On How to Make Psychology Cultural

An Introduction to Semiotic Ecology with some Comparative Perspectives

I. Overview, combined with II. Subtopics and Diagramemblem30

Syllabus for Lecture, University of Tallinn, April 2003

Alfred Lang
Emeritus Professor of Psychology, University of Bern, Switzerland
info@langpapers.org                      http://www.langpapers.org

This version of the Syllabus lists the topics planned for the 16 sessions in the form of titles with short descriptions and cites the recommended readings. In a later version, key statements, diagrams, further citations, and Questions & Profferences (to at least some of the sections) will be added. The sessions will in principle consist of a lecture phase and a discussion phase, their proportion left flexible.

The objective of the course, in my view, is primordially threefold:

Semiotic Ecology is best understood as a set of conceptual tools suited to describe Evolutive Systems generically and the Human Condition in particular. It “constitutes a basic effort to reconceptualize psychology [and more, AL] through a systematic focus on semiotic processes that are involved in the dynamic relation between the person and the world” (Valsiner 1998:249f.). Primarily a descriptive toolkit it provides for a methodology guiding observation and interpretation and allowing to generate theories on various scales, among others a theory of the evolutive process in general and thereupon founded theories of the cultural evolution in relation to the biotic and the individual evolutions, i.e. of human culturality. SemEco appears to show a number of advantages over traditional epistemological or objectivity and functionality oriented scientific methodology and philosophy. For instance,

it operates on one single, the generic Evolutive Assumption instead of the various presumptions made in the tradition (epistemic and actional subject, person, mind, matter, universals, symbolic representation, error, class logic, etc.) because these notions are in need of explanation rather than being explanatory and failsafe in their use;

 it operates entirely a-dualistically, i.e. it is neither materialistic nor idealistic nor in any other way dependent upon opposing nominal entities of supposedly different essence such as person and world
mind and matter, etc., and it probably avoids admitting any radical break or intrusion such as life into matter/energy or mind into life;
it treats of the biotic, psychic and ecological (natural or cultural) domains not as separate spheres of being but rather provides for a seamless emergence founded in the physico-chemical, cosmic and mineral evolutions and treats them integrally and in their interplay with essentially the same set of concepts to adequately understand their commonalities and differences;
it is taking into account that interaction and transaction among structures in our world is mostlyecological, i.e. in concentric ecosystems differentiating an organism or other central structure from structures affine to it in its umwelt, viz. its species- or group-specific and to some extent individualized environment;
it introduces a pervasive notion of meaning and its operating or semiosis, starting with life and not dependent upon but clarifying notions such as of mind, of person, of cultural group as resulting from semiosic transaction etc.; etc. etc.
it allows for and promotes a methodology that allows people to show their most human capability, namely creating in imagination and in social reality their proper, i.e. cultural environment.
Semiotic Ecology, perhaps, is to supersede the ideal of objectivity –which can have no place in anevolutive system conceived in the perspective of one or many parts of that very system and which has long degenerated into an instrument of power relations –with coordinated perspectivity. Subjectivity is not an inevitable alternative. Likewise, it calls for abandoning an ethic of general principle in favor of an ethic of responsibility for sequels.

So with these concepts and the descriptions and conceptions they permit I hope to give rise to an understanding of the Human Condition in both integrating and differentiated ways that appear impossible when starting with the present-day pertinent sciences and their various and different and in part incompatible founding assumptions. Many of their results, of course, are helpful and indispensable. Semiotic Ecology is a proposal towards reconstructing our self-understanding in bringing together observation controlled conceptual reconstruction of ourselves as conditioned by a world we are a part of and as a presently mighty condition of the further course of that world on planet Earth.

The present Syllabus introduces important selected parts of Semiotic Ecology especially in view of making psychology cultural or for founding an approach to understanding the Human Condition that might best be called Cultural Ecology. For, it treats of humans and their (largely self-generated) environment as units while, as things stand, psychology refutes culture as its central issue yet defends its institutional place against potential rivals.

Day 1 — Introducting Basic Concepts

1. Semiotic Analysis of a Communication Situation I start with a few remarks about my history of dissatisfaction with modern psychology and my motivation to reconstruct the scientific field for understanding the Human Condition. Then, shedding traditional presumptions, I analyze an exemplary everyday situation: The situation “two individuals possibly influencing each other by a communicative process” allows me to describe and analyse generically what really happens in culture and I suggest to use this process as a paradigm for constructively generating what is called culture. Instead of the technical models of communication common in the social sciences (channel, code, intention, error, etc.) a conception of Structure Formation and use both within their environment and within the communicating individuals is advanced.

1.1. A few glances at problems with philosophically and scientifically Understanding Humans.

1.1.1. Looking at the state of the world it is obvious that we know, can make quite a lot, but least we understand ourselves and our relation to the rest of the world. -Human sciences amass lots of data and have created an amazing theory chaos; make use of senseless analogies (such as in transfer of a particular bio-evolutionary theory to societal process and image of man)

- This is no personal critique directed at particular individuals. It’ simply a fact to be remarked. And implying …

1.1.2. Psychology is in Fire-Water-Earth-and-Air state of science -i.e. phenomena and their understanding systematized (analyzed, synthesized) largely in isolation

- a constructive methodology has brought success to mathematics (geometry, algebra), physics (energy forms and transformations, matter-energy relation), chemistry (valencies, quantum physics), parts of biology (genetics)

  1. The Human Condition —— provosional understanding
  2. Short history of my becoming re science of the human condition -Humans part of the world rather than masters — Chinese philo, painter, poets, savants -Dialogic becoming in complex societal interaction — Robert Musils Mann ohne


-Studying psychology (with biology and social science) — Kurt Lewins Field Theore, Dynamic Gestalt Theory

- The ecological perspective reinforces — Jakob von Uexküll’s Umweltlehre

+ Personality, Assessment, Longitudinal Studies, Perception, Motivation, Infant perception/emotion, Time, Umweltpsy (Dwelling, Urban, Things) —

-I cannot really deal with humans as cultural beings who make themselves their Umwelt without giving up or being pushed out of the physical reduction program of academic psychology

- and I do not want to repeat the linguistic reduction program of Dilthey, Spranger, Vygotsky etc. and the Geisteswissenschaften -and I do not want to get trapped in the functional or instrumentalizing thinking the natural scientists and their technical programs of unreflected hectic operation

generally have fallen victim -How to get out of the “crisis of psychology” treated in the 1920 by Spranger, Koffka, Bühler, Vygotsky??? -Late 1980s I read Peirce. And see a way to treat of meaning without presupposing a mind/Geist. This leads to an entirely different generative semiotic.

-Within about a year I can sketch what I call semiotic ecology. So I see my nondualistic program to construct tools to deal with evolutive systems ecologically and semiotically and have to find out whether it holds.

-Then a colleague points me to Herder who has drafted essentially an evolutive cultural psychology a century before Darwin

-John Dewey, (and similarly George Herbert Mead) combining Herder and Peirce has reconstructed philosophy and scientific inquiry in quite similar ways, though not radical enough that it could influence more than a handful of people

  1. Both natural science and “humanities” (Geistes-, or Kulturwissenschaften) are incomplete, divide the world in two halves, each one is incompatible with the other.
    1. Present situation in culture-conscious or -oriented psychology
      1. There exist beside the “mainstram” all over the world quite a number of unhappy psychologists; a couple of groups striving at some alternative
      2. Major movement is several groups basing their developments on Vygotsky, Leontiev & Co.
      3. But, I think, Vygotsky is not way out of the nature-culture blocked dilemma

- Vygotsky in my view is basically an interpretive psychologist, a Geisteswissenschaftler, who has expressed himself, ambivalently in part, often in terms of dialectical materialism, and who has been turned into a quasi-(natural) scientist by his American reception.

