Dear Lou and colleagues, 


The reasoning is very clear. Thank you.



At this point the being has attained linguistic self-reference. The being can 
say “I am the meta-name of my own naming process.”

This nexus or fixed point of self-reference can occur naturally in a being that 
has sufficient ability to distinguish, name and create.


It seems to me that as language arises from interhuman interactions, it takes 
over as the agent of change. One is called by a name which is then codified by 
that name.


This distinction is important because languages can be further differentiated 
and codified. Thomas Kuhn, for example, gives the example of “atom” having a 
meaning codified in some area of physics differently from physical chemistry. 
While we tend to call you “Lou”, the bureaucracy will call you “Louis”, and 
your wife may call you with yet another variant. These different names may 
enable you to enrich your “I”, without loosing a self-reference. I would call 
this self-reference with the additional degree of freedom for calling itself 
consciousness. Without consciousness, the name is only a semiotic “actant”. 
(Perhaps, a dog is a good example.)


The issue is important because once constructed, the codes guide the meaning 
(e.g., “atom”) at the supra-individual level. The control at individual level 
is only consciousness, including one’s own (idiosyncratic) degree of 
meta-reflexive freedom. From the perspective of communication, the latter 
provides the variation; in scholarly discourse, for example, knowledge claims 
are submitted. In other words, the epistemological grounding is to be found in 
the “inter” of inter-subjectivity. This goes against our (neo-liberal and 
enlightenment) intuition that agency grounds existence. The priority of 
understanding the communication tends to move the order among the sciences to a 
post-enlightenment one: a sociological epistemology becomes the center with the 
option to be operationalized in a sociology of scientific communication.


The additional degree of freedom in consciousness moreover enables us to 
participate selectively in the different domains. Latour called this 
“infra-reflexivity”. The selections shape our identity. The sciences are 
infra-reflexive to the extent that one can intervene across disciplinary 
language games; i.e., in other jargon. 






In this way, I convince myself that there is nothing special about 
self-reference. It arises naturally in observing systems. And I convince myself 
that self-reference is central to an organized and reflective cognition. Even 
though it is empty to say that “I am the one who says I.” this emptiness 
becomes though language an organizing center for our explorations of our own 
world and the worlds of others. The beauty of “I am the one who says I.” is 
that it is indeed a vacuous reference. Anyone can take it on. The “I” can refer 
to any observing system sophisticated enough to give it meaning.


My example should be expanded into a discussion of the role and creation of 
meaning in observing systems, but I shall stop here.


I am interested in how Soren Brier will react to these, perhaps seen as 
indirect, remarks on mind and meaning.

I take thought and the realm of discrimination as the start of epistemology and 
I do not regard the immediate apparent objects of our worlds as anything but 
incredibly decorated entities

appearing after a long history of indicative shift. What is their original 
nature? It is empty. Emptiness is form and form is emptiness. The form we take 
to exist arises from framing nothing.


Now, I caution you in replying to please read carefully what I have written 

I will not reply directly to the discussion for another week or so.



Lou Kauffman

P.S. The indicative shift is precisely the formalism in back of the workings of 
Goedel’s Theorem.

See “Categorical Pairs and the Indicative Shift”,




On Apr 11, 2016, at 11:41 PM, Maxine Sheets-Johnstone <> wrote:


To all colleagues,

I hope I may voice a number of concerns that have arisen in the course
of the ongoing discussions that are ostensibly about phenomenology and
the life sciences.

The concerns begin with a non-recognition of what is surely the ground
floor of real-life, real-time realities, namely, animation, not in the
sense of being alive or in opposition to the inanimate, but in the sense
of motion, movement, kinetics. As Aristotle cogently remarked,
“Nature is a principle of motion and change. . . . We must therefore see
that we understand what motion is; for if it were unknown, nature too
would be unknown” (Physics 200b12-14).

Through and through--from animate organisms to an ever-changing world--
movement is foundational to understandings of subject and world, and of
subject/world relationships, and this whether subject and world are
examined phenomenologically or scientifically. In short, movement is at
the core of information and meaning, at the core of mind and consciousness,
at the core of both gestural and verbal language, at the core of nervous
system and organic functionings, at the core of molecular transformations,
at the core of ellipses, electrons, gravity, waves, particles, and so on,
and further, at the core of time, the concept, measurement, and meaning of

I enumerate below specifics with respect to what is essentially the
foundational dynamic reality. The summary concerns are followed by
references that document each concern. If further specifics are wanted or
if specific articles are wanted, kindly contact

(1). Instincts and/or feelings motivate animate organisms to move.
Without such instincts or feelings there would be no disposition
to move. An ‘animate organism’ would in truth be akin to a statue,
a statue Condillac described two and a half centuries ago as having
first this sense given to it, then that sense given to it, but that,
lacking movement, is powerless to gain knowledge of the world. Such
a movement deficient creature would furthermore lack the biological
capacity of responsivity, a near universal characteristic of life.
The startle reflex is a premier example. Can what is evolutionarily
given be “illogical”? Clearly, feelings are not “illogical,” but move
through animate bodies, moving them to move. Without feelings of
curiosity, for example, or awe, or wonder, there would be no exploration
of the natural world, no investigations, hence no “information.”
Furthermore, without feelings of movement—initially, from an evolutionary
perspective, no proprioception, and later, no kinesthesia--there would be
no near and far, no weak and strong, no straight and curved, and so on,
hence, no determinations of Nature. In short, there would be no information
and no meaning. (See Note #1: The Primacy of Movement)

