[KB] "Deacon"-structing Burke Part Whatever

Stan Lindsay slindsa at yahoo.com
Tue Oct 28 17:58:48 EDT 2014

I agree with neither-and-yet-both sides of this issue.As Greg suggests there are some who believe not only in a sacred text but also a sacred (inspired) interpretation.  I have a Biblical Scholar friend who was figuratively crucified for offering an interpretation of a scripture passage that was counter to the creed of his denomination.  There are surely some religions that hold that the interpretation of the text is not open to debate.  Yet, as Ed demonstrates, there are other biblical scholars who demonstrate wide openness in interpretation.  I agree with Ed's observation that language cannot be so clear as to prohibit interpretation.  In my book, Psychotic Entelechy:  The Dangers of Spiritual Gifts Theology, I make the argument that Greg and Ed both make--that unflinching interpretation of religious scriptures (Christian, Jewish, Moslem) often leads to extreme (psychotic) entelechies, and while there are certainly Christian sects today that fit the
 bill, the leading contenders for the position of worst cases of this psychotic entelechy, today, have to be Islamists.  I studied in a primarily Arabic department under a Jewish major professor and taught at both a Catholic university and protestant schools.  You can't paint everyone with a broad brush.
Dr. Stan A. Lindsay, Ph.D. 
Teaching Professor 
Professional Communication 
College of Applied Studies 
Florida State University 
slindsay at pc.fsu.edu 

On Tuesday, October 28, 2014 3:35 PM, Edward C Appel <edwardcappel at frontier.com> wrote:


A challenging and interesting post.  One quick take in opposition of a sort, though, pertains to the second-to- last paragraph:

Your notion of a non-negotiable, not-open-to-interpretation "sacred text" as a given in a genuine "religion" seems a bit too either/or.  Without such a text, you seem to be saying, religion desolves into philosophy.

The 250-year history of biblical criticism, both inside and outside of liberal Protestantism, and its effect on the very idea of a "sacred text" not open to various points of view and multitudes upon multitudes of interpretive schemes, runs counter to reality---unless we're going to prescind all thought of metaphysics---i.e., theology, "coy" or not--from the philosophy you speak of.  In other words, you seem to be requiring a definition of "religion," a transcendentalization of the "motive of perfection," that puts it in a straight jacket most actual religious liberals aren't bound by.

I wouldn't attempt to summarize this complex,critical, literary and historical account from Reimaris (1774-1778) to John Dominic Crossan (radical) and John P. Meier (more mainstream), both Roman Catholics by the way, both still publishing, and both treating the distinctively Christian documents in a most un-sacred way.  As even Meier has said, the New Testament exegete should treat the text as though being judged and interpreted by a Roman Catholic, a Protestant, A Jewish scholar, and an atheist, each having an equal vote.

This "demystification" or partial "demystification" of the texts of Judaism and Christianity has been standard fare in Mainline Protestant seminaries for decades upon decades, and surely has seeped into preaching and teaching in the Mainline denominations.

I wouldn't call them philosophical societies.

Also, by the way, Horace Bushnell, a Protestant preacher in Rochester, New York, published a book in 1849 that undercut the very idea of "language," creedal or biblical or whatever, as a vehicle for pristinely accurate, incontestable, and entire "truth."  Language just doesn't function that way, Bushnell claimed and argued.  This was about half a century before Burke was born.


On Tue, 10/28/14, Gregory Desilet <info at gregorydesilet.com> wrote:

Subject: Re: [KB] "Deacon"-structing Burke Part Whatever
To: "Ed Appel" <edwardcappel at frontier.com>
Cc: kb at kbjournal.org
Date: Tuesday, October 28, 2014, 1:26 PM

Ed—I take your point about Burke
regarding fascism as a distortion or perversion of religion.
To recall, he expresses it this way, “There is nothing in
religion proper that requires a fascist state. There is much
in religion, when misused, that does lead to a fascist
state.” In other words, religion does not lead to fascism
as day leads to night. But I would argue that the reason
religion can, when misused, lead to a fascist state derives
from the circumstance that both share the same metaphysical
core. This metaphysical core is highly suspect with regard
to its potential for benefiting human community. I know this
statement will possibly seem outrageous at face value, but I
make a detailed case for this view in a paper titled
“Burke, Heidegger, Derrida, and the Specter of Nazism at
the Origin of Rhetoric” (available online here: https://www.academia.edu/6400427/Burke_Heidegger_Derrida_and_the_Specter_of_Nazism_at_the_Origin_of_Rhetoric).

