The Universalia of Anthropology


Burkert and MacMullen

Biological Opprobrium and Sociorrational Constructs


Defiance of Physical-spatial Reality

A somatosensory self: The Theoretical Accommodation of Biological Opprobrium in Damasio





Burkert and MacMullen

Walter Burkert, Creation of the Sacred. Tracks of Biology in Early Religions, 1996

Ramsay MacMullen, Feelings in History. Ancient and Modern, 2003



Pars pro toto (Burkert)


“Life for life” (Burkert)


The Core of the Tale (the Quest) (Burkert)

The Initiation Tale: The Maiden´s Tragedy (Burkert)


Defiance of Geography (Implied in Burkert inferred by me!)


Hierarchy and the Awareness of Rank (Burkert)

Rituals of submission (impression of submission)

Strategy of praise

Submission to sovereignty

Two-tiered power

The Envoy


Assignation of cause to effects (Burkert) [fisorrationalimposition]

Designation of guilt

Explanatory biological models (fetters, Wrath, Pollution)


The use of the nonobvious as power ploy [and physio-semiotic atrezzo](Burkert)


Gift giving and the principal of reciprocity (Burkert)


Signs with which we construe cosmos of meaning which would seem to reaffirm god or how human beings use religion. (Burkert)[So how to explain absence of more formal use of “god” in more nomadic cultures: recourse to physical movement itself, which becomes possibly a form of resource which agriculture man does not have]





Indignation-anger:(MacMullen) [the universalia of anthropology because they are the emotional pillars of the structure of human groups understood as something like a geometry in time, involving physio-corporeal singularity in collective circumstances of human need, versus the onslaught of the natural world and spatial reality.]


Deviance (Inferred from MacMullen)

[as the natural state and condition of needing the socially rational. And deviance also accounts structurally for physio-corporeal singularity; that is to say, all physical-physiological singularity is, from the standpoint of the group and its sociorrational functionality, a form of deviance; idiosyncrasy of individual that is, nevertheless, the source and sustenance of the opprobrium construct of sociorrationality and its permanent reconstitution in human-group time.]




Biological Opprobrium and Sociorrational Constructs in Bourdieu and Canetti



From Bourdieu,Distinction. A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste (1984)

Originally published in 1979 as La Distinction: Critique sociale du jugement.



…The sense of limits implies forgetting the limits. One of the most im­portant effects of the correspondence between real divisions and practical principles of division, between social structures and mental structures, is undoubtedly the fact that primary experience of the social world is that of doxa, an adherence to relations of order which, because they structure inseparably both the real world and the thought world, are accepted as self-evident. Primary perception of the social world, far from being a sim­ple mechanical reflection, is always an act of cognition involving princi­ples of construction that are external to the constructed object grasped in its immediacy; but at the same time it is an act of miscognition, implying the most absolute form of recognition of the social order. Dominated agents, who assess the value of their position and their characteristics by applying a system of schemes of perception and appreciation which is the embodiment of the objective laws whereby their value is objectively con­stituted, tend to attribute to themselves what the distribution attributes to them, refusing what they are refused ( ‘That’s not for the likes of us’ ) , adjusting their expectations to their chances, defining themselves as the established order defines them, reproducing in their verdict on them­selves the verdict the economy pronounces on them, in a word, con­demning themselves to what is in any case their lot…



…so­cial necessity made second nature, turned into muscular patterns and bodily automatisms. Everything takes place as if the social conditionings linked to a social condition tended to inscribe the relation to the social world in a lasting, generalized relation to one’s own body, a way of bear­ing one’s body, presenting it to others, moving it, making space for it, which gives the body its social physiognomy. Bodily hexis, a basic di­mension of the sense of social orientation, is a practical way of experienc­ing and expressing one’s own sense of social value. One’s relationship to the social world and to one’s proper place in it is never more clearly ex­pressed than in the space and time one feels entitled to take from others; more precisely, in the space one claims with one’s body in physical space, through a bearing and gestures that are self-assured or reserved, expansive or constricted ( ‘presence’ or ‘insignificance’ ) and with one’s speech in time, through the interaction time one appropriates and the self-assured or aggressive, careless or unconscious way one appropriates it.12




 Elias Canetti, Crowds and Power.Continuum Publishing Corp., NY, 1981.

Published originally in German, in 1960.



…In the crowd the individual feels that he is transcending the limits of his own person. He has a sense of relief, for the distances are removed which used to throw him back on himself and shut him in. With the lifting of these burdens of distance he feels free; his freedom is the crossing of these boundaries….


The limits are his identity in a socially structural sense; but of course, anthropological group structure limits him exactly because there is more to him than only what the structural will see standardized—in fact, the very socially (or culturally) standardized part of him is crypticallybased itself on this other, bodily singular and vulnerable side to be subject to a collectively structural order of the mind, finally, as a specifically culturalform of rationality. Thus the culturally rational is functionally a form of containment of the other singularly body side, and so could not be in itself except for the force of challenge brought to it by the individual’s deeper physiological and physical entity. But the culturally-posited rationalis rational in its character of being commonly, collectively understood by all group members, above and beyond the only exclusively individual circumstances of bodily, physiological and individual physiologically rationalexperience; and so naturally there will be spheres of personal experience that are in fact not readily understood by the standard group-wide mode of knowingand even self-comprehension. That is to say, anthropology must to some extent alienate part of the individual’s bodily reality—through opprobrium mechanisms of culturally rational construct—to ensure group entity and cohesion, because human groups survive in their anthropology throughthe lives of individuals and in the very circumstances of individual mortality. It is thus against the constriction of the cultural self, in the sense here described, that the individual lives constantly in some form of opposition to, and that culturally structural stability is ultimately based on. Consequently, it can be no surprise that part of the individual, if incited and duly stimulated, would seek to follow through suddenly to the very end in regards to a tension she already permanently lives in, anyway, and under the boot of a particular anthropological order that is the force of her very culturally individual and subjectivity.

The existence of a rational subject is possible because of the anthropological subjection of a particular human group she is dependent on; her rational understanding is thus in this way a product of and key element to that process of geographic and culturally specific definition: anthropological subjection of the individual is the imposition of a group and culturally defined mode of individuality, human physiologically rationalpersonality then relates to on her own terms, so to speak, and to the extent that his possible. Thus, the necessary standardization of individual physiological response human groups require—to whatever degree and in whatever particular way—comes about through the conflict individual, physiologically rational personality brings to the group; the group, in this way is thus itself very much dependent on the individual for its own structural invigoration and state of being structurally alive and relevant.


The violence of the crowd in this context, then, is really the violence inherent to not being of the group in the very obvious way one cannot physically be something else—that is the very violence inherent to individuality itself that anthropologically can only be a collective individuality, and only cryptically buttressed by the deeper vital force of the bodily singular person. And so if it is the group that thus makes the individual structurally what she is, but at the expense of her own physical experience—or at least her understanding of it—the context of a group that has outgrown and destroyed the former group, is a form of individuality cut lose from its structural bearing—cut loose, in a sense from its self in its very structural mooring and identity, and so probably could not be anything else but euphorically violent, or also logically deeply terrified.






“Many of these footprints were in large numbers close together and, just be looking quietly at them, men, who themselves originally lived in small hordes, were made aware of the contrast between their own numbers and the enourmous numbers of some animal herds. They were always hungry and on the watch for game; and the more there was the better for them. But they also wanted to be more themselves. Man’s feeling for his own increase was always strong and is certainly not to be understood only as his urge for self-propagation. Man wanted to be more, then and there; the large numbers of the herd which they hunted blended in their feelings with their own numbers which they wished to be large…”


Before man was able to read himself into his divinities(Bruno Snell), he read himself into what he saw in the world around him, especially in the animated figures of living animals; and the first step towards the exo-self understanding of his own entity and being, might well be posited first in his observation of the animals, as a direct way of knowing himself in what he sees he is not. But quite quickly, however, he would find himself obstructed from further development of his own self-understanding in the very foil and exo-self object he was relating to, in its obvious limitations that become an impossibility to a further knowing of himself; and so because such a greater, superior foil to which he could physio-totemically relate to was not available, he had to posit it himself, utilizing the unknown as in fact his canvass on which to paint what he could in regards to logical notions of something obviously quite superior to himself (for what else could explain his presence among the animals, but miserably alone in his superiority over them?) And so because from the animals—and nature itself—he got no answer, nor even a significantly purposed and intelligent response at all, he found himself in the need to create something superior to himself, not really in his own image, but rather in better and enhanced image of himself, so that historically and in terms of cultural evolution, he could actually become that superior being, or at least partially and to whom he initially related only totemically out of his own physiologically rational need to transcend in fact his own physiological experience (what is rationality in a cultural sense but a contrast to and containment—a transcending—of the physiological?) as a pillar of social order, of course, but perhaps also a form of relief from the repetition, redundancy and entrapment that is his only physiological substance of experience. Thus is the idea of transcendence, from this standpoint, a form of integration and embrace of the different components of the self (cultural, physical/physiological, and physiologically rational) that is the resource of meaning and its adscription specifically to the physiological, and that could be understood as a ‘saving of man from his physiological self’—by in fact imposing ultimately on him a conceptual understanding of himself, and to whatever degree of empirical accuracy (that does not necessarily have to be at all, but rather only anthropologically effective!)

