Biology & Reality

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Article written before the Esalen Evolution and Consciousness Conference of November 2005

Biology and the Nature of Reality

Abstract: The legacy and assumptions of philosophical dualism’s separation of mind and matter are examined in regard to biology’s separation of the organism and the environment. Current evolutionary developmental theory is used to explore the prominence of environmental effects on development and the understanding of non-genetic inheritance channels. A generalization is attempted based on types of environmental constraints. The growing richness of external constraints over evolutionary time is then used in an attempt to explain collective and distributed developmental effects from mutualisms to culture. This interpenetration of the environment by biological constraints is also used to make the claim that reality itself is an emergence where human societies have exploited rich external constraints. Objective reality is portrayed as a paradigmatic stage in this evolution and as a refined subset. Connections are then broached from this naturalistic reality to the complex connectivities found in the humanities. The general claim is made that life and the environment are in a long term coevolutionary growth formed by the trading and integration of constraints.

The Challenge: Organism versus the Environment
The Resurgence of Development in Biology
The Environment as Source and Reservoir of Biological Constraints
Environmental Constraints as Key for Origin of Culture
Reality: the Rich Matrix of External Constraints

The Challenge: Organism versus the Environment
Science shuffles forward while locked opposingly into a split culture with the higher spiritual aspirations separated into largely separate dialogues. Biology, the heralded terrain of a glorious Twenty-first century of great discovery, sits disarmingly almost astride this cultural split. The split was formed in full awareness at the dawn of the history of science when Descartes split off the res cogitans, the thinking things, from the res extensa, the things with measurable extension. Biology studies organisms that have both measurable extensions in space and some of which at least have cognitive powers. Not unsurprisingly biology is usually considered to lag behind the other hard sciences because it has not produced much theoretical integration other than the theory of evolution, now almost 150 years old.

Considering the assumption of splitness known as dualism that was in place at the beginning of science, it would not be surprising to find biology not only addressing the issue of splitness but also being frustrated by the limiting assumption of the separation of extension and cognition. The assumption of dualism pushed biology to try to understand organisms by exploring them as mechanisms in isolation. Biology struggled to understand the workings of organisms by pushing away the magical vitalism of the interior and the complicating environmental interlacings at the periphery. Species or organisms were taken to be points of living unity on a fixed landscape of reality. Humans and organisms are active; reality and the environment are passive. And the ever active minds are internal to organisms and separate from the outside world to be viewed.

Today the astounding complexity of organisms has led to a paradigm of emergence as a credible internal alternative to vitalism. But there are also theoretical breaches in the wall separating organisms and minds from the environment. The environment is increasingly appreciated as a source of active influence on organisms. And mind is increasingly being studied as a phenomenon that is actively distributed across both organisms and their environment. The environmental activity in biology can be seen in the rapidly changing theory of development which itself is challenging genetic supremacy and in the theory of niche construction where it is realized that many organisms change the environment either to suit themselves or as part of themselves. Turner speaks of crickets which construct underground chambers made to amplify their singing and of underwater spiders with woven air sacs like bell divers as the environmental aspects of their physiology. Looking back at the old version of developmental theory as completely controlled by genes, the following quote speaks of these limitations with separated organisms in a neutral environment:1

“These are the metaphors of development, which carries the implication of an unfolding or unrolling of an internal program that determines the organism’s life history from its origin as a fertilized zygote to its death, and the metaphor of adaptation, which asserts that evolution consists in the shaping of species to fit the requirements of an autonomous external environment. That is, both in developmental and in evolutionary biology, the inside and the outside of organisms are regarded as separate spheres of causation with no mutual dependence. The burden of the essay is that these metaphors mislead the biologist because they fail to take account of the interactive processes that link the inside and the outside.”2

Similarly, conceptions of mind increasingly focus on how the mind is a phenomenon that is extended out into the environment so that the mind saves memory and computational resources. One author after reviewing the evidence for externalist views of mind concludes:

“I shall suggest that processes of awareness call out for a radical rethinking along externalist lines, one that turns on taking locational externalism about consciousness more seriously than it has been taken, even by externalists about the phenomenal. The argument here will be similar to that given in the previous chapter, where I argued that our conceptions of memory, cognitive development, and folk psychology should be explicitly refashioned along externalist lines. At the heart of this reconceptualization are three features of processes of awareness that have usually been ignored or downplayed: They are temporally extended; they are typically scaffolded on environmental and cultural tools; and they are both embodied and embedded.”3

So, the legacy assumption of a separation of organisms and minds from the environment has been punctured. Organisms are of the environment and minds are of space. This paper is an attempt to more firmly cross this divide of dualism and to outline what an, in principle, non-separated interface between organisms and their environment would look like and what consequences it might have to our understanding of apparently distributed phenomena such as mutualistic associations, culture, knowledge and consciousness. For example, consciousness studies have the difficulty of explaining how such a qualitatively distinct feel could be generated within the brain. If, however, mind is externalist and heavily distributed from the brain out into environmental features, then our experience of a seemingly distributed awareness is less surprising than it would be if the qualitative experience of mind were supposed to be some sort of phantasms from neural chemistry.

To this end this paper takes a variety of work across the organism-environment divide and then offers reconceptualizations based on interactional properties rather than on whole organism units with activities in a frozen environmental tableau. Instead of organisms versus environment a redescription will be made in terms of organism-environments. The biological goal is to use concepts about organisms and their local environments that straddle the divide and that then offer more comprehensive views about a range of secondary phenomena from symbioses to culture. The humanities goal is to take a richer view of the environment where many associations and feedback loops proliferated during human origins so that explanations of phenomena from mind to language have a distributed explanation. One aspect of this attempt is the claim that both science and the humanities attempt to make bridges between them based all too often on simplified versions of the other as target. Here the attempt is rather to highlight that the common ground between them lies in the rich complexity of both. And the rich complexity is proposed to be a distributed aspect of environments–whether of organisms or of meaning.

The conclusion drawn here will be that in important ways reality, the environment as lived by organisms, is essentially collectively constrained and responsive. In other terms it can be stated as reality is a web of constraints formed by organisms to facilitate what should happen, i.e., where energy and behavior should flow. Coupled with its growth these features indicate that the environment is alive. It is not only, in some regions of the earth’s surface, filled with living creatures but also all features of it are feedbacking into us by the active manipulations of ourselves and others.

It is worth digressing to give a sense of the meaning of “constraint.” From the hard sciences it often means initial conditions or boundary conditions for any process under study. To study any system implies that there is a beginning situation when one begins study and that this initial condition constrains what can happen next. Similarly for boundary condition as when one studies water flow and notes how physical obstacles such as rocks and river banks constrain flow. In biology it is similar and can be used for a much wider variety of influences. A catalyst or large molecule that facilitates certain chemical reactions is a constraint as is facilitated learning where animals give youngsters smells or learning opportunities that constrain their learning without actually teaching them. The concept is also important in our daily lives as the ways we arrange our living spaces and our routines can be said to constrain our actions. Subjects like architecture are about the intelligent design of constraints. The concept is also useful in everyday experience where it captures the sense of biases in our thoughts, perceptions and movement styles. Embodied habits and growth particularities can be said to constrain our movements while upbringing and cultural background constrain our thoughts and actions.

The argument presented here is that the developmental process of an organism’s growth as well as the growth patterns of many phylogenetically late multicellulars are fundamentally open to the use and exploitation of constraints out beyond the conventional boundary of the skin. These constraints include passive cues such as temperature, active cues such as niche construction and inter-organism cues such as from conspecific social development or from mutualisms. The use, exploitation and manipulation of external constraints has its own evolutionary track and is proposed as the environment that allowed early human ancestors to both increase their exploitation and to increase their exta-genetic inheritance through learning and modified environments. Environmental constraints have only increased over historical time. Such a description of our environment allows an explanation of the special evolutionary transition to human societies and offers an understanding of reality as neither objective territory nor constructive maps but of a continuing development of the formation and use of biological constraints external to organisms.

The Resurgence of Development in Biology
As mentioned the field of biology is changing rapidly. Significant for theory is the changing relationship between genetics and developmental theory.

Development describes the process of any one organism as it grows from an egg into an adult. This growth process can be simple or complicated like a caterpillar into a butterfly, or it can be short or long as in human children. Developmental theory is about this growth process and describes the actual messy details of the growth of the phenotype–all of an actual organism but seen as a whole and in contrast to the genetic component, the genotype. The tension in developmental theory is that for over almost a century genetics has dominated biological thinking to the point where development of phenotypes was considered an incidental afterthought to genetic control and genetic selection. Now it appears as if development is in fact a significant factor in evolution. One speaks today of evolutionary developmental biology or “evo-devo” as something of a potential new paradigm.

The significance of development for evolution is that the complexity of development and its interdependence with the environment along with the genes means that aspects of the environment are in continuous interplay with organisms to the point where the environment offers other inheritance channels besides genes. There are several shifts of emphasis. Genes are not the only source of control. The environment is seen to play a much more active role. And the focus is less on the result of genes or even of a long series of genes but on the living process of organisms as they develop and grow. Another shift is from the universal traits of genes to determine most all members of a species to the actual development of individuals.