Of course, this line of thinking features Burke’s
sacrificial logic expressed in his phrase “cult of the
kill” and all that he sees as bound up in that. The
inevitability of this “logic”—what I identify as the
metaphysical core—is what I take issue with in the above
paper. When we start out with the “cult of the kill”
metaphysical ground (and the late Burke seems to admit of no
other alternative), we are not necessarily obliged to end up
with the politics of fascism but we have necessarily greased
the wheels in that direction. And human community all too
often inclines in that direction when propelled by this
metaphysical ground—which is in essence a logic of
oppositional relation much like YES/NO computer
gatekeeping—only where the YES/NO dichotomy is at the
origin hierarchically conceived such that one side is, in
its essence, superior to the other. This gatekeeping may
work okay when making certain kinds of choices (though I
would dispute this as well) but it does not work well when
categorizing humans (leading to what Burke calls the logic
of the sacrificial scapegoat). Alternative metaphysical
ground, which Burke does not consider, leads to an
alternative logic of gatekeeping whereby the essences on
each side of the dichotomy are not hierarchically arranged
at the assumptive origin. In this latter alternative
metaphysical orientation, hierarchy among choices arises
from a contextualized evaluative process, not a presumption
at the outset.  

This hierarchical “presumption at the outset” is another
feature of what I regard as the metaphysical core of
religion. It ties in closely with the notion of a “sacred
text.” Here a “sacred" text may be defined as sacred
only if it is divinely inspired or revealed. As such, it
cannot be challenged or negotiated with. Most
institutionalized religions center on sacred texts or texts
that are made to be sacred. This notion of sacred texts
flies in the face of everything communication scholars have
learned about the nature of language—namely that it cannot
be made to operate in ways that preclude interpretation
(which may be seen as a form of negotiation). On this line
of thought, any institutionalized religion that does not
center on the notion of a sacred text effectively strays
from religion into what may more properly be called
philosophy—an approach to life where argument and
negotiation prevail over revelation and certainty. 

Interestingly, Burke’s “cult of the kill” thesis is,
therefore, in many ways inconsistent with the more
interpretive view of language he offers in, for example,
Permanence and Change. However, Burke seems to be of two
minds when it comes to his views on the nature of language.
His later work in “Fact, Inference, and Proof in the
Analysis of Literary Symbolism,” for example, offers a
view of language more consistent with the sacred text notion
of language (where the notion of “fact” substitutes for
the notion of “sacred text”). I find this inconsistency
in Burke troubling along with what I view as his blindness
to the above mentioned metaphysical alternative orientation.