And it is agriculture that would seem to propel human beings down the road of physiological transcendence (i.e. ‘into to a culturally-posited rationality and semiotics’), and at least certainly as an outlet for the very impetus of humanity’s own physiological nature that, in the contexts of sedentary experience proper, inexorably had to fictionalize itself through man’s hypostatization of his own physio-semiotic projection; through no other means, in fact, could sedentary human groups keep themselves together.





“The minds of the faithful are full of such images of invisible crowds. Whether these are the dead, or devils, or saints, they are imagined as large, concentrated hosts. It could be argued that religions begin with these invisible crowds. They may be differently grouped, and in each faith a different balance between them has developed. It would be both possible and fruitful to classify religions according to the way in which they manipulate their invisible crowds. Here the higher religions—by which I mean all those which have attained universal validity—exhibit a superior degree of certainty and clarity. These invisible hosts are kept alive by religious teaching. They are the life-blood of faith. The hopes and desire of men cling to them. When they fade, faith weakens and, whilst it dies slowly away, fresh hosts come to take the place of the faded.”


Because the individual must exist against a group; and so it is that I can only be as an individual in my own physical entity against even my own group (that is of course the only way I can really belong), but also must other groups oppose me (and surely at times my own group) so that I may existin that very opposition to what I know I am not; and the existence of those groups will I posit my self, if they are not readily available to my perception—and it is in exactly that which cannot be openly contradicted where I am in fact free to posit forces of existentially dialectic opposition to my myself, that is the only means by which I can in fact know what I am (once again and always in what I see/know I am not)


Avatars and modes of exo-self foils of human superiority:a warrior foil; a teacher and custodian foil;a love-hero foil…And always to these singular figures will some form of group also be associated, because what is ultimately the singular individual—whether real or in representational form—but a mode herself of relating in some way to a group?And in regards finally to divinities, it is obvious the group dialectically bound to the supreme divinities of human anthropology are none other than the living group itself who exist conceptuallythemselves in their physiologically totemic, physiologically rational union with it. How, then, could such divinities not be understood themselves as really cryptic models of human individuality itself, or at least a proposal of living tension and ordertowards that model?Divinities are both—and at times simultaneously—imitated and opposed, as really our own foundations of the conceptual as of the human subject conceptually awareof self. Thus, physiologically rational awareness of self becomes a culturally conceptual awareness and understandingof self.




“Everyone who falls by the way acts as a spur to the others. Fate has overtaken himand exempted them. He is a sacrifice offered to danger. However important he may have been to some of them as a companion in flight, by falling he becomes important to all of them. The sight of him gives new strength to the weary; he has proved weaker than they are; the danger was aimed at him and not at them. The isolation in which he remains behind, and in which they still see him for a short time, heightens for them the value of theirbeing together. Anyone who falls has thus an incalculable importance for the cohesion of the flight.”


Culture allows for collective physiological possibility in sedentary contexts: A semiotic architecture in which people live in physiological projection of themselves, becomes in this sense the trappings of the anthropologicaland the robes of civilization; another metaphor is the architectural canopy, rooftop and vault. The ideas and ideals human groups physio-totemically relate to become the structurally viable engagement of their very individual physiological entity, and are thus the sedentary equivalent to flight itself as direct, physical movement; but physiologically semiotic ideals are also effectively the antithesis of a nakedmisery and poverty of the strictly physical that is covered anthropologically in the cryptic quality of culture and its architecture of the physiologically realand fictional.












Stewart Elliot Guthrie, Faces in the Clouds: A New Theory of Religion, Oxford University Press, 1993



“…the standard views of anthropomorphism, as we saw above, claim just the opposite: that anthropomorphism is oddly irrational and is based in confusion in wishful thinking, or in both. Once we see that anthropomorphism results from our most powerful model, we can see that we are bound to engage in it everywhere, not only inevitably but also reasonably. We can see that human traits such as symbolism might be anywhere and that the universe mightbe linguistic. Once we decide a perception is anthropomorphic, reason requires that we correct it; but that decision can come only in hindsight, when we have a different interpretation of some phenomenon we had thought humanlike.”




“Anthropomorphism, like other products of cognition, results not so much from a desire to find any particular pattern as from our more general need to find whatever pattern is most important. The most important pattern in most contexts is that with the highest organization. The highest organization we know is that of human thought and action. Therefore we typically scan the world with humanlike models.Scanning the world with humanlike models, we frequently suppose we find what we are looking for where in fact it does not exist.This is more apparent when we are most aware of ambiguities *a sound in the night, a shadow in our path, an unexpected death); but such cases are not aberrant. All perception is interpretive and all interpretation follows a pattern: we look first for what matters most.”




“Anthropomorphism as Perception”

“Nothing is so important to us as other humans. Because we are preoccupied with each other, we are sensitive to any possible human presence and have tolerant standards for detecting it. Most unconsciously, we fit the world first with diverse human like templates.1 Our preoccupation with human prototype guides perception in daily life.We attend to what fits the humanlike templates and temporarily ignore what does not.Sounds, shapes, and smells thus first evoke humans and we mistake mailboxes, signposts, and saplings for people. Evidence of anthropomorphism in perception, and reasons for it, come from:


-artificial intelligence,

-from psychoanalysis,

-from experimental, clinical, and developmental psychology,

-from ethnography.”




“However, as anthropomorphism is chased form one realm in springs up in another. If we no longer see the sun and moon as persons, we hear intelligent signals form space2. Unmasking instances of anthropomorphism, if we think this desirable (and most do), is like stamping out patches of a bigger fire because anthropomorphism stems form an effort broader than itself. Moreover, it is recognizable only in retrospect.”




-[paraphrased] Konrad Lorenz walking in a forest with his dog when they saw, in a distant clearing, an old man seated on a log. According to Lorenz, the dog clearly expected a social encounter; but when they came closer, the old man turned out to be a stump.




“However, since we also see faces in mountains, clouds, and automobiles, the ability to see faces in degraded or rudimentary images is not just a sensitivity to actual faces. Rather, it is a predisposition to see faces whether they are there or not.Our models of faces—whether acquired or innate—are powerful for good reason: “no other object in the visual world is quite so important to us”.56Consequently, face and other human schemata emerge early. Throughout life, they cause us to find human features everywhere we look.”




“That models of humans do take priority in perception also gets support from the projective tests of clinical psychologists. People largely interpret Rorschach ink blots, for example, as images of persons or parts of persons. Such interpretations predominate by age three, increase steadily for eight years, and remain predominant by age three, increase steadily for eight years, and remain predominant throughout life.73Interpretations of blots as certain nonhuman animals such as bats and butterflies are next in frequency.74These are followed by other animals and distantly by plants and inanimate objects. A recent cross-cultural study suggests that this predominance of humans in inkblot interpretations is universal.”75



“Animism and artificialism, which in Piaget’s usage together amount to anthropomorphism, thus are both spontaneous and pervasive in early childhood. They slowly diminish through childhood and, by early adolescence, children’s views approximate those of adults.”



“Piaget also underestimates the persistence of artificialism and the depth of its source. He appears to be correct in saying that children’s early experiences of their parents as a social world and of themselves as physical, manipulative agents, are principal sources of their human like models. However, he does not acknowledge, except in brief references to religion, that these models continue broadly into adult life. Their persistence suggests that something more sustains them than immature confusion…. What gives rise to them and sustains them, in my view, is the perceptual strategy described earlier, which has good reason to persist. An illusion—or failed or erroneous interpretation—does not necessarily mean that the perceptual guess leading to it is irrational.91 Apart form finding adults similar to children and emphazising strategy rather than confusion, however, my view does not conflict with Piaget’s. Rather, it builds on his description of the child’s world and on his location of the sources of anthropomorphic models in the experience of self and of others.”




