others more or less accurately what we want them
  > know. 
  >  Nonsymbolic animals have no such indexical
  > because
  >  their communication doesn’t get beyond the
  >  the “:arousal” to “attention” a
  >  “form” will evoke for them---and the
  >  the gestural or
  >   vocal “pointing” to
  >  that feared or desired object. 
  “Symbolization” via
  >  predication complicates, potentially, actually
  > practically,
  >  interrupts, erects barriers in succession to
  making clear,
  >  what we are talking about, who or what we have in
  > what
  >  we want others to “do” in order for our
  interests to
  > be
  >  satisfied.
  >      How human thinking, sensory and
  >  skills, and language production get to happen
  >  similar, if not identical, neural continuities.
  >      And how all this
  >  dovetails so nicely with Burke’s dramatistic
  >  yet broaches an issue Burke may not have
  adequately dealt
  >  with, remains.
  >      Next
  >  time.
  >      Ed  
  >  --------------------------------------------
  >  On Tue, 9/16/14, Edward C Appel <edwardcappel at frontier.com>
  >  wrote:
  >   Subject: [KB] "The
  >  Symbol Concept"
  >   To: kb at kbjournal.org
  >   Date: Tuesday, September 16, 2014,
  1:08 PM
  >   Burkophiles,
  >       Thanks, Bob, for your
  >  response on Burke,
  >   rhetoric, and
  >  “repetition.”  I hope to get back on
  >  that one later.
  >       I
  >  posted a few weeks ago on Terrence W.
  >  Deacon’s book Incomplete Nature: How Mind
  Emerged from
  >   Matter.  I said, in effect, and
  sought to
  >  briefly
  >   summarize how, Deacon’s
  >  philosophy of language part
  >   supports, part
  >  enhances, and part challenges Burke’s
  >  dramatism/logology.  Ronald Soetaert of
  Ghent U.
  >   seconded that take on Deacon’s
  relevance to
  >  our
  >   enterprise.
  >       Since then, I’ve been
  in further
  >   dialogue with Professor Deacon. 
  He sent me
  >  three of
  >   his published articles, then
  >  later, a fourth, later still an
  >   essay now
  >  in press.  Two of these pieces have to do
  >  with his mentor, Gregory Bateson, whose work I
  >  to
  >   in at least one of my posts as being
  >  clear precursor of
  >   Deacon’s semiotics. 
  >  The other of those first three,
  >   an
  >  encyclopedia chapter entitled “The Symbol
  >   I’d like to summarize in this post
  and maybe
  >  one or two
  >   more.  The chapter appears in
  >  The Oxford Handbook of
  >   Language Evolution
  >  (Oxford University Press, 2011).  If
  >  you’re interested, please read on.
  >       (And as you read, do
  keep in mind
  >  that
  >   Incomplete Nature has made a profound
  >  impact, judging from
  >   multiple reviews
  >  easily accessed on the internet.)
  >       First, Deacon’s
  confirmation of
  >  Burke,
  >   formerly unbeknownst to Deacon, as I
  >  noted: Deacon’s in
  >   anthropology and
  >  neuroscience, not communication and
  >  literature, the prime sources of Burkean interest
  >   scholarship.  From the
  perspective of
  >  Incomplete
  >   Nature, I pointed out how
  >  Deacon’s critique of the
  >   commonplace
  >  “scientific lens,” maybe epitomized by
  >  behaviorism’s notion of the human mind, any
  >  as
  >   a “black box” we ought to
  >  from our motivational
  >   calculations, is
  >  faulty and inadequate.  Input and
  >   output,
  >  neural stimulus and response, reduction of mind
  >   biology, then to chemistry, then to
  >  are the
  >   requisite foci for useful data and
  >  explanation, so much of
  >   hard science, at
  >  least, seems to suggest.  Deacon says
  >   no,
  >  we have to factor in, indeed highlight, a
  >   “absential feature”(similar to
  >  negative) that
  >   becomes the basis for human
  >  purpose, trial and error---we
  >   can genuinely
  >  label it all the
  >    aspects of “action,”
  >  expressive of a chosen
  >   “preference,”
  >  that cuts across “spontaneous” causes
  >  in nature and orients persons toward “work”
  >  limits,
  >   organizes, directs life
  >  outcomes.