Crucial to the change in perspective is the centrality of development and its actual product, the phenotype, as the centerpiece where evolutionary selection meets inheritance and variation effects. A researcher, West-Eberhard, who in other contexts does subscribe to the non-genetic inheritance systems of permanent environmental changes and behavior mediated by learning, states the centrality of development succinctly:

“The causal chain of adaptive evolution begins with development. Development, or ontogenetic change induced by genomic and environmental factors, causes phenotypic variation within populations. If the phenotypic variation caused by developmental variation in turn causes variation in survival and reproductive success, this constitutes selection.”4

Development also has a different character than the replication and template-directed control of genes. It takes place in a compartmentalized or modular fashion; it involves a confluence of many factors including hormones and behavior; and it shows great connectedness between the modular subcomponents (i.e., it is integrated and hierarchical). The modular components, say like a wing or a heart of an animal, can vary discretely or like height and coloration can vary continuously. These processes are mediated by many switches and constraints from genes, from the internal environment and from the external environment. These characteristics of connected modularity can be seen in important effects. The first is that development is the likely source of novelty in evolution rather than genetic mutations, which is well since this idea has not stood up well. The second is that novelty and phenotypic variation tend to not lead to dysfunctional phenotypes as often as would be expected if development unfolded from a central control mechanism since the interconnected factors of development lead to accommodation between modular factors. One result of both of these is that organisms are seen to have many latent alternative phenotypes other than the one expressed in given circumstances. The character of development that emerges is of organisms as composed of many modular subcomponents whose actual realization in any one particular organism is but a small component of the potential combinations under different circumstances.5

Other researchers choose to speak not of development but of developmental systems to emphasize that the system under development can be more inclusive than the physically bounded organism. This highlights how it is more complex organisms which have more complicated development where the multiple effects of environmental factors enlarge the developmental system and thereby have relatively more effects. The revolutionary power of developmental thinking is that the process of developmental organization has its own complex organization that is comparably as dependent on environmental factors as on genes. Without contradicting Darwinism but while contradicting genetic determinism this complexity of developmental systems ties organisms to environmental factors so thoroughly to the point where many environmental channels become reliable carriers of inheritance information from one generation to the next. A researcher speaking of self-organization, a theoretical umbrella term for development, makes the point how self-organization saves informational demands on the genome while not contradicting the theory of natural selection:

“There is no contradiction or competition between self-organization and natural selection. Instead, it is a cooperative ‘marriage’ in which self-organization allows tremendous economy in the amount of information that natural selection needs to encode in the genome. In this way, the study of self-organization in biological systems promotes orthodox evolutionary explanation, not heresy.”6

The question now is how significant are these environmental sources of information. How wide do developmental systems extend into the environment? And how deep are any inheritance channels of information out in the environmental portion of these developmental systems? This is likely to be a lively subject for the foreseeable future. That future debate will be settled experimentally even while the logic of possible extra-genetic sources of inheritance channels seems settled in favor of its probability. Those speaking from the heart of developmental systems theory have it that:

“Many nongenetic resources are reliably passed on across the generations. Variations in these resources can be passed on, causing changes in the life cycle of the next generation. The concept of inheritance is used to explain the stability of biological form from one generation to the next. In line with this theoretical role, developmental systems theory applies the concept of inheritance to any resource that is reliably present in successive generations, and is part of the explanation of why each generation resembles the last. This seems to us a principled definition of inheritance. It allows us to assess the evolutionary potential of various forms of inheritance empirically, rather than immediately excluding everything but genes and a few fashionable extras.”7

There are several candidate environmental channels of inheritance. Two researchers, Jablonka and Lamb, speak of epigenetic, behavioral and symbolic inheritance systems that they further categorize more strongly as “instructive” systems. Two other candidate environmental inheritance systems are ecological, stemming from niche construction, and symbiotic relationships. All five in addition to the genetic channel seem strong candidates to bear the test of experiment as to whether they will be evaluated as inheritance systems. Three of these inheritance channels, the epigenetic, the behavioral and the ecological, are worth a few words here.8

The epigenetic inheritance system includes any constraints other than genes that are carried over directly through the phenotype, through the egg or through the uterus. Foods or hormones that are specific to the mother that are either left in the egg or present in the uterus during development can act as stimuli to developmental pathways of offspring. What makes these inheritance mechanisms is that the cues be reliable so that, say, mothers reliably eat and leave certain food traces in eggs.9

Behavior is an important and easily graspable inheritance channel. In itself it denotes only the simple actions of organisms as opposed to the morphological or physical components. It becomes an inheritance channel as soon as offspring copy behavior from adults in a consistent manner over generations which happens in many cases such as from birds learning birdsong to mammals learning food choices. This copying of behavior can happen in subtle ways such as youngsters being left near food sources so that they are more likely to discover how to tap the resource (facilitated learning), or it can happen in more explicit ways such as in imitation learning where humans copy behavior in a step by step exact way. West-Eberhard underscores the potential of behavioral learning’s effect on evolution:

“As long as there is a behavioral decision mediated by learning, learning potentially affects the recurrent expression of particular behaviors, the action of selection, and the course of evolution.”10

What is worth remembering in this context is the holistic character of development even in regard to the behavioral inheritance channel. The development and the learning of behaviors is integrally tied to other aspects of development such as the physical aspects of bodies. Behavioral changes make changes to bodies. One type of behavior might influence the development or size of some body parts and vice versa. That morphological and behavioral aspects of development are so thoroughly integrated by gene products, hormones, environmental stimuli and other aspects of complex switches shows development to be a continuous and holistic process. What is different is that behavior is dynamic, faster, sometimes reversible and possibly more complexly variable.

“What distinguishes behavior from morphological plasticity, then, is neither condition sensitivity nor freedom from genetic influence on component elements. Rather, it is the greater time delay between gene expression and gene-product use, and the number and reversibility of permutations or reorganizations of elements that can occur during the lifetime of an individual.”11

Another non-genetic inheritance system goes by the name of ecological inheritance by the authors who have brought niche construction, the active manipulation of local environments by organisms such as burrows, nests and beaver dams, or even effective manipulation such as moving to another location, firmly into theoretical consideration. What they mean is that inheritance of a constructed type passes through the environment when organisms continuously pass on a modified environment to their progeny. A typical example for them is earthworms where current worms survive and do not dry up because the soil has been modified by the continual effects of prior earthworms. When Odling-Smee and team speak of the evolutionary effects of niche construction, they think primarily in terms of inducing genetic effects by selection rather than using the opening that developmental theory provides that permanently changed environmental conditions can act as a permanent influence on phenotypic development without necessitating genetic accommodation. They do realize that it is an independent inheritance mechanism and use the term “ecological inheritance,” but the ambiguity here prompts me to use instead the term constructed inheritance. Note that niche construction theorists recognize that simple movement changes the organism’s effective environment and is therefore a form of niche construction which then implies that permanent change of environment such as migration is also an ecological inheritance.12

There is no question that a better understanding of development will have important implications for our understanding of evolution. The short overview above is presented as a lead to questions about the nature of the general relationship of organisms to the environment. In a straightforward way the theory so far presents a picture of the centrality of development while lowering the previous supreme importance of genes and while incorporating other sources of inheritance. Most of the other inheritance sources are through the external environment (behavioral, constructed and symbolic). Genes and the epigenetic inheritance channels can in like manner be construed as being through the internal environment. What emerges is that development as the continuity of phenotypes and eggs growing and replicating reassumes a central aspect of the picture of life as process while the picture of DNA as the central, magic molecule comes out of the limelight to take a key but comparable role to other semipermanent constraints. That developing organisms get constraints internally and externally leaves no principled split between the organism and its environment:

“The nature-nurture dichotomy disappears with the realization that the developing phenotype responds to both internal and external stimuli in much the same way.”13

The significance of development for theory is and will continue to be an exciting trend. It is especially significant here in the context of the paradigmatic question of the relation of organisms to their environment. The emerging theory of development and especially the conceptually shifted group of developmental systems theorists (DST) make it clear that the environment is an integral part of an organism. If one were to try to sum up the theory that appears to be emerging in evolutionary developmental thought or “evo-devo” and from DST, it might be: development or life unfoldment of organisms is an interconnected, hierarchically modular process that is almost identical across generations because of conserved features either of the internal environment such as DNA or of the external environment such as behaviors and niche constructions.

The Environment as Source and Reservoir of Biological Constraints
While the picture emerging from evolutionary developmental theory is quite radical from the point of view of the dualistic, stand-alone organism tied to the centrality of genes, it takes us only so far. It says the organisms are fundamentally integrated into their environments. West-Eberhard again has it that:

“...many other prominent evolutionary biologists including Spencer, Severtzoff, Beurlen, J.S. Huxley and G.G. Simpson, saw evolution as ‘liberating the organism from the determining influence of the environment.’ I maintain instead that, far from being liberated from environmental influence, organisms evolve so as to incorporate environmental elements and exploit them as essential components of normal development.”14

However, the focus remains on the organism and not the environment nor some sort of organism-environment hybrid. And in general, it leaves a presumed principled distinction between the organism and the environment. From a mirror image point of view there should be a parallel story of how environments are effected by and integrated with organisms. In an obvious way the earth’s surface has changed dramatically just from the gradual accumulation of a diversity of organisms within it. From a human era timescale there is also a huge accumulation of human-built or biologically derived structures and artefacts. Looking out from my desk here there are only grass, fences, trees, a door–the environment is only biological organisms and their products except for the sky.

Environmental effects from organisms begin simply with the local deviations from equilibrium such as low concentrations of food items and high concentrations of waste products. Additionally, there are aspects of the environment that act as cues to development of organisms such as light intensity and temperature. More important are aspects of the environment that act as positive feedbacking aspects to the organism. Enzymes secreted by bacteria and the spider’s web are either part of the extended organism as described above or parts of the environment that act as positive feedback to the organism. It is their degree of effectiveness and integration that allows a boundary by degree to be made. Then there are associated cues in the environment such as sound or smell of another organism which by positive feedback give an early indication of the other. All of this traffic in cross-boundary constraints is predicated on a positive sum of an organism’s energy budget: the maintenance and monitoring of external constraints depends on more energy coming in than being expended.15

What is important in the above description is that organisms produce and exploit constraints in the environment. At this level all interactions are reactive. All interactions are opportunistic, capable of feedback and likely to be candidates for selection. Effective strategies include masking one’s own constraints as in camouflage, making one’s own constraints effective blockers to others as in defense, discovering new constraints associated with others for early warning as in new sensory channels or improved old ones and exploiting other non-biological constraints in the environment to maneuver or defend. This redescription removes the problematic, anthropomorphic attribution of agency where perception is separate from action. Instead, an acknowledgment is made that biological constraints are being created and exploited in the environment. It is worth noting that it is internal constraints that make life possible. Catalysts, membranes and a host of molecules and internal structures make life happen by keeping processes moving away from equilibrium. Similarly, genes can be thought of as constraints to keep other constraints such as proteins in place.