1.1.7. What psychologists suggest(ed) psychology to be, and what leads to failure in understanding the human condition, and why:

a Geisteswissenschaft or cultural (humanity) science
a natural science
a social science
  1. Semiotic psychology arose from the insight that we need to overcome and that is to dissolve (not to solve) the dilemma of the mechanistic vs. the idealistic / mental / spiritual. Therefore it’s a radical approach. Semeco cannot be mixed with either of “the two cultures” because they are both similarly .
  2. My Motivation to develop Alternative Perspectives
  1. I have not made that program in advance. It has developed its proper dynamics, this is clearly only looking back.
  2. Early on I was thinking ecologically -the Chinese -Lewin Kurt -Uexküll Jakob von -Brunswik -Gibson ?
  3. With insight into several sciences and philosophy history it became more an more clear that they missed largely evolutive basics
  4. But I for long did not know how to deal with meaning. It was obvious, but the mental way, semiotics as interpretation of signs by a mind, was no solution. Until I got to understand Peirce more thouroughly. Herder and Dewey and Mead then strongly reinforced my ways of understanding.
  5. Around 1990 I have drafted the whole set of concepts allowing for a different approach. It’s not itself a theory, it allows for creating theories and it guides inquiry.
  6. Diagram: "Dialogic" Communication (semiotic-ecologically conceived):

1.3.1. Familiar Situation: A is (attempting) to get something into B (so that B does differently than without), perhaps to influence B -you do that all the time

- leave out the question of intent, it may or may not be aware to you; you may easily fell victim to presuming, supposing

  1. Looking on whats going on from outside, using our inside to enrich with inferences, checking various variants to get at the essential
  2. Extro: Structure formation in the world -in a way assessible to the other
  3. Two Conditions: 1) state of Sender and 2) means to express, eg facially, posturally, manipulably, verbally, -what do you do when you want to get something from or into somebody and she does not respond showing sign of agreement or other? — you probably repeat or express

yourself differently, to reach more or less the same -You change yourself by this process, there is some ongoing within

1.3.5. Various Time scales: Horizons. -activity -action

-operation -physiologically: neuronally, humorally

  1. B needs to attend, to perceive
  2. Can it perceive A’s intent? Certainly only infer
  3. There is freedom in B’s entering
  4. Again two conditions: Presence of changed world, selection of that and working it up in some way

1.3.10. The result is neither the world-part, nor A’s intent, but something possibly

referring to A’s intent -perhaps also attending to ways A communicates

1.4. Communication: Chain of A’s ExtrO- and B’s IntrO-Semiosis with common Presentant/Referent.

  1. Systematize: two triads of structures, one environmental element ‘common’ to both, the four other in pairs common to A or to B
  2. Idea of structures: what we can discern or infer and possibly recognize because it can nearly replicate, it has usually some properties to make it distinguishable.

- examples: written stuff, what is called a sign

1.4.3. It can be a process. Structure-process is a relative distinction

- examples: organism, procedure. gestuire, flow of words of speech, face static and expressive

  1. Some Comparative Contrasts (CC): Channel, Code, etc. vs. Structure Formation and interpretation.
  2. Understanding Humans necessitates Understanding Humans together with their Umwelt (= specific and individual Environment).
  1. Look at two people understanding each other very well: partnership
  2. Isn’t it necessary to see the world in similar ways and at the same time to have differences to talk about
  3. Building up a sub-world common to both, the common environment
  4. Environment (as seen from a third perspective) and Umwelt (one’s own ways)
  5. Introducing Triadic Generative Semiosis Obviously these structures formed have their effects through their meaning rather than through their physical properties. Communication is a Semiosic process building upon the Meaning based Relations between structures referencing to other (systems of) structures. Following Peirce we can conceive of the basic building block as triadic Transaction or Generative Semiosis whereby two Semions transact to generate a third (or transform, modify, actualize, demise one or both of them). This fits my introductory example of the psycho-cultural interplay and complies with my basic

Evolutive Assumption that whatever we can discern or infer is resulting from interaction of extant structures.

2.1. The Unsolved problem of the Meaning of Meaning: what could Meaning be?

  1. We seem to like to give meaning only to special things, signs
  2. Is meaning a quality of things themselves?
  3. Or do we simply attribute meaning? Is it in the beholder
  4. What about error? When we misunderstand some sign and its sender?
  5. What are criteria of error?
  6. Is there and objective world and subjective meaning?
  7. Descartes “doubt and certainty”; is clear and distinct clear?
  8. Why are Structures as we can Discern (or Infer) them?
  1. Is there meaning without structures somewhere?
  2. What about structures in the heads etc.
  3. CC: Object Scission vs. Strategic Primacy of the Relation.
  1. Is Meaning in the things or in the relations between structures interacting?
  2. Most things may have a Potential for several and various meanings, depending their interactants.
  3. The relation to Precursors and the relation to Successors.
  4. The Basic Questions of All: How and Why are Structures Formed as they are?
  1. Distinguish: as they are and as we can discern, recognize etc. them
  2. The accumulative character of structure formation
  3. change and demise are of the same character as formation
  4. Triads are an alytical concept -you may perceive things to have many conditions -you can analyze them into triads (Peirce)

+ you cannot reduce triads to dyads -Peirce exemplifiying with relation of giving something to somebody -giving ist not the addition of A-thing, B-thing

2.5. Nets rather than Chains: Evolutive Divergence (Variety) and Convergence (Restriction).

  1. Chaining such as with normal ideas of causation cannot generate an evolutive world
  2. Evolutionary theorists had to bring in chance -this is not an explanation, rather a declaration (we do not know)
  3. How does variety arise? -triads among extant structures do it
  4. How does variety not become infinite?
  5. Remember: we speak now of the cultural process among two or more persons -the idea may be more general: we come to generalized or generic evolution in >>5
  6. The Evolutive Assumption: Structure Formation is exclusively by Structure Interaction.
  1. This is a very strong and very powerful assumption
  2. In line with observation but of course going much beyond
  3. I beliefe it is the only assumption, semeco makes; everything else follows in

connectin with observation -please keep in mind and we shall return at the end

  1. traditional epistemology with its problems of subject-object >> 4
  2. Semiosis as Interaction/Transaction of Semions.
  1. Primacy of triadic relations; dyads as degeneration.
  2. The Semiotic Function Cycle (Circle) of Ecosystems Looking at any one concrete individual we see it dynamically embedded in its environment by continuous Generative Semioses going from the person into the Umwelt (IntrO-) and from the umwelt into the individual (ExtrO-) and so constituting and regulating both the individual and its environment which together form an Evolutive Eco-System. Elaborating this by adding semiosic structure formation both within (IntrA-) and around the individual (ExtrA-) leads to a four-phased semiotic Function Cycle spiraling the growing and differentiating semionic Ecosystem semiosically through time and bringing about a common environment for people living together. “People with their things in their rooms” or the dwelling activity presents an extended paradigmatic example of what’s happening.

3.1. Ecosystems or the concentric system of concrete organisms and their umwelt

  1. Difference to common term use: one structure (eg organism) with its proper Umwelt
  2. What is called an ecosystem is not in the world, but in the researchers head
  3. For all those animals and plants and minerals are selectively interacting
  4. It’s better to call that a biotope
  5. Diagram: SemEco Function Cycle:


large or Environment Semiosis adjoins the Semions ‘Referent’ and ‘Interpretant’ generating their ‘Presentant’.

  1. expand in time: spiraling
  2. ExtrO-Semiosis or changing the environment.
  3. Intro-Semiosis or gathering a model of one’s Umwelt.
  4. >>> Think two or more Ecosystems in partly common Environment
  1. Limits of diagramming
  2. SemEco Notion of Meaning: Surface Qualities and Latent Potential with …

3.6.1. Examples of -Flagellatum or Chemataxis in Procariotes -Lions -Humans

3.7. IntrA-Semiosis or the elaboration of IntrA and preparation of ExtrO.

3.7.1. Analogy between stuff intake and digestion: an active process of breaking apart and bringing in contact with many things which can change little or much: “"I" internalize a sausage sandwich”

-What is “I”? -What is “internalize?

3.8. Diagram: SemEco Function Cycle incl. Secondary Systems

Semiotic Function Cycle (spiralling throuhgh individual and its umwelt, leaving traces, i.e. new or changed structures in both parts of the ecosystem)Phases (IntrO-, IntrA-, ExtrO-, ExtrA-) und relative Levels of Structure Formation by triadic Generative Semiosis.

Primary and secondary levels relative to each other may be built several times, internally and externally (only one internal secondary systems is indicated, well too simplified (Lang, 1993ff.)


or Organization with third agents

other Person

Environment common to several persons

3.9. ExtrA-Semiosis or what the world can do with one’s environment.

  1. Dynamic Correspondence of Semionic Structures within and between Individuals.
  2. CC: psychol. Org in the person or in the Ecosystem
  1. Is the person something given or becoming?
  2. Is a cultural environment something given or becoming?
  3. Where is the border between person and her environment? -What is Border? Membrane: selective intake and output, if not forced. -My plant physiology experience
  4. ? If time: biologistic definition of humans
  5. Some Illustrations with Dwelling Ecology (Psychology).
  1. A Young Couple's Dirty Clothes Chest, from Lang 1993 (Daniel Slongo 1991, Non-Cartesian Artefacts)
  2. Story of co-evolution of house and professional activities (Gerrit BOS 1984: Familienwandel - Hausumbau. )
  3. Constructive Strategy Some methodological or philosophy of science considerations about Evolutive Systems are now in place. For understanding Evolutive Systems of all sorts fails if scientific inquiry is to eventually find either, ideally, one “world formula” or, factually, an amassment of largely – excepting the physico-chemical domain – unrelated formulas suggested to predicting everything that ever can happen. Evolutions have to be described on the concrete level. Conceptual reconstruction of the

evolutive process in general implies variation or innovation (branching) and selection or evaluation (merging in terms of relational spatio-temporal nets) in structure formation and so necessitates that triadic generative relations are more general than the traditional linear or dyadic causative notions. Evolutions are evolving (Dewey), and so must the principles describing evolutive events (Peirce). Instead of attempting at construing the essence of things forever science should choose a Constructive Strategy pointing out the preconditions in operations and operands which when functioning generate what we can discern and infer.