“Even this brief ethnographic survey shows that people around the world see virtually everything, at one time or another, as significantly humanlike. One might object that concerns other than perception motivate some of the texts reported. One might argue, for instance, that anthropomorphism is not perceptual but conceptual, that it is a representation or secondary elaboration, and that it is motivated by aims other than simply seeing what is. To sustain this objection, however, one would have to draw a line between percepts and concepts. Such a line cannot be drawn because perception already is interpretation. It is a choice of one possibility from many, since sense data define nothing in particular. Perception draws data together with a template, a process already conceptual and representational. Hence the percept/concept distinction collapses. Even if such a distinction could be made, anthropomorphism would range across both sides of it….The pervasive anthropomorphism indicated by ethnography and folk literature doubtless has the same perceptual roots as that indicated y psychology. The research reviewed suggests these roots run deep. Work in artificial intelligence shows once more that perception is interpretation and that the highest-level interpretations are the most powerful and guide perception. Object-relations psychoanalysts and attachment theorists say we search innately for persons and for social relationships. Developmental psychologists show that children and even infants interpret phenomena as humanlike, as caused by humans, or both. Clinical and experimental psychologists, and ethnographers, show that adults do so as well. In sum, the research shows that a generalized anthropomorphism is spontaneous and primitive in children and persists in adults.”



“As with animism in art, one might object that anthropomorphism in art differs from naïve anthropomorphism in that it is calculated to exploit some tendency in its audience. Thus it is intentional and contrived, not spontaneous. However, although artists certainly calculate and manipulate, their representations still originate in the same unconscious perceptual process as in other people. As with animism, artists often deliberately use anthropomorphism, but first they experience it.”


Fantastic argument in favor of conceptual-theoretical use of “semiotics” or intersubjectivity; because it is the sensorial physiology that is in fact the underlying universal, here in question, and that which later is curtailed, limited and strategized by real human groups through time and in the particularsocio-rationalitythey come to be dependent on their own collective integrity (whether actually physical and/or physio-opprobically totemic).








Defiance of Physical-Spatial Reality



“Nietzche on Truth and Lying” in Friedrich Nietzsche on Rehtoric and Language. Oxford Univ. Press, 1989

(…)The intellect, as a means of preserving the individual, develops its main powers in dissimulation; for this is the means by which the weaker, less robust individuals survive, since in the struggle for existence they are denied the horns and the sharp teeth of beasts of prey.

This art of dissimulation reaches its peak in man; here deception, flattery, lying and cheating, slander, false pretenses, living on borrowed glory, masquerading, conventions of concealment, playacting before others and before oneself, in sum, the constant fluttering about the flame of vanity, is so much the rule and the law that almost nothing is more incomprehensible than how an honest and pure desire for truth could arise among men. They are deeply immersed in delusions and phantasmagoria; their eye merely glides around the surface of things and sees “forms”; their perception leads nowhere tothe truth, but is satisfied with receiving stimuli and, as it were, playing a groping game on the back of things(…)For what doesman really know about himself! If only he could ever see himselfperfectly, as if displayed in an illuminated showcase! Does not naturekeep nearly everything secret from him, even about his own body,in order to hold him fast under the spell of a proud, delusionary consciousness, unmindful of the windings of his entrails, the swift flowof his bloodstream, the intricate quiverings of his tissues! She threw away the key; and woe to the fateful curiosity that ever succeeded in peering through a crack out of the room of consciousness and downward, suddenly realizing that man is based on a lack of mercy, insatiable greed, murder, on the indifference that stems from ignorance, as it were clinging to a tiger’s back in dreams. Given this state of affairs, where in the world does the desire for truth originate?




Overlooking the individual and the real gives us the concept, just as it also gives us the form, whereas nature knows no forms and concepts, hence also no species, but only an x that is inaccessible and indefinable for us. For even our distinction between individual and

species is anthropomorphic and does not stem from the essence of things, although we also do not dare to say that it does not correspond to it. For that would be a dogmatic assertion, and as such just as unprovable as its opposite. What is truth? a mobile army of metaphors, metonyms, anthropomorphisms, in short, a sum of human relations which were poetically and rhetorically heightened, transferred, and adorned, and after long use seem solid, canonical, and binding to a nation. Truths are illusions about which it has been forgotten that they are illusions, worn-out metaphors without sensory impact, coins which have lost their image and now can be used only as metal, and no longer ascoins. We still do not know where the desire for truth originates; for until now we have heard only of the obligation which society, in order to exist, imposes: to be truthful, i.e., to use the customary metaphors, or in moral terms, the obligation to lie according to an established convention, to lie collectively in a style that is mandatory form everyone. Now, of course, man forgets that this is his situation; so he lies in the designated manner unconsciously and according to centuries-old habits— and precisely by this unconsciousness, by this forgetting, he arrives at his sense of truth. The sense of being obliged to call one thing “red,” another “cold,” a third one “mute,” gives rise to a moral feeling with respect to truth. By contrast with the liar,whom no one trusts, whom all ostracize, man proves for himself the honorableness, the familiarity, the usefulness of truth. As a “rational” being, he now puts his actions under the rule of abstractions; he no longer lets himself be carried away by sudden impressions, by intuitions; he first universalizes these impressions into less colorful, cooler concept’s, in order to hitch the wagon of his life and actions to them. Everything that sets man off from the animal depends upon this capacity to dilute the concrete metaphors into a schema; for in the realm of such schemata, something is possible that might never succeed under the intuited first impressions: to build up a pyramidal order according to castes and classes, a new world of laws, privileges,subordinations, boundary determinations, which now stands opposite the other, concrete world of primary impressions, as the more solid, more universal, more familiar, more human, and therefore as the regulatory and imperative world. Whereas any intuitive metaphor is individual and unique and therefore always eludes any commentary, the great structure of concepts displays the rigid regularity of a Roman columbarium and has an aura of that severity and coldness typical of mathematics. Whoever feels the breath of that coldness will scarcely believe that even the concept, bony and cube-shaped like a die, and equally rotatable, is just what is left over as the residue of a metaphor, and that the illusion of the artistic transference of a nerve stimulus into images is, if not the mother, then the grandmother, of any concept. Within this dice game of concepts, however, “truth” means: to use each die as designated, count its spots accurately, forming the correct labels, and never violating the caste system and sequence of rank classifications. As the Romans and Etruscans carved up the sky into rigid mathematical sectors and assigned a god to each delimited space as in a temple, so every nation has such a mathematically divided conceptual sky above it and understands by the demand for truth that each conceptual god must be sought only in his own sphere. In this respect man can probably be admired as a mighty architectural genius who succeeds in buildingan infinitely complicated conceptual cathedral on foundations that move like flowing water; of course, in order to anchor itself to such a foundation, the building must be light as gossamer—delicate enough to be earned along by the wave, yet strong enough not to be blown apart by the wind. As an architectural genius, man excels the bee; for it builds out of wax which it collects from nature, while man builds out of the much more delicate material of the concepts, which he must fabricate out of his own self. In this respect he is quite admirable, but not because of his desire for truth, for pure knowledge of things. If someone hides an object behind a bush, then seeks and finds it there, that seeking and finding is not very laudable: but that is the way it is with the seeking and finding of “truth” within the rational sphere. If I define the mammal and then after examining a camel declare, “See, a mammal,” a truth is brought to light, but it is of limited value. I mean, it is anthropomorphic through and through and contains not a single point that would be “true in itself,” real, and universally valid, apart from man. The investigator into such truths is basically seeking just the metamorphosis of the world into man; he is struggling to understand the world as a human-like thing and acquires at best a feeling of assimilation. Just as the astrologer observes the stars in the service of men and in connection with their joys and sorrows, so such an investigator observes the whole world as linked with man; as the infinitely refracted echo of a primeval sound, man; as the reproduction and copy of an archetype, man. His procedure is to hold man up as the measure of all things, but his point of departure is the error of believing that he has these things before him as pure objects. He thus forgets that the original intuitive metaphors are indeed metaphors and takes them for the things themselves. Only by forgetting that primitive metaphor-world, only by the hardening and rigidification of the mass of images that originally gushed forth as hot magma out of the primeval faculty of human fantasy, only by the invincible belief that this sun, this window, this table is a truth-in-itself, in short, only insofar as man forgets himself as a subject, indeed as an artistically creative subject, does he live with some calm, security, and consistency. If he could even for onemoment escape from the prison walls of this belief, then his high opinion of himself would be dashed immediately. Even this costs him effort: to admit to himself that the insect or the bird perceives a completely different world than man does, and that the question which of the two world-perceptions is more right is a completely senseless one, since it could be decided only by the criterion of the right perception, i.e., by a standard which does not exist. Basically the right perception — that would mean the adequate expression of an object in the subject— seems to me to be a self-contradictory absurdity. For between two absolutely different spheres such as subject and object, there can be no expression, but at most an aesthetic stance, I mean an allusive transference, a stammering translation into a completely foreign medium. For this, however, in any case a freely fictionalizing and freely inventive middle sphere and middle faculty is necessary. The word “appearance” contains many seductions; and so I avoid it as much as possible. For it is not true that the essence of things appears in the empirical world. A painter who had lost his hands and sought to express the picture he envisaged by means ofsong, would still reveal more by this exchange of spheres than the empirical world reveals of the essence of things. Even the relation of a nerve stimulus to the produced picture is intrinsically not a necessary one; but when the same image has been produced millions oftimes and has been passed down through many generations of men, indeed ultimately appearing to all mankind as the result of the same occasion, in the end it has for man the same significance as if it were the only necessary image and as if that relationship of the originalnerve stimulus to the produced image were a strictly causal relation and judged as reality. But the hardening and solidification of a metaphor is not at all a guarantee of the necessity and exclusive justification of this metaphor. (…)

