Semiotic Square and the Shape of Mind

The farmyard hen’s left-brain is connected to its right eye, the right brain to the left. There is no partial sharing of retina connections across the hemispheres as in humans. When foraging for that allusive grain of wheat, the hen will use its left brained right eye to focus in and seek it out. For awareness of its environment, it relies on its right brained left eye. The hen will check out possible threats, menaces and escape routes with the right brained eye, even if this requires cocking the head right around to the other side. The opposite applies for finding the noodle in the haystack, in which case it will use its left brained right eye. The farmyard hen carries around two worldviews, one in each side of its cranium, two worlds and one hen reality. The two worldviews are interchangeable by just a cock of the head. Is this farmyard chook more epistemologically aware than present day science?
For the author, the subject matter towards the end of this section provokes a personal feeling of profound wonder. However, if we are not careful, this wonder can be lost in the technical detail. This can particularly be the case if the reader focuses in with left side analytic reasoning where so often, the finger points to the stars and the narrowed mind merely stares incredulously at the finger. The subject matter can only be fully understood from a right side perspective, the awareness side of consciousness. Without awareness, there can be no wonder and no deep comprehension, the sharpness of focus can be a distraction.

To bring this subject onto centre stage, as a full-blown science requires a certain kind of mathematics, this will be covered elsewhere. In the meantime, we can make do with some elementary apparatus accessible to any mind curious enough to go along with the flow. The kind of reasoning is not traditional reductionist, analytic reasoning of the ordinary sciences. Such reasoning is an “open loop” form of thinking that necessarily involves labels and meaningless symbols. Allocating arbitrary names and symbols to things is a shaky start in the search for the deeper truths.

We have been referring to this kind of thinking as left side. What interests us is right side thinking. Right side reasoning is closed loop thinking where concepts are expressed in the form of oppositions and oppositions between oppositions. Some call this dialectical reasoning but no one has yet succeeded in formalising such reasoning. This is one of our objectives. The basic ideal of such reasoning is that everything is determined and understood in reference to something else, something that it clearly and absolutely is not. The opposition, the dichotomy, express such references. The semantics of object is lost without a present subject and so this leads to the fundamental opposition between subject and object, each giving meaning to each other.

We paint the picture with broad brushstrokes. However, even before the brushstrokes there comes the canvas. The canvas has four corners and is sufficient for an artist to paint a whole picture. So far, we have looked at a number of wholes and found that, as a whole, they can be painted on a four-cornered canvas. In previous sections, we saw that the “rich dad” Kiyosaki painted his cashflow quadrant on his four-cornered canvas. We saw that Freud accomplishes the same thing for the architecture of the psyche. We discussed the functioning of Freud’s mechanism by talking about another semiotic canvas, parliamentary democracy; to demonstrate that by talking about one thing you can be really talking about another, a favourite pastime of artistic expression. As an attempt at some dangerous semiological acrobatics, we talked obliquely about the personal psyche in terms of the political psyche with a dose of Buddhist philosophical semiotics thrown in. It appears that we have stumbled on the universal language of the artist, a language that can talk across the board. Rather than just describe the scene, we can describe the canvas, the common ground for any painting. It also provides the elements for a common universal language that can operate across the board.

The canvas can be understood in the form of a semiotic square that encapsulates the two kinds of subject with the two corresponding worlds of objects. This semiotic structure is based on the opposition of two oppositions. The first opposition, termed the left right opposition, was seen as that between the impersonal subject on the right and the impersonalised objects on the left. Empirical scientists dreams of this dichotomy where a pure, dispassionate, non-entangled subject surveys a non-disturbed world of object-ve objects. Such a subject has the highly sought after “view from nowhere”, the God’s eye view, the holy grail of empirical science, the unachievable dream. This was the first understanding of what constitutes a whole, an amorphous mass of objects together with the necessary but totally undetermined impersonal subject.

In order not to be stranded in the domain of the unachievable dream, a second kind of subject must enter the scene, the real world, determined subject, the personal subject. This leads to a second opposition that we referred to as the second dichotomous cut across the canvas, the front back opposition. In the frontal lobes resides the epistemological domain of the personal subject. The rear is the epistemological domain of the other side of the whole, all that is not personal subject. This is the personalised object domain. The result is a canvas cut up into four regions. These regions are not spatial divisions. One could say that they represent epistemological regions describing the four aspects of a whole, any whole. This is ground zero. We have considered a number of examples already that share ground zero. The content has changed but the ground has been constant throughout.