On Oct 28, 2014, at 7:55 AM, Edward C Appel <edwardcappel at frontier.com>

> Greg,
> 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."
> Ed
> --------------------------------------------
> On Mon, 10/27/14, Gregory Desilet <info at gregorydesilet.com>
> Subject: Re: [KB] "Deacon"-structing Burke Part
> 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
> is interviewed. It seems he wrote a controversial book
> what he calls “Islamism.” In the interview he
> the connection he makes between religion and
> connection Burke also makes in his 1938 review of
> Mein Kampf. Exploring this connection is indeed
> controversial but Samad makes an interesting case of
> And, Ed, in doing so, he seems to follow certain
aspects of
> our line of argument about conflict management in our
> Rhetoric of the Enemy article. Here is a link to the
> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jCfp48c31u0
> Greg
> On Oct 21, 2014, at 3:36 PM, Edward C Appel <edwardcappel at frontier.com>
> wrote:
>> 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. 
> basing my assessments on Deacon’s most recent book,
> Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged from Matter, and
> of his academic articles or book chapters: “The
> 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
> dates of those postings, or a few of them, where you
> 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
> 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
> to biology, biology to chemistry, chemistry to
> 8/7/14.
>> 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
> 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
> from Burke.  For Deacon, it’s the absential
> itself that eludes the scientistic rationale. 
> are no components to what is absent,” he emphasizes.
> 8/7/14.
>> 4.    Deacon’s definition of what a
> symbol is and is not appears to mirror 
>> well enough Burke’s conception.  I say seems
> mirror “well enough” because Burke does not as
> exclude, or even much refer to, mathematical, signal-
> code-like, computational-type “symbols.” 
> argues convincingly that math-type “symbols” do
> possess the airy abstractiveness, web-like relatedness
> 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.” 
> Melia’s book chapter “Scientism and Dramatism:
> Quasi-Mathematical Motifs in the Work of Kenneth
> (The Legacy of Kenneth Burke), nor Burke’s references
> the “statistical” in PLF, seem to undercut this
>>     To put the matter simply:
In the
> lingo of dramatism, numerals in themselves do not
> “drama” (make exception for the indirect, the
> derivative), whereas the words, phrases, and sentences
> 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
> undifferentiated starting condition.”  “We
> ask: What’s the form of a thought”---or “the idea
> a sentence conveys”---“before it is put into
> the “’mental images’ not quite formed or desires
> intentions to achieve some imagined goal only vaguely
> formulated?”  These “embryos of a speech
> would be “focused on aiming for and achieving
> goals.
>>>>     For Burke, those
> goals”---“connotative,” “suggestive,”
> “loaded,” “fraught . . . with significance”;
> deep into Roget’s here---might stem from a
> “’pre-negative’ . . . tonal gesture,”
> attention-to “ “danger” with “sound[s] . . .
> hav[ing] a deterrent or pejorative meaning” (LASA,
> 423-24).  Deacon’s “lexicality,” a
> “pointing to” would serve as basis for this
> into morally-tinged negation of the kind that
> “dramatically” invests the danger or opportunity
> question with quasi-theological import.  The
> as “engine of intentionality” with its
> vistas (indeed, now “rotten with perfection”),
> 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
> of this likely lengthy transition with: “I see this
> particular near universal [the “oral-vocal”] to be
> relatively late emerging biological adaptation for
> communication.”  The “gestural embodiment”
> probably came first, since our primate ancestors were
> good at vocality.  The vocal came to predominate
> because of its greater potential for myriad “sign
> vehicles.”
>> 6.    Which brings us to Burke’s
> hexadic acknowledgement of “attititude” as 
>> an ingredient in the symbolic mix, language
> expressing an attitude, creating an orientation toward
> certain pathways of action, giving cues to action and
> command to follow those cues.  For Deacon, that
> attitudinal, “expressive” dimension is denominated
> “mood.”  In respect to symbolic origins,
> this frame of social communicative arousal,” he
> “what might be described as the ‘mood’ of the
> or interpretive act is differentiated.” 
> ‘mood’ needs to be maintained.”  It’s
> focused readiness and expectation with respect to
> interaction.”
>> 7.     Burke famously defines
> humans as the “symbol-using animal.” 
>> Deacon’s “symbolic species” functions as a
> virtual synonym.  “In my work,” Deacon says,
> use the phrase symbolic species, quite literally, to
> that symbols have literally changed the kind of
> organism we are.”
>>     “Indeed, there is ample
> to suggest that language is both well-integrated into
> every aspect of our cognitive and social lives, that
> utilizes a significant fraction of the forebrain, and
> acquired robustly under even quite difficult social
> circumstances and neurological impairment.  It is
> from fragile.”
>>     “So rather than merely
> or wise (sapient) creatures, we are creatures whose
> and mental capacities have been quite literally shaped
> the special demands of communicating with
symbols.  And
> this doesn’t just mean that we are adapted for
> use, but also for all the many ancillary mental biases
> support reliable access and use of this social
>>     This defining human trait
> 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
> negativity”?  Howabout Deacon’s
> “We are ‘symbolic savants,’ unable to suppress
> many predispositions evolved to aid in symbol
> use, and transmission . . . . We almost certainly have
> evolved a predisposition to see things as symbols,
> they are or not.”  E.g., “the make-believe of
> children,”  “find[ing] meaning in
> events,” seeing “faces in the clouds,”
> our lives with respect to dictates presumed to
> from an invisible spiritual world.”  “Our
> adaptation is the lens through which we see the world.