4.1. CC: Inquiring into Becoming vs. into Being.

  1. Weltformel
  2. Masterplan
  3. Scientific Law
  4. More or less evolutive
  5. It’s certainly not suitable to transfer the logic of stable systems to the logic of dynamic systems;
  6. vice versa is better because a quasi-stable has its place in a dynamic system
  7. Equivalence of Structure and Process / Strategic Primacy of the Relation over Relata.
  1. What is then the difference between static and dynamic, stable and processing?
  2. Is it not rather two faces of the same? dependent upon each other
  3. Accounting for Branching / Variation, Innovation and Merging / Selection, Evaluation.
  4. Dyadic Causation (A—>B) is special (degenerate) case of Triadic Causation (A & B > C).
  1. Structure and Process only relatively distinct yet relatively different.
  2. Evolution is Memory Formation and Use.
  3. Evolutions based on concrete interaction, their regularities change with themselves.
  4. No Law can capture an Evolution; conjectures and refutable expectations are possible;
  5. But Construct Abstract Rules that Describe StructureFormation Generically. -On the concrete level; classes of things do not interact except in heads and computers of the scientists.

- The latter are also a reality and if they become part of the general process, they are as important; bu we have to be careful with their ranges and pertinencies.

4.4.6. The Real and the Nominal are Not Opposed, but Levels of Concreteness / Abstraction.

-Horizons -Some illustrations.

  1. Evolution is evolving — so principles must co-evolve.
  2. Science is best with Constructive Strategy: what are the proconditions of things to arise.

Day 2 — Following Becoming of Triadic Structure Formation towards Generic Evolutive Concepts

5. Elaborations of Communication: Constitution of Common Environments

We can now elaborate our understanding of Semiosic Communication into a conception of how one or many individual(s) and their (individual and social or cultural) environment co-evolve in that

individual and cultural Umwelt(en) dialogically constitute each other by structure formation within and among those involved. The ongoing regulative process of keeping the Ecosystems communicating through shared public Semions dynamically in balance, each one and the set of them among each other can be conceived in the same ways. A consequence of this view is that culturality is neither a quality of the environment nor of the individual or the group; it rather extends on both and is a character of their interrelation rather than of the shared environment or of any one or many individual(s) alone.

5.1. >>> Summary so far

  1. Proposed to study humans in their world with new conceptual tools: (evolutive) Semiotic Ecology.
  2. that are non-dualistic and evade the mechanism as well as the linguistic reduction and instead of reactive methodology give humans a chance to use their creative forces.
  3. Human Condition: all that is a precondition to be human and all what humans can do to the world.
  4. Starting with a normal communication or possible influence situation, I have shown that Structure Formation can be used as core concept: by every active act a human individual generates structures in the world, by every receptive process structures are created within that individual.
  5. This is a lifelong process of change or development of both the Umwelt and the Person.
  6. Of course there are other sources of structure formation in the world, physical, chemical, by plants and animals. But humans have become a major source of structure formation on planet Earth.
  7. And I have claimed that structure formation, contrary to traditional understanding, is not a dyadic, but a triadic relation. Otherwise, evolution is not possible.
  8. Shown that there are correspondences (not identity) between world- or ExtrAstructures and IntrA-structures for and in a given individual.
  9. World structures can be received and play a role in forming IntrA-Structures.
  1. Intra-Structures in any individual can co-determine their actions and so play a role for making and overforming an environment to some extent common to many individuals and thus contributing to building cultural traditions that are part of the world for those people participating.
  2. I have shown that these triadic Structure Formation processes, when they concern individuals and the common environment are Meaning based: to be understood as triadic generative semioses.
  3. The structures involved and formed are called semions (sem + ion), their encounters are semioses.
  4. Transient and enduring (for short or long) structures mediating
  1. process and structure are not sharply distinguishable, our perception makes them different.
  2. different phenomena can be conceptualized similary — for communication and influece can occur no matter whether the mediating is short or long lived.
  3. >>>> now introducing the researcher to always be aware of his role in understanding.
  4. Diagram: SemEco Notion of Communication with Researcher
  5. Coded (kind of language) or uncoded (artefacts in general)?
  1. How do codes come about? — largely untreated question
  2. semeco answer is: out of uncoded communication, it’s a very speical case:
  3. Further advantages of Mediating Structures
  1. >>> they are much more than only mediating, they constitute the buld of our envionment, of our milieu, without which we could not exist.
  2. Main point: we get an idea about how the world and ourselves become what it is.
  3. There is no longer a difference between how it is or rather becomes and how it functions or operates.
  4. Whenever an organismic structure is having influence on anything it has inevitably to generate or change a structure that is in the world and possibly having effects, i.e. being received by that other structure addressed. The latter may refute or neglect or misunderstand etc.
  5. And these world changes, insofar they are lasting, in the asccumulating sum of them, are nothing but our (cultural) world itself.
  6. CC: Channel Theories vs. Generative Semiosis

5.6.1. mediating structures much more general than channel


5.12. The Evaluation phase and Merging

  1. an innovation from the point of view of somebody not yet knowing is external
  2. has to generate respective IntrA-presentants, be built into the system
  3. will not if avoided
  4. if interested, there may be a long process, until integrated
  5. a social habit, tradtion, can only arise, if many people of a groupif not all have integrated respective semions and make use of them.
  6. Perhaps it’s often a very difficult process taking long time: sometimes it works like nothing.
  7. Generic Evolution Logic: the Basic and the Genuine Evolutions We can then ask how culturality may have originated. If we take the Evolutive Assumption serious it should have emerged from interactions of structures and nothing else. Carrying a generalized notion of Triadic Causation back to the origin of the universe it appears to fit well, except we find no semiotic level yet. Both the structures and their interactions operate on surface qualities only. In the physico-chemical evolution the cooling of the plasma emerges the decisive differentiation into energy-matter entities such as atoms with their specific binding valences and the small molecules. The cosmic evolution emerges the stellar clouds and bodies and their spatio-temporal organization by interaction of those particles and their amassments. On planets etc. the local circumstances produce the varieties of cristalline organization, the mixtures and their distribution known as the ongoing mineral evolution.

6.1. The generic Evolutive Assumption

  1. whatever we can discern or infer (whatever exists, what can have effects) is emerging from interaction of what exists before
  2. that is both an extremely simple and an extremely strong assumption
  3. assumption compatible with many facts we take for warranted
  4. if you object that there a fantasies, myths, stories, etc. -- of course, why should they not arise from evolutive processes; but please distinguish their dependence from being told, they exist in symbols that are real, which does not imply that their referents exist independently of these symbols.
  5. Examples of this are typically human endeavors. Religion is a case in point.
  6. Branching and Merging
  1. how order comes into the world
  2. Branching or diversion increase

  3. the long run effect would be insupportable diversity
  4. yes, some structures die, but are replicated similarly
  5. yes, some, e.g. animals, keep eacher in limits
  6. So there must be a procedure to keep diversity in limits
  7. structures interacting semiotically are selective
  8. idea of affinity
  1. so the world is not at all a random process, only encounters are contingent, insofar the structures are quitre autonomous
  2. The Prebiotic Evolutions (physico-chemical, cosmic, mineral)
  1. The basic evolutions proceed in substantially linear or quasi-linear flow; they do not branch.
  2. Physico-chemical. Once cooling of the original plasma begins, the formation of atoms follows the fusion and the fission principles; and the same is true for the formation of the smaller molecules which are built and split following ambient conditions.
  3. Cosmic. The spatio-temporal spread of such particles and their grouping to stellar clouds and bodies again is following principles that are not cardinally changed by that very process itself.
  4. Mineral. The cooling of the surface layer of the planet and the subsequent fixation of regional and local mixtures of elements and their derivatives, in spite of changing pressures and movements provides for locally peculiar formation processes. Time and again the basic evolutions bring about structures that have not been attained before; but they all depend on one and the same set of physico-chemical principles. <<<< new 8
  5. All three basic evolutions are slow and virtually stable when compared to the dynamics of the subsequent processes. Yet they go on. There are scores of basic emergences which would be devastating to the genuine evolutions if some characters of them would change.
  6. Basic are a necessary precondition for the genuine evolutions. Am approach to treat them stable and not much care for some of their changes may be not unreasonable. Main interest for the human condition lies in the genuine evolutions.
  7. >>>> Key to Understanding Evolution: memory generation and use
  1. temporal relations

  2. CC: Evolution vs. Masterplan Approaches
  3. >>> If the world is evolutive, its laws must evolve as well.

6.6.1. Peirce 1891 (Architecture of Theories): “Law is par excellence the thing which wants a reason. Now the only possible way of accounting for the laws of nature and the uniformity in general is to suppose them results of evolution. This supposes them not to be absolute, not to be obeyed precisely. It makes an element of indeterminacy, spontaneity, or absolute chance in nature."

