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To Place This Project in Context
A Quote from Walker Percy: Lost in the Cosmos: the Last Self-Help Book (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1983), 201-202.
This chapter, as well as other parts of the book, owes a good deal to Carl Sagan's splendid picture book, Cosmos. I hope he will not take offense at
some fanciful extrapolations therefrom. Sagan's book gave me much pleasure, a pleasure which was not diminished by Sagan's unmalicious, even
innocent, scientism, the likes of which I have not encountered since the standard bull sessions of high school and college—up to but not past the
sophomore year. The argument could be resumed with Sagan, I suppose, but the issue would be as inconclusive as it was between sophomores. For
me it was more diverting than otherwise to see someone sketch the history of Western scientific thought and leave out Judaism and Christianity.
Everything is downhill after the Ionians and until the rise of modern science. There is a huge gap between the destruction of the library at Alexandria
and the appearance of Copernicus and Galileo. So much for six thousand years of Judaism and fifteen hundred years of Christianity. So much for the
likes of Aristotle, Hippocrates, Galen, Aquinas, Roger Bacon, Grosseteste. So much for the science historian A.C. Crombie, who wrote: "The natural
philosophers of Latin Christendom in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries created the experimental science characteristic of modern times."
So much, indeed, for the relationship between Christianity and science and the fact that, as Whitehead pointed out, it is no coincidence that science
sprang, not from Ionian metaphysics, not from the Brahmin-Buddhist-Taoist East, not from he Egyptian-Mayan astrological South, but from the heart
of the Christian West, that although Galileo fell out with the Church, he would hardly have taken so much trouble studying Jupiter and dropping
objects from towers if the reality and value and order of things had not first been conferred by belief in the Incarnation.
Yet one is not offended by Sagan. There is too little malice and too much ignorance. It is enough to take pleasure in the pleasant style, the knack for
popularizing science, and the beautiful pictures of Saturn and the Ring nebula.
Indeed, more often than not, I found myself on Sagan's side, especially in his admiration for science and the scientific method, which is what he says
it is—a noble, elegant, and self-correcting method of attaining a kind of truth—and when he attacks the current superstitions, astrology, UFOs,
parapsychology, and such, which seem to engage the Western mind now more than ever—more perhaps than either science or Christianity.
What is to be deplored is not Sagan's sophomoric scientism—which I think I like better than its counterpart, a sophomoric theism which attributes
the wonders of the Cosmos to a God who created it like a child with a cookie cutter—no, what is deplorable is that these serious issues involving
God and the nature of man should be co-opted by these particular disputants, a popularizer like Sagan and fundamentalists who believe
God created the world six thousand years ago. It's enough to give both science and Christianity a bad name.
Really, it is a case of an ancient and still honorable argument going to pot. Even arguments in a college dormitory are, or were, conducted at a higher
It is for this very reason that we can enjoy Cosmos so much, for the frivolity of Sagan's vulgar scientism and for the reason that science is, as Sagan
says, self-correcting. One wonders, in fact, whether Sagan himself has not been corrected, e.g., by Hubble's discovery of the red shift and the
present growing consensus of the Big Bang theory of the creation of the Cosmos, which surely comes closer than Sagan would like to the Genesis
account of creatio ex nihilo.
An Emergentist Account of the Biosemiotic Categories of Religion
from a panentheistic perspective
"Awakening to beauty, truth, and goodness is to waken to the unfoldment of Divine Life within us."
“In philosophy classes we were told that there were three things that especially opened us to the Transcendent:
the good, the true, and the beautiful.
Come join us as we again put together what was never really apart!”
– Richard Rohr
I never took a philosophy class, but something tells me Keating and Rohr are right. My lifelong project entails my defense of this perspective.
Maritain said that we distinguish in order to unite. My Peircean heuristic draws distinctions between evaluative, normative, descriptive, interpretive
and prescriptive stances but eschews any dichotomization of these identifiable moments in the otherwise integral act of human value realization. Each
moment, necessarily, presupposes each other moment, as we harvest truth, beauty, goodness and unity. Of course, my framing of this heuristic in
terms of value realization recognizes humanity's radical finitude. If we are in search of value, then this is a reflection of that inescapable reality of our
vast neediness, our utterly contingent nature.
All that said, this is not to suggest that we, as humans, do not enjoy the first fruits of what, anagogically, we hope will be an eventual eschatological
harvest of all value, that we have not received, through the Holy Spirit, an earnest, a down payment, a foretaste of value realization.
My heuristic thus defines epistemic virtue in terms of such value realization and cashes out its own value in terms of the successful institutionalization
of this value realization whereby intellectual conversion harvests those contemplative moments we encounter as truth, affective conversion harvests
those encountered as beauty, moral conversion those of goodness and sociopolitical conversion those of unity. Thus all contemplation leads to
politics, which are most efficaciously articulated when we integrally tie all of these moments back together, religiously, transvaluing them through
ongoing religious conversion.
The aspect of institutionalization honors our biological, i.e. biosemiotic, heritage as radically social animals. The epistemic goal of human value
realization is thus fostered in a community of inquiry writ large. It may have been Merton who recognized that truth often comes flying in on the
wings of beauty. This is an implicit recognition, in my view, that, in our more robustly contemplative moments, we are likely to realize truth, beauty,
goodness and unity together, and, also, that our individual invocations of same grow out of our first being convoked as a community of value
In trying to draw out the implications of my heuristic for a theological anthropology, which I am framing in terms of value realization strategies, I
cannot help thinking of Sartre's description of the “universal human condition” as the reason for our shared values and sensibilities. Still, one must
suspect that any such sharing of sensibilities and values is not rooted in the value realization moment we might call inference. Tom Short thus
contextualizes Peirce: "if 'the faculty of reasoning' were 'of the first importance to success in life,' then 'natural selection would [have] operate[d] to
breed the race for vigorous reasoning powers,' whereas, 'comparatively few persons are originally possessed of any but the feeblest modicum of
Instead, in Short's words, drawing on Peirce's distinction between theoretical and practical reasoning, "the one requires radical thinking and reliance
on one’s own powers of ratiocination, the other best relies on instinct, sentiment, and tradition, or, in short, the accumulated experience of
In my own description of human biosemiotic heuristics, there emerges, through the putative coevolution of language and brain, a novel capacity for
intersubjectivity, which corresponds to Joseph Campbell's "transpersonal identity." We cannot help but recognize this emergent novelty in our species
and it warrants a characterization of "exceptionality" vis a vis other biosemiotic other biosemiotic realities. One might ask whether such an
exceptionality warrants further description in ontological terms and, given the received opinion of the philosophy of mind community, that answer must
be an emphatic "Nyet!". For that matter, although most would consider the so-called hard problem of consciousness "epistemologically open," and
while many nevertheless consider it "ontologically closed," still, even in that cohort that considers it "ontologically open," most of those philosophers
hold to naturalistic, even if not physicalistic, positions. Biosemiotically, then, all life is apparently cut from the same fabric.
Furthermore, and anyhow, the semiotic perspective does a conceptual end-around the classical realism-idealism conundrum and avoids the
philosophical cul-de-sac of the mutually unintelligible essentialism-nominalism dichotomy. It may be too strong a position to defend, to a priori
characterize such paradoxes using Quine's categories of veridical, falsidical and antinomial, but most of the synthetic and a posteriori money is on the
antinomial view, which is to say that someone is asking the wrong questions of reality if they are still arguing within such Scholastic categories and
coming away confounded.
The practical upshot of this is that, because of our intersubjective and transpersonal human evaluations, decisions and tendencies, our species is
gifted with a heightened awareness, not only of our radical finitude and contingent nature, but also, of our unfathomable solidarity with one another
and the cosmos. As I have always maintained, "when we awaken to our solidarity, compassion will ensue." And this orthopathos has evaluative
relevance and normative impetus and, hence, per my Peircean-derived heuristic, mediates between our ortho-communio (as a community of inquiry)
and our ortho-doxy (value-realization paradigms) to effect ortho-praxis (our prudential judgments, both moral and practical). If orthopraxis thus
authenticates orthodoxy, then my hypothesis is that one will most assuredly find them flying in on the wings of orthopathos and orthocommunio. If
this has normative impetus, it precisely comes from its descriptive accuracy as a theological anthropology. I will discuss our epistemic, aesthetic and
ethical sensibilities in more detail, later, as they respectively inspire assent, awe and reverence for Reality. (If we have learned anything from the
Godelian-like constraints on human ratiocinations, then it is that, with both Ignatius and the Psalmist, we are to "taste and see" the truth, beauty,
goodness and unity of Reality, and, however necessary syllogisms are, they are not sufficient.)
There is a certain resonance, then, between the Scotistic notion that the Incarnation was a cosmic inevitability (almost Teilhardian) and not rather
occasioned by a felix culpa, and the approach of Irenaeus, who sees creation as a place for soul-making, which corresponds to Scott Peck's metaphor
of "life as a cosmic boot camp." In classical terms, then, we might view reality moreso through Haught's aesthetic teleology, oriented toward the
future, creation crossing a vast teleological expanse toward the Eschaton, and not so much as an ontological rupture located in the past. Whatever
metaphysical aspect of the nature of Jesus remains occulted, His moral nature is utterly transparent, eminently biosemiotic, setting always before us
the way, the truth and the life as, meanwhile, all creation groans, hopefully, in one great act of giving birth.