Part II (Complete)

Language, as we saw, and later science, works at the structure of concepts. As the bee simultaneously builds the cells and fills them with honey, so science works incessantly at the great columbarium of the concepts, the sepulcher of intuition, forever constructing new

and ever higher levels, buttressing, cleaning, renovating old cells, and striving especially to fill this enormous towering edifice and to arrange the whole empirical, i.e., anthropomorphic, world in it. If even the man of action binds his life to reason and its concepts in order not to be swept away by the current and to lose himself, the researcher builds his hut right next to the towering structure of science in order to help with it and to find shelter himself under the

existing fortification. And he does need shelter; for there are terrible powers which constantly press upon him, and which run counter to scientific truth with truths of quite another kind and under a different aegis.


As long as it can deceive without harm, the intellect, that master of deception, is free and released from its usual servile tasks, and that is when it celebrates its Saturnalia; never is it more luxuriant, richer, prouder, more skillful and bold. With creative nonchalance it scrambles the metaphors and shifts the boundary-stones of abstraction, so that, e.g., it calls the river a moving road that carries man to where he otherwise walks. Otherwise busy with melancholy business, it has now cast off the mark of subservience in order to show a poor devil who is avid

for life the path and the means of attaining it. And like a servant whose master is setting out on a campaign seeking booty and plunder, it has now become the master and can wipe the look of povertyfrom its features. Which it now does. Compared with its former activities, everything contains dissimulation, just as the former life contained distortion. It copies human life, taking it for a good thing, and seems quite satisfied with it. That enormous structure of beams and boards of the concepts, to which the poor man clings for dear life, is for the liberated intellect just a scaffolding and plaything for his boldest artifices. And when he smashes it apart, scattering it, and then ironically puts it together again, joining the most remote and

separating what is closest, he reveals that he does not need the emergency aid of poverty, and that he is now guided not by concepts but by intuitions.From these intuitions no regular road leads to the land of ghostly schemata, of abstractions. The word is not made for theseintuitions; man falls silent when he sees them, or he speaks in sheer forbidden metaphors and unheard of conceptual compounds, in order at least by smashing and scorning the old conceptual barricades to correspond creatively to the impressions of the mighty present intuition.


There are ages in which the rational man and the intuitive man stand side by side, one in fear of intuition, the other with mockery for abstraction; the latter being just as unreasonable as the former is unartistic. Both desire to master life; the one by managing to meet his main needs with foresight, prudence, reliability; the other, as an “overjoyous” hero, by not seeing those needs and considering only life, disguised as illusion and beauty, to be real. Where once the intuitive man, as in more ancient Greece, bore his weapons more powerfully and victoriously than his adversary, in favorable cases a culture can form and the domination of art over life be established. That dissimulation, that denial of poverty, that splendor of metaphorical

intuitions and, in general, that immediacy of delusion accompanies all manifestations of such a life. Neither the house, nor the stride, nor the clothing, nor the clay jug betray the fact that need invented them; they seem intended to express an exalted happiness and an Olympian serenity and, as it were, a playing with serious matters. While the man guided by concepts and abstractions merely wards off misfortune by means of them, without extracting happiness for himself from them as he seeks the greatest freedom from pain, the intuitive man, standing in the midst of culture, in addition to warding off harm, reaps from his intuitions a continuously streaming clarification, cheerfulness, redemption. Of course, he suffers more violently when he does suffer; indeed, he also suffers more often,because he does not know how to learn from experience and he falls again and again into the same pit into which he fell before. He is then

just as unreasonable in sorrow as in happiness; he cries out loudly and cannot be consoled. How differently stands the stoic person who has learned from experience and controls himself by reason! He who otherwise seeks only honesty, truth, freedom from delusions, and protection from enthralling seizures, now, in misfortune, produces a masterpiece of dissimulation, as the former did in happiness; he does not wear a quivering and mobile human face but, as it were, a mask with dignified harmony of features, he does not scream and does not even raise his voice. When a real storm cloud pours down upon him, he wraps himself in his overcoat and walks away under the rain with slow strides.





Albert Borgman,Holding on to Reality: The Nature of Information at the Turn of the Millennium.University of Chicago Press, 1999



“Natural information pivots on natural signs—clouds, smoke, tracks. Cultural information centers on conventional signs—letters and texts, lines and graphs, notes and scores. There is of course something like human culture before there is CULTURAL INFORMATION in the sense I use the words, and something like natural information remains pervasive and important after cultural information has arrived on the scene1. In the middle of Manhattan, darkening skies and sudden gusts alert you to a thunderstorm. The Empire State Building can help you to orient yourself. People gathering at an intersection indicate an unusual event. Still, the rise of cultural information marks the beginning of a new relation between humanity and reality. Human culture lay lightly or narrowly on nature until the vehicles of cultural information became available and aided in the moral and material transformation of the human condition, a development that has reached a crescendo since the industrial revolution.”



“Though all of reality is structured all the way down, most of it is not structured all the way up. The microscopic structures of physics and chemistry are rarely compounded into ordinary things according to rules as elegant as those of the natural sciences. And the value of summary scientific information such as the weight of a person or the height of a building is limited. There is, then, an information gap between the structural information that is uncovered by scientific analysis and measurement and the contingent information about the expressive faces and eloquent voices of people and things. The gap is large and contains everything in space and time that is unremarkable and irregular. How can we obtain information about that?”


Rationality exists because it needs toexist; because human groups require it in order to homogenize singularly physical-sensory experience of individuals. Because sensory stimulus is in itself a perpetual need from the standpoint of the individual to be rational, human groups become necessarily dependent on external stimulus to reinforce the living cohesion of the group in its opprobically-based, socio-rationality. The act of physiologically rational imposition, however, is in itself a problem because it requires a new equilibrium of not knowing, of new contexts of sensory stimulus that once again need to be sociorationally decoded. All rational contexts, then, are externally reinforced –exist in opposition to- broader contexts of the ambiguous, necessarily so that rationality can continue to exist in its very need to exist. INFERENCE individuals are vulnerable to boredom, and so continuously need—look for—stimulus as evolutionary pathway to their on social self (or at least to the physiological substance of experience that constitutes that self). And 2), greater levels of intergroup aggression are possible—and important historically to achieve—provided the mechanisms of control over individual physiology are more elaborate so as not to jeopardize group integrity and cohesion. That is to say: a more elaborate group (or cultural) paradigm of individuality based on opprobic relevance and intra group obligation for the individual, capacitates the group to achieve–and to control–greater heights of explosive aggression against intergroup competitors.




