Dear Terry, list.

I apologize that I have not had the time to keep up with this discussion. I
did try to read Terry's text but found it strangely impenetrable with many
more word than were necessary to make a point. This is, perhaps, merely a
question of style, repeated in the recent books of his that I have
purchased but that sit essentially unread although I have tried.

To clarify, I have spent more than my share of time reading the work of
Charles Peirce, readily acknowledged, although many of you may now
recognize my preference for his father's work and its priority. Both quite
brilliant men, but Charles suffers, both conceptually and in his readership
at the hands of neology. Who among us wants to sit through yet another
argument with followers of Charles on the nature of semeiois or a sign? Not

I have also spent a good deal of my time with the work of Claude Shannon.
My discipline of origin is, after all (in French), "Informatique." I do
this not merely to comprehend Shannon's theory of communication but also to
inquirer concerning the role that his mathematization plays in its
unfolding. I find, in the end, that the theory applies well to its original
intent, telephony engineering (a human activity), but it lacks any true

That is, from my point of view, communication does not exist because there
is a lack of continuity. What I may speak of instead is apprehension. This
suggests that no "complete theory of information" is, in fact, conceivable.

I confess that I am stunned by Joe's advocacy of necessary duality. But
then, it is not entirely clear what he is implying. He could, for example,
simply be an advocate of a universal property not widely considered and
advocated by myself as "the basis of experience" or as Benjamin Peirce's
"universal will" or Charles' (weaker) "matter as effete mind," all being
the universal equal of gravitation and of light and to be found ultimately
in the same equations as a "force" that have an effect upon the world, in
this case in the flexible closed structures that form biophysics. A theory
based upon such a premise, even though it requires something physically
"extra" today, is clearly not at all dualist.

I, naturally enough, am sympathetic to Terry's denial of dualism, but I
wonder if Terry merely advocates an identity theory. As I have noted often
such a theory is, in fact, a dualism.