(2). An excellent lead-in to scientific understandings of movement and
its inherent dynamics lies in the extensive research and writings of
J. A. Scott Kelso, Pierre de Fermat Laureate in 2007. Kelso was founder
of the Center for Brain and Behavioral Studies and its Director for twenty
years. His rigorous multi-dimensional experimental studies are anchored in
coordination dynamics, an anchorage that is unconstrained by dogma. The
breadth of his knowledge and his sense of open inquiry is apparent in the
literature he cites in conjunction with his articles and books. His recent
article in Biological Cybernetics that focuses on “Agency” is strikingly
relevant to the present FIS discussion. It takes experience into account,
specifically in the form of “positive feedback,” which obviously involves
kinesthesia in a central way. Moreover his upcoming Opinion piece in Trends
in Cognitive Science should be essential reading. (See Note #2: “The 
Dynamics of Mobile Conjugate Reinforcement” and The Complementary Nature)

(3). As pointed out elsewhere, “Certainly words carry no patented meanings,
but the term ‘phenomenology’ does seem stretched beyond its limits when it
is used to denote either mere reportorial renderings of perceptible behaviors
or actions, or any descriptive rendering at all of perceptible behaviors or
actions. At the least, ‘phenomenology’ should be recognized as a very specific
mode of epistemological inquiry invariably associated with the name Edmund 
Husserl. . . . ”
Phenomenological inquiries are tethered to a very specific methodology, one as
rigorous as that of science. Phenomenological findings are furthermore open to
verification by others, precisely as in science. Moreover two forms of
phenomenological analysis warrant recognition: static and genetic, the former
being a determination of the essential character of the object of inquiry, the
second being a determination of how the meaning of that object of inquiry came
to be constituted, hence an inquiry into sedimentations of meaning, into
protentions and retentions, into horizons of meaning, and so on. Thus too,
what warrants recognition is the fact that bracketing is not the beginning and
end of phenomenological methodology. On the contrary, bracketing is only the 
Phenomenological reduction follows bracketing and allows the essential character
of the object of inquiry or the constitution of its meaning to come to light.
(See Note #3: Animation: Analyses, Elaborations, and Implications”)

(4). References made to Gödel’s theorem to uphold certain theses can be 
questioned. The claim that Gödel makes on behalf of his theorem is inaccurate.
Three articles that demonstrate the inaccuracy, one from a phenomenological
perspective, two others from a logical-analytical perspective, warrant 
study. In brief, self-referential statements are vacuous, hence neither true 
nor false.
Moreover the sentences expressing the statements may be used to make two quite
different statements, a fact ignored by Gödel.(See Note #4:  “Self-Reference and
Gödel’s Theorem,” “The Liar Syndrome,” and “Doctor’s Diagnosis Sustained")

(5): Information is commonly understood as factual knowledge, thus empirically
sustained and sustainable knowledge. It is thus a matter of the condition or
nature or workings, etc., of something out there in the world, including even
your liver if that is the source of information. Mathematics has its origin in
arithmetic, the latter having its origins in counting things in the world,
including if not beginning with one’s fingers, and in shape, including if not
beginning with differentiating contours and size, thus with linear and 
dimensions of things in the world. As I wrote in my last posting, I hope that
someone will take up the challenge of doing a phenomenological analysis of 
An inquiry into the relationship of meaning to information and of information to
meaning might then be undertaken. That step, to my mind, would provide solid 
for linking informational sciences and phenomenology, linking by way of 
demonstrating—complementarities, precisely complementarities in the sense that
Bohr and Kelso specify.

Note #1: Sheets-Johnstone, Maxine. 2011. The Primacy of Movement, expanded 2nd 
Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing

Note #2: Kelso, J. A. Scott and Armin Fuchs. 2016. “The Coordination Dynamics of
Mobile Conjugate Reinforcement,” Biological Cybernetics:  DOI 
Kelso, J. A. Scott and David A. Engström. 2006. The Complementary Nature. 
MA: Bradford Book/MIT Press.

Note #3: Sheets-Johnstone, Maxine. 2015. “Animation: Analyses, Elaborations, 
and Implications,”
Husserl Studies, 30/3: 247-268.  DOI 10.1007/s10743-014-9156-y

Note #4: Johnstone, Albert A. 2002. “Self-Reference and Gödel’s Theorem: A 
Husserlian Analysis."
Husserl Studies, 19: 131-151.
Johnstone, Albert A. 2002. “The Liar Syndrome,” SATS/Nordic Journal of 
Philosophy, 3/1: 37-55.
Johnstone, Albert A. 2002. “Doctor’s Diagnosis Sustained,” SATS/Nordic Journal 
of Philosophy,
3/2: 142-153.


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