“As it turns out, information can be produced by structure imposed as well as by structure revealed or eloquence conveyed. Eventually the extraction of information from reality by means of structural devices not only covered the information gap but became a universal instrument that enhanced science, overtook art, and has come to capture everything. The imposition of structure began gradually by fixing measures for distances. Such measures were taken from the ways humans touch and experience reality—hence the span, the hand, the foot, the moon, the day, and the hour. From there further measures developed, such as the distance one can walk in a certain time. And eventually measures were reconciled with one another, twelve inches to the foot, three to the yard, five and a half yards to the rod, three hundred and twenty rods to the mile… Linear measures, however, are a weak impostion on reality and produce limited information. The archetypal instrument for the extraction of information from reality is the grid. For theorists it is a powerful metaphor to illuminate the production of information. Talking about a person´s ability to carve the world into the individual things (to “individuate” them) that constitute the objects of information, Keith Devlin explains: “Picture the agent´s individuation mechanisms as consisting of a family of grids through which the agent can ‘view’ an otherwise indiscernible world.”





-musical notes





“But a clock, indifferent enough to rocking and sufficiently impervious to change of temperature to keep accurate time at sea, was not available until 1759 when John Harrision finished his magnificent chronometer no. 4.16…Yet Harrison´s breakthrough encountered massive resistance in the face of an alternative solution—the lunar distance method. What endeared the latter to scientists and sailors was its traditional cast and the intimacy with astronomy and mathematics it required. An accurate determination of the moon´s position in relation to the stars plus extensive calculations could yield an accurate location of longitude.18In comparison, as Dava Sobel has it, “the device of Harrions´s had all the complexity of the longitude problem already hardwired into its works. The user didn´t have to master math or astronomy or gain experience to make it go. Something unseemly attended the sea clock, in the eyes of scientists and celestial navigators. Something facile. Something flukish.”19Here is an early example of how the progress of information technology yields information more instantaneously and easily while at the same time it disengages us from reality and diminishes our expertise, the latter being assumed by the machinery of a device. It is an example too of how sound and helpful such a device can be. Its underlying pattern, moreover, has proven a powerful tendency, and even the chief advocate of the lunar distance method could not escape it.”




“The divergence of actual reality and virtual reality has introduced a new kind of ambiguity into contemporary culture. Traditionally, ambiguity has implied a corrective norm—clarity. Ambiguity has been an indication of imperfection. The symbolic ambiguity of texts, scores, or plans is resolved through realization, through an enlargement or enrichment of reality that is instructed by cultural information. Real ambiguity is resolved through engagement with an existing reality, with the wilderness we are disagreed about, the urban life we are unsure of, or the people we do not understand. In either case, the resolution of ambiguity leads to clarity—the splendor of reality….In virtual reality too, resolution is high and engagement intense. Vividness and interactivity are the terms of art that define these features. But it is characteristic of virtual reality that as resolution and engagement grow, do does ambiguity.That detachment from reality and ambiguity of information must rise together is clear for the technical sense of ambiguity in information theory.”



“While structure provides the drainage for the flow of information, contingency is its wellspring. If the universe entire had a crystalline structure, there would be little to find out and report about it. But as it is, reality addresses and sometimes assaults us in unpredictable ways. Our sense for the force of reality has hardened, however. We tend to think of reality chiefly as material that is ours to shape. Contemporary thought, in particular, has little regard for the expressions of reality. Still, contingency is the one concession thoughtful theorists make to the eloquence of the world…Yet the tendency of mainstream thought is to reduce the component of givenness and sheer present to randomness and meaninglessnees.2Contingency, however, is inherently meaningful and so makes significant information possible. Contingency comes to us as misfortune or good luck as disaster or relief, as misery or grace. Only when contingency is artificially confined or refined is there something like strict randomness.”



“But overall, and emphatically so in the realm of leisure and consumption, technology in the narrow engineering sense and technology in the broad cultural sense have converged to obviate powerfull skills and habits of realizing information. Engineering technology has increased our control over information to the point where information has assumed a distinctly new and powerful shape. Technnoloy as a way of taking up with reality has put the power of technological information in the service of radical disburdenment. At the limit, virtual reality take up with the contingency of thw world by avoiding it altogether. The computer, when it harbors virtual reality, is no longer a machine that helps us to cope with the world by making a beneficial difference in reality; it makes all the difference and liberates us from actual reality….”




“Similarly, virtual reality provides no information about the world out there and is in this regard totally ambiguous. At the same time, it is or aspires to be richly and engagingly informative within. The characteristic ambiguity of virtual reality reflects the amalgamation of the sense of wealth that results from the resolution of symbolic and real ambiguity with the sense of unencumbered freedom that registers the disburdenment from reality. We can call it virtual ambiguity…. The virtual elationthat is the companion ofvirtual ambiguityobviously contrasts with our experience of reality. Unfettered freedom has always been accessible to human beings in imagination. But flights of fancy have low resolution and little bodily engagement compared with virtual reality. Discontinuous regions of reality too have been created long ago. The builders of baroque and rococo churches had ceilings open up onto the celestial space and sculptures suffused with supernatural light. Yet churches and theaters had unequivocal and even prominent moorings in actual space, and they would command attention rather than invite manipulation.15Thus both fantasy and spectacle used to defer to the authority of the real world. ”



“Within virtual reality, commanding presence takes the form of personal intelligence. The latter is borrowed form actual reality—as of now, one is inclined to add.One might consider it a mere technological imperfection that intelligence needs to be imported into virtual reality and threatens to contaminate and spoil its glamour. But any intelligence that is truly virtual and known to be ambiguous in the virtual sense ceases to be engaging. We lose interest in a creature that is sealed off from the pleasures and pains of ordinary reality. Whatever the artificially intelligent voice tells us about happiness or misery is untested, unwarranted, and merely mimicked”.22



“…The human body with all its heaviness and fraility marks the origin of the coordinate space we inhabit. Just as in taking the mesarue of the universe this original point of our existence is unsurpassable, so in venturing beyond reality the standpoint of our body remains the inescapable pivot….Much of MUD life takes place in this region where the veil of virtual ambiguity has expanded into a fog that opens up onto the glamour of virtuality on the one side and the hardness of reality on the other. Much time is spent traveling back and forth between the borders of a space you may traverse but cannot settle….”



“The ambiguity of cyberspace dissolves the contours of facts, of persons, and of places. Speculation and rumor shade over into factual claims….It takes venality or complicity on our part for persons and things to remain veilded in some shade of ambiguity. Among the antidotes to the blandishments of cyberspace are skepticism and a sense of humor.34


Context is moral; moral is possibility of meaning; meaning is only ultimately meaningful if it engages us; moral engagement is the most powerful form of physiological engagement we are capable of experiencing… Because natural information is at the heart of our physical, physiocoropreal experience, and is in itself of a moral nature because of the how we perceive (in regards to our vulnerable and exposed, single, physical being); thus all perception is, in certain sense, in relation to where we stand physically with regards to what we are seeing: and it is in exactly this sense that a mechanism of moral titillation can arise with at times truly cathartic effects (much the way in fact journalistic accounts—either written, photographic or film footage—work  as a living force of sensorial precariousness for the beholder, but most engagingly in regards to other human beings, which is, of course, a reversed way of looking at the potential consequences for ourselves, individually, and all that really matters in a collective sense).




A somatosensory self: The Theoretical Accommodation of Biological Opprobrium in Damasio

Antonio R. Damasio, The Feeling of what Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness, 1995.



…Survival depends on finding and incorporating sources of energy and on preventing all sorts of situations which threaten the integrity of living tissues….But on their own, without the guidance of images, actions would not take us far. Good actions need the company of good images. Images allow us to choose among repertoires of previously available patterns of action and optimize the delivery of the chosen action—we can, more or less deliberately, more or less automatically, review mentally the images which represent different options of action, different scenarios, different outcomes of action. We can pick and choose the most appropriate and reject the bad ones. Images also allow us to invent new actions to be applied to novel situations and to construct plans for future actions—the ability to transform and combine images of actions and scenarios is the wellspring of creativity.

If actions are at the root of survival and if their power is tied to the availability of guiding images, it follows that a device capable of maximizing the effective manipulation of images in the service of the interests of a particular organism would have given enormous advantages to the organisms that possessed the device and would probably have prevailed in evolution. Consciousness is precisely such a device.




Pg.,28. Sometimes we use our minds not to discover facts but to hide them. We use part of the mind as a screen to prevent another part of it from sensing what goes on elsewhere. The screening is not necessarily intentional—we are not deliberate obfuscators all of the time—but deliberate or not, the screen does hide.

One of the things the screen hides most effectively is the body, our own body, by which I mean the ins of it, its interiors. Like a veil thrown over the skin to secure its modesty, but not too well, the screen partially removes from the mind the inner states of the body, those that constitute the flow of life as it wanders in the journey of each day.