  >       “The
  >  Symbol Concept” further
  >   underscores the
  >  dramatistic relevance of Deacon’s
  >  thought.  Deacon once again takes issue with
  >   scientific/technological terminologies
  >  confuse what a
  >   “symbol” actually is. 
  >  A symbol is not, Deacon
  >   claims, mere
  >  “code,” “sign,” “icon,” or number,
  >   that is, symbols are not mere pointers
  >  markers, gauges, or
  >   portraits of the kind
  >  so often denominated
  >   “symbols.” 
  >  Actual “symbols” refer, abstractly
  >   and
  >  generally, “irrespective of any natural
  >  affinities.”  In other words, as per
  Burke, symbols
  >   synthesize, synthetically, disparate
  >  entities, or
  >   events for seemingly
  >  pragmatic, culturally-conditioned
  >   purposes
  >  that transcend mere appearance of similarity. 
  >   Contra Saussure (with the exception of
  >  nouns),
  >   symbolic reference cannot be
  >  “mapped.”  To the
  >   extent that a common
  >  word or symbol “maps” anything, it
  >  “maps” a position in a given lexicon in
  relation to
  >   other
  >    terminologies in that
  >  symbol system.
  >       The
  >  airy, diaphanous character of
  >   Burke’s
  >  equivalent notion of symbolic action/reference
  >   finds peak expression in his chapter,
  >  Are the Signs
  >   of What?---A Theory of
  >  Entitlement.” in LASA.  There
  >   Burke
  >  maintains what he said in the Grammar about how
  >   symbols refer to “nothing” in the
  >  world, only here
  >   he follows up with how
  >  “reference” is reversed, in terms
  >   of
  >  customary suppositions: “Things are the signs
  >   words,” rather than vice
  versa.  In so
  >  “latching
  >   on” to the symbol’s
  >  concept, so to speak, tangible
  >   entities and
  >  “objects” “materialize” the
  >  “spirit” of the symbol, participate in its
  >   “pageantry” (pp. 361, 379).
  >       But---and
  >  here’s where Deacon gets into
  >   semiotic
  >  and semiological issues foreign to Burke’s
  >   dramatism, i.e., the “enhancement”
  >   mentioned---“sign”-age,
  >  “signal”-ing,
  >   “code”deciphering,
  >  the whole gamut of concepts related
  >   to
  >  computer algorithms and “encryption,” come to
  bear in
  >   undergirding the higher-order
  >  process we call
  >   human symbolic
  >  communication.  Like love and marriage
  >  (for the traditionally minded, anyway), you
  can’t have
  >  one
  >   without the other.  The symbols
  >  human language are
  >   fashioned out of sounds
  >  and written or printed characters
  >   the roots
  >  of which are presymbolic, and prehuman, for that
  >   matter.  Such “iconic” and
  >  “indexical” sources
  >   of communication
  >  are evident in the activites of nonsymbolic
  >  animals, as well as in the “symbolic actions”
  of you
  >  and
  >   me.  Thus, add “iconism” and
  >  “indexicality” to
  >   Deacon’s
  >  “absential feature” and Bateson’s
  >  “difference that makes a
  >    difference”
  >  (that results from some pre-ethical sense of
  >   negation, and occasions a form of
  “trial and
  >  error” in
  >   the service of a kind of
  >  “preference,” a capacity for
  >   which all
  >  living things show signs of possessing and
  >  utilizing).
  >       In
  >  explaining this “hierarchy” of
  >   notions
  >  he uses in explaining how human symbolic action
  >   works, Deacon borrows from the
  philosophy of
  >  Charles Sanders
  >   Peirce.  Peirce coined the
  >  term “legisign” to refer
  >   to iconic,
  >  indexical, and symbolic signs in general. 