Our theological anthropologies have practical implications for our meta-ethical enterprises, which is to say, considerable normative impetus for the
politics that govern relations between societies. In an apparently pervasively semiotic ecology, we only distinguish between humankind and the
cosmos in order to unite. As a Eucharistic community, how well we "bust that move" called "The Dismissal," or Ite, missa est, will be revealed in our
aspirations to realize our evaluations by making decisions with a tendency we might call Transignification, which, with the Jesuits, sees God in all
things. There can be no dichotomizing, no compartmentalization, for our lives are a continuous extension of Eucharist in an ongoing hermeneutical
cycle of value realization, or, are going to be fragmented and in peril of an otherwise regnant practical nihilism, which isn't difficult to see, not
rewarding at all to taste.
For those who do not buy into the notion of any so-called naturalistic fallacy, this theological anthropology of "who we are" will speak directly to the
question of "what must we do," both morally and practically. If the Kantian interrogatories are irreducibly triadic in realizing values in terms of what we
can know, what we must do and what we can hope for, then the Peircean triadic semiotic is also irreducibly triadic in correspondingly recognizing
those tendencies that will most efficaciously mediate between our evaluations and decisions vis a vis society and the cosmos, which is to recognize
that it is incoherent to reductionistically turn such distinctions as individual human beings, society and the cosmos into dichotomies as if they did not
necessarily presuppose each other. Derivatively, it is also incoherent, then, to talk in terms of dominion and autonomy, for this is to take a de facto
over against stance in relationship to our very selves. This is also to overemphasize the dialectical imagination and to explicitly disavow the
immanence of the deity, one of humankind's longest and strongest evaluative sensibilities.
If we are to articulate a consilient and coherent ecotheology, we have to recover that "instinct, sentiment, and tradition, or, in short, the
accumulated experience of countless generations" that best preserved the seamless garment of human value realization, that best articulated the
irreducible relationships between all (transkin) biosemiotic realities, that best articulated the eco-nomic or laws of eco-logical exchange, that best
articulated the sociopolitical realization of reciprocal solidarity and compassion, and that best articulated such an Ens Necessarium as implicately
orders all pansemiotic possibilities, actualities and probabilities and utterly unobtrusively, yet eminently efficaciously, coaxes them forward toward ....
.... .... ....
That recovery effort, then, might best take us back to that hermeneutical place that some of humankind inhabited prior to infection by hellenistic
rationalism and prior to the schizoid fractures brought on by cartesian dualisms.
For Starters: What Do These Words Mean to me?
In the great chain of being there are levels stretching from the quantum to the sociological. There are levels of being within levels of being. There are
theories that govern interactions within levels and sometimes between levels, sharing concepts. The concepts concern 1) parts and wholes; 2)
properties and 3) natural laws.
There are three ways to look at the possible relationships between these levels. If a lower level completely explains a higher level, then we have
reductionism and the strongest relation possible. When speaking in terms of parts & wholes, properties & laws, it is possible that reductionism will not
explain a higher level, but we can still maintain supervenience, which is to say that any differences in parts, wholes, properties and laws at a higher
level must have corresponding differences at the lower level (covariance without reduction). If a theory explaining higher level properties & laws is, in
principle, unpredictable from a theory at a more fundamental level, then we have emergence, which is to say, novelty.
Bio-semiotic: refers to life (bio) and significance or signs & symbols (semiotic). In humans, some biosemiotic capacities (the way we use information
one might say) are language-dependent and public (shared between people) and some are ineffable and private experiences (and languageindependent). They might be thought of as propositional (dealing with propositions like the logical categories of deduction and induction and
inference), in the first case, and phenomenal, in the latter (feelings and dispositions).
The first category refers to capacities that are innate (hardwired into our brains) but which are very open-ended and flexible (some say plastic).
These I call heuristics because a heuristic just provides general guidelines and leaves the thinker or experiencer with wide latitude in proposing
solutions and drawing conclusions. The second category is also innate but is fixed, inflexible, and so I call it algorithmic because there is no latitude as
it drives human responses to "conclusions" and solutions quite directly (think of the immune system reacting to "information" automatically). One might
also think in terms of fuzzy logic and formal logic for these categories. What is most important is that one understand that all animals are bio-semiotic,
all life, in fact, but that only humans use such biosemiotic heuristics as would involve language.
Categories of Religion:
This involves a naturalistic account from an evolutionary perspective on the philosophical categories of most religious traditions. The four categories
of religious practice that I will attempt to describe are Cult, Community, Creed and Code. Others might think of these in other terms such as Ritual or
Liturgy, Fellowship or Church, Dogma or Doctrine, and Law or Rubrics.
Religion: comes from root concepts that I interpret to mean "to tie life's experiences back together" so as to heal us that we may survive and grow
us that we may thrive. It is about the actualization of the values to which we would aspire.
Panentheistic: can be interpreted two ways. Some speak of a panen-theism, where creation and God are conceived in such a relationship that
creation is part of God but where God is the Whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. This is not my take. My take is pan-entheism, where God
and creation are in a very intimate relationship, God indwelling in creation, implicately ordering it and gently coaxing it forward.
A Word About Categories
I recall the old scholastic notations: im/possible, im/plausible, im/probable and un/certain. And I think, too, of the modal categories of possible, actual,
probable and necessary.
I want to draw a distinction between what we might call a positivist stance, or science, or the empirical, or the descriptive, on one hand, and, on the
other hand, what we might call a paradigmatic stance, or metaphysics, or the analytical, or the interpretive.
It seems to me that the positivist focus traffics in categories like im/plausible, im/probable, uncertain and also the possible, actual & probable. I like to
call these categories modal phenomenology. Science deals with these modes of reality. At least empirical observations, thus far, reveal reality's
It seems to me that the paradigmatic focus employs categories like im/possible, un/certain, and also the un/necessary. I like to call these categories
In my view, both modal phenomenology and modal ontology are legitimate enterprises. What would make them both viable is an approach that
eschews a priori modal assumptions and embraces, instead, only fallibilist hypotheses, which are verifiable and/or falsifiable, a posteriori. It seems
that we can ask different questions – normative, evaluative, descriptive, interpretive or prescriptive; or, put another way, philosophic, preferential,
positivist, paradigmatic or prudential (moral/practical) - - - about the same reality and cannot a priori suggest that any given answer to any given
question will, so to speak, in principle and eventually, be un/answerable.
Some additional comments re: modal phenomenology and modal ontology - - Both often employ metaphors, analogies and models, not just pedagogically (as teaching tools) but epistemologically (in empirical methodology).
Both propose hypotheses, some more highly speculative than others, some more readily falsifiable or verifiable than others.
Both can involve naturalistic speculation about reality's givens in terms of space, time, matter and energy (primitives), forces (4 forces, so far) and
axioms (laws like thermodynamics and quantum mechanics); about the advent of consciousness, the origin of life and other apparently emergent
realities; about reductive and nonreductive physicalism; and such.
Various Theories of Everything (TOE's) and various God Hypotheses are modal ontologies.
It is difficult to draw a line of distinction between highly speculative cosmology and theoretical physics, on one hand, and what has traditionally been
called metaphysics, on the other. However nuanced one's distinctions, those enterprises cannot really be facilely dichotomized. Some propose
falsifiability as a criterion to separate science and metaphysics, but propositions can be framed up that are falsifiable or verifiable, we might say,
eschatologically. Others might suggest that any time we tweak, amend, addend or modify reality's givens, as presently received by most scientists,
then we are going beyond physics to metaphysics. Maybe defining metaphysics is not as important or as meaningful as keeping track of our categories
and their associated grammars and rubrics and looking over our shoulders at our various leaps of faith.
Some thinkers, who have an apparent antipathy toward metaphysics, and a palpable animus toward theology, in their anxiety to annihilate those
spheres of human concern from the realm of the cognitively meaningful, end up, inadvertently, trashing the epistemological methods that humanity
has long employed at the frontiers of science (and those frontiers have of course changed greatly through time).
Metaphysics, however broadly or narrowly conceived, is here to stay, and for at least as long as science and faith. It is an integral aspect of human
value realization and in a dynamical relationship with the positivist, and all other, horizons of human concern.
Adjudicating Competing Tautologies (or how Christian Culture Helped Birth Science)
In any my tautology is tauter than your tautology dispute, there must be a cashing out of epistemic value in one approach over against the other.
Why does this approach gift us with enhanced modeling power re: reality?
If the topic under consideration could be adjudicated solely in terms of logical consistency, internal coherence, hypothetical consonance,
interdisciplinary consilience, and conceptual consistency, then one interpretive framework would trump the other as it better interprets and predicts
certain empirical observations or factual realities.
Failing adjudication by those criteria and failing to provide a distinctly more robustly explanatory account in terms of predictability of phenomena,
actionability of an ontology (albeit fallibilist), normative impetus (hopefully tentative), etc, then, with a more formally structured adjudication beyond
our reach, we then fall back on such aesthetic criteria as elegance, parsimony, symmetry, facility of abduction and simplicity, and on such pragmatic
criteria as usefulness, e.g. hypothetical fecundity.
RE: hypothetical fecundity, then, we might ask what happens to our research programs and what happens to falsifiable hypothesis-generation if one
adopts this tautology versus that? Restated, in addition to organizing existing knowledge, does this tautology generate new hypotheses? Might it
contribute to a new cognitive regime or paradigm shift or cast light on why this or that approach seems pregnant with paradox? Thus, once all other
epistemic virtues have been taken into consideration for an issue, that a significant part of the philosophical and/or scientific community considers
unresolved, i.e. under-explained, there is a certain inefficacy in approaches that are ignostic, noncognitivist and eliminativist, that try to a priori
reframe this or that problem as a pseudo-problem, insofar as they discourage research or support the illusion that it is unnecessary. There is a certain
irony in that a priori claims to the occulted nature of a given reality, or mysterian-like positions, are similarly inefficacious.