   Dr. Steven Ericsson-Zenith
   Institute for Advanced Science & Engineering

On Fri, Jan 30, 2015 at 12:43 PM, Terrence W. DEACON <>

> Thanks to Joseph for this spirited rejoinder, and to Krassimir for
> reminding us that convergence is perhaps more likely to succeed than
> any single-minded approach.
> With Krassimir, I am in agreement. I have probably overstated the
> priority of my own approach, even if I do believe it to be a best
> middle ground from which to begin formalization. This is a big
> challenge and I should celebrate the diversity of approaches more than
> I have. This is my path, and I have taken this opportunity to make my
> reasons for pursuing it clear. Like most of us, it is sent as a sort
> of mating call, in case others might find interesting insights there
> too.
> In response to Joseph, I would challenge you to specifically identify
> my homuncular assumptions, demonstrate where the autogenic model makes
> them, and deacribe in what ways you think that autogenesis is somehow
> not physically realizable. I admit to being blind to any of these, but
> I don't want to just convince you, I want to get it right. However, I
> am not willing to live with unresolved dualisms. And I don't quite get
> your comment about "dualisms that do exist in nature" and how you
> connect this with my presence/absence perspective. Perhaps this has to
> do with the fact that I am not satisfied that certain dualisms arising
> from quantum theories are fundamental, rather than the result of
> incomplete theory, and your own view which seems to embrace them. In
> which case we may need to agree to disagree.
> I am slightly perplexed and don't quite follow your implications
> regarding the specific proposal made in this piece. The dualisms I am
> hoping to resolve in this essay orbit around the difference between
> physicalistic and semiotic uses of the information concept, and about
> how this implicitly reifies Descartes' res cogitans / res extensa
> dualism, with reference and significance on the former side of this
> divide and Shannon information (and related uses in physics) on the
> latter. You can read my view as arguing that this dualism cannot
> merely be left as an unanalyzed assumption if we are seeking a
> complete theory of information.
> I anticipate that there is much unmentioned detail that remains to be
> unpacked and debated here. Pursuing some of these details could be
> very informative, even if it doesn't change entrenched positions.
> I think that it is interesting that so many responses have betrayed a
> sort of thinly veiled irritation and anger. To me it suggest that we
> are close to a nerve—i.e. some critical issues that are of central
> importance.
> Thanks, Terry
> On 1/30/15, <> wrote:
> > Dear Pedro, Dear FISers,
> >
> >       Terrence Deacon has made a passionate plea for the proper
> consideration of
> > his approach to information science that his contribution merits. But
> this
> > consideration is only possible if he is willing to accept that some of
> his
> > positions may be contaminated with assumptions in a way that he correctly
> > criticizes in others. As a specific example, we can all easily understand
> > and agree that the incorporation of ‘homunculi’, that is, unproven
> > mechanisms, as explanatory, should be avoided. In my view, however, Terry
> > has a small army of homunculi at work (sic!) who insure that his
> processes
> > of self-organization, self-reconstitution and ‘spontaneous’ self-assembly
> > can take place! The finality of using his simulated autogenic systems is
> “a
> > rigorous physical foundation upon which” future complex theories of
> > information may be based. If, as I contend, Terry’s approach has failed
> to
> > take into account the fundamentally dualistic physical properties of real
> > systems, it is hard to see how it could do so.
> >
> > In his reply to Loet, regarding cognitive processes, Terry writes: “As I
> > have said a number of times, my goal is not to deal with all aspects of
> the
> > information concept, and certainly not at the level of human thought. I
> > merely propose to dissolve the implicit dualism in our current concepts
> at
> > the most basic level, so that for example it will be possible to develop
> a
> > scientifically grounded theory of molecular biosemiotics.” No-one can
> argue
> > with his first sentence, but the second has the implication that dualism
> at
> > the most basic level in concepts should be absent when it is present in
> > reality. Again, we can all reject the straw-man of mind-body dualism. But
> > the dualisms that do exist in nature must be reflected in concepts or the
> > latter are outside nature and outside science. The pair presence-absence
> is
> > one of these that I have offered, so far without comment, as one of
> these.
> >
> > As a substitute for what is referred to as ‘the implicit dualism in our
> > current concepts’, Terry seems to offer a repeated reliance on the
> Peircean
> > categories as having explanatory power. I have discussed, accessibly, why
> > these categories amount to epistemic classifications, a position that is
> in
> > fact confirmed by a member of Terry’s group. Ontological approaches,