External constraints evolved into multi-stepped constraints and temporally extended constraints. Niche constructions like burrows and beaver dams are constraints that are both multi-stepped and maintained over time. The pheromone trails of ants are constraints that are maintained over time. Odling-Smee, Laland and Feldman list tables with examples of niche construction from “each of life’s kingdoms” to highlight how the spectacular constructions of humans are not unique to animals. Moreover, animals prepare aspects of the environment in constraints for future use. Birds and squirrels cache stores of seeds. Orangutans remember where fruit trees are located. Chimpanzees know that a variety of materials such as “twig, bark, vine, leaf, stem, shoot, root, bough” as well as stone can be used for various tool-like purposes. Many animals especially vertebrates and mammals have simple categories for aspects of the environment. The sequencing of constraints for complex behavior and the temporal extension of constraints and the physical construction of constraints mean that the environment becomes increasingly interlinked with organisms and with other aspects of itself (e.g., tools are linked to uses and tool-making materials).16

This quick description of the ubiquity of biological constraints in the environment is given to show the continuity with and the richness of the environment at the point where human culture began a phase of accumulating constructive and intentional constraints with the environment and amongst social groups. Whereas the constraints of the genes were evolving over the several million year period from the last common ancestor before chimps and hominids diverged, the claim is that constraints in the environment for hominids were also evolving and evolving rapidly. And as the earlier remarks about behavioral and constructed (or ecological) inheritance channels indicated, some of these positive feedback interactions with constraints in the environment were passed on intergenerationally. Learning improvements including step by step imitation, teaching or facilitated learning were able to pass on improvements in behavioral techniques in a ratcheting, cumulative manner. Constructions including stone scrapers and digging tools could be passed on as materials and as techniques.

The claim then is that organisms not only use internal constraints but also use, produce, depend on and evolve external constraints. It is worthwhile to attempt a rough sense of the type and extent of external constraints. At a basic level simple metabolism depends on a positive balance of energy inputs from the environment as well as entropic outputs. Direct rewards and challenges from the environment such as food or threat are constraints in that they enhance or inhibit growth. One typical environmental effect of simple inputs and outputs is that there exist local disequilibria of them. The boundary constraints of the receptor structures at a cell’s surface favor certain molecular flows. Surface constraints of the organism interact with the constraints of the particular external molecules so that flow rates are adjusted from both sides. The external molecules are not just constraints to be pulled or pushed by the organism; all types of external molecules are to a degree constrained by the organism’s categorization of preferred molecules and changes in inter-molecular interactions. Constraints are properties of the organism, properties of the resistance or intrusion of certain molecules and properties of local external environment as the organism’s constraints effect local interactions. This circuit of internal and external effects and constraints is the typical pattern.

A slightly more complex environmental constraint occurs when some physical substrate acts as a sign of a direct input or output. Sensory organs usually operate in this realm so that signs like vibrations or smell can constrain organisms to take appropriate postures towards probable outcomes. As a result environmental features acquire associated connections because of the existence of sensory organs. That is, the environment is changed by the existence of associations made by sensory organs. Certain vibration frequencies or molecules become associated with primary inputs and threats. Organisms by acquiring sensory modes or multi-stepped feedback to inputs and threats constrain associations between inputs/threats and their associated signs. It is in fact local disequilibria including especially those associated with other organisms that allow their sensory exploitation and their strengthened environmental linkage by virture of sensory feedbacking. For example a bacterium must excrete waste particles; these leave an undiffused high concentration around the cell; if this first bacterium is a prey or predator of another organism such as a protist then this latter might learn that this different concentration of waste product is always associated with the bacterium; now the waste product is a local diffusion constraint and a link constraint ensuring different activity by the protist in that local environment. Organisms engender local disequilibria which are constraints; these disequilibria allow other organisms to exploit these constraints for sensory, multi-stepped feedback associations; and then the employment of sensory modes in turn further constrains the linkage between a source and an associated disequilibriated trace.

A third type of external constraint is the developmental cue that nudges an organism to develop differently in different environments. Like inputs, local disequilibria and their sensory linkage, developmental cues can be a simple effect constraining the growth of an organism, or its regularity can induce organisms to assimilate developmental switches so that cues facilitate faster alternative development pathways to match the new “effect.” An example might be the way that some high latitude animals change their fur coats depending on the season which might be induced by environmental factors such as temperature or length of day. Here winter constrains long fur and a developmental cue such as length of day is associatively constrained to be tied to inducing long fur in such a type of animal. However reliably winter follows reduced length of day the new environmental linkage between length of day and fur thickness is something new worth noting. General learning is also the same as a developmental cue in that external circumstances lead to a modication of the organism, and this is turn means that the environment subsequently contains what amounts to associated instructions. If I teach a dog to retrieve a ball, then I am effectively the environment to the dog’s development. When the dog learns, then I as the environment am changed since I, balls, and our proximity are now associated constraints to the dog.

Another type of external constraint is the manipulation by one organism of another’s growth. My training the dog above might be a simplistic example since my training was hardly a passive environment, but this apparently happens in nature a lot. In social insects such as wasps, ants and termites some individuals actively manipulate food and hormones to cause eggs and juveniles to develop in alternative ways that give different kinds of workers in the colony. Plants grow taller and thinner when densely seeded not because of an active manipulation but just because the effect of crowding by others reduces available sunlight mainly to the top growing edge (the local environment). In all cases other organisms change the local environments of others, and in some cases such as the social insects the effect becomes exploited and actively manipulated. In the non-manipulating form the environment simply contains growth constraints from some organisms for others that are effected. In the manipulating form such as the social insects there are in the environment interlinked constraints for both the effected and the effecting organism. Constraints such as larvae and colony density constrain nest tending worker insects to vary the nutrition or hormone inputs and the larvae have these latter limiting growth constraints depending on the growth phase of the colony.

The recognition that organisms are constraints to each other and often exploititively so shows how the environment can begin to be filled up with biological constraints. Also, mutual constraints between organisms removes a principled boundary separating organisms.

“Developmental systems include much that is outside the traditional phenotype. This raises the question of where one developmental system and one life cycle ends and the next begins.”17

Following this suggestion and considering the environment as a source and reservoir of biological constraints, it makes sense to speak of inter-phenotypic constraints. And when the environment contains reciprocal constraints between organisms, then to this degree of interlocking, it makes sense to speak of collective phenotypes or collective development. The local environments of each organism have exploited those of the other so that a mutual disequilibriated local environment is a condition of the developmental system of each. These local mutually constrained environments not only offer a way to view the production of constraints from the perspective of the environment but they also are a useful way to view the large variety of mutualisms, symbioses and general sociality among conspecifics. They exploit each other’s external constraints often mutually. In passive cases development of one organism is simply effected by the external constraints of the other. In active cases development one organism depends on or is subject to the external constraints of the other such as with parasites or the aphids raised by ants.

Examples of the effects and exploitation of the local biotic constraints of other organisms abound. The nucleated cell is apparently an evolved symbiosis among several prokaryotes where the mutual exploitation of the local environments of the other partners became so mutually entwined that it is easy to speak of a collective. Care of infants by mothers especially of mammals speaks of the use of the local environment for another. In fact these examples of inter-phenotypic collectivities are so glaring that they almost obscure their basis–the existence of local disequilibria in the environments of organisms that act and are very often exploited as constraints by other organisms. Small chemical concentrations, certain behaviors, relative speeds, any local disequilibria are environmental modifications from equilibrium that are available as niches for others in the usual language but that are biotic external constraints in the language here. Any environmental modification no matter how subtle and no matter how local is a result that like any other environmental factor can act as a constraint for the development of another organism. The real difficulty here is not in imagining external biotic constraints but in imagining just how staggeringly in numbers and effects they have modified the biosphere.

Niche construction too is a type of external constraint. Here one organism modifies its environment in a way that will feedback positively to itself. It places a different constraint in the environment so that the constraint will help its development. This constraint is now a temporally extended effect on itself or on others. Local environmental disequilibria are now exaggerated because of their positive effects. It is in fact the prior disequilibrium outside an organism resulting from its metabolism or activities that in theory is the opportunity for exploitation and strengthening that is the explanation for the origin of niche construction.18

Another type of external constraint is the recognition by animals of categories in the environment such as mass, shape or pattern of activity. These constraints show up in the environment as structured connections. Any particular object by the existence of an animal’s categorization for shape has its parts connected with weights that did not exist as mere chemical structure. The environment is changed by, for example, the particular food type’s being more vulnerable to being eaten. This type of constraint is similar to labelling where one animal learns from another animal that a particular food is good or that particular other animals are dangerous. Learning in effect multiplies constraints such as categorization by spreading them.

Tool usage scaffolds external constraints to one another in a multi-stepped feedback linkage of external constraints. Tools such as rocks and leaves are the intermediate step constraints that are connected to inputs. The effect in the environment is that an input such as food is now linked to certain classes of objects. The passing of skills between organisms is a demonstration of three types of constraints–categories, inputs, inter-phenotypic learning. The skill links categories and inputs in the environment while the learning assures its spread.

A simple external constraint occurs just because of largeness of organisms. Large organisms are constraints to smaller organisms just as they have an inner hierarchy of constraints to keep the largeness of their own parts integrated.

“By being unresponsive, higher levels constrain and thereby impose general limits on the behavior of small-scale entities. Constraint is therefore achieved not by upper levels actively doing anything but rather by them doing nothing.”19

A much more complicated external constraint occurs with intentions. It is similar to categorization but with more forcefulness and with the possibility of linking many steps together in an action plan. Nuts stored by a squirrel in a cache is an example. What intentional constraints do to the environment is to introduce temporal extension or futurity. Items that are included in intentions are given different probabilities for their future.