A natural question is to ascertain where ground zero is located. It all depends on where the personal subject is located, and that can be literally anywhere. Everyone possesses his own ground zero. It is usually located somewhere in the region between the ears and behind the eyes. This is your own personal canvas for picturing the universe. Functioning correctly, it will be aligned with the impersonal version. It is split into left and right sides that in turn are split into front and back. This, in itself can be an immense source of wonder. However, we have not yet finished with the technicalities.

The generic ground for any entity taken as a whole can be understood in terms of the semiotic square. The square is generated from an opposition applied to itself. We have already interpreted this opposition in a number of ways. There was the opposition between subject and object. Another version was the opposition between the One and the Multiple. The most fundamental version of the opposition is that conveyed by ontological gender, the opposition between the masculine and the feminine. Gender will be revisited in more detail and precision later. Here we simply consider the masculine feminine opposition as involving a more generic opposition than the cardinality opposition between the determined One and undetermined Many. Gender is not limited to cardinality and goes right across the board from the quantitative to the qualitative. In all cases, the masculine appears as the determined singularity, that which is determined as singularity. The masculine is the only certainty in the equation. The feminine, on the other hand, is a totally unknown quantity. The best way to understand the feminine, albeit from the masculine viewpoint, is that it is a total wildcard. And this is the key. There is nothing wrong about knowing nothing about something as long as that is certitude. Here we find the Socratic confession of ignorance as the lynchpin of a whole algebra of the Cosmos! The ignorance is encapsulated in the feminine wildcard. The absolute certitude of knowledge that this wild card is a wild card is encapsulated in the masculine. The singularity of absolute certitude meets absolute uncertainty. This is the ultimate Principle of Uncertainty. What ‘s more, it provides the two letters capable of coding the whole Cosmos, any Cosmos.

We still have not come to the author’s object of wonder, but we are slowly moving in that direction.

The Four Letters of Antiquity

The above material will be revisited at a more leisurely pace in later sections. What we wish to retain here is the notion of a two-lettered generic alphabet. Intuitively we can say that these letters are M for masculine and F for feminine. These letters have semantic implications. The two letters have meaning as has been explained above. For example, the feminine F is the wildcard and is totally devoid of determined meaning, which, when you think about it, is really loaded in meaning. In a recent seminar given by the author, apparently a woman in the audience was taking notes and wrote down the letter F and then the word “wildcard” followed by a string of exclamation marks. So F seems to have meaning of some kind!!!

The physics of pre-Socratic times and later the physics of the Stoics were founded on the theory of the four elements, sometimes called the four letters. According to the Stoics, two of the four elements were masculine and two feminine. The Stoics were not innovators in this domain and seemed to have just adopted the older versions of the science from previous generations with little modification. In addition to the masculine feminine opposition, the Stoics also include a second opposition based on the Active and the Passive principles. The way we interpret it, the gender opposition is the primary impersonal opposition and fits the left-right polarity convention. The Active Passive opposition can be interpreted also as a gender opposition like the first. However, this time it involves the personal version, the one corresponding to the front-back polarity convention. The Active corresponds to the personal masculine (the personal singular subject) and the Passive to the personal feminine (the personal non-singular). The four ancient elements, similar to those mentioned in other cultures such as those on the Indian subcontinent, were water, earth, air and fire.
Figure 11 shows the four elements together with the Stoic qualia and the pure gender versions. Heraclitus associated Fire, the doubly singular MM element, with Zeus. Note that Earth, the doubly non-qualified element is a kind of “double wildcard.” As a substance, Earth would have to be interpreted as devoid of any specificity whatsoever. It is pure “stuff”. In this F and M algebra, the F can be replaced with a question mark. The other three elements do possess specificity, but only relative to subject. Water with the specificity FM has for its only specificity the singularity of the personal subject. Air with the specificity MF has for its only specificity the singularity of the impersonal subject. Fire, on the other hand, being MM enjoys both the specificity of both personal and impersonal subject.
In the light of the above, it does not take too much imagination to realise that this ancient way of reasoning about the substantiality of reality is non-trivial and, in fact, very profound. Keep in mind that this is not abstract thinking that is involved here; it is thinking of a different kind, what we call generic thinking. For several millennia, this brand of thinking made up the dominant scientific view. This generic kind of science has been totally eclipsed by the dominance of the abstract sciences of the last few centuries. The generic science perspective has fallen in such disarray that it has become a source of ridicule. “Four elements! Everyone knows nowadays that there are at least 96 elements.” The thinking of thousands of years of the greatest minds of the times has become an object of scorn and derision. It is time to reverse the tables.
Figure 11 Table showing the four ancient elements, the Stoic qualia for the elements and the pure generic gender algebra version.