Assuming all other epistemic criteria are equal (just for argument's sake), we then ask, how does this versus that alternate view measure up vis a vis
One aspires to epistemic virtue insofar as one wants to be clear regarding what it is that one can reasonably say one knows. And, one wants to be
clear in distinguishing belief from knowledge.
At some level, one must wonder how this above-described epistemological exercise, itself, can be inherently normative insofar as one is going from an
is, which is described as a distinction between knowledge and belief, to an ought, which one might prescribe (or proscribe ) as a prohibition against
any argument regarding norms for belief in relation to metaphysical concepts.
In some sense, one will have already busted that move insofar as one has, albeit minimalistically, set forth a meta-ethic for arguments regarding
How does one justify one’s belief in one’s own knowledge of the distinction between knowledge and belief?
How does one justify one’s belief in reality's intelligibility (over against an unmitigated nihilism)?
How does one justify one’s belief in such first principles as noncontradiction and excluded middle?
How does one justify one’s belief in common sense notions of causality?
How does one justify one’s belief in the existence of other minds (over against solipsism) such that one could argue with those minds regarding one’s
theory of knowledge and refrain from arguing with them regarding their metaphysical beliefs?
These foundational presuppositions are not really propositional are they? One thus believes in order to know. There are some beliefs that must
require no justification insofar as their negation would negate what we are calling knowledge, itself. Some beliefs demonstrably enhance our modeling
power of reality. We do not demonstrate them, however, through formal argumentation. They are otherwise warranted by practical judgment. And this
is why human knowledge is not strictly empirical in the first place; it has empirical, logical/rational and practical aspects, among others.
If one accepts this approach, then, one might see fit to move beyond any agnosticism regarding some so-called metaphysical concepts and develop
some epistemic criteria for when such beliefs are warranted.
So, human knowledge is not strictly empirical, over against the radical empiricists and logical positivists; not strictly rational, over against the
rationalists; not strictly evaluative, over against the noncognitivists; not strictly practical, over against an unnuanced pragmatism. It derives from
aspects of value realization that are intellectually-related even though not robustly logically-related: normative, evaluative, descriptive, interpretive
At the same time, these aspects of value-realization need not be thought of as some type of metaphysical transcendental imperatives: truth, beauty,
goodness and unity, for example. Rather, they can be thought of as an ecological rationality for an animal trying to make it in a particular niche.
Human knowledge and beliefs, taken together, and thus conceived through the perspective of an evolutionary psychology, is really just a set of fast
& frugal heuristics that have tremendous adaptive significance and were gifted our species via the courtesy of natural selection. As such, we need
not hold, a priori, that these heuristics must obtain to transcendentals; rather, these fast and frugal heuristics can be thought of as existential
orientations of a bounded rationality that are satisficing and not maximizing, which is to say that they are good enough for this or that end.
This may all beg the question of how we might do ethics and politics without coming to closure on an ontology.
Perhaps our solution requires what we might call a minimalist de-ontology, where our ontology is not a full blown metaphysic that accounts for socalled transcendental imperatives, but is, instead, a modest account of distinctly human value-realization strategies. Such strategies, through nature
and nurture, adapt us to reality with a good enough modeling power, which enables us to get along relatively well in the world, settling for optimal
value realizations even as maximal realizations elude us. In this sense, then, we can maintain that epistemology models ontology (Polkinghorne)
even as we have no need to a priori accept or reject the Kantian disjunction between phenomena and noumena. Then, we can still do politics even as
the philosophical onto-policy wonks continue to work their way, fallibly but inexorably, toward a (meta)physical consensus in our community of inquiry.
To Do or Not To Do – Ontology
I once looked at Peirce's semiotic and tried to describe his different sign categories in psychological terms vis a vis the different ways that humans
might experience different modal realities. I made a matrix to ensure that I didn't inadvertently leave out any categories, but my matrix had more
categories than Peirce had signs. I proceeded with my exercise anyway and then examined my leftover categories. They included what,
psychologically, we would call delusion, hallucination, psychosis, mistakes, misinterpretation, etc
Successful reference and description of reality takes place through ongoing, even infinite, semiosis, as we progressively but fallibly tighten our grasp
on reality. And I have just described some of the reasons why we are fallible, why we need disambiguation and reinterpretation. Thus, an
indispensable part of sign theory is the fact that we are error-prone at the same time that we are semiotic realists. So, in our attempts to model
reality with an ever enhanced modeling power, we can, semantically, deal with something analogous to what the Kantian disjunction is trying to deal
with in its distinction between phenomena and noumena.
I say analogously because, in order to enhance our modeling power, semiotically, we do not need to a priori accept or reject the Kantian disjunction.
We can, at the same time, then, affirm a theoretical role for ontology and be very circumspect in defining the conditions for when it can most
efficaciously contribute to our enhanced modeling power, while also recognizing that, from a practical perspective, when it is facilely applied and
casually employs such modal categories as certain, impossible and necessary, it most inefficaciously detracts from our modeling power and gets tied
up in essentialistic-nominalistic knots.
If we stick to a description like epistemology models ontology, then maybe we better capture how tentative and provisional our ontological projects
are and how any ensuing normative impetus must be significantly curtailed, especially if our ontologies are not otherwise robustly actionable due to
limited predictive accuracy and hypothetical fecundity, or are otherwise deficient vis a vis some foundherentist (just for example) criteria of epistemic
As I see it, many metaphysicians have made their fallibilist move, which makes their ontologizing more benign and efficacious. And semioticians have
acknowledged a role for ontology, in theory. The divide that remains seems to then focus on our practical judgment regarding ontologizing and just
how practicable and actionable most ontological projects have been, are or will be. [I would have said that in E-prime, but, you know, for the sake of
convention and the ease of use ... ...]
This project is inherently difficult because I am trying to build an architectonic that includes physical and biological sciences, psychology, philosophy, religion and theology,
each with its own jargon. The conceptual-bridging project gets even harder as one then tries to inhabit rather unique perspectives within those major disciplines, perspectives
with their own specialized jargon, too. The Peircean perspective might have the most jargonistic stance one can possibly encounter in philosophy inasmuch as it is replete with
CSP's own idiosyncratic neologisms. But I am trying to genericize it and make it more accessible. I hope any exchanges this project generates will make what I am proposing
more accessible to others and my heuristic a tad less dense. I am not married to the vocabulary as much as I am to the categories and their associated grammars. I wish this
could be fleshed out with no jargon whatsoever, while not abandoning the nuances. Your questions, comments and critiques will greatly help this fleshing out. Thanks.
A Brief Outline:
The Hierarchy of Semiosis – It’s Levels
What This Heuristic Ambitions and What It Does Not
The Panentheistic Perspective - brief introduction
Biosemiotic Categories of Religion
Primary Level Experiences & Meta-Level Evaluations: 16 Philosophical Categories
Heuristic Subroutines or Subdoxastic Routines
What Else Is Going On in this Matrix of 16 Philosophical Categories
Mapping My Tetradic Heuristic onto Ursula Goodenough’s Categories for Religious Naturalism & Daniel Helminiak’s
The Grammar That Operates in This Peirceanesque Tetradic Heuristic
Critique of Religious Naturalism
Socially & Culturally, then - or secularly
What about philosophy of mind?
Abduction of the Reality of the Ens Necessarium & Its Modal Ontological Proof
More About This Ens Necessarium
A Trinitarian Theology of Nature: pansemio-entheistic
Is Metaphysics Moonshine?
The Hierarchy of Semiosis
What This Heuristic Ambitions and What It Does Not
Let's begin with how physical causation operates in the natural world. From an emergentist perspective, as we observe emergent properties, the pattern
seems to be that they represent something more than their constituent parts but are clearly nothing but the combination of those parts. Hence, we have
Ursula Goodenough's something more from nothing but, or some prefer something else from nothing but.
Sometimes emergent realities present in a very straightforward manner and our reductionistic accounts are easy to come by. Sometimes they present in a
very problematical manner and explanatory adequacy eludes us.
We can acknowledge the centrality of emergence without claiming to have acquired full explanatory adequacy for the entire spectrum of emergentistic
phenomena, including all that might be involved in human neurophysiology. Thusly, my emergentist account does not ambition explanatory adequacy and is
only a heuristic device.
Accordingly, while I prescind from an ontological perspective, bracketing metaphysics, I am not, a priori, suggesting that anyone should therefore jettison
their metaphysic. I am simply suggesting that, if one keeps my Peircean categories and grammars in mind, then 1) their decision to do ontology or not, for this
aspect of reality or not, will be more coherent 2) their metaphysic, if pursued, will model reality with measurably enhanced modeling power. The pragmatic
maxim suggests that one must precisely demonstrate the enhancement of one's modeling power when one sees fit to multiply ontologies, cashing out the
values of one's conceptions precisely in terms of such a significance as would be geared toward the realization of human values.