This simple start of a typology of external constraints then can list inputs, feedback to inputs as in perception, cues to development, inter-phenotypic cues and manipulations, niche construction, tool usage, skills, categories, labels, relative size and intentions. This is a list for non-human organisms that leaves out symbols. Their diversity as well as their ubiquity and their exploitation is what is worth taking note of. And it is only by reframing these external effects of organisms as aspects of the environment that one can appreciate how the environment has had its own evolution on the planet that has been more than the collection of creatures within it. This raises a question about what trend, if any, the environment has undergone. Without wanting to broach the contentious issue of evolutionary trends I nevertheless note two pieces of information that suggest that the environment has evolved and that organisms have co-evolved to keep up with it. Vermeij treats ecologies as economies with global characteristics that evolve toward more integration and power. And Goodsell notes succinctly that the bacteria Escherichia coli have less than 5% of their bodies involved in motion and perception while humans are built for this and have the bulk of our bodies devoted to sensing, reaction and motion.20

Environmental Constraints as Key for Origin of Culture
The claim then is that the rise of cultures among animals could only take place in an environment that was sufficiently rich in external constraints. It was the heavily feedbacked and constrained environment of hominid groups co-evolving with hominid brains which provided the base for the distributed phenomena of culture, language, knowledge, cognition and reality. Cognition cannot evolve one-sidedly in an organism disinterestedly without the rewards and punishments feedback from categorical handles attempted by the organism. Language cannot evolve as a fully formed system but must come from the heavy interactional demands of groups where intentions within the environment matter between the extremes of lethal aggression and indifferent ignoral. Culture as a way of doing things particular to groups requires enough versatility of environmental interactions for a group to drift over to specific suites of interactive doings. Only an environment full of behaviors, constructions, categories and intentions coupled with group dynamics with roles, cooperation, agonistic tensions, trial and error experimenters, learners and manipulators could maintain and propel forward an environmental relational juggernaut such as these hominid societies. They depended on behavioral techniques, opportunistic niches, the tension of teamwork and competition, long periods of juvenile learning which implied an extraordinary richness of constraints back and forth to the environment and to each other’s intentions. A sense of the environmental richness sufficient to engender an effective metabolism of environmental constraints comes from the following:21

“In the real life of a prehistoric human, there would have been an unbroken continuum between an animal appetite for food in all its diversity; the context in which food was found (i.e., ecology); the ways in which food could be obtained (i.e., tools and techniques); and the social context in which the food was gathered, shared, and consumed (i.e., the group or ‘society’).”22

At the same time this environmental richness is adapted to–genetically, behaviorally, constructively and group-behaviorally–so that the richness is simplified:

“Adaptive behavior is scaffolded by agents physically engineering their environment. They act on their environment so that it subsequently generates cues that support adaptive responses.”23

Culture has been defined variously for high cultural tastes, for indigenous human cultures in remote places and for animal groups with specific behaviors–all without agreement about what culture really is. Customs, institutions, roles, social learning of norms and traditions across generations are some of the concepts used in these attempts. In the view here all of these concepts are constituted from and of the relationships to external constraints in the local environments of groups. From the point of view of evolutionary developmental theory where actual phenotypes are very dependent on environmental factors, the richness of the environment’s external constraints fosters the drift of behavioral, intentional and constructing ways that would in turn spread quickly by social constraints across the whole group. It is this manifold of patterns among a social group and their external constraints that allows drift and that becomes dynamic so that patterns not only change in local social groups but are pushed forward by imitative learning and discovery. The process of using external constraints starts to become the process of producing more constraints to exploit. Labelling, niche constructing, learning by imitation, teaching and trial and error learning are all means to produce more external constraints that either constrain outsiders negatively or group members positively. More and more aspects of the environment become relevant categories to the expanding length of feedback loops chaining new external constraints. Similarly, manipulations of others including their constructions, their intentions, their group roles and their learning meant that individuals developed differently by the constraints placed on them. Identities, roles and divisions of labor resulted. The environment was abuzz with the use, production and manipulation of constraints whether it was with abiotic features, other group members or other species such as occurred with domestication.

This prehistoric rich environment as a precondition for the origination of culture is like the rich environments that kids grow up in today. The external constraints are there to adapt or bend as each individual and generation chooses:

“The notion that culture is transmissible from one generation to the next as a corpus of knowledge, independently of its application in the world, is untenable for the simple reason that it rests on the impossible precondition of a ready-made cognitive architecture. In fact, I maintain, nothing is really transmitted at all. The growth of knowledge in the life history of a person is a result not of information transmission but of guided rediscovery, where what each generation contributes to the next are not rules and representations for the production of appropriate behavior but the specific conditions of development under which successors, growing up in a social world, can build up their own aptitudes and dispositions.”24

The power and subtlety of culture and the conceptual continuity it shows with this picture of a mutually constraining alliance of humans and environmental aspects can be seen in a recent popular history book, Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond. He asks the question why did European culture easily push away native American cultures upon arrival 500 years ago given that there is no discernible IQ difference. His answer was that it was not just European soldiers and people who conquered but rather something like a European conglomeration of people-domesticated-animals-germs-technology that prevailed over a smaller native American conglomeration of people-germs-technology. The conglomerate wholes were built not by smarter peoples but by simply having a larger collection of domesticable plants and animals which brought along more germs to adapt to and more time and resources to grow more technology. In effect one culture as a type of large collective being, the European one, was simply bigger and pushed aside and accommodated with the smaller native American collective being. The European conglomerate included effectively symbiotic relationships with the domesticated plants and animals in what amounted to society-symbioses collectivity. Its largeness over the native American one he attributed simply to the plants and animals available in the respective continents which in turn was predicated on two different environments–one laid out in east-west extent that matched organisms’ ability to migrate in similar weather bands versus the American one with a north-south geography that precluded easy migration across weather bands. That Cortez in 1521 could come across the ocean and with a small band of soldiers push aside the strongest civilization in the Americas, the Aztecs, speaks loudly about the power of collectives and their differences especially when the individual descendants of both sides go largely unmarked by differences in today’s Mexico.25

Culture, whether for animals or humans, is very useful as a bridge concept from human society today to earlier evolutionary social patterns. It separates groups based on particular behavioral patterns and environmental relationships, and it joins all complex groups as having in common distinctive behavioral repertoires, environmental patterns and social transmission of these patterns. That a culture contains domesticated animals and plants only emphasizes its holism and its ability to grow for which it is important to consider all the relationships and constraints in its environment and not just the behaviors. Culture is a distributed phenomenon of organisms and environment.

Consider the following example about the behavioral effects of merging two different species of baboons into a single troop. It is taken from a study of hamadryas baboons done by Kummer and colleagues. These baboons have a social organization where large troops consist of males who herd several females that stay close to their male. Yellow baboons are close relatives who have a different social structure where the females move about in the larger troop freely except during oestrus where they consort with a dominant male. The researchers brought some yellow baboon females into a troop of hamadryas. The yellow baboon females were brought into the harem groups of some males but tended to wander about more freely than the male hamadryas wanted. At first there was apparently much commotion and coercion before the yellow baboon females learned to accept the home group’s social organization. The authors citing the example attribute the differences to “cultural and not genetic origin.” The female yellow baboons were set from genetic and early developmental influences (when were they separated from their original troops?) to require some of the environmental factors offered by the adopting troop (large group for safety, etc.) but not all. Their integration into the new group could go forward because there were enough supporting constraints, but the integration had a period of behavioral flare ups because some of the constraints were not reciprocally matched. The environmental relationships worked as whole to nudge them into a species atypical behavioral pattern.26

Similarly cognition should be considered as a distributed phenomenon where constraints in the environment work in tandem with the development of constraints in growing brains to mold preferences into overlapping behavioral choices. Brains developed originally to coordinate the distributed bodies of multicellular animals. They were the ganglia where nerves came together. In this context it is good to remember that the environment is a relative term. As in symbiosis where one organism is environment to the other, so it is in multicellulars where cells, despite having identical genetic endowments, are in important respects the environment to each other so that they reciprocally constrain each other through cellular communication.27

What is important here is that nerve cells and their hubs such as ganglia and brains connect different parts of the organism together including the sensory cues constraining it; they do not do anything. Thus, there cannot be any cognition such as we experience until organisms evolve to have extended external constraints (e.g., categories, labels, refined and overlapping sensory cues, dependable constructions, social signals) so that their nerve cells, hormones, sensory detectors and activity producers can connect them and interconnect them. This connection is seen from the concept of perception and action as circuits of responsivity. My noticing a bird flying by is such a simple circuit made by tying together ready-made connections. A bird flies by; light is reflected; my peripheral vision changes its pattern of light intake and nerve output; nerves pass this difference from my previous background view of sky through well developed neural circuits depending on their synaptic weightings and constraints of perceptual preferences; the nerve activity is routed to the activity circuits of my head and neck muscles; a whole pattern of activity of head movement and eye focusing is released; my body is transformed and shifts its activity in a different state of focus. This is consistent with connectionist architectures of brains especially as they allow more for evolutionary structuring along with the input-output connection weight modification through the growth that comes from testing the connections.28

This weight modification of synaptic junctions between the brain’s nerve cells parallels the weight modification of constraints in the environment. We make connections in the environment between things and others. Continued use of nerve connections is one means to strengthen the connections between individual neurons. Nerve constraints are formed similarly and at the same time as external constraints. And they both have similar effects. To encounter two objects and make a connection between them would seem to be the same connecting process of constraints narrowing the possibilities as that of neuronal groups from memory inducing similar constraints to strengthen an idea pattern.

Cognition then depends on the existence of many external constraints for the input and output of its connectionist architecture and mode of existence.

“A large part of the significance of mind-world coupling lies in its iterative nature. We take part of the world, and learn how to incorporate and use it as part of our cognitive processing. That, in turn, allows us to integrate other parts of the world that, in turn, both boost our cognitive capacities and allow us to cognitively integrate further parts of the world. And so on.”29

A sense of how thoroughly early humans were enmeshed cognitively in their rich external constraints comes from the following:

“Hominids make aspects of the physical or social world more salient by marking them physically, linguistically, or behaviorally. Collectively then, hominid groups buffer the increasing cognitive demands placed on them by their own technologies, their extractive foraging, and their social relationships. Such buffering allows the further expansion of information-hungry techniques by reducing the burden of such techniques on individual agents.”30

Language and language origin too are more understandable within an environment made relevant by rich biological constraints. Language study is still making a transition from the study of language systems as their own parallel worlds to the study of language by what it does. It is turning out that the patterns of language as systems such as grammar are more understandable from the point of view of language usage. The priority of language usage over system also makes the origin and evolution of language understandable. In fact this discovery of the usage environment under language as system parallels the story here that reality as exploited constraints underlies our system of objective reality. The simplest formulation of language usage comes from Tomasello who emphasizes that what we do with language is to try to manage the intentions and the attention of others.31

“To oversimplify, animal signals are aimed at the behavior and motivational states of others, whereas human symbols are aimed at the attentional and mental states of others.”32

From the point of view of environmental constraints the shift alluded to above implies a shift from attempts to manipulate behaviors to attempts to manipulate temporally extended behaviors. Animals might growl or initiate mating calls with implied messages of “Don’t come closer” or “Come, let’s mate.” These are simple behavioral negotiations between the extremes of ignoral and lethal attack. In a sense this type of communication is a boundary negotiation between extended phenotypes. Human communication includes this type of communication that more often uses the tried-and-true body language, but it also is more often interested in the attentions and intentions of others. What seems significant is that humans have enormous intentional complexity to so many parts of their environment. In other words language is about intentions and relationships to the environment, and humans have lots of them, and they are very interested in them including those of others. Tomasello notes that from about 1 year of age human infants are pointing and joining others in attention so that behavior is a triad of self, object and other whereas this sharing of attention does not exist with any non-human animals.