The alleged vagueness, elusiveness, and intangibility of emotions and feelings is probably a symptom of this fact, an indication of how we cover the representation of our bodies, of how much mental imagery based on nonbody objects and events masks the reality of the body. Sometimes we use our minds to hide a part of our beings from another part of our beings.

-The origin of the self, although it is elusive, can be sensed as the origin of the construct we call self in the representation of individual life.


Pg.30   I suggest that the highly constrained ebb and flow of internal organism states, which is innately controlled by the brain and continuously signaled in the brain, constitutes the backdrop for the mind, and, more specifically, the foundation for the elusive entity we designate as self. I also suggest that those internal states—which occur naturally along a range whose poles are pain and pleasure, and are caused be either internal or external objects and events—become unwitting nonverbal signifiers of the goodness or badness of situations relative to the organism’s inherent set of values. I suspect that in earlier stages of evolution these states—including all those we classify as emotions—were entirely unknown to the organisms producing them. The states were regulatory and that was enough; they produced some advantageous actions, internally or externally, or they assisted indirectly the production of such actions by making them more propitious. But the organisms carrying out these complicated operations knew nothing of the existence of those operations and actions since they did not even know, in the proper sense of the word, of their own existence as individuals….


Consciousness begins when brains acquire the power, the simple power I must add, of telling a story without words, the story that there is life ticking away in an organism, and that the states of the living organism, within body bounds, are continuously being altered by encounters with objects or events in its environment, or, for that matter, by thoughts and by internal adjustments of the life process. Consciousness emerges when the primordial story—the story of an object causally changing the state of the body—can be told using the universal nonverbal vocabulary of body signals.



…The word somatosensory, as its etymological derivation appropriately implies, describes the sensing of the soma, which is Creek for “body.” (…) what most often comes to mind upon hearing the words somatic or somatosensory is the idea of touch or the idea of muscle and joint sensation. As it turns out, however, the somatosensory system relates to far more than that and is actually not one single system at all. It is a combination of several subsystems, each of which conveys signals to the brain about the state of very different aspects of the body. It is apparent that these different signaling systems surfaced at different points in evolution. They use different machinery in terms of the nerve fibers that carry the signals from the body to the central nervous system, and they are also different in the number, type, and position of the central nervous system relays onto which they map their signals. In fact, one aspect of somatosensory signaling does not use neurons at all but rather chemical substances available in the bloodstream. In spite of these distinctions, the varied aspects of somatosensory signaling work in parallel and in fine cooperation to produce, at multiple levels of the central nervous system, from the spinal cord and brain stem to the cerebral cortices, myriad maps of the multidimensional aspects of the body state at any given moment.



The internal milieu and visceral division is in charge of sensing changes in the chemical environment of cells throughout the body. The term interoceptivedescribes those sensing operations generically. One aspect of these signals dispenses with nerve fibers and pathways altogether. Chemicals flowing in the bloodstream are sensed by nuclei of neurons in some regions of the brain stem, hypothalamus, and telencephalon. If the concertation of the chemical is within the permissible range, nothing happens. If the concentration is too high or too low, the neurons respond—they initiate a variety of actions aimed at achieving a correction of the imbalance. For instance, they can make you calm or make you jittery, they can make you feel hungry or wish to have sex, which is all fascinating, of course, but the point is that the signals create, moment by moment, multiple maps of the internal milieu, as many as the dimensions of our interior that can be measured with this peculiar method, and there are many such dimensions…



The Neural Self

The sense of self, in either core or autobiographical versions, is unlikely to have been the original variety of the phenomenon. I propose that the sense of self has a preconscious biological precedent, the proto-self, and that the earliest and simplest manifestations of self emerge when the mechanism which generates core consciousness operates on that nonconscious precursor.

The proto self is a coherent collection of neural patterns which map, moment by moment, the state of the physical structure of the organism in its many dimensions. This ceaselessly maintained first-order collection of neural patterns occurs not in one brain place but in many, at a multiplicity of levels, from the brain stem to the cerebral cortex, in structures that are interconnected by neural pathways. These structures are intimately involved in the process of regulating the state of the organism. The operations of acting on the organism and of sensing the state of the organism are closely tied. The proto-self is not to be confused wth the rich sense of self on which our current knowing is centered this very moment. We are not conscious of the proto-self. Language is not part of the structure of the proto-self. The proto-self has no powers of perception and holds no knowledge.11

…The proto-self does not occur in one place only, and it emerges dynamically and continuously out of multifarious interacting signals that span varied orders of the nervous system. Besides, the proto-self is not an interpreter of anything it is reference point in which it its.



Now that we know how the brain can put together the neural patterns that represent an object, and the neural patterns that represent an individual organism, we are ready to consider the mechanisms that the brain may use to represent the relationship between the object and the organism—the causal action of the object on the organism and the resulting possession of the object by the organism.



The Birth of Consciousness

…We being with a first trick. The trick consists of constructing an account of what happens within the organism when the organism interacts with an object, be it actually perceived or recalled, be it within body boundaries (e.g., pain) or outside of them (e.g., a landscape). This account is simple narrative without words. It does have characters (the organism, the object). It unfolds in time. And it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. The beginning corresponds to the initial state of the organism. The middle is the arrival of the object. The end is made up of reactions that result in a modified state of the organism.

We become conscious, then, when our organism internally construct and internally exhibit a specific kind of wordless knowledge—that our organism has been changed by an object—and when such occurs along the salient internal exhibit of an object. The simplest form in which this knowledge emerges is the feeling of knowing, and the enigma before us is summed up in the following question: By what sleight of hand is such knowledge gathered, and why does the knowledge first arise in the form of feeling?

The specific answer I deduced is presented in the following hypothesis: core consciousness occurs when the brain´s representation devices generate an imaged, nonverbal account of how the organism’s own state is affected by the organism‘s processing of an object, and when this process enhances the image of the causative object, thus placing it saliently in a spatial and temporal context.The hypothesis outlines two component mechanisms: the generation of the imaged nonverbal account of the object-organism relationship—which is the source of the sense of self in the act of knowing—and the enhancement of the images of an object. As far as the sense-of-self component is concerned, the hypothesis is grounded on the following premises:


  1. Consciousness depends on the internal construction and exhibition of new knowledge concerning an interaction between that organism and an object.
  2. The organism, as a unit, is mapped in the organism‘s brain, within structures that regulate the organism‘s life and signal its internal states continuously; the object is also mapped within the brain, in the sensory and motor structures activated by the interaction of the organism with the object; both organism and object are mapped as neural patterns, in first-order maps; all of these neural patterns can become images.
  3. The sensorimotor maps pertaining to the object cause changes in the maps pertaining to the organism.
  4. The changes described in 3 can be re-represented in yet other maps (second-order maps) which thus represent the relationship of object and organism.
  5. The neural patterns transiently formed in second-order maps can become mental images, no less so than the neural patterns in first-order maps.
  6. Because the body-related nature of both organism maps and second-order maps, the mental images that describe the relationship are feelings.



As far as the brain is concerned, the organism in the hypothesis is represented by the proto-self. The key aspects of organism addressed in the account are those I indicated as provided in the proto-self: the state of the internal milieu, viscera, vestibular system, and musculosketal frame. The account describes the relationship between the changing proto-self and the sensorimotor maps of the object that causes those changes. In short: As the brain forms images of an object—such as a face, a melody, a toothache, the memory of an event—and as the images of the objectaffect the state of the organism, yet another level of brain structures creates a swift nonverbal account of the events that are taking place in the varied brain regions activated as a consequence of the object-organism interaction. The mapping of the object-related consequences occurs in first order neural maps representing proto-self and object; the account of the causal relationship between object and organism can only be captured in second-order neural maps. Looking back, with the license of metaphor, one might say that the swift, second-order nonverbal account narrates a story: that of the organism caught in the act of representing its own changing state as it goes about representing something else. But the astonishing fact is that the knowable entity of the catcher has just been created in the narrative of the catching process.

This plot is incessantly repeated for every object the brain represents, and it does not matter whether the object is present and interacting with the organism or is being brought back from past memory. It also makes no difference what the object really is. In healthy individuals, as long as the brain is awake, the machines of image making and consciousness are “on,” and we are not manipulating our mental state by doing something like mediation, it is not possible to run out of “actual” objects or ”thought” objects, and it is thus not possible to run out of the abundant commodity called core consciousness….