Regarding the computational fallacy, I am simply saying that algorithmic or rule-governed computational accounts are necessary but not sufficient when
referring to human cognition. Those biosemiotic algorithms are innate and hardwired, relatively closed-ended and inflexible, and language-independent. Their
logic is, in a word, fixed. What I am calling biosemiotic heuristics are also innate and hardwired, but are open-ended and flexible, or plastic, and languagedependent. Their logic is, in a word, fuzzy.
One can observe and successfully refer to these biosemiotic realities and make note of their emergent properties, without claiming to have, in the same
instant, described same with any degree of explanatory adequacy. So, no, I am not describing any philosophical fallacies that arise from competing
ontological claims regarding human value-realizations.
I would imagine that any number of ontological descriptions could fit quite comfortably underneath my heuristic umbrella. My emergentistic heuristic is not
robust enough to adjudicate between all of the really good hypotheses re: consciousness. It’s value is cashed out solely in terms of making successful
references to reality and not, yet, in terms of successful descriptions.
The probable mediates between the possible and the actual to effect the novel dissipative structures of nonequilibrium thermodynamics.
The quasi-telic mediates between the quasi-epistemic and the quasi-ontic to effect the pan-semiotic.
Quasi-telic because, while downward causation is clearly operative, violations of physical causal closure are not. Quasi-epistemic because only phenomenal experience is
processed as knowledge. Quasi-ontic because emergent and novel, bounded and limited, autopoietic realities are dynamical and dissipative, probabilistic and modal.
Pansemiotic because, in environments far from equilibrium, symmetries and other temporal patterns are preserved through successive bifurcations and permutations in
increasing levels of complexity, presenting as first and second order (Deacon) emergent properties.
The quasi-telic mediates between the quasi-epistemic and the quasi-ontic to effect the biosemiotic.
Biosemiotic because emergent properties are somehow progressively encoded, constraining the temporal patterns of second order systems, novelty replaced by replication,
presenting a dynamic of adaptive significance and selection pressure whenever novelty re-presents.
The quasi-telic mediates between the epistemic and the quasi-ontic to effect the biosemiotic.
Epistemic because propositional knowledge interacts with phenomenal knowledge as symbols are added to icons and indexes, knowledge not only syntactic but semantic.
Boundaries mediate between limits and the autopoietic (self-organizing) to effect freedom (open-ended processor).
To contextualize the dynamic in Hefner’s lexicon.
The philosophic mediates between the positivistic and the paradigmatic to effect the pragmatic.
My articulation of the Peircean maxim that the normative sciences mediate between phenomenology and metaphysics.
The necessary (Peirce’s ens necessarium) mediates between the probable and the actual to effect the pansemio-entheistic.
My articulation of the argument in Peirce’s Neglected Argument for the Reality of God.
The philosophic mediates between the positivistic and the theistic to effect the theotic (Peirce’s pragmatic maxim).
My articulation of Helminiak’s horizons of human concern, the theotic, in Peircean terms representing the cashing out of value of the meaning of the conception, ens
necessarium, as it must consist of the practical effects the conception would have on human behavior, orthopraxis authenticating orthodoxy.
The Pan-entheistic Perspective – brief introduction
From a pan-entheistic perspective, the necessary mediates between the probable and the actual to effect Reality. The necessary entails the eminently telic,
epistemic, ontic and semiotic. In observable reality, nowhere do we encounter such intentionality as would be eminently telic, which I’d define as acting on
reality in violation of physical causal closure. Nowhere do we encounter the eminently epistemic, human knowledge being necessarily fallible. Neither does the
eminently ontic present insofar as emergent realities are all contingent, bounded and limited, dynamical and ephemeral, modal but probabilistic and dissipative
even if self-replicating. Finally, the eminently semiotic does not present in observable reality, the practical upshot of which is that metaphysics as a project is
seriously constrained; we must frequently prescind from metaphysical hypotheses to ontological vagueness and semantical vagueness, employing the
Peircean grammars of modal ontology and triadic semiotic logic, reassessing the epistemic vagueness that constrains us, sometimes, methodologically, and
sometimes through that which may be naturally occulted as we near T = 0 approaching the Big Bang, or, perhaps, in the deepest structures of matter. At
bottom, nowhere in observable reality do we encounter the ens necessarium, although it is a valid philosophical inference. This is why many folks eschew
metaphysics and ontology altogether.
In what I am calling the pan-semio-entheistic heuristic, rather than reality presenting as three mutually interpenetrating fields of epistemic, quasi-ontic and
semiotic influence, which are irreducibly triadic, a fourth modal category is introduced, the necessary, with its telic influence, efficaciously and unobtrusively
coaxing reality toward the attainment of the maximum aesthetic value (Haught’s aesthetical teleology). The four interpenetrating fields form a tetradic matrix,
which corresponds analogously, in very many ways, to the tetradic heuristic I describe below. The eminently epistemic and truly ontic axes represent
panentheistic transcendence. The axis representing the necessary and telic represents the panentheistic field of influence that is immanent and telic,
implicately ordering the semiotic field of influence, all fields still mutually interpenetrating, hence, pansemio-entheistic. Even as I speak of “fields,” I only refer
to same as conceptual placeholders, as heuristic categories, and do not offer them as ontological realities, for example, some type of substance-process
dynamic. What is important is THAT such categories seem to present, phenomenologically, even as HOW such categories might interact remains an open
question for science. Science can offer us some compelling inferences and analogies though, for example, vis a vis downward causation.
But let’s back up and unpack the concepts of this heuristic.
Biosemiotic Categories of Religion
Below, I venture a naturalistic account from an evolutionary perspective on the philosophical categories of most religious traditions. The four categories of
religious practice that I will attempt to describe are Cult, Community, Creed and Code. Others might think of these in other terms such as Ritual or Liturgy,
Fellowship or Church, Dogma or Doctrine, and Law or Rubrics.
This account will be written from a biosemiotic and pragmatic perspective. I intend to describe the origin and development of religious categories in terms
of doxastic practices. I will draw a distinction between propositional heuristics and phenomenal experience but will focus on the normative aspects of the
former. Insofar as religions attempt to model reality, I will describe their value-realization strategies in terms employed by traditional philosophical
perspectives. Simply put, I will ask what philosophy makes of beauty, unity, truth and goodness and suggest that religion does something similar. I will
briefly touch on what humans make of these values at the primary level of experience. I will describe the biosemiotic heuristic in some length and provide
In a nutshell, we will travel from biology to religion at warp speed, but this is moreso a heuristic than an hypothesis. Some hypothetical implications will be
clear. This isn't going to sound very religious but will have an epistemological slant. After all, I'm sketching religion's undergirdings from biology through
evolutionary psychology to philosophy. I won't discuss this in that order, though, because it would be more helpful, I think, to describe how propositional
heuristics work, starting in media res, where we find ourselves now.
Biosemiotic Heuristics are characterized by simplicity & facility, are fast & frugal.
Biosemiotic Heuristics include induction, abduction & inference to the best explanation.
Biosemiotic Heuristics evaluate novelty, newly observed effects.
Abduction reasons from a presently observed, novel effect to propose a set of probable causes.
My hard drive won’t spin up. Either that outside transformer is still defective, lightning got me again or we need to put this outlet on a different amp fuse.
Induction reasons from an actual cause present to propose a set of probable effects.
This power strip is off. The computer, monitor and printer will not work.
Induction immediately critiques abduction, and if the set of probable effects contains the presently observed effect, the cause associated with that
particular inductive inference could be tested, possibly explaining the novel effect (and falsifying the abductive inferences), possibly falsifying the inductive
inference and possibly leaving the novel effect unexplained.
The power strip is now on. The computer hard drive is spinning up.
The power strip is now on, but this strip had other things plugged into it, not the PC.
The power strip is now on and the monitor and printer are working but not the computer.
If the process continues, induction further critiques abduction, limiting the set of probable causes to the set of actual causes present.
If the sets of probable and actual causes do not overlap, abduction continues, conjecturing more probable causes.
There were thunderstorms; the power company replaced the transformer last week and there are no fuses because there’s a panel of circuit breakers, none
tripped. Let’s open the computer up and try a new power supply.
If the sets of probable and actual causes do overlap, a search for more effects commences in order to further reduce this overlap, successive searches
possibly winnowing down such set overlap, eventually, to a set with a single cause.
There were thunderstorms but there have been no brown outs, and circuit breakers are used, not fuses. Check the clock radio and TV.
If the search for more effects introduces additional novel effects, the process of alternating conjecture and criticism could be either compounded or
The clock radio works but the TV doesn’t.
Deduction is presupposed in the irreducibly triadic logic of inference. It determines the logical consequences of hypotheses (abductive inferences) as they
are tested inductively via actualities.
The deductive inferences may be valid, only.
There were storms? Lightning took out both the TV and computer.
They may also be sound.
Someone else unplugged the TV from its nearby outlet and unplugged the computer from the power strip, because a thunderstorm was on the way.
The exhilaration one experiences from turning on the TV and computer (after having ever-s o-briefly imagined that they’d both been destroyed) upon
hearing the whirr of the hard drive against the background of the Seinfeld theme “song,” is not part of the triadic inferential logic, and neither are the
sounds of the whirring or the song. Those experiences are part of the Phenomenal Knowledge of Biosemiotic Algorithms, while the computer
troubleshooting is part of the Propositional Knowledge of the Biosemiotic Heuristics. The latter depends on the former, but only the propositional is
language-dependent. The analysis would be more complicated if, when the TV was turned on, we heard, instead, Becker yelling at Bob and Linda.