The Generic Square

The physics of the ancient world was not based on empirical left side thinking but rather an intuitive version of an embryonic right side science. In later sections, we will endeavour to reconstruct the ancient science and move it to a more rigorous and potentially formal footing. Of fundamental importance is the concept of gender, the most fundamental of any ontological principle. At present, we are content with an intuitive understanding of the concept. Figure 12 shows how gender coding can be used to provide the elementary algebraic expression of the ancient four elements. The table includes an additional column that describes how the same gender coding codes the genetic code. It is a relatively simple exercise to actually determine the exact match between the genetic code and the gender coding. Suffice to say that there are so many constraints to the puzzle that only one combination stands out. We do not go into these details here.

Figure 12 The ancient four-letter code can be understood in terms of the gender code. So can the generic code.

The Genetic Code viewed Left and Right Side

The gender code mapping to the four bases C,A,U, and G of the genetic code as shown in Figure 12, is incomprehensible from a left side science perspective. Implicit in the gender coding is a right side science of language. Before going down that track, it is worthwhile considering the genetic code as seen in the optic of traditional left side science. The left side linguistic theory of the genetic code is quite elementary and predictable. Basically, the genetic code is seen as a simple transcription language. This is in accordance with standard left side concept of the binary relationship between the signified and the signifier. The sign and the signifier are assumed to be the one and the same. Language thus presents in the standard way outlined by Ferdinand de Saussure. First as a sequence of signifiers and secondly as a sequence of entities signified. The relationship between the signifier and the signified is considered as completely arbitrary. In human everyday languages, this means that the actual sounds, the phonemes, are devoid of any meaning. For example, the three phonemes making up the words C-A-T are considered arbitrary and have no meaning. It is only the morpheme CAT that signifies something. Three arbitrary markers, taken together have come to signify a cat.

The left side view of the genetic code is along the same lines. The signifiers in this case are the four bases A,U,G, and C. True to the left side paradigm, these bases are considered to have no meaning, they are just markers. The equivalent to a morpheme in the case of the genetic code is the codon. A codon is a triplet of any combination of the four bases, three signifiers per morpheme. The codon is considered to have meaning because it signifies something. As we know, in most cases it signifies one of the twenty basic amino acids that make up proteins. Three of them, the “stop” codons act as punctuation marks signifying the end of a genetic sequence. One of them, the AUG “start” codon, also acts as a punctuation mark, signifying the start of a genetic sequence. If situated in the middle of a genetic sequence, it signifies an amino acid, methionine in this case.

We pause for a moment and give left side science its due. To arrive at the present day understanding of the genetic code is an incredible achievement and well worthy of a Nobel Prize or two. However, after the dust has settled, there comes a time when deeper questions come to the surface. Some of these questions are quite simple. Why do all creatures, ranging from the smallest microbe, the smallest streak of slime, right up to humans, all use the very same code and the very same coding? Even very specifically, why do they all use the very same start codon? If all life were a product of evolution, then surely the genetic code would also be a product of evolution. However, the evidence points to it as never changing and never have being in a state of change. Right at the beginning of life, there was the Code. Why didn’t the genetic code evolve? Where is the survival of the fittest code? Where does the genetic code come from? Why this particular code and this particular coding? Does this code precede life?
Even more importantly, we ask the question as to whether the genetic code can be reverse engineered. This is the problem taken in this book: Determine how to reverse engineer the genetic code. Our approach will be to attempt the reverse engineer a generic code which is capable of coding, not just the visibly animate, but anything whatsoever in a rational reality.
Asking the above questions, posing them to the left side dominant scientific thinker, inevitably results in being confronted by incredulity or shear blankness. From the left side perspective, the situation is in hand. The genetic code has been “cracked.” How the genetic coding transcribes the building planks of life has been revealed. All of these ontological questions of where it came from and why it works the way it does, lies outside the scope of science. The role of science is to describe, not to explain.