  >  The locution “sinsign” refers to a specific
  >  of
  >   an iconic or lexical sign (there can
  >  no such thing,
  >   actually, as a “symbolic
  >  sinsign,” as will become clear,
  >   I hope. 
  >  “Natural affinities” characterize
  >  sinsigns; not so, anything that attains the level
  >   “symbolic,” based on, as Burke and
  >  say,
  >   arbitrary, conventional, culturally
  >  reflective origins of
  >   reference.)  A stick
  >  figure drawing on a restroom door
  >   is an
  >  iconic legisign.  It “portrays” in
  >  general.  A picture of a famous person is an
  >   sinsign.  It portrays in
  particular.  A
  >  smoke
  >   alarm sound is an indexical legisign,
  >  as is the position of
  >   a needle on a
  >  pressure gauge.  They “point” or
  >  orient
  >    toward an action in the large.  A
  >  particular smell of
  >   smoke is an indexical
  >  sinsign.  Spoken or written
  >   words, in a
  >  syntactical context or not, are symbolic
  >  legisigns.  The reference is to “a general
  concept or
  >   type of object.”
  >       Proper names might seem
  to be a bit
  >  like
  >   symbolic sinsigns, but they are not. 
  >  Their reference
  >   can be mapped, one-to-one
  >  Saussure-like, but “the
  >   sign-vehicle is a
  >  conventional form.”  Therefore
  >   Peirce
  >  would call them “indexical legisigns.” 
  >   “Dolphin signature whistles are
  >  sinsigns”
  >   (Deacon, e-mail message,
  >  9/9/14).  Symbolic signs of
  >   the most
  >  abstract or merely potential kind of reference
  >   Peirce calls “qualisigns.”
  >       Symbolic reference,
  >  then, functions like
  >   this: “A written
  >  word [for instance] is first recognized
  >   as
  >  an iconic sinsign (an instance of a familiar
  form), then
  >   an indexical legisign (a type of sign
  >  contiguous
  >   with other related types), and
  >  then as a symbolic legisign
  >   (a conventional
  >  type of sign referring to a conventional
  >  type of reference).
  >      Deacon employs the text message
  >   face” and Aristotle’s take on how
  >  “signet ring”
  >   functions in
  >  communication as examples of this hierarchal
  >   progression in the production of
  meaning for
  >  symbol-users,
  >   one of Deacon’s most
  >  salient points being: This
  >   “dependency of
  >  symbolic reference on indexical reference
  >  [and iconic reference]” mirrors the dependency
  of human
  >   symbolic action/communication on the
  >  “genetic,” even
  >   “phylogenetic,”
  >  capacities for iconic and indexical
  >  communication of a sort in “living organisms”
  >   general, a theme of Deacon’s (and
  >  Bateson’s) I
  >   emphasized in my previous
  >  posts on Incomplete Nature.
  >       So, for further review
  >  comment:
  >       What do
  >  Deacon’s semiotic distinctions,
  >   and
  >  especially unifications, mean for Burke’s
  >   “(Nonsymbolic) Motion/(Symbolic)
  >  dichotomy 
  >   (1978/2003)?  Is some sort of
  >  modification in order
  >   along the lines of
  >  Jim Chesebro’s complaint that Burke did
  >  not pay enough attention to nonsymbolic motive s
  >   panel at the ECA Convention, 1992)?
  >       Does Deacon’s
  >  critique of Chomsky’s
  >   Universal
  >  Generative Grammar as the innate
  >   on syntactical linguistic
  relationships in
  >  human
  >   communication, in favor instead of
  >  “indexical”
  >   constraints, tend to
  >  support Burke’s notion of the
  >   negative as
  >  “the engine of intentionality” and the very
  >   dawn of human symbolism
  >       Maybe something on
  >  those issues later.
  >       Ed
  >   ”
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