(Actually, it is already WAY more complicated but just grasp that there are real distinctions.) Their innate neurophysiological processes are distinct, both
innate but only the Biosemiotic Algorithms are hard-wired, accomplished in finite steps, even if repetitive, accomplishing some biological end. I use the
word algorithm analogically, not because we’re talking math problems but because the system is inflexible while the Biosemiotic Heuristics are very
plastic, and open-ended. The recursive interplay, in Biosemiotic Heuristics, of abduction, retroduction, inference to the best explanation, induction,
deduction and other layers of symbolism, is distinctly human.
Primary Level Experiences & Meta-Level Evaluations
Propositional Knowledge X (Environment X Phenomenal Knowledge) --> Behavior
How does this correspond to my maxim that the philosophic mediates between the positivistic and the paradigmatic to inform the practical?
The philosophic gifts us with heuristics to guide our propositional applications of phenomenal knowledge.
Our normative rationality, then, mediates between the analytical and empirical to inform the practical. Let me unpack this. It is clear enough, perhaps, how
the rational is associated with the philosophic and inferential and the empirical with phenomenal knowledge and our senses. The practical relates to our
actions, our behavior, ordered toward biological and socio-cultural imperatives of the species. The association between the environment and the analytical
honors the fact that we are radically social animals and our environment is largely linguistic, comprised of other people and their propositional knowledge.
Interestingly, that environment also includes our own internal milieu with its own propositional input and output. As we propositionally process our own
propositions, our abstractions progress to second and third orders and meta-levels. Thus, the environment corresponds to the paradigmatic (but is not
exhausted by same).
Starting at the primary level of experience:
Our experiences of beauty (symmetry, elegance, simplicity, facility, novelty), at the primary level of experience, are linguistically, semantically and
neurologically processed and meaning is imparted at this meta-level and corresponds to what we call our aesthetical values. Our primary experiences of
goodness (the practical fulfillment of biological and socio-cultural imperatives) thus become ethical and moral values. Our evaluations of the successes and
failures of our alternating conjectures and criticisms provide us the rubrics and formalization (to the limited extent our inferential facilities are
formalizable) of our noetical values, the axioms of different abstract logics, again, at this meta-level. Our primary experiences of the social and communal,
in terms of reinforcement or reward, are reflectively abstracted into unitive values.
At the meta-level, then, the aesthetical, practical, noetical & unitive aspects of normative rationality mediate between the analytical and empirical to
inform the practical. I said, previously, that the philosophic gifts us with heuristics to guide our propositional applications of phenomenal knowledge. So, I
am also saying that the philosophic resides at this meta-level, even comprises it. This philosophic perspective is not exactly the same as what we call the
study of philosophy. Second order abstractions and propositions, as a meta-level structure, do not necessarily derive in full conscious awareness but
are imparted through the acquisition of cultural symbolism (already layered) and through our own innate biosemiotic heuristic processes and
neurocircuitry. These propositional facilities, albeit meta-level, because they are not fully conscious, might function as subdoxastic routines and consist
of such as our foundational presuppositions and first principles. Most philosophical schools seem to address, in some way or another, what I am here
calling subdoxastic routines or heuristic subroutines. This is not to at all suggest that conceptual mapping across various philosophical hermeneutics can
be done facilely. Nevertheless, for example, we have Maritain's connaturality, Polanyi's tacit dimension, Newman's illative sense, Fries' nonintuitive
immediate knowledge and Peirce's abduction. These are described, in my view, as innate existential orientations. Other subdoxastic routines are
smuggled in as implicit presuppositions of culturally imparted paradigms.
Heuristic Subroutines or Subdoxastic Routines
So, again, how might this correspond to the maxim that the philosophic mediates between the positivistic and the paradigmatic to inform the practical? In
other words, what are some concrete examples of what might be considered subdoxastic routines or heuristic subroutines, which are not in full
conscious awareness, this notwithstanding they are clearly second order or meta-level structures? I will characterize them as beliefs, but they are usually
tacit or implicit beliefs.
I label these beliefs as a literary device to lure people into awareness. How many of these heuristics do you accept without proof? Some of this is
jargonistic but enough is accessible to gather my main thrust.
Philosophic Horizon, Normative Sciences: a) belief in human intelligence over against radical skepticism; b) belief in other minds over against solipsism;
c) belief in the recursive interplay of the inferences: deductive, inductive, abductive, retroductive, inference to the best explanation [IBE]; and in abstract,
formal logic; d) belief in aesthetic-heuristic maxims of elegance, simplicity, parsimony, facility; e) belief in first principles: noncontradiction, excluded middle;
f) belief in epistemic vagueness, how much ignorance is due to invincible methodological constraint versus ontological occulting; g) belief in fast and frugal
heuristics of ecological rationality; h) Kung's fundamental trust in uncertain reality; i) eschewal of overworked distinctions (as if they were dichotomies),
underworked dichotomies (as if they were mere distinctions), overworked analogies (where metaphors yield causal disjunctions) and traffic in trivialities,
regressions, circularities & tautologies; j) embrace of distinction between necessary & sufficient; comprehensive & exhaustive; k) embrace distinction
between veridical, falsidical and antinomial paradox
2) Positivistic Horizon, Empirical Science: a) belief in reality's intelligibility over against an unmitigated nihilism; b) belief in common sense notions of
causality; c) belief in alternating conjecture & criticism, falsifiability
3) Heuristic Horizon, Paradigms: a) belief in Godel's Theorem; b) belief in modal ontology and ontological vagueness, the necessary and the probable; c)
belief in semiotic realism and semantical vagueness, conditional use of noncontradiction and excluded middle; d) belief in renormalizability of
incommensurable systems; e) belief in emergentist heuristic of something more from nothing but (or something else)
4) Pragmatic Horizon, Praxis: a) belief in pragmatic maxim; b) belief in cashing out one's paradigm in terms of what and how much difference they make
Most people seem unaware of these implicit presuppositions. When they become aware, they then struggle with justification. How do you justify any of
these that you recognize as operative in your own hermeneutic?
Doing philosophy; from subdoxastic to doxastic
What happens when we consciously reflect on these subdoxastic routines and do philosophy?
How might these heuristics correspond to various schools of thought?
The philosophic mediates between the positivistic and paradigmatic to inform praxis.
This tetradic heuristic unfolds into four value-realization holons whereby subjective, intersubjective, objective and interobjective horizons of human
concern each realize aesthetical, unitive, noetical and ethical values.
The aesthetical thus mediates between the unitive and noetical to inform the ethical. Or, why truth often comes flying in on the wings of beauty and
The subjective, intersubjective, objective and interobjective horizons correspond, respectively, to Jungian thinking, feeling (harmony between people),
sensing and intuiting (harmony between ideas) functions, which further correspond, respectively, to left frontal, right posterior, left posterior and right
frontal, cortical brain quadrants. Philosophically, these horizons generally correspond to rational, analytical, empirical and practical normative sciences.
We approach aesthetical value realization 1) subjectively, through formalism or essentialism in art; 2) intersubjectively, through expressivism or
emotionalism in art; 3) objectively, through mimesis and imitationalism in art; and 4) interobjectively, through art as instrumentalism.
We approach unitive value realization 1) subjectively, through possibilities and objective (conceptual) reality; 2) intersubjectively, through probabilities
and semiotic reality; 3) objectively, through actualities and physical reality; and 4) interobjectively, through ultimate (telic) reality.
We approach noetical value realization 1) subjectively, through virtue epistemology; 2) intersubjectively, through a semiotic, community of inquiry; 3)
objectively, through correspondence; and 4) interobjectively, through coherence.
We approach ethical value realization 1) subjectively, through aretaic or virtue ethics; 2) intersubjectively, through contractarian ethics; 3) objectively,
through deontological ethics; and 4) interobjectively, through teleological or consequentialistic ethics.
If you ask me, folks that raise any of these elements to an exclusive perspective or school of thought are simply indulging an epistemic fetish (except for
the Peircean pragmatism).
What Else Is Going On in this Matrix of 16 Philosophical Categories:
My employment of the Peircean take on reality pretty much drove me directly to where Ursula Goodenough & Terry Deacon ended up in From
Biology to Consciousness to Morality. Now, take Morality, for example, it has always seemed to me that, when approached philosophically,
philosophers have elaborated theories that I could taxonomically characterize under four major categories and that those categories could be
associated with the four major brain quadrants, which are variously dominant in different temperament types. And one could take Aesthetics and
Epistemology and Social theories and see a similar type of association. That provided me 16 sets of jargon above, which I did not bother to
unpack, YET, incorporating, as they do, the entire history of philosophy.
Now, I am certain that one might recognize that our primary level encounters with reality generate different evaluative stances in terms of moral,
aesthetic, epistemic and social sensibilities/inclinations. And one may be surprised to hear me assert that, for the most part, as human beings, we
get along quite well in our encounters with reality, especially with one another, without bothering to elaborate major theories about these
sensibilities, at least not beyond our naturalistic accounts of their origins. And this is to say that not many of us take the concepts we employ,
when we are sharing and exchanging such sensibilities with one another, and then manipulate them into second or even third order, meta-level
abstractions. So, this might also seem to suggest that, it is not the process of abstracting we must constrain as much as it is the process of,
willy-nilly, drawing new inferences regarding those abstractions, so to speak, in a vacuum, isolated from sensible reality. The reason for constraint
is that Peirce's pragmatic maxim is in play for those abstractions that are both helpful and harmful because, as semiotic creatures, we WILL cash
out the value of such conceptualizations, for better and worse, by putting them into practice one way or another, either to our everlasting glory
or by accelerating our inevitable demise.