7. The Biotic, the Individual, and the Cultural Evolutions and their Interplay

In some phase of the mineral evolution on Earth two essential emergences have lead, probably in long series of steps, to biotic structures: (a) near replication of well-defined but randomly varied mineral structures, and (b) the capability of structures (such as large molecules like DNA) to serve as model or program for the generation of entirely different structures (e.g. other large molecules like proteins, later on cells etc.). Thus life emerged and organisms and their environments co-evolved to increasing complexity and selective interdependence in bioevolution (large molecules, cells, organisms, societies, biotopes). Some organisms then emerged the capability as individuals to accumulate and make use of experiences acquired in their individual evolutions. Eventually ways were found to trade such individual experience, otherwise lost with the death of that individual, over generations in the cultural evolutions. The key emergence of these three genuine evolutions is meaning or the differentiation of surface and hidden properties and the latter’s role in interaction.

7.1. Basic and Genuine Evolutions

  1. Basic: quasi linear, little or no branching
  2. Emergencies enable new things but do not enable trees of emergencies of things.
  3. Genuine Evolutions.

- The origin of life is certainly an open question, except for some principles that can be stated in retrospect. There are mainly two achievements that must be considered essential: (1) the ability of some structures (such as DNA and its precursors and relavites) to (near) replicate under certain conditions; (2) the ability of certain structures (such as DNA and its messangers) to guide the synthesis of entirely different structures (such as proteins).

7.2. The distinction between surface and latent Qualities

  1. Meaning
  2. Examples
  3. Flagellatum
  4. Instincts -in Insects very schematic umwelt scheme -mammals more moderating conditions
  5. in social instincts, most important, necessitiy of coordinated and distributed receptive and active structures
  6. Interaction and Transaction
  1. Interaction depends on encounter (remote effects such as with radiation, light etc. are possible)
  2. not necessarily, but in principle reciprocal (Newtonian force and counterforce has some parallel, but not forcibly
  3. I name it transaction when the effect comes from “behind” the surface qualities and /or the effects point way beyond the immediate interaction,
  4. transaction opens the possibility of branching (which is little or not at all present in the basic evolutions)
  5. Semiosis and Transaction are synonyms. Semiosis focusses on the nature of the process, that semions are involved and generated; Transaction focusses on the possible conditions and effects of the process.
  6. The Biotic Evolution or Bioevolution
  1. The former, replication, appears to be possible in crystals arising in clay minerals and accumulating singularities {*}.
  2. The latter, programmed production to give it a name, is one of the greates riddles unsolved and lets the origin of life and the constitution of organisms in the dark so far.
  3. Retaining singularities and accumulating further singularities upon them implies a historical process radically different from the history of the basic realm. For whereas all elementary particles follow the same laws all along their existence, and all stellar and all mineral structures display essentially the same kind of effects in their environment all the time in spite of their actually being singular, the structures involved in life processes and what follows upon them are truly singular.
  4. Tree-building. They start branching lineages of evolutive streams the course of which is dependent on the very processes themselves that are starting at the origin of anyone of the respective lineages. The genuine evolutions evidence evolution of evolution.
  5. So we get the system of phylae in the biotic realm together with the corresponding environments which, being common to several phylae, exert certain constraining retroaction on the diversity of the organismic branching.
  6. The evolutions of experience gathering individuals may look more linear at first sight; but there experiences that enable totally different courses to go. While there are individuals following more than one such path, there is also a

limit in a liftime that forbids leading too many branches to their completion; some individuals have various bearings beyond their death.

  1. The branching of the cultures of the world that has been going on until recently is again a tree-shaped affair. Globalization of living forms may or may not bring cultural branching to a halt but does not stop cultural evolution as such.
  2. The crucial difference between the genuine and the basic evolutions lies in the role played by meaning in the former and not in the latter: structures no longer interact only according to their immediate surface qualities (energetic attraction and repulsion forces and chemical valences) but in addition by their genuine potential depending on the co-interactants.
  3. Bioevolution: The principle of Darwinian and Neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory lies in the cooperation of variation and selection. Phenotype and genotype are separation structures and they succeed each other linearly. In the genotype external factors intrude and produce variation; in the phenotype external factors enter the scene and select, i.e. give some phenotypes better chances to have their genes survive. This is an incomplete picture
  1. There variation generation on the genotype
  2. And evaluation (selection) on the phenotype
  3. Selection is not a single event of act. Thousands or Millions of interactions me further or hinder the potential of an individual organism to have offspring.
  4. Struggle for life is certainly not to be denied, but it is probably of minor effect in the selection process in most circumstances, exceptions notwithstanding.
  5. What do you need to know more?
  6. The Individual Evolutions
  1. Ontogenesis
  2. Starting with instincts
  3. overforming by structure modification and generation from experience
  4. by this process individuals become more and more proper, peculiar, distinguished
  5. so social life gets more complicated (example primate group life)
  6. The Cultural Evolutions
  1. cult evo looks like sort of trick: can we save our young to make their own experiences, can they profit from ours?
  2. but I don’t cultural evolution came about this way
  3. tooluse and toolmaking as examples
  4. procedural and objectival culture
  5. language as a late but very strong amplifier of the process
  6. culture is local or regional
  7. migration and getting or bringing essential
  8. There is an estimate of about 8000 languages of the world, and therefore so much cultures
  9. but not a fixed level phenomenon
  1. a pair, a family or other group living together inevitably develops it’s culture

  2. Studying culturality in order to be able also to study and compare cultures, is essential
  3. Some glimpses on the Interplay among the Genuine Evolutions
  1. individual evo is possible with more complex organisms
  2. cultural evo becomes possible with individuals using their experience
  3. individual operates back on bio: selective mating co-determines variation, experience can be used to trick selection
  4. individual evo is precondition for cultural, cultural enriches remarkably the individual possibilities
  5. cultural evo also has effects on bio via prefrences
  6. cultural remarkably changes bio and ind: e.g. medicine reduces selective forces on bio and gives indivdiual chances to live and breed that otherwise could not
  7. of recent via genetic techniques
  8. The Notion of Meaning — or Semions and Semiosis In triadic thinking Meaning need not be a quality of things or structures. It arises from the relations a thing can enter and so refers to the potentials transacting structures can develop. Structure A may develop different meanings when transacting with B, C, or D. I call a structure a Semion insofar it can enter or arise from semiosic interaction; the process of meaning based triadic transaction is called Semiosis. Generative Semiotic then treats of Semions in Semioses. Meaning begins when structures co-evolving are complex enough to differentiate surface qualities and hidden properties.

From their related becoming things might sort of “know” of or are prepared for the potential of interacting with the hidden properties and make use of the surface qualities for seeking or avoiding other structures with the result of selectively transacting and operating more deeply. This understanding fits sign structures from large molecules to linguistic or other symbolic text. Meaning thus refers to what structures transacting can do together.

8.1. The Meaning of Meaning (book title)

8.1.1. Meaning is perhaps one of the greatest unsolved problems. -Everybody uses it and thinks to understand what it is. -The natural sciences avoid it like poison, i.e. to deal systematically with its role in the

course of the world. yet, of course, they use it all the time like everybody, e.g. in using language, natural or artificial such as mathematics, diagram, computer code etc.

-So it’s left to the cultural sciences. They are largely bound to language. So the give a very limited account of it. And one the natural scientists cannot accept, claiming more precision.

-That some few adopt such type of meaning notions by analogy or metaphor can barely

be acception be others. -But is the world that precise? -Is only the world of humans meaningful?

8.2. Historical Overview on Meaning

8.2.1. Meaning sciences or semiotics originated with the Greek -word - thing - concept, sensu referent -little development for long time -This cannot handle things only in imagination such as unicorn

8.2.2. Locke around 1700
8.2.3. Lambert around 1750
8.2.4. Zeichenmodell liste
8.2.5. Semiotiker Z.träger Inhalt Sache, Obj. Zeichen
8.2.6. Triangular Diagrams

Reference Sinn Signifié


  1. Saussure: signifiant-signifié
  2. Peirce: triadic finally open and in principle dynamic
  3. The misery of having a mind interpreting and/or a code constitute meaning
  1. Es gibt Dutzende von Zeichentheorien: jeder braucht seine Begriffe anders. ein Chaos
  2. Reduction on Code is miserable because it is at best a special and artificial case
  3. Why should meaning be inherent to things?
  1. Usually we think of things as having meaning
  2. But we also can attribute meaning
  3. Often hard to distinguish
  4. what could it effect if it were there?
  5. are signs self-active? what can be self-active?

- I doubt that this idea is meaningful. How could the ‘self’ be defined and why should it be seen as isolated from its Umwelt, enclosed in itself. Self-activity is an expression of dialogical activity among part systems of that entity envisioned. There always an Umwelt, for everything, for which those entities like atoms, molecules, living beings, machines, etc. are prepared, having sensory systems to gain knowlede about and executive systems to influence that environment, however slightly.