The sharing of attention such as in imitation learning is a notable evolutionary acquisition. From the environmental constraints perspective it means that complex series of external constraints could be followed in tandem or temporally extended external constraints (e.g., intentions) could become shared. Given the picture of human collectivities as richly tied socially and temporally with their environment, the ability to share and coordinate external relationships is not surprising. It is in fact the combination of sharing and differences that makes the manipulations of intentions necessary and that explains the activity of language. One is motivated to speak because of intentional differences (even if it is simply to give the message to pay attention to this). One uses conventional symbols or, more directly, any associated constraint that can be commonly tied to a referent to bring more distant references into a common attentional frame. This is using part for whole as an indicator of the whole while recognizing that the richness of environmental constraints adds many possible choices of “parts.” For example, a singular cry could refer to an incident where someone memorably fell from a banana tree the day before with a unique scream, or it could point to bananas or to feeding or to a certain direction; but it is a constraint that pulls others’ attention to the cluster from yesterday’s incident that included the notable scream. Once used and tied to the eventually obvious intention chosen, its association becomes tighter. Intentions, part for whole substitution as referential and shared attention all are part of an interactive theater of behavior that depend on the richness of environmental constraints and their social management.33

The richness of environmental constraints in contrast to the given and fixed quality usually ascribed to reality explains many anomalous aspects of language. Because associative and intentional connections are so rich, they give many new associated aspects of the environment that can be used as signs or links or stand-ins for any central environmental connection. Intentions and associations make new “parts” for old wholes because out attentions and intentions are adding constraints all the time. And because symbols or conscripted signs made from external constraints come with their own histories, they offer additional connections and perspectives compared to the antiquated word-for-thing simple substitution idea. In fact language like all activity not only uses the richness of external constraints to modify listener’s intentions and attention but it also modifies, adds and makes more complex those external constraints. “But you said so and so” is a recognition that a previously placed constraint is not as originally placed.34

The richness of environmental constraints also removes the simplistic temptation that messages are definite packets of information. Language is simply not of the order of complexity of the environmental constraints in which we live. This is true whether composing a message or listening to someone else’s meaning.

"To decode a message fully, one would have to reconstruct the entire semantic structure which underlay its creation–and thus to understand the sender in every deep way."35

What at first seems like a loss if one recognizes the disparity between our complex embeddedness in external constraints versus the simplicity of our language constructions is really only a loss of naivete. In fact under the presumption of simple matching of facts by language, communication cannot really occur since it presents two parties trying to push each other away from definitive mappings that are presumed to be or become identical. It is no wonder that language’s pretending to match a definitive version of reality has spawned such ideological frustration under the name of communicating. The alternative is to recognize the radical richness and idiosyncracy of each individual’s relationships into the environment and recognize that every interaction whether with communicative intentions or not gives us new and shifted constraints. We begin and end in non-uniform relationships to the world. And, we cannot help but change even if just by the changes we undergo ourselves from whatever brief detour of attention for communication. But these changes will very unlikely be what any speaker intended. From the context side and within each of our complex of external constraints any interaction means that we change; we cannot help but change; it is usually not as a speaker intended; that change can be similar to how a speaker intended gives hope to keep trying. By thus correlating external constraints and improving a group’s ability to coordinate them is a group’s integration improved. In the negative case groups lose flexibility or branch into more separate communities. In modern societies the sad result has often been that we branch into societies of one, isolated individual.36

Reality: the Rich Matrix of External Constraints
In the presentation so far culture, cognition and language are offered as more understandable than in traditional accounts if understood as distributed phenomena that are born in a matrix of rich environmental constraints formed by the behavioral interactions of individual organisms. This rich matrix is what is referred to as reality. The worlds that we live in are our external constraints. These worlds that are our known cosmos would not exist except by the huge biological effort of evolving and developping functions to sense, structure and interconnect this vast array of structured conditions. The issue is not whether we construct knowledge or receive objectivity (such as in the current debate between constructivists and objectivists); the issue is that we must always construct relationships to receive the hoped for objectivity of the territory. And even in the case where we structure a relationship to our environment where there is an unadulterated reception of a pure feature like objectivity should provide, by constructing this window to it and tying our multiplicity of connections to it means that we have attached all our other connections to it. The objects might have an independent origin, but but knowing them we interconnect them with our whole biologically formed web of constraints. We have adulterated the imagined pristine object. Knowing, loving and domesticating merge as we pull those known and the things known into our externally connected collective.

Like cognition knowledge is the connection to the external constraints we “find” and build. “Connection” could be a good synonym for knowledge. One either has a connection to something or does not. Implicit knowledge, where some people know something thoroughly like a routine connection, implies that you can have a deeper connection to something. What is possibly odd for those of us who have grown up on objective reality is to imagine that reality is not always there waiting for us to get it. We had to construct connections to it. We had to build the constraint detectors and produce constraints to connect ourselves to the territory at our boundaries. That sometimes we overshot the mark and by, for example, the scarcity of our resources constructed external constraints that were more constructed by us and less by the neighboring objects we encountered is what we expect and what we find as pointed out by epistemological constructivists. Sometimes a simple categorization suffices for the cognitive cost. Sometimes fantasies are just simpler or more fun.

Reality is not constructed as a false fabrication; it is constructed because this is the only way organisms exploiting feedback with their environment could build themselves to it. But reality is even less an objective, independent territory because it fundamentally exists as the maps we have built towards it. Hence, it is found as much in our heads, our books, our databases, our archaelogical sites, our experimental apparatus, our films and out stories as it is “out there.” All these archives and sources have collected external constraints just as we have framed them, categorized them, labelled them and constructed them out in the environment. It is this prodigious growth of external constraints over evolutionary time and massive exploitation over human evolutionary time and more massive production over historical time that connects us participants of culture so massively into this naturalistic accommodation with our environment. Bringing an example up to the modern time, consider the external constraints of just walking down the sidewalk of a major city today. The architecture, signage, advertising, people interactions all scream out “Don’t go here” and “Come here” and provide an environment that is clogged with external constraints.

This view of reality and knowledge also gives an account of how human alienation occurred at the dawn of human history as recounted in the story of The Fall in Genesis and as studied in psychoanalytic history where humans are supposed to have gained knowledge but to have lost touch with either god or their inner certainty. In this latter account it is the gradual shift from the level of organisms’ direct embodied relationships to a preponderant usage of the social and language level that led to the alienated off-balancedness. As the learning and manipulating of external constraints took full speed in human cultures the direct, personally constructed and internal constraints became ignored. For example, a child developmental researcher in discussing language acquistion in children notes:

"At first glance, language appears to be a straightforward advantage for the augmentation of interpersonal experience. It makes parts of our known experience more shareable with others. In addition, it permits two people to create mutual experiences of meaning that had been unknown before and could never have existed until fashioned by words. It also finally permits the child to begin to construct a narrative of his own life. But in fact language is a double-edged sword. It also makes some parts of our experience less shareable with ourselves and with others. It drives a wedge between two simultaneous forms of interpersonal experience: as it is lived and as it is verbally represented."37

It is the same wedge that language drives between verbal presentation and direct experience that is the difference between the modern view of objective reality and naturalistic, direct reality described in this paper. On the one hand there is the objective reality charted laboriously by science over almost four centuries and used aspiringly by most of us in the public domain when attempting to gain “realistic” understandings of events and forces around us. On the other hand there is this plus the gazillions of individual and group-specific hunches, errors, personal associations, habits, unconscious patterns, idiosyncratic perceptions, hopes, plans, loyalties and so forth that is the huge but subtle base and superset of the former. This latter, naturalistic and direct view of reality is a mapping or a story as soon as we describe it to another or even in monologue back to ourselves. In the direct acts of encountering the environmental territory, however, this view of reality describes the interface between the constraints given by our organism and those received from the territory and from those other constraint givers like ourselves with whom we share symbiotic relationships to our environment. Only the freedom to be “wrong” and openness to one’s environment with “fresh eyes” allows one not to be using a mapping or older constraints.

Objective reality is a distillation of a complex, lived, direct reality. And objective reality is an achievement that along with culture and monotheism probably ranks as a major evolutionary transition. And then like all external constraints objective reality is also a view that many of us have various stakes in. To give more of an intuitive feel for naturalistic reality it will be useful to describe it in relation to different viewpoints in our society as I reconstruct them. To this task I will divide my audience up into possibly useful and definitely arbitrary distinctions as: objective scientists, postmodernists and “whatever” people, ordinary people who use therapy, those with a distaste for intellectual jargon, sociologists and paranormal investigators. To objective scientists the proposition offered here is that objective reality ought to neither be enshrined as dogma nor be diluted by various claims of relativism but that it instead ought to offer its advantages on the strict basis of the process of its own formation out of the midst of the larger flotsam of individual views. It is method, system and institutions in the midst of an environment of external constraints growing ever more elaborate in our complex societies. And there is no future in pretending that one’s beliefs and knowledge do not matter (i.e., that knowledge and theory are independent or neutral); they are efficacious in redirecting the probabilities of action in the world whether they are “correct” or “incorrect.” In this sense constraints are considered real by the very change they make to the probable.

While this essay principally aspires to use the method of science on the logic of objective reality, it does cross over to using something of a polemic to show the advantages of naturalistic reality. I do this because it is my contention that science springs from an earlier theological and polemical method that is a less exact but more fulsome embedding of thought in a complete world. This is the same argument that traces an evolutionary history of reality leading to the axial paradigm of objective reality. Secondly, I do this because I imagine that it could be part of a reformed objectivity that is more cognizant of the actual messiness of the formation of systemic knowledge. It is what I believe Fox Keller refers to as “dynamic objectivity”:

"Dynamic objectivity aims at a form of knowledge that grants to the world around us its independent integrity but does so in a way that remains cognizant of, indeed relies on, our connectivity with that world. In this, dynamic objectivity is not unlike empathy, a form of knowledge of other persons that draws explicitly on the commonality of feelings and experience in order to enrich one's understanding of another in his or her own right. ... Dynamic objectivity is thus a pursuit of knowledge that makes use of subjective experience (Piaget calls it consciousness of self) in the interests of a more effective objectivity."38

To postmodernists and those who would take the relativistic “whatever” position, the notion of naturalistic reality offers the possibility to choose any degree of cognitive solidarity greater than zero. To agree with no one is certainly an option but short of entering some presumptive dogma there are many ways to apportion agreement and disagreement all of which contribute to the play of independence and solidarity in society. What naturalistic reality does is to recognize the fundamental fecundity of meaning which is so important to the postmodern tradition. The inherent fractious richness of all knowledge speaks to the rich constraints from where we came to it and to the rich constraints that are made by our interventions.