The Full and the Half Paradigm

There are two takes on reality. One is a full take and the other a half take. Left side science is based on the half take. It appears that the biological brain is similarly inclined. Thus, before investigating the scientific ramifications and avoiding any abstract musings, we look at the personality traits and competencies of the human brain when operating on a single hemisphere. What is the difference between the take of the left brain operating alone from the take of the right brain acting alone?

When only the left hemisphere is effectively operational, the subject suffers from “hemi-neglect”, as McGilchrist explains.

Because the concern of the left hemisphere is with the right half of the world only, the left half of the body, and everything lying in the left part of the visual field, fails to materialise … So extreme can this phenomenon be that the sufferer may fail to acknowledge the existence of anyone standing to his left, the left half of the face of a clock, or the left page of a newspaper or book, and will even neglect to wash, shave or dress the left half of the body, sometimes going so far as to deny that it exists at all. This is despite the fact that there is nothing at all wrong with the primary visual system: the problem is not due to blindness as ordinarily understood. If one temporarily disables the left hemisphere of such an individual through transcranial magnetic stimulation, the neglect improves, suggesting that the problem following right-hemisphere stroke is due to release of the unopposed action of the left hemisphere. But you do not get the mirror-image of the neglect phenomenon after a left-hemisphere stroke, because in that case the still-functioning right hemisphere supplies a whole body, and a whole world, to the sufferer. (McGilchrist, 2009)

Hemi-neglect is a characteristic of left side thinking, whether it be the biological brain or the scientific mind. The left side is aware of only one half of reality, whereas the right side must be aware of its domain of specialisation and the other side as well. After all, its specialisation is in terms of whole wholes, not half wholes.

Hemi-neglect runs right across the left side sciences. It always manifests itself in a binary way of thinking. We have already seen this in logic where left side reasoning is based on the Law of the Excluded Middle. Something is either true or false. Analytic Philosophy is full of it. The Mind Body, the imaginary and the real dualities are pet pre-occupations. When it comes down to linguistics and semiotics there will usually be two versions. One will be the left side version and is always dualistic. For example, the left side perspective on the nature of the sign is expressed by Ferdinand de Saussure as a dyadic opposition between signifier and signified as illustrated in Figure 13. Right side thinking employs a second opposition leading to a semiotic square with one “real” component determined by a triad.

Figure 13 Left side semiotics is dyadic; right side (Peirce) is triadic.

The Tower of Babel

And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do; and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech. (Genesis)
This is where we come to our point of wonder. The first wondrous aspect of the reality we live in is that it can be understood in terms of a single unique language formed from four letters. This was the dominant concept running through ancient civilisations, right into medieval times. The concept gains new impetus with the discovery of the genetic code. The concept will return to central stage with the development of our understanding of the generic code, the unique code underlying all reality, not just the animate. This four-lettered code, describes every cell in our bodies. Every cell has a copy of the same code.

The central theme of this book is that this genetic code, this generic code is the language of wholes. As such, it is the natural language of Mind, the mind conscious of itself as a whole.

However, it appears only one half of mind, the right side, is based on the thinking in wholes and the corresponding 4-letter generic code. Here we come to the second theme of the book. We assert that the left side is not based on this four-letter alphabet. Rather than four letters, it only uses two, the two letters on the left as illustrated in Figure 14.

The right side thinks in terms of wholes and needs the full four letters of the generic code. However, the letters C and G relate to the Singular and the Universal. They express the requirement that the One must be One and the Multiple must be One. These are regulatory requirements. Such a mechanism can be restrictive. Like the free market economist who abhors legislation and regulation of the marketplace, left side reasoning dispenses with such travesties against individual freedoms. It becomes open loop and tries to go it alone. It doesn’t need any Cosmic Reason to figure out what should be done. It just needs a notepad of rules and a belief in Providence. Totally unaware of the guiding hand of the right side, an incomprehensible entity at best, the left side thinks that it is master of the world.

Figure 14 The generic mind: The right side is conscious of the whole. The left side has dispensed with the regulating machinery of the right side and has become open loop, relying on learnt rules. It has dispensed with the generic code and speaks the local patois. Faster, agile, and focused, the left side is unaware (Genesis) that the right side even exists, sometimes to its own peril.



All Rights Reserved. @copyright Douglas J. H. Moore 2011 Phrases: Semiotic square, genetic code, generic code, DNA, start codon, left right hemispheres, the divided brain, epistemology, anti-mathematics, masculine, feminine, gender differentiation, Generic Science, Semiotic structure

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