> which
> > if looked at closely differ from the ones Terry correctly criticizes, are
> > given a back of the hand dismissal that suggests that the writers may
> not be
> > familiar enough with them to make the distinction.
> >
> > A point of agreement between Terry and me is that a concept of quantum
> > information should not be mixed with one of thermodynamic information.
> This
> > does not mean, however, that the some of the dual aspects of quantum
> > entities are not relevant for thermodynamic processes, including the
> > properties, production and transfer of information. Terry is absolutely
> > correct to question the so-called ‘it-from-bit’ theory of information in
> its
> > simplest form. Again, however, alternatives are available at the heart of
> > which is exactly the ‘overlap’ between physics and information that Pedro
> > calls for, e.g., those of Luhn and myself.
> >
> > I think Krassimir has a good point in concluding that we have a problem
> of
> > civilization and that all our efforts, scientific and philosophical,
> should
> > be made with the common good at the center of our preoccupations. This is
> > the theme of the Vienna Summit 2015. Information offers the ground on
> which
> > standard physical and biological as well as social and psychological
> reality
> > can meet. It is from the most complex, interactive, recursive aspects of
> > these realities as well as from the simplest that we must learn. Thank
> you.
> >
> > Best wishes,
> >
> > Joseph
> >
> >
> >>----Message d'origine----
> >>De :
> >>Date : 30/01/2015 - 09:31 (PST)
> >>À :
> >>Cc :
> >>Objet : Re: [Fis] Concluding the Lecture?
> >>
> >>Thanks to Pedro and Bob for these last few comments. Indeed, like
> >>Darwin in 1859 we are still just beginning to formulate "one long
> >>argument" that will need to be progressively refined in the decades to
> >>come. The question is where best to begin the task of synthesizing. I
> >>too find the metaphor of searching for lost keys quite apropos, but I
> >>would beg your indulgence while I add an elaboration to this metaphor
> >>that sheds light on the perspective I have offered.
> >>
> >>Yes, we must at first search close to the light, even though there we
> >>will only find vague hints. But, importantly, as we cover more and
> >>more territory we will discover that the light progressively
> >>brightens. So long as we keep searching and don't walk out into the
> >>dark too quickly, skipping over important territory in between, the
> >>entire territory will become more and more thoroughly illuminated,
> >>searchable, and familiar to us.
> >>
> >>I believe that the light is brightest in the domain where we can see a
> >>clear relation between the two quite different concepts of entropy and
> >>the relationship of both to the concept of work. Admittedly, starting
> >>so minimally as I have in this essay seems remote from the interests
> >>of psychologists, anthropologists, economists and their kin, who
> >>demand an account of human-scale information processes, while at the
> >>same time appearing to introduce the messiness of semiotic concerns
> >>into the seemingly pristine world of information as a simple physical
> >>parameter. But of course the problem is to find the best illuminated
> >>middle ground between these two extremes, both still bathed in the
> >>darkness of simplifying assumptions that make them seem mutually
> >>exclusive— separated by darkness.
> >>
> >>This is what I am trying to accomplish. Though deceptively simple, I
> >>believe that the autogenic model system is just sufficiently complex
> >>to provide complete illumination of each of the critical defining
> >>features of the information concept—sign medium properties (entropies,
> >>uncertainty, constraint), reference (aboutness), significance
> >>(function, value, normativity), and interpretation (adaptation,
> >>intelligence)—while not artificially simplifying the issue by ignoring
> >>one or the other of these facets.
> >>
> >>Because of its simplicity none of these basic concepts are left in the
> >>dark as black boxes or excluded as taboo concepts. But of course,
> >>working at such a basic level means that the nature of more complex
> >>phenomena as thinking, subjectivity, language, and culture (to mention
> >>only a few) are not yet well illuminated by this light. This isn't to
> >>suggest that other pursuits in these other domains should be
> >>abandoned—for they at least clear away some of the underbrush creating
> >>paths that will help to ease the linkage between the different
> >>subterritories when finally the light brightens (to continue the
> >>metaphor). I just believe that this middle level is where the light
> >>best illuminates all the critical foundational issues.
> >>
> >>I don't expect agreement, but so far I haven't felt that the specific
> >>components of this proposal have been addressed in this thread. And in
> >>these closing days of discussion (as well as in future privately
> >>shared emails after this window closes) I hope to receive some
> >>suggestions and constructive criticisms pointing to where I might go
> >>next with this approach.
> >>
