ANIL MITRA PHD, COPYRIGHT © 2001 AND February 2013



Origins of the symbolic capability  1

The symbolic capability  1

Origin into a bifurcation of the symbolic capability into control [wake] and dream modes  1

Origins of the speech act and its variety  2

A simple model for the kinds of speech act 2

The kinds of speech act 2

Kinds of speech act available to organisms  2

The origin of speech acts  2

The field of perception  3

Rudimentary acquired behavior  3

Rudimentary communication  3

Communication  3

A repertoire of acquired communication behaviors: the linguistic domain  3

Declarative attitudes: language  3

Latest Revision, Copyright and Document Status  3

Document Status  3


Thursday 10.11.01

Origins of the symbolic capability

The symbolic capability

In the origin, after pure perception and memory: free floating remembered images. This is an approximation – perception, memory and free images are likely bound in origins

The origin of perception is in an elaboration of stimulus-response. The origin of memory is in the origin of the ability of the organism to be modified

Neural systems are a particular physiological framework

Free images that condition action are an advantage over no images; the former allow experiment that, when it succeeds, succeeds in a way that absence of experiment cannot. Therefore, free imaging allows the creation of new evolutionary niches

Selection now acts upon this system; organisms acquire control over images… originating, perhaps, in the ability to hold an image

With differentiation of imaging ability comes the symbol; and control of control; and the combination leads to language… and to logic

It is the symbolic and the symbolic processing capabilities [“language,” “logic…”] that are built in… and not actual language or logic… this is close but not identical to the innateness/universal grammar ideas

Originally, the source of images is not under control: the sub/unconscious

Origin into a bifurcation of the symbolic capability into control [wake] and dream modes

Control is taxing; regeneration is necessary

Control is relinquished in sleep; thus “dreams” are relegated to sleep; thus dreams are access to the unconscious; but the language of dreams is not clear… dreams are “relegated…” the sense of this is that, in the beginning, waking thought was likely like our dreaming

Originally, there was no language of the free images – images affected mood and life; dreams retain this “function” dreams affect mood and life…

Further, dreams are a direct view into the shadow: the parts of the individual that are uncultivated, suppressed… Hence, dreams as a source of creation… i.e. while individual creative elements are suppressed they may be present in the unconscious…

The unconscious… what is suppressed, what is not developed, what is not expressed in normal symbols – different contexts, pre-language, the framework of perception – intuitive causation, time, space and pre-causation…

But the elements recombine; and functions flow; dreams become a source into that part of the unconscious that is linguistic, “normal” but suppressed, forgotten, repressed… recollection is by association; and therefore this is also one source of elucidation – interpretation

But, from the foregoing – we do not expect every dream to have effect, or meaning. This explains the garbage dump theory of dreams as a possible partial mechanism but does not at all justify it as a complete theory

Hence the chaos and meaning and effectual nature of dreams; the creativity in dreams; the affinity of creativity and disturbance of normal consciousness

The origin of logic has similar explanation

There is common ground with Julian Jaynes in The Origin of Consciousness in the Break Down of the Bicameral Mind

Origins of the speech act and its variety

A simple model for the kinds of speech act

This is a little more elaborate than the mind-world model of the kinds of speech act. Of course, person/self/other are part of world but the elaboration is, perhaps, useful. Why? Because self/other can respond to a speech act whereas world, in general, may not be able to do so

The kinds of speech act

Reference: John Searle’s work


Kind of Speech Act

Direction of Fit



Mind to world

By equating person to world the original
classification scheme is obtained


Person to mind

Here, person = other


Person to mind

Here, person = self



Or, mind to mind?


Mind « world

Two way direction of fit

Recall that these five kinds of speech act correspond to the possible directions of fit or illocutionary point. These, therefore, are the five possible kinds of illocutionary point or kinds of speech act

If I want an assertion to be true, I want my mind to agree with the world: I fit the condition of my mind to correspond to the world

Assertion: mind ® world

The form of the assertion is the proposotion. A proposition takes on the values true and false. What is a proposition? Whatever can take on the values true / false. A propositional attitude is the attitude or aspect in which the intension of a mind is propositional

In the directive act, as in a command, I want the [action of the] other to agree with what I have in mind

Direction, e.g., command: [other] person ® mind

Generally, one does not order oneself although one may, especially if one is in “two minds.”

The declarative act is social in nature: “I pronounce you King,” since we do not create natural phenomena. But, if you are God, you can declare, “I declare the universe born.” And if you are Nietzsche, you can declare, “God is dead.” This would be based in your profound insight into God as a social/cultural phenomenon

Kinds of speech act available to organisms

Not every organism will be capable of all five kinds of mind-world fit but, surely, perception / stimulus is a kind of mind to world direction of fit and action a kind of world to mind. Of course, perception and action do not imply or presuppose language

The origin of speech acts

Reference: Maturana and Varela

How early in evolution do perception and action appear? Surely stimulus-as-perception is the register of something external, i.e., an internal to external fit. In the most primitive of organisms I imagine that there is no self-self stimulus? And response-as-action is based in the register of something internal to external, i.e., an external to internal fit

This is not acquired in the life of the organism

The field of perception

Includes other organisms. This appears early in evolution but is not, at its first appearance, acquired

The distinction between the genetic and acquired is subtle

If genetic, is “perception” associated with awareness?

Rudimentary acquired behavior

…occurs when the organism can modify its response

The ability to modify a response would seem to appear after the ability to have a response. Clearly, there is some selectational advantage to being able to modify a response even if the modifying is not associated with consciousness or awareness and is not intended

Is it true that modifying/learning appears after stimulus-response? Or is there a sense in which the two are co-eval?

Self-directed learning is a second order phenomenon. In this scheme learning is the first order, and having a response is of order zero

Rudimentary communication

…occurs when the organism modifies its responses in response to the modifications of responses of other organisms

This is not communication with the intent to communicate. That is a higher order phenomenon


I imagine that the first kind of communication in which the individual communicates content as opposed to the incidental communication is some kind of combination of the variety of kinds of communicative act. For example, an early communication could be a combination of an expression and a direction:


… in relation to an external event that “requires” action

A repertoire of acquired communication behaviors: the linguistic domain

With the development of a repertoire of acquired communication behaviors and reflexivity, come

Propositional Attitudes

Expressive “Attitudes”

Directive Attitudes

Commisive Attitudes

My interpretation of Maturana and Varela:

Language: when actions, essentially names and descriptions, can be coordinated about communication behaviors

Declarative attitudes: language

With the ability to name communicative behaviors and the ability to create social functions come the above four as speech acts,


… and the declarative speech act

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May be combined with Kinds of Knowledge

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