To ordinary people who might use therapy or personal psychological insights, this hypothesis of naturalistic reality is saying that there does not have to be two worlds–(objective) reality and our personal relational ones. They are entwined. Reality and knowledge are always participatory to some degree. To people with a distaste for intellectual jargon the view here is in support of your distrust of language; it is a process that abstracts or freezes lived reality. Language is another tool in our ecology but not an enabled bulldozer. To sociologists the view of naturalistic reality agrees with the sociology of knowledge assessment that truth arises from social constructions regardless of its objective status. And yet by describing the highly subtle and idiosyncratic nature of the contact that organisms make with aspects of their environment in exchanging constraints, the naturalistic reality view supports individual contributions to reality that do not make the status of social truth. This is what, I believe, is meant by society’s lifeworld dimension where individual acts form their own subtle calculus as compared to society’s system dimension where large constraints shape the lives of individuals.39

To paranormal investigators and to those alarmed by how the objectivists have taken out much of the subtlety and magic of the world, the view of naturalistic reality offers indirect support. It endorses no direct, hypothesized paranormal mechanisms. But by bringing back into light the overwhelming subtlety of all our intentional and relational connections between each other and into the environment it makes plausible the chaining of subtle constraints. For example, the fairly common experience of thinking of something at the same time with another is often the result of associations and constraints that are subliminal. The magic of these subtle effects within the rich fabric of external constraints is more palpable when one steps out of the more stable grooves of conventionalized cultures.

There is another way to make reality as the immersion of biological constraints into the environment more intuitive. If one imagines all the ideas, beliefs, plans and associations of everyone on earth, then this grand sum and this grand integration and distortion of the environment is actual reality as we know and live it. This is the practical sense of naturalistic reality (while ignoring temporarily the external constraints of other species and the cultural storehouses such as libraries). Reality is what we believe it is, right or wrong; and “we” means all of us. This is the actual pattern of our interaction with the world, and it is this actual pattern that has so many effects on the physical environment. Our actual ideas, beliefs and plans are huge constraints that for better or worse, right or wrong, move mountains for highways, domesticate species, drive others extinct, rearrange the furniture of houses and lawns, change the composition of the atmosphere and mobilize groups of physicists to study distant constellations. And this grand sum of everyone’s beliefs and ideas is a reality that includes objective reality since the views of all objectivists are included in the sum.

An important consideration is whether naturalistic reality feels any different than the objective reality of modern cultural heritage. A comparison with the feel of objective reality is in order. Someone who lives by the understanding of objective reality tends to become effectively an operator. If everything is either known or should be known then life becomes the control or at least keeping up with things that must happen in order for things to be right. It often leads to a hectic, disembodied performance in a rather existentially heartless world. Naturalistic reality is big enough to accommodate anyone’s style of managing external relationships. Helpful in this comparison would be someone who lives by being comfortable and open to changes. In my mind this is associated with the goals of instruction in the martial art of akido. One attempts to be centered and ready to respond quickly without going off center. Since we are the connections we make to the world, we can be comfortable in the constraints we keep while being openly responsive to changes that intervene. This is a positive framing that is neither deterministic nor complete free will. The quickness of response might be construed as stimulus-response, but the training involves a preparation for an aware discrimination. The intent is to move in harmony with the vicissitudes of the environment while bringing a set of stabilized or grounded patterns of goals and values. It fosters a practiced compromise of free will and determinism.

In regard to another naturalistic reality removes the totalizing attitude that everyone’s relationships in the environment should be essentially the same. This field effect on each other could support all of us to have a greater degree of comfort in our unique pathways of acquiring connections. We are growths, not compliers.

The question now is how did objective reality, the preferred subset of naturalistic reality, come to be. Like the suggestion given above of how language drives a wedge between socially shared experience and direct experience, history reveals a long period where mythological richness became streamlined into greater precision. This story is encapsulated in the myth of human alienation from nature such as exemplified in the biblical story of Adam and Eve’s exile from paradise because of the gift of knowledge. It can be noted that reality in Chinese culture is claimed to have always had a strong sense of being alive:

“Yet the notion of humanity as forming one body with the universe has been so widely accepted by the Chinese, in popular as well as elite culture, that it can very well be characterized as a general Chinese worldview.”40

In the West the historical reduction of the richness of idiosyncratic myths into unifying themes that paralleled alphabetization can be seen in the history of early Greece. One writer, the mathematician and philosopher Paul Feyerabend in a posthumous work with a title of the same phrase described the historical process as “the conquest of abundance.” In Homer any detail could be as important as another without foreground, background or logical hierarchy. By Socrates’ time the abstract had become more interesting than details:41

“Before long the problem of human action which is the concern of tragedy was to become a matter for intellectual cognition; Socrates insists on solving the problem through knowledge of the good. That is the ultimate abstraction of the real, its transformation into a teleological concept. Where a divine world had endowed the human world with meaning, we now find the universal determining the particular.”42

Christianity repudiated the pagan abstractness and bridged the gap (abstractness versus particulars) by combining a sense of everyday meaning in the particulars tied through salvational meaning of each particular to an abstract god. The Middle Ages saw the twin developments of chasing out the idiosyncratic such as Francis Bacon’s idols of the market and of following the Nominalists’ efforts to name and define particulars exactly. The abstract was brought down from Plato’s perfect ideas into a penchant for exactitude in naming and measuring. As science began:

“The medieval sense of God’s symbolic presence in his creation, and the sense of a universe replete with transcendent meanings and hints, had to recede if not to give way totally to the postulates of univocation and homogeneity in the seventeenth century....

“All of them [seventeenth century philosophers and scientists] and most of the others believed that the subjects of theology and science alike can be absolutely de-metaphorized and de-symbolized.”43

The excising of the particular came most clearly in Descartes’ move, as mentioned, to remove discussion about res cogitans, the thinking things or the products of the mind, and to be concerned in an uncontaminated way with res extensa, the things with extension such as objects. The material world could then be mapped in earnest as particulars without the need for finding its transcendent meaning in any otherworldly connections. Particulars once again got mapped to abstractness but this time through universal forces and categories such as mass, charge and length. This is the story of how we came to take the objective world mediated by social scientific exactness of description as reality. It came into being without the res cogitans, without the various idols, faeries, mental perspectives and cultural predilections and without the political, planning and technological designs humans made upon it. It was the reality of immutable and independent facts. Facts were not just independent of us but were supposed to be independent of each other and not come packaged in clusters that propped each other up. The objective reality of facts was stripped of all connections–to us, to others, to each other.44

The simplification was useful then but has run its course. The deeper reality of which objective reality is a well mapped subset is needed if we are to be able to reclaim our psychological roots, our social connections, our ecological place in the world and our further advancement of the intellectual advancement nobly begun and now beyond our reach in the subtle connections of mind in external constraints. As we rush headlong into an age of virtual effects and reproductive technologies, objective reality is a simplistic map. It leaves experts arguing hoarsely from different well tended piles of facts. It leaves all of us arguing vociferously from convictions without the ability to work with more subtle relationships. It leaves citizens being led by elites who are asked to lead from facts without connections so that the only language of connections is to the shadows of base motives. It leaves kids being educated, being brought out with more justification than discovery so that one is pushed to wobble between conformity and rebellion. It leaves educated adults stumbling to find experiential education where breathing, movement, first and second person encounters with others, meditation or various therapies can help bodies and minds to recoup integration. It leaves many of those outside the world cultural centers wondering how the technological powerhouse lost its heart and soul. I find that I am so tempted by the language of the third person that I can hardly make statements from myself to another directly in the second person–to a you.45

Speaking in the second person would allow us to be more in touch with the ecology of constraints that gave birth to human culture. After Modernism’s vain clarity by simplicity there will almost certainly be some form of cognitive and social ecology. The assured final insufficiency of the control paradigm in the midst of a hyperlinked culture will most probably drive us there. The tendency will be to share the local control social architecture of ecology with our distant forebears. And it will probably require an ecological view of knowledge and reality where even epistemological fundamentalisms are not welcome in order to be able to function. Clusters of beliefs surely, but no privileged ones. It will likely be an ecology on the levels of ideas, institutions, language and selves.

“To be open, for a human being, is to be alive. ‘The psyche is one open system connected to another, and only under those conditions is it renewable,’ writes Kristeva. ‘If it lives, your psyche is in love. If it is not in love, it is dead.”46

It is reality as the ecology of our perceptions, intentions, associations, biases and their social fusions that ties us in such dependent and creative ways to the environment, to the territory of the unknown continuities of energy and matter. As some have noted, the world described by science is a dull affair, just molecules, radiation and energy passing, colliding, jostling, transforming and vibrating in endless inertial continuity. Those are the scientific results. But it is we who bring the color, the sound, the beauty, the patterns of alliances, the creativity to bring forth the harmonies and disharmonies. We can do this because of our organismic and developmental nature. We bring the constraints to the molecular pathways. And it is not just humans who do this. It is the whole biosphere. We, larger and more plastic species, bring some more macro and more flexible constraints. It is neither determinism nor free will but the continual exploitation and scaffolding of constraints for the emergence of structure on a planetary scale. It heralds a turn in science to integrate laws with constraints:

“The science which we defined as ‘classical’ wanted to create a grand dichotomy around the pair necessary/not necessary, and to consider it as fundamentally isomorphic to the dichotomy existent/non-existent. The possible (and not necessary) hence appeared relegated to a twilight zone of indeterminacy. Its very existence depended perhaps on limitations within our modalities of understanding, which could be eliminated once one could find (or imagined one could find) a ‘more suitable’ vantage point. It is the explosion of this area of the possible which characterizes the multiple developments of contemporary science. Today it is the pair possible/not possible which reformulates the classical problems of necessity, and this dichotomy is not at all identifiable with the pair existent/non-existent. As we shall see later, this transition in the interpretation of scientific law clearly expresses the meaning of these epistemological shifts. We can indeed talk about a transition from a notion of prescriptive requisite law to an idea of law understood as the expression of a constraint.”47

What is being claimed here is that the possible and the probable are not just the subject of our language but are the way that reality is larger because of us. To look, to know and to write are all ways that we change and join our environment. We humans are not the unique heroes of the story. We are, however, a major evolutionary transition in the epic of life and the cosmos.