> >>Thanks for all your inputs.  Terry
> >>
> >>On 1/30/15, Bob Logan <> wrote:
> >>> Thanks Pedro for your remarks. We have not reached our destination as
> you
> >>> point out but the important thing is to enjoy the journey which I
> >>> certainly
> >>> have. It is inevitable that with such a slippery concept as information
> >>> that
> >>> there will be different destinations depending on the travellers but
> what
> >>> I
> >>> like about FIS in general and the dialogue that Terry prompted in
> >>> particular
> >>> is the interesting ideas and good company I encountered along the way.
> As
> >>> for your remark about searching where there is light I suggest that we
> >>> pack
> >>> a flashlight for the next journey to be led by our tour guide Zhao
> Chuan.
> >>> One common theme for understanding the importance of both information
> and
> >>> intelligence for me is interpretation and context (figure/ground or
> >>> pragmatics). Thanks to all especially Terry for a very pleasant
> journey.
> >>> -
> >>> Bob
> >>> ______________________
> >>>
> >>> Robert K. Logan
> >>> Prof. Emeritus - Physics - U. of Toronto
> >>> Chief Scientist - sLab at OCAD
> >>>
> >>>
> >>>
> >>>
> >>>
> >>>
> >>>
> >>>
> >>>
> >>>
> >>>
> >>> On 2015-01-30, at 8:25 AM, Pedro C. Marijuan wrote:
> >>>
> >>>> Dear Terry and colleagues,
> >>>>
> >>>> At your convenience, during the first week of February or so we may
> put
> >>>> an
> >>>> end to the ongoing New Year Lecture --discussants willing to enter
> their
> >>>> late comments should hurry up. Your own final or concluding comment
> will
> >>>> be appreciated.
> >>>>
> >>>> Personally, my late comment will deal with the last exchange between
> Bob
> >>>> and Terry, It is about the point which follows:  "...there was no
> thesis
> >>>> other than the word information is a descriptor for so many different
> >>>> situations and that it is a part of a semantic web - no roadmap only a
> >>>> jaunt through the countryside of associations - a leisurely preamble."
> >>>> In my own parlance, we have been focusing this fis session on the
> >>>> microphysical foundations of information (thermodynamic in this case)
> >>>> which together with the quantum would look as the definite foundations
> >>>> of
> >>>> the whole field, or even of the whole "great domain of information."
> But
> >>>> could it be so? Is there such thing as a "unitary" foundation? My
> >>>> impression is that we are instinctively working "where the light is",
> >>>> reminding the trite story of the physicists who has lost the car keys
> >>>> and
> >>>> is looking closest to the street lamp.  The point I suggest is that
> the
> >>>> different informational realms are emergent in the strongest sense:
> >>>> almost
> >>>> no trace of the underlying information realms would surface. Each
> realm
> >>>> has to invent throughout its own engines of invention the different
> >>>> informational & organizational  principles that sustain its existence.
> >>>> It
> >>>> is no obligate that there will be a successful outcome.... In the
> extent
> >>>> to which this plurality of foundations is true, solving the
> >>>> microphysical
> >>>> part would be of little help to adumbrating the neuronal/psychological
> >>>> or
> >>>> the social information arena.
> >>>>
> >>>> The roadmap Bob suggests is an obligatory exploration to advance; we
> may
> >>>> disagree in the ways and means, but not in the overall goal. It is a
> >>>> mind
> >>>> boggling exercise as we have to confront quite different languages and
> >>>> styles of thinking. For instance, the next session we will have at FIS
> >>>> (in
> >>>> a few weeks) is an attempt of an excursion on "Intelligence Science".
> >>>> Presented by Zhao Chuan, the aim is of confronting the phenomenon of
> >>>> intelligence from a global perspective amalgamating science
> (artificial
> >>>> intelligence), emotions, and art (poetic and pictorial). Not easy, but
> >>>> we
> >>>> will try
> >>>>
> >>>> Anyhow,  Terry, we much appreciate your insights and the responses you
> >>>> have produced along the Lecture. It was a nice intellectual exercise.
> >>>>
> >>>> Best wishes to all---Pedro
> >>>>
> >>>> -------------------------------------------------
> >>>> Pedro C. Marijuán
> >>>> Grupo de Bioinformación / Bioinformation Group
> >>>> Instituto Aragonés de Ciencias de la Salud
> >>>> Centro de Investigación Biomédica de Aragón (CIBA)
> >>>> Avda. San Juan Bosco, 13, planta X
> >>>> 50009 Zaragoza, Spain
> >>>> Tfno. +34 976 71 3526 (& 6818)
> >>>>
> >>>>
> >>>> -------------------------------------------------
> >>>>
> >>>> _______________________________________________
> >>>> Fis mailing list
> >>>>
> >>>>
> >>>
> >>>
> >>
> >>
> >>--
> >>Professor Terrence W. Deacon
> >>University of California, Berkeley
> >>
> >>_______________________________________________
> >>Fis mailing list
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >
> > _______________________________________________
> > Fis mailing list
> >
> >
> >
> --
> Professor Terrence W. Deacon
> University of California, Berkeley
> _______________________________________________
> Fis mailing list
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