  1. proof of the role of meaning: that different people can interpret differently
  2. fixed signs, is an attempt at implementing a power relation
  3. Meaning as Transaction
  1. meaning makes sense only if it is part of a continuity
  2. meaning is the evolutive force par excellence
  3. when meaning started to determine evolution, I think with life, things went much faster and to much more diversity and consistency as before.
  4. Meaning is in Relations, not in Things
  1. Meaning is in relations, meaning is a relation, if it is to have effects.
  2. Only this way something can have different meaning to different people which is certainly the case
  3. Objectivity ideals deny this and sort of want us to give up our own meaning for theirs, i.e. the power strivers, greedy, dominators
  4. Of course, it makes sense that we coordinate meaning to large extents.
  5. Otherwise, we couldn’t live together
  6. But is it necessary and possible to coordinate totally?
  7. Meaning differences are like the salt of living together in culture.
  8. Common understanding: meaning have only special things, called signs
  1. they need to be interpreted
  2. for that the interpreter needs to know the code
  3. strangely enough, nobody has ever cared how signs are produced

- except Gerold Ungeheur, a German information and communication scientist turned into philosopher, in the 1980s: unfortunately he died after writing his first and last papers on the idea.

  1. Peirce was the first in the late 1860s to 1909 to introduce a dynamic theory of meaning, semiotic
  2. But however original he thought, he remained partly a captive of the tradition
  3. Peirce’s sign or semiosis conception briefly: -am mind, human or not, interprets a sign -the sign refers back to its object (unclear whether this is a real non-sign thing out there

(“dynamic obj.), or already some conception thereof in immediate experience (immediate Obj.)

- the interpretation results in what Peirce calls an interpretant, which is also a sign,

obviousl within the mind

- he left it entirely open how this is done

- but he said, that interpretant is a sign and can be interpreted again, and this interpretant

can be interpreted and so on ad infinitum

  1. Critic -this is astonishingly linear -no answer to the question, why and how does semiosis occur -it leaves the interpretion of any one dynamic object a closed system -Peirce’s categories, his evolutive thinking in general
  2. So I have reinterpreted Peirce’s semiotic in the way you know -

Day 3 — Culturality: the Heart of the Human Condition

9. Culturality “Culturality” refers to the sum total of the Semiotic Structures and Processes, Semions and Semioses or Meaning Systems, that are constituted and regulated by human activity leaving semionic traces in the environment of a group as well as those semionic traces accumulated and integrated by reception and internal accommodation within the participating individuals. Semions within and between individuals are basically of the same nature. While the term “Culture”, denoting a concrete set of such Semions and Semioses, is hard to circumscribe, given the fact that large parts of it is latent or “sleeping” most of the time, and should be used very carefully as a concept without definite scope, the term “Culturality” refers on an abstract level to everything involved in generic manner. A realistic and nominalistic conception of culturality allows to see commonalities and differences of observable cultures. Any single person normally participates in several cultures insofar s/he is participating in various more or less exclusive groups. Obviously, “High Culture”, as developed in many literate cultures is also part of culturality.

Culturarilty is what distinguishes humans from other complex animals, although many species from birds to mammals show rudiments thereof. I wonder why modern humans under scientific influence (biology, law, philosophy, religious roots) prefer to define themselves biologistically and, in addition and at least in the West, tend to see any single human individual to be a full realiization of being human.

9.1. Problems of Objectifying and/or Subjectifying Culture(s)

  1. Vygotsky has proposed the process of Internalization to be crucial in appropriating (Leontiev) by an individual social profferences offered by others or the group (primacy of the social).
  2. Boesch has proposed that culture implies both objectifying the subjective (putting into external objects or things available to others what is in the first place inside the private sphere of individuals or internal, also expternalizing) as well as subjectifying the objective (being moved and changed by something external in such a way that the internal systems is reorganized in some respect related to and dependent upon that experience of internalizing or appropriation). (examples in Sehnsucht 1996)
  3. Culturality stretches over IntrA and ExtrA
  1. compare two deaad objects encountering -- push, pull
  2. specific eco-encounter, e.g sun-ray and sunflower compared to less specified plant
  3. eco-encounter with animal -- there is searching (food, mate, brood), hesitation,

avoidance -based on surface qualities with implied deep properties

  1. Impossible to know in what form and to what extent animals “know” their world: in principle in all probability quite a lot
  2. Humans in culture have to acquire a quite extensive model of their external world -they can move in that internal model world and act vicariously in imagination and words and diagrams etc. to look at the consequences

- they canremember and reconstruct a bit of their and of others past and make a model of the course of things

  1. Few of the things they encounter in the real world are not such that they have some knowledge or are capable of making comparisons by analogies etc.
  2. And whatever they encounter will probably contribute to refining their internal model world
  3. Example chairs, knifes etc. in different cultures
  4. Accumulative rather than Progressive; but what to leave behind?

9.3.1. Often culture is thought in view of the progressive bettermnent of the human

condition -ideal and reality -- how can we know in advance

  1. Accumulation and integration
  2. Culturality vs. (the) Culture(s of the World)
  1. Comparing cultures requires a theory of culturality
  2. much more than a definition
  3. I think there is non such at present
  4. semeco proffers basics for a theory of culturality
  5. Distinguishing High Culture vs. General Culturality
  1. Talking about culture with people at large often makes it difficult because they connect culture with high valuation
  2. How to Research Culturality In order to understand culturality we have to follow first the net in which the structures are spatially embedded and thus are subject to a largely or totally common fate or, respectively, move on their own and underlie degrees of contingency in their encounters and interactions. Obviously a random model of interaction is mistaken, since structures contribute by their properties to shape nearby structures and this creates what is called characteristic cosmotopes stellar systems, geotopes mineral systems, biotopes, psychic units or persones and culturotopes or traditions. I find it most important in attempting to understand particular cultural traditions on whater order of size from family or small groups to nations and humanity, to have at one’s disposal conceptual tools that abstract from particular culture traditions. Otherwise the biased evalution factor present in human communities since ages are barely avoidable. Good tools of reasonable degrees of abstraction but thoroughly ancored in subtle and rich observational material of the concrete level of sufficient cultural variety is indispensable to allow understanding both commonalities and ifferences of the various forms of living together humans have developed over the times and may emerge toward a better future.

10. Autonomization and Integration From the very beginning of the physico-chemical evolution and over it all its evolved complications we can discern structures that at a given time that exist (move, interact, have effects) alone or in more or less strict company with other structures. Degrees of embeddedness and of togetherness with the possibility of encounter are essential for what potentials structures can develop in their transactive encounters. Most structures of some complexity integrate their part structures but many let them also to some degree autonomously transact among them or with structures around them. Cells, organs, organisms, groups are examples of both these characters. Human existence is particularly rich in forms of both, of relative autonomization and of relative integration. Both the lack as well as the excess of either appears problematic (e.g. cells or organs in organisms, individuals in social systems). Understanding human Personhood or Selfhood in these terms and demonstrating its becoming in transactive processes with the environment has proven fruitful in our ‘People with their Things in their Rooms” research.

  1. Becoming Human, becoming a human Person is a Cultural Process
  2. Notion of Self-Organization compared with Dialogical Transactive Becoming
  3. Role of Autonomization and Intergration through all Evolutions
  4. Table: The four Aut-Int-Regulation Types: Stabilization and Development of Proprieties and Belongingesses

Regulative Scope Regulative Domain

Person-Umwelt Person-Person(s) (individually) (collectively)

in common Environment

Micro-Horizon (actually) Activation Influence

Macro-Horizon (evolutively) Self-Care Cultivation

10.5. Illustrations from Bernese Dwelling Research

11. The Human Condition The overall potential of human culturality lies in the individuals’ capability of semiotically reconstructing aspects of his past and semiotically imagining possible futures and, indispensably, in corresponding social or cultural coordination and elaboration of such attempts, i.e. to have, collectively and individually, a historical “sense for the real” and and a speculative and evaluative “sense for the possible” (Musil), of what is probable or improable, desirable or undesirable in one’s own and in the other’s perspective. Western humans have instrumentalized these senses mostly in the service of power relations by striving for the ideal either in the Herafter or by installing pitiless competition for the best position heredown. But in fact post- and prospective or historical culturality is the source for Human Dignity. For s/he who wants to be respected would, in view of past experience, better respect others, in view of a more valuable future for both. Emphasizing the cultivation of human relations in view of reciprocity under qualitative rather than quantitative democracy could constitute living together in essentially more humane ways than can be observed in most places of our world over the millennia we can oversee.