> With it comes an irrepressible predisposition to seek
for a
> cryptic meaning hiding beneath the surface of
> appearances.”
>>     An approximation? 
Sounds more
> like a paraphrase.  Always take note of “our
> adaptation” and factor it into our interpretations
> “reality.”
>>     More later, I hope, by way
> additional intersections between Burke and Deacon.
>>     Ed
>> --------------------------------------------
>> On Thu, 10/9/14, Edward C Appel <edwardcappel at frontier.com>
> wrote:
>> Subject: Re: [KB] "Deacon"-structing Burke Part
> Whatever
>> To: kb at kbjournal.org
>> Date: Thursday, October 9, 2014, 5:05 PM
>> Burkophiles,
>>      Let me reiterate, clarify,
> emphasize:
>> It’s the dyadic grammatical pairing of subject
>> predicate that Deacon says is not “innate” in
> human
>> mind and human discourse, as in Chomsky’s
>> generative conception, not the “symbolic”
>> itself.  No evolutionary, genomic, or
> neurological
>> evidence exists for Chomsky’s view.  It’s
> mostly
>> implicit in these shorter works by Deacon, but
> strongly
>> implicit, that symbolization itself does come
> to
>> the Symbolic Species.  That is, you’ll
> the
>> title of his earlier book.
>>      You may wonder, too, at the
> claim that
>> children pick up on their own a facility for
> and
>> combinatorial modes of symbolic reference, rather
> learn
>> 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
>> predicate together.  Those necessary
> are
>> well absorbed the first year and a half by way of
> experience
>> itself.
>>      Also, as he or she reads him,
> Burkean
>> might be taken aback by Deacon’s occasional
> to
>> the “predicate frame” (the “comment” on
>> “subject” or “topic” that requires the
>> “indexing”) as the “symbolic” part of a
>> “complete” sentence or iteration.  This
> not
>> mean, for Deacon, that the noun subject and object,
>> referential parts, of the fully-formed utterance
> hasn’t
>> been symbolically transformed by the symbolizing
>> species.  Even proper names, which, unlike
>> nouns, can be indexically “mapped” a la
> are
>> still embedded a culturally conventional,
> artifactualized
>> linguistic system.  What Deacon seems to be
> suggesting
>> here is that distinctive symbolization
> from
>> nonsymbolic indexicality—the “pointing”
> and
>> vocalizations of lower animals that indicate some
> recognized
>> “icon” that poses danger, potentially
>> appetite, requires territorial markings or
>>   signals of aggression or
> etc.---distinctive
>> symbolization emerges especially via an
> “expressive,”
>> “mood”-generating, “sense”-making,
>> ultimately abstractive vocalization that
> how
>> to conceive of, proceed toward, exploit, or
> from the
>> object or being so referenced.  As Burke has
> said,
>> “The true locus of assertion is not in the
> but in
>> the STRUCTURAL POWERS by which the poet
> it”
>> (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
> Deacon
>> anatomizes into four aspects, only one of which
>> mention here, the most basic, what he calls
> “semiotic
>> constraints.”  These manifest themselves in
>> “predication constraints (symbols must be bound
> order
>> to refer)”; “transitivity and embedding
> constraints
>> (indexicality depends on immediate correlation and
>> contiguity across the transitive)”; and
> “quantification
>> (symbolized indices need re-specification).
>>>>      In elaboration, Deacon says,
> “To state
>> this hypothesis in semiotic terms: a symbol must
>> contiguous with the index that grounds its
> (either
>> to the world or to the immediate agreeing textual
> context,
>> which is otherwise grounded), or else its
>> fails.  Contiguity thus has a doubly
> role to
>> play.  Its contiguity (textually or
> with
>> the symbolizing sign vehicle [see paragraph 3
> points
>> to this symbol, and their contiguity in turn points
>> something else.  This is an expression of one
> further
>> feature of indexicality: transitivity of
>> Or, more “simply stated, a pointer pointing to
> another
>> pointer pointing to some object effectively
> the
>> first pointer to also point to that object.”
>>      Ultimate grounding in the real
> world