In summary the argument is that philosophical dualism has separated organisms from their environment in the study of biology just as it separated human minds from material reality. But now the progress of biology and the breaking of human mental isolation depend on expanding the traffic across these already breached separations. The path charted here notes how organisms are as dependent on environmental constraints as on genetic ones so that constraints and their inherited transmission suggests a general pattern that recognizes equally in principle external as well as internal constraints. In looking for external constraints it was found that there are many in type and a massively-saturating-the-environment number of them. Considering this environmental effect of evolution where environments became saturated with external constraints, it was found that phenomena such as culture, cognition and language are more explainable as distributed phenomena arising from feedbacking in such high-constraint environments. And, in appreciating this evolution of the environment it is claimed that the environment for us with our saturated constraints is the reality that we experience.


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1. For environment as niche construction by organisms see Odling-Smee et al (2003); for environment as organism see Turner (2000).

2. Lewontin (2001). P. 55.

3. Wilson (2004). P. 217.

4. West-Eberhard (2003). P. 141. In fairness her quote goes on to return primacy to genes: “Then, if the phenotypic variation that causes selection has a genetic component, this causes evolution, or cross-generational change in phenotypic and genotypic frequencies.” However, in other contexts she supports evolution through environmental and behavioral channels. Her support for the environment as an agent of evolution shows up in this remark: “Yet if we accept the dual nature of the phenotype–the undeniable fact that the phenotype is a product of both genotype and environment, and the equally undeniable fact that phenotypes evolve, there is no escape from the conclusion that evolution of a commonly recognized sort can occur without genetic change.” P. 17.

5. To be sure there is a distinction between at least two types of modularity–developmental and functional–although the two often overlap. It is developmental modularity that is of interest here. West-Eberhard (2003) underscores the holistic nature of development in speaking of developmental linkage: “Unlike genetic recombination, in which most new combinations are lost during meiosis in every generation unless tightly chromosomally linked, novel combinations produced by phenotypic recombination can be preserved by developmental linkage–preservation and spread of novel phenotypic combinations due to selection on regulation that favors their coexpression or sequence. This–developmental rather than chromosomal linkage–is how new adaptive trait combinations are formed during evolution.” Pps. 172-3.

6. Camazine, S., et al. Self-Organization in Biological Systems. Princeton University Press. 2001. p. 89. Quoted in Corning (2003), p. 288.

7. Griffiths, Paul & Russell Gray (2004). P. 411.

8. Jablonka and Lamb (2005). P. 344. Symbiosis as an inheritance channel is argued in “Symbiosis, Evolvability, and Modularity” by Kim Sterelny. Pps. 490-513 from Schlosser, & Wagner (2004).

9. Jablonka and Lamb (2005). P. 234.

10. West-Eberhard (2003). Pps. 337-8.

11. West-Eberhard (2003). P. 77. Also Sih (2004) has it similarly while using the term “developmental plasticity” to refer to “morphological, or life history traits” that: “... rather than being fundamentally different, both behavioral and developmental plasticity encompass broad and overlapping ranges of a continuum of plasticity. Both should be considered in the study of phenotypic plasticity.” Pps. 112, 114. Intriguingly, West-Eberhard cites Trewavas and Jennings as claiming that plants have more morphological plasticity whereas animals show more behavioral plasticity: “The adaptiveness of animals lies in the brain, in the almost endless number of combinations in which the different tissues can be made to work together to produce different types of behavior.” Trewavas, A. J. and Jennings, D.H. 1986. Introduction. In: Plasticity in Plants, D.H. Jennings and A.J. Trewavas (eds.). Symposia of the Society for Experimental Biology, No. 40. Company of Biologists Limited, Cambridge, pp. 1-4. Quoted in West-Eberhard, P. 77.

12. Odling-Smee et al. (2003). P. 11-14. Their interest in niche construction as an evolutionary channel is revealed by the following: “Where niche construction affects multiple generations, it introduces a second general inheritance system in evolution, one that works via environments. This second inheritance system has not yet been widely incorporated by evolutionary theory.” P. 13. Their openness to the logic of developmental theory as potentially short-circuiting the need for evolution caused by niche construction to be tied to genes is seen in the following: “When phenotypes construct niches, they become more than simply ‘vehicles’ for their genes, as they may now also be responsible for modifying some of the sources of natural selection in their environments that subsequently feed back to select their own genes. However, relative to this second role of phenotypes in evolution, there is no requirement for the niche-constructing activities of phenotypes to result directly from naturally selected genes before they can influence the selection of genes in populations. Animal niche construction may depend on learning and other experiential factors, and in humans it may depend on cultural processes.” P. 21. Their conception of movement as niche construction is stated as: “Niche construction occurs when an organism modifies the feature-factor relationship between itself and its environment by actively changing one or more of the factors in its environment, either by physically perturbing factors at its current location in space and time, or by relocating to a different space-time address, thereby exposing itself to different factors.” P. 41.

13. West-Eberhard (2003). P. 99.

14. West-Eberhard (2003). P. 499. Emphases in the original. Subquote is from Rensch, B. Evolution Above the Species Level. Columbia University Press. 1960. P. 298.

Parenthetically, the picture of environmental integration is not much different from the vantage of what the mind does according to Wilson (2004): “Both culturally and individually we construct perception-action cycles that involve attuning ourselves to the world, and the world to ourselves. Many such cycles are constituted primarily by conscious experiences and acts, and their temporal extension, over minutes or hours, goes hand-in-hand with their spatial extension beyond the brain of individual cognizers.” P. 218.

15. This organism-advantageous traffic in external constraints is explained by Odling-Smee et al (2003) in their treatment of the case of niche construction: “Obviously organisms cannot break the second law of thermodynamics. Instead they participate with their local environments in two-way interactions that create coupled organism-environment systems that do permit organisms to stay alive without violating the second law. These two-way interactions account for the origins of obligate niche construction. To gain the resources they need and to dispose of their detritus, organisms cannot just respond to their environments. They must also act on their local environments and by doing so change them, in the process converting free energy to dissipated energy. Hence, evolution is contingent on the capacity of organisms to use their environments in ways that allow them to gain sufficient energy and material resources from their environments, and to emit sufficient detritus into their environments, to stay alive and reproduce.” Pps. 168-9.

16. Odling-Smee et al (2003). Pps. 51-2. McGrew (2004). P. 105.

17. Griffiths, Paul & Russell Gray (2004). P. 423.

18. See Odling-Smee et al (2003) for a treatment of the origin of niche construction. Pps. 171-9.

19. Allen & Ahl (1996). P. 103. The same point is made by Deacon (1997): “Large animals, in comparison, can get by with rather slower reflexes, can afford to vary their sexual and foraging behaviors in an effort to better optimize their behaviors, and may have a considerable opportunity to learn by observation and trial and error. Being longer-lived puts a greater premium on learning and memory, and less on automatic preprogrammed behaviors. In addition, living a long time or having the capacity to travel for long distances is more likely to expose an animal to significant changes in the environment.” P. 160.

20. Vermeij (2004). For example, in speaking of producers (plants and prey species) and consumers (predators) he speaks of an interrelated whole: “Great works of nature and of humanity all have something in common: they exemplify power. The competitively dominant producers provide food, create structure, offer shelter and living space for others, modify the environment of life, and even in death nourish their surroundings, chiefly to their own advantage but also to the benefit of many other members of their economy. The dominant consumers regulate when, where, and how the economic units with which they interact make their livings, and determine the adaptive responses that producers and fellow consumers deploy to defend themselves and the resources they control.” P. 122.

Similarly Corning (2003) emphasizes the reciprocal effects of collectives: “In other words, it is the ‘payoffs’ associated with various synergistic effects in a given context that constitute the underlying cause of cooperative relationships–and complex organization–in nature. The synergy produced by the ‘whole’ provides the functional benefits that may differentially favor the survival and reproduction of the ‘parts.’ Although it may seem like backwards logic, the thesis is that functional synergy is the underlying cause of cooperation (and organization) in living systems, not the other way around. To repeat, the Synergism Hypothesis is really, at heart, an ‘economic’ theory of complexity in evolution.” P. 117.

Human comparison to bacteria is from Goodsell (1998). P. 50.

21. Deacon (1997) makes the point how hominid evolution in effect had a potential bottleneck in the conflict between teamwork and competition in that usual primate patterns for groups implied dominant males only which would have made cooperation for hunting and scavenging for meat if not for later cooperative endeavors impossible. Thus “In human foraging societies, these conditions are not linked and pair bonding occurs in the context of group living. Resources are scarce enough that females can only rear their offspring with male support, and meat can only be acquired by groups of men. This pits two critical reproductive problems against one another: the importance of pair isolation to maximize the probability of sexual fidelity, and the importance of group size for access to a critical resource.” P. 388. Sterelny (2003), however, notes at least two potential factors to give cooperation an edge: increased weaponry made coalitions against dominants easier and what he calls the “female cooperation suite” where foraging, extended child rearing and even life after menopause increased cooperation among females.

22. Kingdon (2003). Pps. 295-6.

23. Sterelny (2003). P. 19.

24. Ingold (2001). P. 272.

25. Consider how contemporary historians McNeill & McNeill (2003) view history as webs where cultural relationships flowed in distinct patterns: “... peoples outside, or on the fringes of, the metropolitan webs, who, recognizing their own vulnerability, either sought to remedy the situation by borrowing and adapting whatever made others so powerful–or, alternately, deliberately tried to reject outside corruption by defending, strengthening, and reaffirming what made them different.

“Consequently, as skills, goods, and attitudes spread from the heartland of each civilization, a cultural slope defined itself, and social and environmental strains multiplied everywhere along it.” P. 81.