11.1. Ecological Psychology to Become Cultural

  1. 1974
  2. Anaformation by Semiosis
  1. principal continuity with breask-ins
  2. Affinity from co-evolution

  1. Wirklichkeitssinn and Möglichkeitssinn
  1. internal and social (amplified with media)
  2. distinction between real and possible, probable and improbable often diffuse
  3. Human Dignity, semiotic-ecologically
  4. Reconstructive Methodology Semiotic Ecology, being a generic tool to describe and organize all what happens in our world, is also a general methodology. Its prime principle is that the evolutive process is taking place by transaction among concrete structures, no matter whether being an observer or the observed. So the latter, being but a part of the former, must as well be described on the concrete level. No matter whether the structures interacting exist more really (i.e. operating independent of our conceiving them) or more nominally (i.e. operating in terms of symbol systems within our head, books or machines only, this distinction being a matter of degree rather than either-or), we have to follow their real transactions as well as possible and let us guide by the process itself rather than by our fancy. Scientific inquiry or research thus amounts to a conceptual reconstruction of what we observe and infer to fill the gaps. Inquiry operates on the basis of semiosic two-way transaction between the things and the researchers and may incolude mediating devices. Upon collected and integrated samples of evolutions from the past we may well build expectations about what may or may not happen under such and such circumstances and how we can influence the circumstances. Illustrations with research on the dwelling activity are used.
  1. Basics of Baconian Research to Positivsm
  2. Diagram: SemEco Notion of Communication, incl. Researcher
  3. Open Logic for Evolutive Systems
  4. Inquiry is active and passive
  5. Conceptual Reconstruction

Day 4 — Some further Comparisons and some Consequences

13. Some Pioneers of Cultural Psychology: I. Johann Gottfried Herder I think Herder was the first and is the so far most comprehensive cultural psychologist. Almost a century before Darwin he sketched an evolutive course of the world that implied bioevolution and in particular was built upon the interplay between individual experience accumulation and creative innovation accepted, transformed and integrated into what is called a tradition by the individuals of a group. Since Herder pointed out the essential role of the individual in innovating and in evaluting cultural emergencies of a social tradition, he conceived of cultural-aware psychology to describe these processes as the key science for human self-understanding. Twenty-one years old Herder wrote: “All philosophy which is supposed to belong to the people must make the people its central focus, and if philosophy’s viewpoint gets changed in the manner in which out of the Ptolemaic system the Copernican system developed, what new fruitful developments must not occur here, if our whole philosophy becomes anthropology.” (1765) I think him right in claiming human science to form the center of all human concern and education.

  1. Short Biography — 1744-1803
  2. “How philosophy can become more general and useful for the best of the people” (1765)

Lang To the DEWEY-List 1994.10.13

The various quotes and interpretations recently offered here to the point that for Dewey philosophy is much more than knowledge remind me a paper Herder wrote in 1765, at 21 years, at the time when he left Kant and Koenigsberg behind to get his first full time job as a teacher and then also pastor in Riga.

It's entitled "How philosophy can become more general and useful for the best of the people" (Republished in vol. 1:101-134 of the new larger Herder edition in the Deutscher Klassiker Verlag, Frankfurt, 1985). Herder answered to a public price competition offered in 1763 by the Bernese [hear, hear!] Patriotic Society. Significant Herder's slight change of the title which officially had been: "How the truths of philosophy can become..." which reveals the whole difference between the timely definite ("truth") that can be used to serve authorities possessing it and Herder's stance of the idea of some open process that can go into the unforeseen, to the better or worse, on our responsability; between state and law and sure order, on the one hand, and community of dialog, open evolution and the common interest in the long run, on the other,

against, "in short, a philosophy that is of the finest because it strives to serve the finest partof the people". (DKV 1:132,23).
The paper, though not fully finished and in a capricious style, is rich with ideas in the spirit of Peirce and Dewey, so to say, written in a youthful and radical enthousiasm and quite free of fear of authorities. (Remember, we are already in a time and region where inquistion was gone; yet there are enough examples of men and women destroyed by only slightly more subtle means,
almost in our time.) He starts with the observation that philosophy ("die hohe Weltweisheit")more than any science is both a range of contradictions and an object of worship and goes on to show what would today be called the fabrication of knowledge and its social conditions, including even the often quite odd services made of mathematics. He speaks of theologians and and politologists ("Staatskundige"; the friends of God and of humans, as he dubs the two professions cynically) and accuses the former of having unduly re-planted philosophical truth into the realms of religion to the detriment of both fields. As to the relation of philosophy to politics (or social problems, if you want, or, even, democracy, in a Deweyan sense) Herder develops a full scale of insights, opposing estranged, book-dusty, troglodytic etc. knowledge to common-sense. Philosophers are "a folk of troglodytes, living in caves, together with the night owls of Minerva. If they possess treasures [of wisdom], those are to become common good; if they haven't any, they are useless to the public cause and their caves shall be destroyed and the night owls shall be taught to look into the sun." (108,25-30) And he applauds many of the British Weltweisen in contrast to the German academicians of the time. So his topic is: how, and what part of it, can philosophy bear fruits to the public cause.

Analyzing the (scholastic) logic of the time and region it appears to him to be "but an quite unjustly sequestered part of psychology treated as metaphysics rather than as instrumental literacy" (111,29f.). If, indeed logic shall be treated as metaphysic, then we have to "analyze the subjective concept of thinking and the objective concept of truth, not to arbitrarily decree and denote, but to develop, and through a major analysis of the concept to seek out something like the origin of all truth and knowledge in my mind: so that this part of psychology will turn into an art of invention [i.e. a heuristic or, perhaps, abductive skill], an art of appraisal and of presentation [Beurteilungs- und Vortragskunst, i.e. lastly a kind of critic and of rhetoric, AL], if it imprints me with something like a philosophical history of good and bad taste, with something like the spirit of which a science with all its errors and riches etc. has emerged: so I cannot miss that if some force [actually "Feder", i.e. motive force as in clocks] is inherent in me, it will herethrough come awake in such a way that I create myself of my own soul, as it were, to become God and Philosopher [... here follows an allusion probably to Peter the Great inspired by a statue of Richelieu to become the creator of modern Russia] (112,7-22).

This should not, I think, be misunderstood in any way as a subjectivation of logic, but rather as logic becoming victim of subjectivation if it operates in splendid isolation and avoids the tests of reality by being put to work in the above sense. The idea of humans being installed or "let free" (by God, if you like) to serve on this planet in an equivalent function, creating themselves their world of culture, open-endedly, will become one of Herder's key anthropological abductions (if you permit the anachronism). And, note, that this places humans, as individuals as well as groups, in positions of responsability; no way out for defenses of silly conduct and devastating effects by pointing to necessities of logic or history or to evil dispositions.

Because, he asserts, "if there were a logic endowed and boasting with all the _ideal perfections of our idol_ [philosophy] and which could ban and debar all error whatsoever, should such a thing become general for the best of the people?" (112,27ff.) (Would such be acceptable to humans as humans, will he later ask.) Herder makes it very clear that philosophy is quite dispensable for the public cause [my translation here and before of his "Staat" which I take, guided by word history, to mean the state of things pertinent to all]. Great projects and deeds do not really grow in the womb of abstraction but rather in the bosom of common sense or healthy reason. "If our soul would fully ascend to [pure] thought, we would unlearn to act." (113,22f.) There is certainly also some Rousseauism herein, it is true, but so is in Peirce and Dewey, yet without the former's civilization pessimism and lack of concern for established facts. At the center stands some idea of settelement between desire and considerateness, both for and among individuals and communities.

Follow numbers of fine insights into desired roles for a philosophy for the people: replacing logic and morals (in the rule sense) by the philosophical mind forming humans as considerate self-thinkers; replacing support for authoritarian policy with forming deliberatly acting and group-sensitive and tradition-conscious ["patriotic" translated neutrally] citizens; replacing the useless science of metaphysics with one that delights, etc.

"Freilich muss unsre Philosophie sich von den Sternen zu den Menschen herablassen; der abstrakte Teil muss fuer sich unangetastet, unverstuemmelt bleiben, aber gibt's nicht ausser ihm eine Philosophie, die unmittelbar nuetzlich ist für das Volk: (eine Weltweisheit des gesunden Verstandes). Ich muss zu dem Volke in seiner Sprache, in seiner Denkart, in seiner Sphaere reden; seine Sprache sind Sachen und nicht Worte; seine Denkart lebhaft, nicht deutlich, gewiss, nicht beweisend; seine Sphaere wirklicher Nutzen in Geschaeften, Grundlagen zum Nutzen; oder lebhaftes Vergnuegen — Siehe! das muss die Philosophie tun, um eine Philosophie des gemeinen Volkes [zu sein]; wer erkennt unsre bei diesem Gemaelde —" (122,17-29)

"Evidently, our philosophy must lower itself from the stars to the humans; the abstract part of it, itself, must remain untouched, uncurtailed; but is there not beyond that a philosophy immediately useful for the people: (a world-wisdom of common sense)? I have to speak to the people in their speech, in their kind of thought, in their sphere; their speech are things, not words; their kind of thought vivid, not distinct; their sphere real use in concerns, foundations of benefits; or lively pleasure -- look! that is what philososphy ought to do to become a philosophy for the common people; who is to concede ours in this portrait?

(Note how clear and mostly simple Herder's discourse is; why, and how come, is he perpetually attributed the fame of being dark!)

And by the way, it is in this context that Herder first proposed "to change the perspective of philosophy in such a fashion as the Ptolemaic system became Copernican". "All philosophy which is to be of the people, must make the people its centerpiece". "What fertile developments must come to the fore when the whole of our philosophy becomes Anthropology." (134,20ff.) The Weltbild-metaphor can well have come out of Herder's conversations with Kant, we do not know for sure who of the two thought or wrote it first. But the interesting thing, in my opinion, is that it is Herder who is the Corpenican, while Kant merely replaced the Ptolemaic disk by another anthropocentric flatbed.