Nevertheless, all these caveats notwithstanding, humankind HAS elaborated such theories as have arisen from our moral, aesthetical, epistemic
and social sensibilities and their meta-level, inferential structures. At one level, which appears to be mostly subconscious, these structures are
hardwired, even if otherwise plastic and open-ended. They are not articulated beliefs but do comprise what most of us would recognize as
common sense, and what the philosophers might call first principles, or unspoken presuppositions. This isn't to suggest that some cultural
overlays, nurture adding on to nature, do not variously help or hinder common sense; it is only to recognize that, even when they do, they, too,
remain rather tacit or implicit, most folks never bothering to articulate what, to some extent, must generally seem to be self-evident and thus
rather trivial observations, which is to say, relevant but too much of a grasp of the obvious. The practical upshot is that I have taxonomically laid
out 16 major philosophical approaches, which, in my view, can be characterized in association with brain quadrants, this notwithstanding the
notion that our symbolic-linguistic function is rather distributed. So, in a nutshell, I have naturalized philosophy, itself, much less religion. (And, I
do believe glucose metabolism in the brain can be measured to demonstrate what areas are "burning hotter" when - - - in relationship to MyersBriggs temperament typologies.)
Stepwise, then, as Goodenough and Deacon take us from biology to consciousness to morality, my departure point is to then take morality and
further reduce it to four major approaches; and to then recognize that their account applies to other evaluative sensibilities, too, and to then
reduce them, each, to four major approaches. I do not see it as a facile mapping exercise.
Now, the real shame is this. So many folks have, in their metalevel abstractions and inferences, moved from the realm of unconscious competence
to unconscious incompetence. By doing philosophy, they have made themselves STUPIDER. Forget Jupiter, in medieval times, when a rather sterile
scholasticism began its reign: Boys went to college to get more stupider. It has been said that, using logic, one of humankind's most efficient
tools, an intelligent person, with a false premise and/or ambiguous concepts, can get further from the truth, faster and more efficiently, than any
imbecile could ever aspire. And that is what goes on as folks inhabit their metalevel castles. It takes rigor and discipline and self-critique and selfreflexive awareness to "do metalevels" right. The cure for this is a move from unconscious competence to conscious competence, making what I
call our unconscious subdoxastic beliefs more robustly conscious doxastic beliefs. Most of the trouble ensues when folks get busy trying to justify
that which calls for no justification. One must not go overboard, though, throwing out the justification baby with the dirty metalevel bathwater
because 1) so much of reality still begs questions and 2) there is a right way to do metalevels, which I won't prescribe presently (except to
suggest that Peirce is our guide).
I derived a heuristic from Peirce who said that the normative sciences mediate between phenomenology and metaphysics. This can be derived in
simpler terms. We can say that probabilities mediate between possibilities and actualities. It may not be a stretch to even say that the aegis of
initial conditions and boundary conditions and emergent hierarchies of biases mediate between possible novel emergent properties and actual
emergent entities. This is a modal grammar. It has specific rules for how certain so-called first principles work in each category, but I'll desist from
describing those now. I won't unpack what Peirce means by normative sciences, phenomenology and metaphysics either except to say that, if
you are one who suffers an immediate negative visceral reaction to the word, metaphysics, fret not. This ain't what Peirce is doing. The simple
way to diagnose this supposed malady of the mind is to watch and see if one speaks in terms of possibilities, actualities and necessities - - - and
not rather probabilities.
Mapping My Tetradic Heuristic onto Ursula Goodenough’s Categories for Religious Naturalism & Daniel Helminiak’s Lonerganian
Again, my heuristic is this: The philosophic mediates between the positivistic and the paradigmatic to effect the pragmatic.
My mapping of this heuristic onto Goodenough’s project is this: The spiritual mediates between the emergentist perspective and the interpretive
to effect the moral.
The philosophic describes our ethical, aesthetical and epistemic sensibilities and includes the concepts that we might symbolically abstract from
our primary level encounters with reality via our cognitive-affective juxtapositions. An inward personal response to 1) a deeply felt ethical
sensibility might be that of reverence; 2) an aesthetical sensibility might be that of awe; and 3) an epistemic sensibility might be that of assent.
To be philosophic is not the same as to do philosophy. Philosophy tries to change these sensibilities into standards and employs the language of
norms. If the philosophic describes our evaluative sensibilities, then philosophy describes standards (norms) to help us realize their corresponding
values. The philosophic answers the question: "What's it to ya?" and philosophy answers the question: "Where can I get some of that?" The
philosophic is thus evaluative, while philosophy is normative. The philosophic is spiritual and thus deals with the prioritizing of values, describing
not only what it is we value but what it is we value most and the order in which we place our often-competing values (ordinacy). I associate the
normative with the Jungian category of Thinking, located in the left frontal cortex of the human brain, because our ethical, aesthetical and ethical
sensibilities, here, give impetus to our rational attempts at normative justification. These rational attempts are meta-level processes that
consciously reflect on the answers to the question "Where can I get some of that?" and then attempt to answer this question: "Why should I
trust your, my or anyone else's answer to that question?" or, to use Kantian interrogatories, they attempt to navigate us, regulatively, to
the answers to: What can I know? What can I hope for? What must I do?
The positivistic describes our scientific endeavors and answers the question: "Is that a fact?" and is thus descriptive (associated with the
Jungian category of Sensing, located in the left posterior convexity of the human brain). It aspires to successful reference through heuristics and
explanatory adequacy through theory. It includes our emergentist perspective. Classically, it answers: “What can I know?”.
The pragmatic and moral describe our prudential judgments, hence informing our outward communal responses, answering the question: "What
must I do?" and is thus prescriptive, aspiring to harmony between people (associated with the Jungian category of Feeling, located in the right
posterior convexity of the human brain). Pragmatically, the question is: “Is it useful?” Morally: “Is it good?”
The paradigmatic describes our overall orientations, including our positivistic understandings of nature, our philosophic and spiritual evaluations
arising from the sensibilities that ensue from our primary level encounters of reality, and our pragmatic and moral responses to one another as
radically social animals, as a symbolic species. The paradigmatic is interpretive, aspiring to harmony between ideas (associated with the Jungian
category of Intuiting, located in the right frontal cortex of the human brain). It is an attempt to answer the question: “What’s it all about,
Alfie?” or put in more anagogical terms: “What can I hope for?”.
How new is any of this? In some sense, I internalized these distinctions from patristic and medieval mystics, like Origen, pseudoDionysius and Duns Scotus. Origen‘s senses of scripture 1) moral 2) allegorical/spiritual 3) anagogical and 4) literal/historical,
correspond to moral, spiritual, interpretive and positivistic understandings set forth above. The dionysian logic and predications,
alternately analogical, anagogical, mystagogical, apophatic, kataphatic, univocal and equivocal are precisely what is at work in these
present considerations using different concepts. And Scotus and Peirce resonate semiotically (such as between the scotistic formal
distinction and the peircean distinction between objective and physical realities).
References to brain quadrants are over-simplified but the functional categories of temperament type are meaningful.
At this point, I have only mapped the categories of Religious Naturalism to my Peircean categories. I want to now describe the practical
implications of my Peirceanesque tetradic heuristic: The philosophic mediates between the positivistic and the paradigmatic to effect the
Daniel Helminiak, building on Lonergan, describes four progressively expanding horizons of human concern, the determinations of each successive
horizon constraining those of the previous horizons. He describes the 1) positivistic 2) philosophic 3) theistic and 4) theotic. These correspond to
my genericized categories of the 1) positivistic 2) philosophic 3) paradigmatic and 4) pragmatic. These correspond to the RN categories of 1)
emergentist perspective 2) spiritual 3) interpretive and 4) moral. As Phil St. Romain interprets Helminiak: "Spirituality, as a uniquely human
phenomenon, is grounded in the philosophic level" and grounded in authenticity. Helminiak describes it thus: "For Lonergan, authenticity implies
on-going personal commitment to openness, questioning, honesty, and good will across the board. In this sense, commitment to authenticity is
exactly what characterizes the philosophic viewpoint."
Now, the most immediately obvious practical upshot of this heuristic is that, while one is entitled to one's own overall interpretive
orientation, or paradigm, one is not entitled to one's own positivistic determinations. I think it was Senator Moynihan who admonished:
"One is entitled to one's own opinion, but one is NOT entitled to one's own facts. In fact, Helminiak's hierarchy of human foci of concern, placing
the philosophic between the positivistic and theistic, is an implicit recognition of my peirceanesque heuristic, which would treat his concepts
thusly: The philosophic mediates between the positivistic and theistic to inform the theotic, which is nothing less than the journey to authenticity
via intellectual, affective, moral, social and religious conversion (think: development e.g. Piaget, Erikson, Kohlberg, Fowler et al).
How, then, might the philosophic or spiritual, constrained by the positivistic, then be considered to, in any way, constrain the paradigmatic?
Helminiak might suggest that Lonergan has described such spiritual constraints in terms of an "on-going personal commitment to openness,
questioning, honesty, and good will across the board." Religious Naturalism might amplify this with such epistemic values as humility and reverence
and assent toward reality.