>> seems vital to Deacon for complete and satisfying
>> predication.
>>      Being the neuroscientist that
> he is,
>> Deacon asks, by way of “transitivity” as he
> it,
>> “How does this interaction between phases of
> sentence
>> differentiation produce anything?  What sort
> signals
>> are being sent in each direction” from one area
> the
>> human brain to another?  To simplify,
>> happening is “counter-current information
> processing”
>> that generally proceeds from “lower” to
> “higher”
>> structures of the brain, and from back to
>> limbic, peri-limbic, and peripheral, to
> “specialized”
>> cortical regions; from “posterior
> (attention-sensory)
>> cortical systems” to “anterior
>> cortical systems”; i.e., from reptilian brain
> structures
>> like the thalamus, hippocampus, and amygdala, to
>> advanced cerebral components of mammalian,
> and
>> early hominid ancestry.  And, of equal
> back
>> again, from “higher” to “lower,” etc., as
>> well.  These “counter-current”
>>   electro-chemical operations afford
a kind of
> monitoring,
>> provide checks and balances, generate
> “equilibrium.”
>>      Whether we’re neurologically
> examining
>> sensory, or motor, or cognitive, or linguistic
> operations,
>> they all look pretty much the same, I interpret. 
> They
>> each exhibit similarly “emergent”
> in
>> terms of evolutionary origins and current
>> functioning.
>>      What remains to be dealt with
> is a
>> summary of the complementary intersections between
> Burke’s
>> dramatism/logology and Deacon’s semiotics, and
> the
>> challenge Deacon possibly poses to Burke’s
> action/motion
>> 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
> “what
>> remains” sentence, do read the Fowler-Nicholson
>> “Dictionary of American-English Usage,” pp.
>> 374-75.  Fowler and Nicholson don’t explain
> well,
>> but they do get it right, unlike billions of
> publications
>> I’ve read, including the New York Times. 
> still
>> 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
> Whatever
>>   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
> partly
>> 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
> referencing, in
>>   particular, two of Deacon’s
shorter works, the
> journal
>>   article, “The Emergent Process
of Thinking as
> Reflected
>> in
>>   Language Processing,” and
Deacon’s book 
> chapter,
>>   “Beyond the Symbolic Species,”
The Symbolic
> Species
>>   being the title of the
> anthropologist/neuroscientist’s
>>   tome that preceded Incomplete
Nature: How Mind
> Emerged
>> from
>>   Matter, about which I previously
>>       I would judge
> explanatory
>>   “god-term”/”rome-term” to
> “emergent,” as
>> per
>>   the title of the here-featured
> The word
>>   “emerge” plays a similar role,
I think, in
> “Beyond
>> the
>>   Symbolic Species.”  All
roads seem to lead
> from
>>   “emerge”/”emergent” to the
two sets of
> dialectical
>>   opposites subsumed below:
>>       The primary polar
matchup term
>>   “emergent” is pitted against,
> “innate,” as in
>> the
>>   pre-processed,
genetically-programmed and
> “engineered”
>>   universal generative grammar of
Noam Chomsky and
> his
>>   epigoni.  No evidence of such
a special
> facility can be
>>   found in the human genome or in
the structures of
> the
>> human
>>   brain, which actually look not
that much
> different from
>>   those found in a mouse, let alone
> 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
> effect
>> produced
>>   by a combination of causes but
unable to be seen
> as the
>> sum
>>   of their individual effects”
(The Shorter OED),
> except
>>   through careful, detailed scrutiny
of the natural
> history
>>   and evolution of living organisms,
pathways of
>>   electro-chemical discharge in the
brain, the
> very
>> neurology
>>   of sensory, motor, thinking, and
> development
>> and
>>   outcomes,
>>    animal communication generally,
>>   even the listening and reading, as
well as the
> speaking
>> and
>>   writing, of symbolizers like
us---all these
> operations
>>   recapitulating the same sequential
> (It’s
>>   appropriate here to note what
Susan Greenfield
> and
>> Christof
>>   Koch, both neuroscientists, said