13.3. critic of reified abstraction -----Herder quote: from the second letter to Moses Mendelsohn, 1769-----------Nichts in der Welt, glaube ich, hat mehr Meinungen und vielleicht auch mehr Irrtümer erzeugt, als dass man abstrakte Begriffe als individuelle Existenzen betrachtet und realisiert hat. So realisieren wir das Wort Natur, Tugend, Realität, Vollkommenheit. Ursprünglich waren diese Begriffe nichts als Abstraktionen, Verhältnisse von dem auf dies, gleichsam Schatten und Farben von Dingen; wir machen sie zu Dingen selbst, und denken uns also Fertigkeiten, die die Seele wie Geldstücke sammle […]

Nothing in the world, I believe, has produced more [diversity of] opinion and perhaps more

fallaciousness than taking abstract conceptions for individual existencies and reifying them. So we reify words like nature, virtue, reality, perfection [I ADD: culture, individual, whole, ideal, space, time, subject, object, person, mediation; additions by AL]. Originally such concepts were abstractions, relationships of this to that, shadows or colors of things, as it were; we turn them into things themselves, and so we think them as accomplishments which the soul collects like coins [...] -----------------endquote----------------------

13.4. Mensch als erster Freigelassener (the first let free) Herder in the later 18th century conceived of humans as the first "Freigelassenen" (those (animals) let free) of the "creation" and for the continuation of the "creation", as he says in a jargon acceptable then, He even said God will not interfere, otherwise humans would not be free. And in a very prominent place of his writings he says: the inclined reader may be astonished to often find the word "nature" where she will expect the word " God; she should not be irritated because he, Herder, hesitated to use so high a word in any of those trivial contexts; he clearly meant what he wrote and the informed readers understood well. Herder also clearly conceived in which ways the freedom of individuals enables the explosive yet constrained innovation and freedom of cultural evolutions. His phrase "humans as creature and creator" of their world summarizes the essence most elegantly.

Strange enough that Kant is still seen as one of the major ethics theorists, of enlightenment and for today, in spite of his statement (in "Idea towards a General History in Cosmopolitan Intent" of 1784, which is a retort to Herder's "Ideas towards a Philosophy of History of Humankind", the first volume of which had appeared earlier the same year):

"Der Mensch ist ein Tier, das, wenn es unter andern seiner Gattung lebt, einen Herrn nötig hat. Denn er missbraucht gewiss seine Freiheit in Ansehung anderer seinesgleichen [...]" -- "Man is an animal which, living among others of his kind, needs a master. Because he abuses certainly his freedom in respect to others of his kind."

To which Herder replied without naming his former master (when he was his student 20 years earlier at the university of Koenigsberg) in the second volume:

"Kehre den Satz um: Der Mensch, der einen Herren nötig hat, ist ein Tier; sobald er Mensch wird, hat er keines eigentlichen Herren mehr nötig. [...] Im Begriff des Menschen liegt der Begriff eines ihm nötigen Despoten, der auch Mensch sei, nicht: jener muss erst schwach gedacht werden, damit er eines Beschützers, unmündig, damit er eines Vormunds, wild, damit er eines Bezähmers, abscheulich, damit er eines Strafengels nötig habe." -- "Reverse the sentence: A (hu)man in need of a master is an animal; as soon as he becomes a human, he has escaped the need for a veritable master. [...] In the concept of human no concept of a mandatory despot to him is enclosed who should also be a human: the former firstly has to be thought weak in order to need a protector, minor to need a warden, savage to need a domesticator, horrid to need an angel of retribution."

No need to add that in the Herderian concept of the human responsibility for what humans do in using their freedom is indeed genuine part of the concept of human itself. Responsibility is simply the other face of freedom and vice versa. Whereas the churches, old and new, aspiring and installed masters of any kind, so often want humans ignorant, blind, sheepy, etc. following the law imposed upon them by their masters.

13.5. The learning Monad – against Leibniz

  1. antique atom theory push and pull, binding together
  2. Leibniz’ monad without windows
  3. monads influence each other .. in essence an evolutive world view
  4. The evolutive-dialogical Social Systems – against Kant
  1. important role of Kants early generalization of Newtons world view, planetary system, steady dynamics
  2. Herder, against Kant, transfers the idea of dynamic system to human society
  3. Kant objects for eternal truth, only late in life shows signs of accepting
  4. The Grand Design: “Ideas toward a Philosophy of History of Formation of Humankind”
  5. >>>> Hamburg Summary
  6. The innovative individual and the evaluative group
  1. “Besonnenheit” (= Reflexion) and “Humanity” (= Menschlichkeit vs. Menschheit)
  2. Example: “On the origin of language” (1770/72)
  1. Entry phrase: “Schon als Thier hat der Mensch Sprache. (Already as animals humans have language.)” Together with many, sometimes cryptical hints, the phrase indicates the insight the savants (Weltweise) of the 18th century have in the reality of some kind of bioevolution, however uncleared as to details, which cannot be publicly discussed due to religiously founded scandal this would arise.
  2. Herder is writing this book in ways letting the reader participate in the becoming (with detours, dead-ends, transitions, refutations, alternatives, dialectics, urgings, clearings, etc.) of emergencies in both the individual and the cultural domains.
  3. In the first part, focussing the individual or internal attainment of language in the sense of inner speech, Herder elaborates the idea that those complex animals becoming humans might have been paralyzed in the conflicts among so many channels and instincts impinging upon them an possibly in conflict. As a solution he does not adopt the current principle of hierarchical organization (perused until today in the service of power ) , i.e. postulating higher levels arbitrating the conflict. Instead he proposes “Besonnenheit” (only partially approached by terms like considerateness, deliberateness) or a “common

sense” translating various inputs in - broadly understood - a common code or “language” with the effect that these impulses can work upon each other and arrive at their common denominator or compromise and so the system can arrive at a reorganization without higher instance by something resembling democratic procedures. This internal platform bringing many things together and reorganizing them into solution might also find in part an expression in processes of awareness or inner talk.

  1. In the second part, Herder sketches the social or external to and common for individuals counterpart of “Besonnenheit” which is communicative language properly, spoken and heard, written and read. Of course, there is more than language to culture.
  2. Alternatives to Subject-Object Opposition: Part-Whole Ecosystems
  1. There is not need for fixed points above the rest
  2. mutual influence and some stabilisation from system conditions is enough
  3. compare that to hierarchical vs. qualitatively democratic societies
  4. Aus dem Kaiser-Gutachten

14. Some Pioneers of Cultural Psychology: II. 19th and early 20th Centuries

Between Herder and the mid 20th century one might find some 4 or 5 dozen thinkers/researchers that attempted to conceive of humans as cultural beings in more or less restricted ways. Obviously mainstream psychology was and is unkind to such project. Most of them were outsiders. Psychologists writing the history of their field themselves, very little of that work has been scrutinized under such aspect. I propose to look at a few of these thinkers and try to understand their possible contribution. Eventual relationship or lineage remains an open question. I propose to look at some basic ideas of Moritz Lazarus, Wilhelm Wundt, Geord Simmel, John Dewey, Karl Bühler, and Lev Vygotsky.

  1. Moritz Lazarus (1824-1903) and the Origins of Voelkerpsychologie
  2. Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920) or Voelkerpsychologie to complement Physiol.Psych.
  3. Georg Simmel (1858-1918) or the Excitements and the Tragedy of Culture
  4. John Dewey (1859-1952) or Practical Pragmaticism: PhilPsychPaedPolit conjoined
  5. Karl Bühler (1879-1963) or the Organon of Language (Die Zukunft der Psychologie, 1937)
  6. Edward Sapir ( (1884-1939) “Psychology of Culture” 1920-1938
  7. Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934) or Mediated Action to Cultural-Historical Process

15. Some Contemporary Approaches to Cultural Psychology Still, in the second half of the 20th century cultural psychology is represented by a scattered set of barely more than two dozen groups of scientists. There appears to be only limited and selected communication among some of them since their main problem is to get heard at all within “mainstream” psychology. Their approaches often start from different assumptions, so coordination is frail. I suggest to get an idea of some of the more promising approaches such as by Ernst Boesch, Jerome Bruner, The socio-cultural and activity theory groups (lead by Michael Cole, Yrjö Engeström, James Wertsch and others?), Jaan Valsiner, Michael Tomasello (focussing on the change of the primate cognitive capabilities with intensified culture).

  1. Ernst Boesch (*1916) or Symbolic Action to Self Formation in the Cultural Field
  2. Jerome Bruner (*1915) or Culture as Narrative Meaning Making
  3. Socio-Cultural Theory (James Wertsch & Co.)
  4. Michael Cole or the Communities of Practice
  5. Jaan Valsiner or the Sociogenetic Co-Construction of Personal and Collective Culture
  6. Michael Tomasello or Cultural Evolution of Primate to Human Cognitive Intentionality

16. Synthesis, Evaluation, Potential For the final meeting I think we should concentrate on evaluating strengths and weaknesses of the various approaches to human culturality and perhaps try to figure out which few of the many notions involved might be crucial for advancing our understanding of the Human Condition, and why.