What anchors morality? How might we articulate a more compelling morality in a pluralistic society and on global venues? What we have just
described, above, is human rationality. This rationality is emergent, bounded, autopoietic, normative, spiritual, positivistic and ecologically
evaluative, the last criterion suggesting that, together in the same cosmic niche, our ethical, aesthetical and epistemic sensibilities will largely
converge. The succinct way of putting this is that human prudential judgment, both moral and practical, is transparent to human reason. The
practical upshot is that one is entitled to one's own interpretive paradigms and evaluative dispositions, but one is not entitled to one's own moral
positions, which must be reasoned out in the community of inquiry writ large. After all, to quote a wise friend: "Life is not about survival of the
fittest; it's about fitting in."
Changing gears entirely. Heidegger's question: "Why is there not rather nothing?" has been rendered a pseudo-question by those who'd employ an
eliminativist strategy of considering "nothing" a conceptual reification, accusing all, who take existence to be a predicate of being, of a
meaningless tautology. Indeed, not even Aquinas thought that natural philosophy could determine, absent positive revelation, whether or not
nature itself was eternal. The tautology may, nevertheless, be sound; it simply does not add new information to any of our systems.
Heidegger's existential question is better framed in terms of cosmological and ontological speculation: "Why is there not rather something
The implicit answer, as if brute fact, might be proffered as "the aegis of initial conditions and boundary conditions." It is clearly not for everyone.
The Grammar That Operates in This Peirceanesque Tetradic Heuristic
If one buys into this mapping exercise whereby I have related my heuristic to that of Goodenough and Helminiak, then one may be interested in
the grammar that governs the interplay of these categories: The evaluative-normative mediates between the descriptive and interpretive to
effect the prudential (moral and practical).
There is a modal logic of ontological vagueness that has us prescind from any scheme where the necessary mediates between the possible and
the actual. This is because we are immersed in contingency as dissipative structures and finite entities, alternately emerging and perishing. And,
as a brief aside, this has everything to do with aesthetic sensibility. Beauty, itself, is being birthed as the greater the number of bifurcations
and permutations that are at play in the novel dissipative structures of reality, the greater the threat to system stability in terms of fragility and
the greater, most folks seem to report, the beauty. The aesthetical axiom seems to be: the more fragile, the more beautiful.
What gives these categories the type of hierarchical relationship invoked by Peirce and described by Helminiak, captured in my own tetradic
heuristic? It is the interplay of the first principles of noncontradiction (these cannot both be true) and excluded middle (either this or that is
true). Most people do not pay heed to first principles. Rather, we take them for granted as foundational presuppositions of common sense. It is
the interplay of noncontradiction and excluded middle that comprises the semantical vagueness that is an integral logic of this heuristic.
In the category of the probable, including the evaluative-normative, noncontradiction holds but excluded middle folds. This is to say that our
conceptualizations must be conceptually compatible and their logic consistent. The concepts in play cannot negate each other and make any
sense. They have a certain self-evident character. This is noncontradiction coming to bear. At the same time, we are in a probabilistic mode, so
excluded middle folds, which is to suggest that we cannot know, a priori, which of this range of conceptualizations (let's say, frequencies, types
and degrees of emergent properties) will present in reality.
In the category of the actual, including the descriptive, both noncontradiction and excluded middle hold. This is the arena of reality where we
encounter brute facts and the one most intuitive to most people, who have not, ordinarily, prescinded from the modal category of necessary to
In the category of the possible, including the interpretive, noncontradiction folds but excluded middle holds. This is the arena of reality that lies
a tad beyond our grasp and mutually exclusive propositions, which are conceptually incompatible and logically mutually exclusive, remain live
options. This is the folding of noncontradiction. At the same time, excluded middle holds as we know that one or the other paradigms must be
true; they cannot both be true. An aesthetic teleology, for example, such a paradigm as experiences reality as an arena of pervasive
intentionality, as takes an intentional stance writ large and not as a minimalist heuristic device (Dennett), is a live option, but it and a so-called
self-evident nihilism cannot both be true. One or the other may be falsified or verified, as Hick might say, eschatologically.
What is operating beneath the surface of both our ontological and semantical vagueness is precisely the biosemiotic heuristic I have described
elsewhere, which can be thought of as the interplay between deduction (re: the probable and necessary), induction (re: the actual) and
abduction (re: the possible). What undergirds our strategy of semantical vagueness is the triadic semiotic logic. It is a dynamical system. Implicit
in the vagueness, both ontological and semantical, is the open-ended, plastic nature of our biosemiotic heuristics, which are easily contrasted
with our closed-ended, fixed, biosemiotic algorithms. Strict logic has yielded to fuzzy logic, the latter being adaptively significant for a symbolic
species operating in an arena of pervasive contingency.
Human knowledge thus advances inexorably but ever so fallibly. But there can be no question that our grasps of reality are getting tighter and
tighter and that our competing tautologies are getting ever more taut as they alternate between conjecture and criticism through both self- and
mutual critique. All of this is to suggest that epistemology is epistemology is epistemology and that the reason there is no regnant moral relativism
is that, at some level, we are all reading off the same sheet of music even as we seem to be singing in different keys. Some choir voices,
however different, sound harmonious, others rather discordant. Through time, though, humanity will get progressively more symphonic, or, will go
the way of the dinosaurs.
Critique of Religious Naturalism (see Varieties of RN)
In Goodenough’s Sacred Depths of Nature (2000 Oxford Univ Press), page xvi, concepts like a) culture-independent, globally accepted consensus
and b) our scientific account, to me, do not seem to refer. They sound more like legitimate aspirations than laudable achievements. Further,
there is a mix of theoretical (evolution and Big Bang) and hypothetical (origin of life & advent of human consciousness) concepts that do refer but
differ radically in their degrees of explanatory adequacy. We do not, therefore, in my view, seem to be to the point of attainment of the story,
the one story, that could get us to a shared worldview with a global tradition.
Even the emergentist perspective remains only a heuristic device, not robustly explanatory; it provides us with more successful referents, is how
it's value is cashed out, even as successful descriptions continue to elude us. Finally, MANY of us DO agree on the high probabilities of certain
accounts (regarding both the origin of life and the advent of human consciousness) but are not otherwise in agreement, paradigmatically or
interpretively, regarding reality's brute facts. The emergentist perspective, itself, does not refer to one set of brute facts versus another. In fact,
it would seem to implicitly give one pause in any rush to closure regarding the nature of initial conditions and boundary conditions insofar as
novelty abounds and even laws themselves seem to evolve making reductionistic accounts problematic, almost in principle, vis a vis emergentism.
Thus, we might bracket [initial] and characterize our references to same as provisional and contextual. For instance, one might say, as we near
T=0, or might say, in the deepest structures of matter, to distinguish between contexts. One might refer to the Copenhagen or Bohm
interpretation to describe one's provisional closure. So, too, with philosophy of mind issues and approaches to the so-called hard problem.
In many of their joint writings, Goodenough & Deacon consider the emergentist perspective and the shared moral sensibilities of humankind. That's
a story outline we all can share even as many pages are left to be written. Those emergent sensibilities (aesthetical, ethical and epistemic) are
necessary for one to be fully human, whatever one's interpretive stance. As their associated cognitive-affective juxtapositions ripple over our
soma, flooding our synapses, the neurotransmitter fluid levels are sufficient to drown some in ecstasy. Emergentism thus describes what is
necessary for all, necessary and sufficient for a few, but doesn't quite get to sufficient for most, it seems.
As we employ our strategies of ontological and semantical vagueness and triadic semiotic logic, inviting the robust interplay of abductive,
inductive and deductive inference, accounting for the possible, actual and probable, we can aspire to consensus on the answer: "What must I
do?", but it is too early on humankind's journey to foreclose on the interpretive possibilities regarding the answer: "What can I hope for?". For
most, it is clear, that nature is not enough. And that is a descriptive not a prescriptive statement. There are competing accounts (variously
conflicting and overlapping) that proffer an answer to "What can I hope for?" and they are variously compelling and have some probabilistic
status. Reasonable people of large intelligence and profound goodwill can reasonably differ in their interpretations of reality. In this sense, then,
the nontheistic cohort of religious naturalism would not be characterized by such as a militant atheism but would more resemble the reverent
silence of some types of Buddhism regarding certain aspects of reality and any theistic cohort would be characterized by more subtle
conceptualizations of deity, for example, a highly nuanced and rigorously predicated panentheism, and not at all by the more fundamentalistic and
fideistic approaches that are all too regnant in many parts of world (including the US).
Socially & Culturally, then - or secularly
Orthopraxis authenticates orthodoxy through the successful institutionalization of affective (beauty & aesthetical), sociopolitical (community & unitive),
intellectual (truth and noetical), and moral (goodness and ethical) conversions (secular). People celebrate beauty through the arts and humanities
endeavors, enjoy community through civic & social organizations and political & governmental institutions, articulate truth through academic institutions
and media communications and preserve goodness through legal & justice systems and military institutions.
Religious Conversion - reality as an arena of pervasive intentionality
Religious conversion, another second/third order or meta-level evaluative heuristic, transvalues these secular conversions such that orthopathos
mediates between orthocommunio and orthodoxy to inform orthopraxis. The great traditions reinforce and realize these values through cult,
community, creed and code, which, respectively, celebrate beauty, enjoy unity, articulate truth and preserve goodness.
Some nontheistic naturalists, called religious naturalists, affirm a deep overlap between their moral sensibilities and evaluative impulses and those of
existing ethical and religious traditions (Ursula Goodenough). Some prefer an irenic engagement of liberal religion, while working actively against
fundamentalists (Michael Ruse). Others recognize the need for myth, aesthetically pleasing deceptions and noble lies to fend off a resurgent and selfevident nihilism (Loyal Rue). Some are active and outspoken against religion (Dawkins & Dennett).