in an exchange
> in
>>   Psychology Today: Electrochemical
discharges in
> the brain
>>   can occur within time frames of
1/14th of a
> second.)
>>       From this
>>   emphasis on “emergent” rather
> “innate,” there
>>   is derived the contrasting
concepts of
>>   “subject/predicate.” 
They assume more
> independent
>>   “roles,” if not do
“battle” with each
> other,
>>   seemingly asymmetrically, in a way
that Chomsky
> would not
>>   likely entertain. 
> “noun
>>   phrase/verb phrase”;
>> “indexical
>>   support/predicate frame”;
> “’pointing’”/desired
>> or
>>   undesired result; “orientation
> to
>>   accomplish in respect to that
>>   “function,” as in
> functionary/”argument”;
>>   “reference/sense”;
> operation/symbolic
>>   operation”; “slots” for
“pointing,” or
>>   “addresses”/”operation”;
> bound
>>   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”
> preliminaries
>>   I’ve already spoken of, homo
> shares
>>   with other living creatures.
>>       The major point
Deacon makes is,
> there
>>   is no built-in
genetic-neurological template by
> which the
>>   symbolic species gets from subject
> predicate.  That
>>   aptitude, that enabling
juxtaposition, resides
> not in our
>>   biology, nor in our cultural
> It is a
>> faculty
>>   humans learn in early childhood
via the bound and
> required
>>   “logic” of successful
>>   “Disambiguating”
> “:pointing”
>>   via gestures or indexical words to
what it is we
> are
>>   symbolically talking about---is a
> for
>> successful
>>   human communication.  We must
put those two
> communicative
>>   elements together somehow to get
what we’re
> after, or
>> tell
>>   others more or less accurately
what we want them
> to
>> know. 
>>   Nonsymbolic animals have no such
> problem,
>> because
>>   their communication doesn’t get
beyond the
> “iconic,”
>>   the “:arousal” to
“attention” a
> significant
>>   “form” will evoke for
them---and the
> “indexical,”
>>   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
> mind,
>> what
>>   we want others to “do” in
order for our
> interests to
>> be
>>   satisfied.
>>       How human thinking,
sensory and
> motor
>>   skills, and language production
get to happen
> involve
>>   similar, if not identical, neural
>>       And how all this
>>   dovetails so nicely with Burke’s
> philosophy,
>>   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
>>   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
>>   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
> referred
>>   to
>>    in at least one of my posts as being
> a
>>   clear precursor of
>>    Deacon’s semiotics. 
>>   The other of those first three,
>>    an
>>   encyclopedia chapter entitled
“The Symbol
> Concept,”
>>    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
>>        (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
>>   literature, the prime sources of
Burkean interest
> and
>>    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
> “mind,”
>>   as
>>    a “black box” we ought to
> prescind
>>   from our motivational
>>    calculations, is
>>   faulty and inadequate.  Input
>>    output,
>>   neural stimulus and response,
reduction of mind
> to
>>    biology, then to chemistry, then to
> physics,
>>   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
> necessary
>>    “absential feature”(similar to
> Burke’s
>>   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”
>>   in nature and orients persons
toward “work”
> that
>>   limits,
>>    organizes, directs life
>>   outcomes.
>>        “The
>>   Symbol Concept” further
>>    underscores the
>>   dramatistic relevance of
>>   thought.  Deacon once again
takes issue with
> regnant
>>    scientific/technological
> that
>>   confuse what a
>>    “symbol” actually is. 
>>   A symbol is not, Deacon
>>    claims, mere
>>   “code,” “sign,”
“icon,” or number,
>>    that is, symbols are not mere
> ,
>>   markers, gauges, or
>>    portraits of the kind
>>   so often denominated
>>    “symbols.” 
>>   Actual “symbols” refer,
>>    and
>>   generally, “irrespective of any
>>   affinities.”  In other
words, as per
> Burke, symbols
>>    synthesize, synthetically, disparate