…The wordless narrative I propose is based on neural patterns which become images, images being the same fundamental currency in which the description of the consciousness-causing object is also carried out. Most importantly, the images that constitute the narrative are incorporated in the stream of thoughts. The images in the consciousness narrative flow like shadows along with the images of the object for which they are providing an unwitting, unsolicited comment. To come back to the metaphor of movie-in-the-brain, they are within the movie. There is no external spectator.2


…The process which generates the first component—the imaged nonverbal account of the relationship between object and organism—has two clear consequences. Once consequence, already presented, is the subtle image of knowing, the feeling essence of our sense of self: the other is the enhancement of the image of the causative object, dominates core consciousness. Attention is driven to focus on an object and the result is saliency of the images of that object in mind. The object is set outfrom the less-fortunate objects—selected as a particular occasion in both the Jamesian and Whiteheadian senses. It becomes fact, following the preceding events which lead to its becoming, and it is part of a relationship with the organism to which all this is happening.


The transition, in the flow of physiosensory experience, from the proto-self to the core self cannot be conceived anthropologically as solely an individual experience; otherwise the existence of human groups would not seem to be logically justified from Damasio‘s standpoint of neurological analysis. And it would be at exactly this point of transition that a biological force within the individual that makes feeling itself a matter of inexorable, collective gravitas, could be posited; and it would seem that homogenization of this transition, to some degree -but never completely- from the physiology of perception to individual, physical identity (however transitory), presents an extrinsic quality that is also contained in Damasio‘s understanding of the core self, that is, as a kind of ghost that disappears-from the standpoint of consciousness and if we think about it- in the tissue of our brain and nervous system. And perhaps, then, it should be exactly this quality of nebulousness as to the origin of our feelings that is orppobically appropriated by, more than just the individual, the group its self in a tensed geometry of stimulus, decisive action, and collective permanence at all costs, versus the natural world. Because it would seem that existence of human groups must also be explained from an individual, neurological standpoint, given the deep and intense anthropomorphic tendencies of human cognition, cognition that would seem to place the group at the real center of everything, despite the apparent world of individually singular, physical bodies.

A Human Group Geometry

Intra-group, genetic variation FEEDS sensory stimulus + Invigoration;

SS+I PRIMES NEED FOR the socio-rational.

Sensory and physio-conceptual ambiguity also PRIMES NEED FOR AND SO REINFORCES the socio-rational.

Aggression PRIMES GREATER NEED FOR the socio-rational;

Groups end up controlling to some extent their physio-sensory, physio-aesthetic experience BECAUSE NECESSITATES ONCE AGAIN the socio-rational as exercise in their being who they are.

Genetic intra-group variation and difference of personality create conflict and contingency THAT FEEDS NECESSITY OF the socio-rational.

Development of greater paradigm of socio-individuality CAN ACCOMMODATE greater levels of explosive aggression, because individuality (and in its necessary degree of homogenization) from structural standpoint is definition, management and control of physiological substance of group, through time.

More aggression necessitates more developed rationality towards permanece of group, in time; and so inversely, higher rational development (as structural security), allows for greater degree of controlled but explosive aggression towards group-external and inter-group reality.

Greater aggression as group survival resource LEADS TO structural necessity of greater socio-rational paradigm of individuality;

Maintenance of such an original, identitary tension , through time and during lulls in violence, is found in general through sensory stimulus, and especially mild forms of basically permanent intra-group conflict and excitement, probably gleaned and especially possible as of genetic, intra-group variation among individuals and individual personality.



Needed: Reference to Konrad Lorenz and notion that aggression is primitive ingrediente of greater individuality for mammals; as of herd instinct and possible evolution towards pack and group contexts that, to manage aggression, must develop stronger, more elaborate paradigms of individuality the group can then consolidate and structurally protect itself with.

A Culturally Contrived Standardization of Rationality

The numerical sequence 563 could be alternatively represented by, among others, also one of the following forms:





The first three are licit forms of reference to the original numerical sequence in that the sum of their numbers (14) is equivalent to the sum of 5+6+3; the fourth element is equally valid, but in regards to a different parameter of meaning and reference, in the visual circumstances of human perception of the figures 6 and 9, that are perceptible visual equivalents or derivatives one of another, and thus are permanently interchangeable from exclusively the standpoint of visual form and shape, which in this case makes 89—or 98—licitly derived forms of 86;

More importantly, however, is the possibility of the communication of some form of meaning—or reference—through recourse to a commonly understood paradigm of meaning, that is rational because it is referentially paradigmatic, and not just in the fact that reference can indeed be comprehensibly followed; that is to say, it is comprehensible because it structurally envelops both message sender and receiver as an available standardization both can make reference to—as if this invisible-but-culturally-real unity of at least part of all our individual minds, were the true context and very possibility of communication itself.

Is human language, then, only a code?

It is from the standpoint of its different mechanisms of reference, but not in regards to a sphere of the human physiological and physio-sensory it takes place in. Languages are alive—and so more than codes—because physical individuals avail themselves of them towards the creation and reinforcement of their own cultural individuality with regards to the human group they are dependent on and inexorably subject to; to the point that the physical individual becomes a culturally rational individual through the group’s language and—crucially—in the group’s mode of being an individual, as a conceptualization of individuality very much dictated by the group, but in the physical individual’s fury to be by socially belonging.

A code, however, never acquires such a degree of charged tension through the physiological subject’s struggle to be by belonging; and this very much sub rational (sub cultural) predicament is further aggravated by the fact that the physical individual must be in her belonging to the group but never, however, at the expense of her own physical entity—that becomes for her a latently incensed and permanent paradox of complying necessarily through some degree of defiance, for culture universally tends to not only suppress the circumstances of individual, physical and physiological reality, but also ignores them—and thus places an in fact even greater anthropologically structural burden on the physical individual, who effectively has almost no rational means whatsoever of understanding this.

Because the rational itself is a standardization of the group’s making, maintenance and empire, through time.

But if you think about it, human groups only have bodies as a metaphor and analogy, construed and heard repeatedly throughout human history (at least after the appearance of writing), which leaves the bodily physical and physiological individual out in the cold so to speak; and that appears to imply culture remains viable as long as she in fact never comes in.

(Previously published as part of Systemic Interdependencies)

Studies in Rationality




  1. “Other types of rationality”
  2. “Double Bind”
  3. “Irrational Rationality”
  4. Physiological Substance of Experience: Richard Rorty
  5. Standardization & Measurements
  6. Hannah Arendt (inhumanity of truth)
  7. “Two families of objects”: The Sensorial Logic of Cayenne Pepper
  8. Use of ambiguity & the non-apprehensible
  9. “Physiological Origin of Rationality”: Stimulus and perception is cause and effect relationship.



Studies in Rationality

1)Ways of constructing meaning that are not necessarily conceptual:

-Physio-Spatial Adversaries

-“Deep Play” rituals and activities

-Logical Dead Ends

2) Double Bind

Conflict between perception (fisiosensory) and the socio rational; but both are forms of rationality:

  1. (A)Mother: “I love you”  BUT  (B) Child perceives grimace on mother’s face

Thus A is socio rational, socio-symbolic truth; B is physio-corporeal rationality, physio-corporeal truth.

Context throws anthropological self into turmoil because the experiencing of double bind as object of it, imposes something like a third entity on individual that is neither and both-simultaneously- physio-corporeal and socio-rational. It is also the experiencing of a “fight or flight” context, outside of very possibility of linguistic expression. Builds maturity, physio-psychological flexibility of self? (That’s what the say, at any rate)

But could also be the experiencing of a physio-corporeal self that cannot become culturally rational; a physiosensory anguish that is all the more incremented in the experiencing of the impossibility of refuge in a social self (a part of the self here brutally denied in the imposibility of sociorational, semiotic embrace).

3) Irrational Rationality

Rationality undermines the very physio-corporal plane it is itself a product of.


4) Physiological Substance of Perception (before socio-rational decodification)

Richard Rorty and the phenomenological self. But this could be considered a part of the realm of PHYSIO-SPATIAL ADVERSARIES. Human sensory perception is succinctly defined and so universal as of the existence of a living body.