26. Manning & Dawkins (1997). Pps. 413-7.

27. Elman et al describe this relativity of the environment: “In the same vein, the notion of environment is perhaps best conceived as a Russian doll, a nested series of structures organized from ‘outside’ to ‘inside.’ Mothers serve as the environment for the fetus. Organs serve as environments for one another–scaffolding, supporting, blocking and shaping one another into a final configuration. And individual cells are powerfully influenced by their neighbors.” P. 245.

28. Elman et al (1998) speak of the close correlation between evolutionary developmental theory and the connectionist architecture of vertabrate brains that they characterize as “interactionist” at all levels including heavily with the environment. Within this framework they support the view that developmental interaction has become more complexly integrated over evolutionary time: “The main conclusion we come to is that part of the evolution of ontogenesis has involved taking advantage of interactions at increasingly higher levels. We shall suggest that organisms have evolved from ontogenetic development based on mosaic systems (molecular level interactions), to regulatory systems (cellular level interactions), to nervous systems (systems level interactions), to an increasing dependence on behavioral/cultural factors (environment-organism interactions). Each of these steps in the evolution of ontogenetic systems increases the time taken for the development of an individual of the species. In the case of our own species, this process has played a particularly crucial role.” Pps. 322-3.

29. Wilson (2004). P. 212.

30. Sterelny (2003). P. 157.

31. Usage based views of language come from Deacon (1997), both Tomasello sources and Schiffrin et al (2003) including especially contribution of Robin Lakoff.

32. Tomasello (2003). P. 8.

33. Deacon’s (1997) use of icons and Bateson’s recognition of the part for whole relationships are helpful here. Bateson (1972) has it that: “It will be noted that this way of thinking about communication groups all methods of coding under the single rubric of part-for-whole. The verbal message ‘It is raining’ is to be seen as a part of a larger universe within which that message creates redundancy or predictability. The ‘digital,’ the ‘analogic,’ the ‘iconic,’ the ‘metaphoric,’ and all other methods of coding are subsumed under this single heading.” P. 415.

Although Deacon thinks the transition from iconic parts to symbols with their arbitrariness and multiplicity of referential connections is improbably difficult, neither would seem to be so great a problem in a constraint-rich environment. My hypothetical example of a singular scream of a hominid that is easily tied in many directions from all the constraints of a particular past incident coupled with those of present needs before reinforcment is meant to be suggestive. Van Schaik (2004) notes that: “...we see that the same signal has different meanings in different places, which must imply arbitrary meaning. Christophe Boesch raised the possibility of arbitrary signal meaning in chimpanzees. He noted that the same signal, leaf clipping, means invitation to play in one place, an invitation to have sex in another. In our own orangutans, we have the tantalizing case of the raspberry sounds an animal makes when finishing a nest and just before bedding down. Why do all orangutans make the sound at exactly that time? Do the prt-prt sounds mean that the sender is saying good night to others nearby? But why should it mean that? At first the sound may have been completely meaningless to the local mawas and later acquired its meaning through the forming of an association. If orangutans at Suaq show clear signs of understanding the meaning of the sound, for instance by being more likely to make their own nest after hearing the reaspberry, whereas those elsewhere do not ‘understand’ them in the same way, then the prt-prt may qualify as a symbol. If a particular signal variant means different things at different sites (e.g., leaf clipping), or is used at only a single site with a seemingly arbitrary meaning (e.g., the nest-time raspberries), that comes perilously close to symbolic use.” P. 156.

34. Tomasello (1999) in different vocabulary emphasizes that language depends on prior relationships and that it then bestows additional relationships: “The point is not that language creates ex nihilo the ability to categorize, to perspectivize, or to make analogies or metaphors. That is impossible because language depends on these skills, and they may be present in basic form in either nonhuman primates or prelinguistic infants. But what has happened is that in collaboration over historical time human beings have created an incredible array of categorical perspectives and construals on all kinds of objects, events, and relations, and then they have embodied them in their systems of symbolic communication called natural languages. As children develop ontogenetically, they use their basic skills of categorization, perspective-taking, and relational thinking–in concert with their ability to comprehend the adult’s communicative intentions–to learn the use of the relevant symbolic forms. This enables them to take advantage of a vast number of categories and analogies that other members of their culture have seen fit to create and symbolize, and that they very likely would never have thought to create on their own.” P. 170.

35. Hofstader (1979). P. 166.

36. A fair statement of the folly of our communication innocence comes from Willard (1996). P. 16. “If communication is genuine only insofar as it expresses one’s beliefs, or realistically connects nouns with objects, then most communication is counterfeit, most leadership is deceitful, and mass media simulations will seem to have replaced the authentic links between language and reality. Behind this thinking is a naive realism: Communication is a process of making known one’s thoughts and feelings; its purpose is to convey one’s thoughts and feelings to others; it either conveys one’s internal reality or conceals it–it is either true or false. Honest communication is authentic, accurate, a mirror of inner reality. In a word, it is expressive.

“One who sees communication this way will see conventional rules, etiquettes, and norms as inauthentic and rhetorical achievements–the creation of new situations and selves to get around conventional obstructions–as deceitful. This primitive view of communication is an interpersonal handicap...”

As regards the ability of dyads and groups to correlate their external constraints, this would seem to match what is required for groups to maintain social constructions in the sense of John Searle. See Plotkin (2003). Pps. 251-9.

37. Stern (1985). P. 162.

38. Fox Keller (1985). P. 117.

39. A succinct statement of the necessary social aspect of knowledge comes from Collins 1999). "The widespread assumption is that truth is determined by reality; a statement is true because it meets the criteria of truth, not because of any other reason. If truth is socially determined, then it cannot be determined by truth itself. This is like saying that one sees things accurately only if one sees without eyeballs, as if knowing must take place without any human apparatus for knowing."

"If a brain flickers and brightens with statements which are true, this happens only because that brain is pulsing in connection with the past and anticipated future of a social network. Truth arises in social networks; it could not possibly arise anywhere else." P. 877.

McAfee (2000) explains the sociological usefulness of the distinction between lifeworld and social system somewhat as I have contrasted reality and culture/language: “Different theorists tend to approach society from one perspective or the other. Someone like John Rawls would, implicitly at least, consider society from a lifeworld perspective, looking for the overlapping consensus that participants in a political community might share and communicatively reproduce. Conversely, theorists such as Emile Durkheim and Niklas Luhmann adopt, indeed develop, the systems-theoretic approach, ‘realistically’ looking at the constraints and imperatives that various subsystems impose upon social actors....

“Yet even as he integrates both the lifeworld and the system perspective into his analysis, Habermas notices that there has been an increasing differentiation or decoupling between the system and life-world aspects of society.” Pps. 86-7.

40. Weiming (1998). P. 113.

41. Feyerabend (1999). Interpretation of Homer is from Auerbach (1953). Pps. 1-20.

42. Snell (1982). P. 112.

43. Funkenstein (1986). P. 116.

44. Gellner (1988) has a very apt description of the status of facts within objective reality, of how they helped to escape the locked-in clustering of traditional cultures and of their aspiringly impossible independence: "Though forming part of a single logical space, all facts are independent of each other: any one of them may hold or fail to hold, without any other being affected. They are not allowed to present themselves to us as parts of indivisible package deals. This was the old practice, but is so no longer. The republic of facts is Jacobin and centralist and tolerates no permanent or institutionalized factions within itself. This atomizaton in principle is not merely so to speak lateral - disconnecting each fact from its spatial neighbours - but also, and to an equal degree, qualitative: each trait conjoined in a fact can in thought be disconnected from its fellows, and their conjunction depends on factual confirmation alone. Nothing is necessarily connected with anything else. We must separate all separables in thought, and then consult the fact to see whether the separated elements are, contingently, joined together. That is one of the fundamental principles of the rational investigation of nature.

"This picture has been challenged of late, and indeed the Jacobin proscription of factions, of clustering for mutual protection, may not be fully implemented even in science. A certain amount of package dealing, of clannish cohesion amongst ideas and facts, does perhaps survive. But this is a furtive, surreptitious practice surviving only in a shamefaced and camouflaged form. When contrasting the rules and realities of our current intellectual world with that of pre-scientific humanity, what is striking is the degree to which the atomistic ideal of individual responsibility is implemented. If a factual claim is false and persists in being falsified, its favoured place in a kinship network of ideas will not in the end save it, even if it does secure for it a reprieve and stay of execution. It is not true that ideas face the bar of reality as corporate bodies: rather, in the past, they evaded reality as corporate bodies. They are no longer allowed to do so, or at any rate not for very long. Occasionally, they succeed in doing so for a while. In the traditional world, the factional gregariousness of ideas was allowed to become a stable structure, sacralized, and to inhibit cognitive growth. Even if a bit of informal temporary corporatism is still tolerated, it is no longer allowed to become overt, sacred, rigid, meshed in with the social role structure, and to thwart expansion.

"This is a single world, and the language which describes it also serves but a single purpose - accurate description, explanation and prediction. It is also notoriously a cold, morally indifferent world. Its icy indifference to values, its failure to console and reassure, its total inability either to validate norms and values or to offer any guarantee of their eventual success, is in no way a consequence of any specific findings within. It isn't that facts just happen to have turned out to be so deplorably unsupportive socially. It is a consequence of the overall basic and entrenched constitution of our thought, not of our accidental findings within it." Pps. 63-5.

45. The psychological distance taken from our depths in the project of modernity is aptly described by Brown (2001). “The aggression and paralysis entailed in conviction, its urgency and anxiety, remind us again that enlightenment is always bounded by encroaching dark, that in modernity truth has never really been fully convinced of itself.” P. 93.

46. McAfee (2000). P. 69. She elaborates further: “Subjects in relation, in process, as open systems are always already inclined to deliberate. Therefore the dread that Jürgen Habermas, Nancy Fraser, and other deliberative democrats feel in the face of poststructuralist theories of subjectivity is unwarranted. To the contrary, those interested in the project of deliberative democracy should welcome this theory of subjectivity, just as subjects-in–process can come to welcome the others in their midst.” P. 20.

And also: “The subject-in-process is always a subject-in-relation, internally and externally. He or she is never constituted once and for all, but is always a provisional, tenuous, open system, hence alive in the fullest sense.” P. 71.

47. Ceruti (1994). P. 23.

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