What about philosophy of mind?
What about Philosophy of Mind?
Preliminarily, my particular account, above, is somewhat derived from Terry Deacon's work. Such hypotheses remain highly speculative and not at all
uncontroversial. Phenomenologically, I think it is fair to suggest that we can refer to these distinct biosemiotic realities in terms of function but that our
understanding is woefully inadequate in terms of structure and evolution, too, especially once considering how distributed linguistic functions seem to be
in the brain. We must not confuse successful referencing of these biosemiotic functions with successful description of their distributed structures and
pretend that we have thereby attained explanatory adequacy for the hard problem.
So, let me be very clear, my project of describing this biosemiotic heuristic is AGNOSTIC to philosophy of mind issues and neurophysiology, too, for that
matter. My emergentist perspective and biosemiotic perspective and peircean perspective provide a combined heuristic that can help us keep our
categories tidy and enhance our ability to make successful references to biosemiotic realities. This should enhance our modeling power for reality. It does
not matter whether one otherwise prefers the approach of the Churchlands, Chalmers, Dennett, Deacon, Penrose, Ayn Rand, Searle or anyone else. I use
Deacon to explicate my heuristic, not to propagandize my provisional closures re: philosophy of mind. Deacon impresses me greatly.
So, what might be going on?
This may be something of a peircean minding of matter and mattering of mind. As a heuristic, it's somewhat agnostic to prevailing philosophy of mind
perspectives. I enjoy reading some of that stuff but don't invest much in one view or the other, remaining mostly agnostic. If I had to offer my sneaking
suspicions, well ... let's see where that goes ...
It is not always easy to specify the relationships between the concepts we employ to refer to our biosemiotic heuristic propositions and our biosemiotic
algorithmic phenomena, the former being language-dependent and public, the latter referring to ineffable and private experiences. It is even difficult to
clearly specify which of our heuristic practices, all propositional, are doxastic versus subdoxastic. There is something that phenomenal knowledge and
subdoxastic propositional knowledge have in common; where both are concerned: We know more than we can say. But they should not otherwise be
confused for one is highly symbolic and language-dependent and the other language-independent. The language-dependent, subdoxastic propositional
knowledge can come into conscious awareness and we can learn to speak about such and more clearly specify it.
What type of mutation-generated changes in nondoxastic practices and structures, common to humans and animals, encountered what kind of selection
pressures to produce adaptively significant quasi-doxastic and subdoxastic and doxastic structures and practices unique to Homo sapiens? To the extent
language function is associated with anatomically new areas of the brain, phylogenetically speaking, we can implicate some brain structure changes
(remembering that language function is distributed). What practices, like imitation or aping, for example, involving animal signals and communication, could
have been available to selection pressures and both culturally and adaptively significant? By what quantum leap did evolution take the apes from the
phenomenal to the propositional and inferential?
Our inferential and propositional and symbolic biosemiotic heuristics allow us to model reality. We might look to those aspects of reality that we are
unable to model in terms of “knowing more than we can say,” which, as we noted, consists of both phenomenal knowledge and subdoxastic propositional
knowledge. We might ask how we make the leap between the subdoxastic and the doxastic, learning how to talk about what we previously experienced
in less than full conscious awareness, learning how to model at least one part of our internal milieu, which had previously eluded our symbolic grasp. I’d
suppose the simple answer is that we likely gather more symbols and learn from serious self-reflection and self-critique (employing our inferential triad)
and from exposure to others’ ideas regarding same, whether in dialogue or through reading and study.
But this does not speak at all to why it is we cannot seem to successfully model our phenomenal knowledge and cannot successfully communicate it to
others, language-independent as it is. We can make the analytical observation and voice the reason tautologically: We cannot talk about it because it is
language-independent. We cannot model it because it is symbol-independent. But neuroscience can gift us with enough synthetic knowledge to infer that
the more phylogenetically primitive brain areas are not involved in the distributive language function. That information is just not presented to our
propositional biosemiotic heuristic.
Still, what do the apes lack, even in part, regarding their internal and external milieus and what do we possess regarding our internal milieu, that allows
us to successfully relate our symbolic manipulations to one another through language, gifting one another with our inferential output, for better and
worse, forming and deforming and reforming and transforming our paradigms, socially and culturally?
Obviously, the apes must lack symbols for both their internal and external milieus. And, as we mentioned previously, they also lack our new brain areas.
When it comes to that part of our own internal milieu that is language-independent, it seems that we lack more than symbols. We cannot model our own
non-symbolic internal milieu because our model would lack the stomach that does the aching is all. We’d need to rig up another stomach in vitro and
attach it to our brain stem in order to fully model a stomachache, even if we did have symbolic facilities and connections to and from our more
phylogenetically primitive brain areas.
The question still begs as to how selection pressures interacted with which specific behaviors, however rudimentary. We got something new,
propositional, biosemiotic heuristics, from nothing but phenomenal, biosemiotic algorithms.
Maybe a Siamese Twinned ape developed two pairs of furrowed brows every time it got a stomach ache and two pairs of furrowed brows and a couple of
winces every time it got constipated and symbolic communication was born as the two ape heads gazed knowingly into one another’s eyes, thus bridging
the phenomenal-propositional chasm, crossing the epistemological Rubicon. And although this bridge was not subject to selection pressure regarding the
internal milieu of animals, the symbolic communication regarding the external milieu (re: each other’s facial expressions) was the rudimentary prototype of
inferential facility and, once it was aped throughout their society, language born as constipated apes not only furrowed their brows and winced, but also
let out loud moans. [I'm sorry. It is really late and this took me all day to write. But this should have heuristic value even if no humor.]
In all seriousness, if brain structure differences (between us and higher primates, but see Caveat below) are pretty darned clear, how big a leap is it to
think behavioral differences (necessarily or probably) were not far behind, adaptively significant to this day, perhaps, assuming we don’t use the
phylogenetically new-found facility toward the end of effecting a nuclear holocaust, prior to the near-inevitable ecological whimper. No need for ghosts. No
talk of machines. Google Terry Deacon and use Dennett as a foil to tease out the differences, mostly nuanced, between their accounts. Baldwinian
evolution suggests an account where downward causation can be effective but without violating physical causal closure. I think the Peircean semiotic
realism is a much more robust account and that nuance matters greatly.
We have come, full circle:
Biosemiotic heuristics X (Environment X Biosemiotic Algorithms) --> Behavior
Propositional Knowledge X (Environment X Phenomenal Knowledge) --> Behavior
The philosophic mediates between the paradigmatic and positivistic to inform praxis.
Per Deacon: Surface morphology and underlying brain functions are not directly correlated in most cases. If we project at least minimal symbolic capacity
back to more recent, phylogenetically-related primates, increased brain size and language acquisition may be as much effects of language-acquisition as
Grene & Depew address the complex interaction and mutual feedback among a whole variety of factors in the relatively sudden emergence of language.
Complexity is good to keep in mind re: genes, memes, symbols, language, coevolution. They must not be wrenched from their context in the whole and
swollen to madness in their isolation (to reapply CS Lewis). Or, from Wittgenstein: One might almost say that these foundation-walls are carried by the
whole house. (So much for skyhooks. So much for cranes.)
To equate cognition only with algorithmic or rule-governed computation is the computational fallacy. It is what it is in humans only in relationship to
pragmatic and semiotic realities.
See: What Does Meaning Mean in PhilForums
See: Skinnerian Neuromythology: Consciousness Explained in PhilForums
To characterize genes as active agents or selfish or purposeful is an unhelpful shorthand. They gain their significance only in the context of the same
dynamical semiotic and pragmatic realities. (Dawkins didn’t literally misconceive this, himself).
To equate memes only with replicators, as if they were analogous to parasites, is to isolate them outside of the dynamical semiotic and pragmatic realities
that they should presuppose and is the memetic fallacy. (Dawkins did commit this fallacy.)
See: The trouble with memes (and what to do about it) by Deacon
The same is true for human inferential heuristics. They are irreducibly triadic -- abduction, induction and deduction, each presupposing the other in the
overall context of the same dynamical semiotic and pragmatic realities.
None of these considerations conclude anything “ontological” about “the mind.” However, the inference to the best explanation is probably naturalistic
and wouldn’t require the introduction of new primitives to space, time, matter and energy (like consciousness, for instance). But I could be wrong. And
that is okay. I'm a fallibilist.
Bias for Methodological Naturalism?
We do well to look for our lost keys underneath the lamp post, for there is little hope of finding them in the dark. For
some of us, that does not, at the same time, suggest that we have a priori decided where those keys may or may not
Abduction of the Reality of the Ens Necessarium & Its Modal Ontological Proof
Peirce's rejection of the notion that firstness and secondness could robustly account for the world as we know it, in my view, marks his retreat into ontological
and semantical vagueness. To describe reality in terms of alternating pattern and paradox, chance and necessity, order and chaos, random and systematic,
does seem rather question begging.
It is also true that, nowhere, do we observe necessity in reality; necessity everywhere eludes us. It is equally true that human kind cannot avoid the inference
of the necessary; necessity everywhere suggests itself. Like Polanyi's tacit dimension, necessity may be closer to us than we are to ourselves.
It is at this juncture that humankind's Abduction of the Reality of the Ens Necessarium emerges and that the Peircean triadic semiotic straddles the