5) Standardization and Measurement

“The Coffee Paradox (2005) Polanyi (The Great Transformation)“a market economy requires a market society” which is to say, economics is always an anthropological event and entity. But fictions are technically logical dead ends in that, because they are taken for granted, they cannot be contradicted and so serve formally to make further logical deductions, although original premise as fiction is in no way empirically true or substantiated.Events and conventions as semiotics:Systemic Interdependence texts (numbers)


6) Hanna Arendt and the inhumanity of truth (Los hombres en tiempos oscuros)

When rationality no longer serves the function of the group (in regards to an underlying and original “socio rationality” within a geometry of human groups on the physical-spatial plane of their one time evolutionary permanence in time), it turns against itself and betrays the source of its own rational essence: it becomes a destructive force that is, in this technical sense, insane.

The functions of self and group integrity are interwoven as a result of our previous evolutionary –surely nomadic–past. If balance in this context is lost, systemic functionality is altered. When a single, imposed rationality (of a technical nature, let’s say) consolidates itself uncontested, finally, by any other element of the group, the overall group has effectively lost the ability to correct itself as group and through the physio-corporeal force of rejection, as in fact is standard in regards to human groups that have not been dominated by a single force of rational imposition. In such contexts, the universal, physiologically sensory nature of moral acceptability (as of the direct experiencing of sensory reality and social connection) is still accessible and cannot easily allow itself to be surpassed in regards to the contemplation of one’s immediate bodily political, bodily social world. For the spectacle of cruel and unjustified violence against others always must be made legitimate (through sundry arguments of political rationalization), but even then must it be limited and often shrouded altogether from the eyes of the general public.

But such spectacles of violence are always poignant for the physio-opprobic individual, as a source of moral invigoration in any case, and the physio-anthropological opportunity, once again, to position herself as indeed a self, caught, so to speak, between the force of opprobrium (exacted by the need to belong to the group) and her own physiologically sensory substance of experience.

Individuality, to the extent that it is not conceived as in fact a product of the group in its own, higher-tiered structural necessities, is thus an illusion when contemplated only through its objectively physical aspects (as such and such a person we might know, and the body we recognize ashim or her). In reality, that personality we are familiar with–that we also can only know through our own, social self–is indeed an avatar produced by, subject to, a structurally superior plane of physiological interaction towards the collective permanence of really the group.

7) Two families of objects: Higher-Tiered technical rationality over and through physio-anthropological aggregates

Explain the physiology and logic of Cayenne Pepper in the treatment of skin infestation by sarcoptes scabiei

Which is very similarly the same exact logic of cleanlinessas of the physiological-sensory experiencing of certain consumer mouthwash(CCM) and its cosmetics of taste and sensation in the human mouth; and as such and to such a forceful degree, we are directly compelled to believe in the technical properties and efficiency both CCM and Cayenne Pepper (in regards to the treatment of skin infection) are said to possess. But most importantly and all we really “know” for sure, is only the physiological-sensory experiencing of them.

What then would be a better–at least deeper–understanding of the relationship, in this case, between our physio-sensory experiencing of what is essentially sensation, and a “rational” understanding of the broader context and meaning of the event?

Define “rational”: in the sense that commonly held beliefs (“wives tales”) suggest to us what is real (as part of the greater “socio-rational”); that is to say, because opprobrium always plays a part in how the individual manages sensory sensation and images, it is no surprise that strong sensory experience should push us in already opprobically rational and established directions, until more empirical observation on our part allows us to discard specific premises–that, for instance, cayenne pepper is effective on human skin against scabies infection (it isn’t but it sure feels like it could be when applied to the skin!).


But, in a certain sense, all rationality can become opprobically constituted and reinforced, if enough social credence is given, although it is surely to be assumed that rationality of a more intellectual nature is in this sense (more) intrinsically rational, and so autonomous to a greater degree and in regards to the biological force of opprobrium in us as anthropological individuals.


CCM is particularly interesting because it incorporates an aura of scientific efficiency –as opposed to a cayenne pepper which smacks of grama”s home remedy; its chemical properties along with its aseptic packaging seem to constitute a sensory gimmick that, in the mind of the sensory subject, partners physiological sensation with something like the scientific power-drive to comfort and progress. 


In only a slightly different realm, the chemistry of potato chips is also carefully crafted towards above all the sensory delight of perceiving subject, who is also, of course, a paying (or potentially paying) customer. And this sensory experiencing of exploding texture and taste in the mouth and according to our tongue’s capacity of sensation, can be juxtaposed with a marketing elements of prestige (versus scorn of, naturally cheaper, frequently generic, brands) so that an opprobic link between physio-sensory experience and price can effectively be established, as a form of indeed rationality which, however, never verges on, nor even approaches, the conceptual at all.


8) Rationality and Ambiguity

In regards to positivist cultural contexts (especially but not exclusively, because all sedentary anthropology participates of this to some degree), the non-apprehensible and that which is beyond the periphery of direct confirmation is of course used to increase ambiguity itself; because immediate physical-spatial experience in the collective order of sedentary groups is necessarily clear and understandable, it becomes also tedious (unbearably so), so that which cannot in fact be understood, ascertained or apprehended, is suddenly valuable as a way of making immediate physical limitation and its tedium bearable.


Because positivist cultural contexts have always, since really the Renaissance and especially the Enlightenment, sought to in fact illuminate and rationally reveal * the underlying order of the world (behind the veil of our sensory perception and experience), the stability of these anthrostructural contexts frequently turns against the very physio-corporeal entity rationality is actually a product of and so is still dependent on. Ambiguity in this case serves itself of the human sensory periphery–like it does in regards to wives tales and particularly scientific (or openly “pseudo-scientific”) conceptualizations–in order to preserve in this manner a necessary sensory precariousness to in fact invigorate cultural rationality by holding on to its very reason for being (that is, its auxiliary support of the collective nature of human groups, simply). Because in the living need for people to be rational, versus the often extraordinarily fantastic confusion, uncertainty, doubt–and hope–regarding what is real, conceivably real, and that which is not, the deeper drama of being in the titillation of a discerning self, can cryptically unfold.


But of course such a physio-sensory titillation is of a less and less directly physical nature, taking place through imagery and symbolic reproduction as ultimately a form of aesthetics; and this general realm of the physiologically sensory that is opprobically/morally relevant for perceiving individual , but not physically–nor politically, nor certainly not judicially–real, arises every time we read a newspaper article, or hear a story connected in some way to the relationship between human beings; every time similarly we see a film–a musical video or photograph–in which individual people relate to each another or their groups through sundry situations of conflict, rivalry and emotion, we exercise once again our socio-rational selves in just our perception of the images and representation of other human beings; images in regards to which we totemically define and position ourselves, enjoying a greater degree of freedom (protected as we are in the intimacy of our bodily senses) from the public, physical world’s repudiation, though not from the physiological, sensory reality and opprobic truth of the emotions we feel surge in us, in reaction to what our eyes perceive.

9.The physiological origen of rationality: The Gap

Rationality exists because it needs to exist; because human groups require it in order to homogenize singularly physical-sensory experience of individuals. Because sensory stimulus is in itself a perpetual need from the standpoint of the individual to be rational, human groups become necessarily dependent on external stimulus to reinforce the living cohesion of the group in its opprobically based, socio-rationality. The act of physiologically rational imposition, however, is in itself a problem because it requires a new equilibrium of not knowing, of new contexts of sensory stimulus that once again need to be sociorationally decoded. All rational contexts, then, are externally reinforced –exist in opposition to- broader contexts of the ambiguous, necessarily so that rationality can continue to exist in its very need to exist. INFERENCE individuals are vulnerable to boredom, and so continuously need—look for—stimulus as evolutionary pathway to their on social self (or at least to the physiological substance of experience that constitutes that self). And 2), greater levels of intergroup aggression are possible—and important historically to achieve—provided the mechanisms of control over individual physiology are more elaborate so as not to jeopardize group integrity and cohesion. That is to say: a more elaborate group (or cultural) paradigm of individuality based on opprobic relevance and intra group obligation for the individual, capacitates the group to achieve–and to control–greater heights of explosive aggression against intergroup competitors.

And yet the individual remains removed and far form her social self, given that the socio rational self is, and always must remain, a physiologically extrinsic self  literally subject to–and even property of–the group and the structural requirements of its own integrity, in time; a collective unicity as in fact product of the multitude and its individual physio-corporeal substance, that only remains effectively functional as long as one side is never allowed to dissolve itself into the other: as long as individual anomie remains among us–or at least its credible insinuation and innuendo–while at the same time being held in check and defined, and so essentially managed in a structural sense, but never, of course, completely nor definitively…



Antonio Damasio, The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making, 1999.