> beings,
>>   entities, or
>>    events for seemingly
>>   pragmatic, culturally-conditioned
>>    purposes
>>   that transcend mere appearance of
>>    Contra Saussure (with the exception
> proper
>>   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
>>    finds peak expression in his chapter,
> “What
>>   Are the Signs
>>    of What?---A Theory of
>>   Entitlement.” in LASA. 
>>    Burke
>>   maintains what he said in the
Grammar about how
> common
>>    symbols refer to “nothing” in the
> real
>>   world, only here
>>    he follows up with how
>>   “reference” is reversed, in
>>    of
>>   customary suppositions: “Things
are the signs
> of
>>    words,” rather than vice
> versa.  In so
>>   “latching
>>    on” to the symbol’s
>>   concept, so to speak, tangible
>>    entities and
>>   “objects” “materialize”
>>   “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
>>    dramatism, i.e., the
> I
>>    mentioned---“sign”-age,
>>   “signal”-ing,
>>    “code”deciphering,
>>   the whole gamut of concepts
>>    to
>>   computer algorithms and
“encryption,” come to
> bear in
>>    undergirding the higher-order
> cognitive
>>   process we call
>>    human symbolic
>>   communication.  Like love and
>>   (for the traditionally minded,
anyway), you
> can’t have
>>   one
>>    without the other.  The symbols
> of
>>   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
>>   animals, as well as in the
“symbolic actions”
> of you
>>   and
>>    me.  Thus, add “iconism” and
>>   “indexicality” to
>>    Deacon’s
>>   “absential feature” and
>>   “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”
>>    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
>>   The locution “sinsign” refers
to a specific
> instance
>>   of
>>    an iconic or lexical sign (there can
> be
>>   no such thing,
>>    actually, as a “symbolic
>>   sinsign,” as will become clear,
>>    I hope. 
>>   “Natural affinities”
>>   sinsigns; not so, anything that
attains the level
> of
>>    “symbolic,” based on, as Burke
> Deacon
>>   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
> iconic
>>    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
>>   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.” 
>>    Peirce
>>   would call them “indexical
>>    “Dolphin signature whistles are
> indexical
>>   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
>>    as
>>   an iconic sinsign (an instance of
a familiar
> form), then
>>    an indexical legisign (a type of sign
> vehicle
>>   contiguous
>>    with other related types), and
>>   then as a symbolic legisign
>>    (a conventional
>>   type of sign referring to a
>>   type of reference).
>>       Deacon employs the
text message
> “smiley
>>    face” and Aristotle’s take on how
> a
>>   “signet ring”
>>    functions in
>>   communication as examples of this
>>    progression in the production of
> meaning for
>>   symbol-users,
>>    one of Deacon’s most
>>   salient points being: This
>>    “dependency of
>>   symbolic reference on indexical
>>   [and iconic reference]” mirrors
the dependency
> of human
>>    symbolic action/communication on the
>>   “genetic,” even
>>    “phylogenetic,”
>>   capacities for iconic and
>>   communication of a sort in
“living organisms”
> in
>>    general, a theme of Deacon’s (and
>>   Bateson’s) I
>>    emphasized in my previous
>>   posts on Incomplete Nature.
>>        So, for further review
> and/or
>>   comment:
>>        What do
>>   Deacon’s semiotic distinctions,
>>    and
>>   especially unifications, mean for
> signature
>>    “(Nonsymbolic) Motion/(Symbolic)
> Action”
>>   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
> (Burke
>>    panel at the ECA Convention, 1992)?
>>        Does Deacon’s
>>   critique of Chomsky’s
>>    Universal
>>   Generative Grammar as the innate
> “constraint”
>>    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
> (1952/1953/1966)?
>>        Maybe something on
>>   those issues later.
>>        Ed
>>   _______________________________________________
>>    KB mailing list
>>    KB at kbjournal.org
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