  1. Listing essential points from all these approaches
  2. Ranging or Organizing in Basic and Subsidiary Topics
  3. Musing about their Value for Understanding the Human Condition

Recommended Readings

There are more papers and lecture notes on Semiotic Ecology, Dwelling Psychology, and related topics in German language and in English available on my Website: (2003a) http://www.langpapers.net (in the long run) or http://www.psy.unibe.ch/ukp/langpers/ It may be best to peruse the large Overview Matrix and some of Meta-Material and, for going into depts, to rely on bibliographic @lists, chronological or topical.

  1. Valsiner, Jaan (1998) from The Guided Mind: a sociogenetic approach to personality. Harvard Univ. Press. pp. 249-254 [5 pages]
  2. Extensive English Summary of: Lang, Alfred (1998 ) Das Semion als Baustein und Bindekraft -Zeit aus semiosischen Strukturen und Prozessen. In: Ernest W.B. Hess-Lüttisch & Brigitte Schlieben-Lange (Eds.) Signs & Time -- Zeit & Zeichen. Kodikas/Code Supplement 24.

Tübingen, Narr. 73-116 Pp. http://www.psy.unibe.ch/ukp/langpapers/pap1994-99/1998.01_semionzeit.htm [3]

  1. Lang, Alfred (1993) Non-Cartesian artefacts in dwelling activities -- steps towards a semiotic ecology. Schweizerische Zeitschrift für Psychologie 52 (2) 138-147. Reprinted in: Michael Cole; Yrjö Engeström & Olga Vasquez (Eds.) Mind, Culture, Activity -- Seminal papers from the laboratory of compartive human cognition. Cambridge, Cambridge Univ. Press. 185-202 Pp. http://www.psy.unibe.ch/ukp/langpapers/pap1990-93/1993_noncartesian_art.htm [15]
  2. Lang, Alfred (1994) Toward a mutual interplay between psychology and semiotics. Journal of Accelerated Learning and Teaching 19 (1) 45-66 (More extensive original Ms. also available). http://www.psy.unibe.ch/ukp/langpapers/pap1994-99/1994_mutual_psysem_p.htm [10]
  3. Lang, Alfred (1994) Adopted or attained -- a semiotic attempt to overcome the person-metaphor. Semi-revised Contribution, Conference on "Metaphor", Académie du Midi, Nyer, 24.-28.5.1994 http://www.psy.unibe.ch/ukp/langpapers/pap1994-99/1994_person_midi.htm []
  4. Lang, Alfred (1997) Thinking Rich as Well as Simple: Boesch's Cultural Psychology in Semiotic Perspective. Original Manuscript for Culture and Psychology, 3(3), 383-394. http://www.psy.unibe.ch/ukp/langpapers/pap1994-99/1997_boesch_rich_m.htm [10]
  5. Lang, Alfred (1998) The Dwelling Activity: Cultural Psychology in Semiotic Ecology Perspective. (Extensive Abstract) NORFA Graduate Course/Summer School for the Nordic-Baltic Region, in the Field of Activity Theory, Tartu, May 9-15, 1998. http://www.psy.unibe.ch/ukp/langpapers/pap1994-99/1998.10_cupsysemeco_tartu.htm [8]
  6. Lang, Alfred (1998) Transactionalism — What could it be? (Comment) Pp. 267-275 in Görlitz, Dietmar; Harloff, Hans Joachim; Mey, Günter & Valsiner, Jaan (Eds., 1998) Children, Cities, and Psychological Theories — Developing Relationships. Berlin, DeGruyter. http://www.psy.unibe.ch/ukp/langpapers/pap1994-99/1998.03_transactionalism.htm [6]
    1. Lang, Alfred (2003) Semiotic Ecology — an Essay on the Human Condition. Selected Chapters of a book in progress. Typoskript, Provisional Version March 2003. [26]
      1. About Evolutive Semiotic Ecology
      2. The Human Condition
      3. Constructive Strategy
      4. Evolution Logic
      5. Structure Formation
      6. Realism
      7. Culturality
      8. Humanity
      9. Human Dignity
      10. Reconstruction Logic
      11. Some Reflexions

17.10. Re selected pioneer and contemporary approaches to cultural psychology I suggest reading excerpts from Valsiner, Jaan (1998) The Guided Mind: a sociogenetic approach to personality. Harvard Univ. Press, as follows:

  1. Vygotsky: pp. 68-72 et passim
  2. Dewey and Mead: pp. 162-174 et passim
  3. Boesch: pp.182.184
  4. Bühler: pp. 262-272 et passim

see also Valsiner’s more recent books: The Social Mind - Construction of the Idea (2000) Cambridge Univ. Press: Culture and Human Development (2000) Sage. Here are further reviews

of influencial thoughts re culture oriented psychology. -The Social Mind, in particular, presents rather extensive analyzes of the approaches of Pierre Janet, James Mark Baldwin, George Herbert Mead, and Lev Vygotsky in the context of its specific issues.

17.11. Citations to selected original works in English in the pioneer and contomporary CuPsy field.

  1. Herder, Johann Gottfried (2002) Philosophical Writings. Cambridge University Press. (On the Origing of Language, various anthropological and philosophy of history and political writings excerpts)
  2. Lazarus, M. and H. Steinthal (1860a). “Einleitende Gedanken über Völkerpsychologie als Einladung zu einer Zeitschrift für Völkerpsychologie und Sprachwissenschaft.” Zeitschrift für Völkerpsychologie und Sprachwissenschaft 1(1): 1-73. (from 1851 on)
  3. Wundt, W. (1912). Elemente der Völkerpsychologie. Leipzig, Kröner. (from 1863 on) -Danziger, K. (1983). “Origins and basic principles of Wundt´s Voelkerpsychologie.” Britisch Journal of

Social Psychology 22(4): 303-313. -Danziger, K. (1997). Naming the mind – how psychology founds its language. London, Sage.

  1. Simmel, Georg, (Translated with an introd. by K. Peter Etzkorn) The conflict in modern culture, and other essays. New York, Teachers College Press (1968)
  2. Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and Education (1916). Middle Works vol. 9, Carbondale, Ill., Southern Illinois University Press, 1980.
  3. Sapir, E. (1993). The psychology of culture — a course of lectures. Berlin, Mouton De Gruyter. (More articles and papers in Collected Works of Edward Sapir, vol. III)
  4. Bühler, Karl (1930), Sprachtheorie .English: Theory of language: the representational function of language ; translated by Donald Fraser Goodwin. (Amsterdam ; Philadelphia: J. Benjamins Pub. Co., 1990).

- Bühler, K. (1937). Die Zukunft der Psychologie und die Schule. Wien-Leipzig, Deutscher Verlag für Jugend und Volk.

  1. van der Veer, R. and J. Valsiner (1994). The Vygotsky Reader. London, Blackwell.
  2. Boesch, E. E. (1991). Symbolic action theory and cultural psychology. Berlin, Springer.
  1. Bruner, J. (1990). Acts of meaning. Cambridge Mass., Harvard Univ. Press.
  2. Wertsch, J. V. (1991). Voices of the mind: a socio-cultural apprach to mediated action. Cambridge Mass., Harvard Univ. Press.
  3. Cole, M. (1996). Cultural Psychology: A once and future discipline. Cambridge Mass., Harvard University Press.
  4. Valsiner, J. (1996). The guided mind — a sociogenetic approach to personality. Cambridge MA, Harvard Univ.

Press. -Valsiner, J. and R. van derVeer (2000). Culture and human development. London, Sage.

17.11.14. Tomasello, M. (1999). The cultural origins of human cognition. Cambridge Mass., Harvard Univ. Press.

Test Questions for “New Directions in Psychology” Tallinn University, 2003.04.14 13:13-15:00

Please give as concise an answer as possible, each on a separate page, for two of the questions below. Note that I don’t judge the positions you take but rather the presentation you make of your position and the arguments and their pertinence for your position.

    1. Questions
      1. Give a short description of communication in semiotic-ecological terms and sketch its potential for understanding people in their world.
      2. Describe the essentials of Generative Semiosis and its possible role in the Function Cycle embedding any individual into its environment.
      3. Describe, elaborate and comment upon the basic Evolutive Assumption and its potential for understanding the Human Condition. Give your reasons for finding it a promising or a problematic assumption.
      4. Compare triadic and dyadic causation notions and demonstrate their respective advantages and/or difficulties.
      5. Describe your understanding of culturality and compare it with some other notion(s) of culture.
      6. Write a biref pamphlet giving essential arguments either for or against the thesis that psychology as an important science of humans needs to include culturality in a major position within its range of observation and theorizing and should correspondingly adjust its methodology.
      7. What do you see as either advantages and/or disadvantages of treating the apparently quite different phenomena of perception, action, mental life and the cultural process by one single type of abstract conception, Generative Semiosis of Semions?
      8. Write a brief phamphlet taking side in the question of psychological science and value or image of humans issues: whether or not the latter should be part of the scientific program. Give arguments for your position touching of how the relation might be and what the consequences of your position might be.
  1. Some of the best Answers of the Students