Papers on zoosemiotics

Osborne, Catherine 2007. Dumb Beasts and Dead Philosophers: Humanity and the Humane in Ancient Philosophy and Literature. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

In this chapter we shall take a sideways glance at these contemporary debates by way of an exploration of Aristotle's attempts to explain the continuity between animal capacities and the, supposedly distinctive, human capacity to think in conceptual terms. I shall sugest that Aristotle's attempt to trace continuity, rather than radical discontinuity, across the human-animal spectrum is a fruitful project that belongs with a humane and perceptive attitude to the non-linguistic members of our own species and other creatures. For our own achievements are surely not so very special, just because they are expressed in language. (Osborne 2007: 64)
For in the 21st century we finally acknowledge that some humans are "nonverbal".
We alse use sentences of classic subjects-predicate form when we are not writing a paper or speaking on the radio, but expressing our inner feelings and interests, our social involvement, and our concern for others. We say 'I have a headache', 'I'm worried about my son', 'I don't know what to do'. But although these take a propositional form in the expression, it is not clear that these exchanges of ordinary social intercourse necessarily need words at all, let alone sentences, in order to say what we mean. Except when the intention is to share thoughts of an intellectual or deliberative nature, most could be done equally well with wordless forms of communication (facial expressions, bodily contact, inarticulate sounds, glances, and wordless signs). (Osborne 2007: 67)
It is also quite fashionable to acknowledge nonverbal communication.
In his discussion of human and animal behaviour, Aristotle sometimes invokes a mechanism that he calls phantasia, or (in the traditional translation) 'imagination'. (Osborne 2007: 72)
Relevant for my interests.
What moves all animals, human and non-human alike, Aristotle argues in De anima, is inclination, and inclination is always purposive. There are also intellectual capacities peculiar to humans, some of which can have a bearing on purposive action; but evidently they can only affect action if they can alter how attractive a given object of desire looks, since the object of desire is what arouses inclination. That, according to Aristotle, is what initiates voluntary motion. (Osborne 2007: 73)
This sounds a lot like Berger and Luckmann's husserlian dictum that consciousness is always intentional.
If we find it useful to identify such a function, because it is an economical way to explain a range of phenomena with a related kind of phenomenology, then we do not need to wait for neuroscience to identify a physical seat (or seats) for supplying the funcionality. (Osborne 2007: 83)
Ah, someone needs to inform Kantorowicz of this!
His [Aristotle's] outlook stresses the continuity between human and animal behaviour, and then seeks the explanation, convinced that there must be, in fact, a way in which animals can act intelligently without intellect. (Osborne 2007: 84)
Something Aristotle has in common with Darwin.

Wolfe, Cary 2010. What is posthumanism?. Minnesota; London: University of Minnesota Press.

That question is what language is and how it is related to our ideas about subjectivity, consciousness, and the like. And that question, in turn, cannot be addressed without investigating our assumptions about what knowledge is and the kinds of knowledge we can have of ourselves and of others - in this case (the hardest case, perhaps) nonhuman others. (Wolfe 2010: 31)
Why can't questions about language and consciousness be addressed without "investigating out assumptions about what knowledge is"? I bet it can but you don't want to, because what you really want to do is spill words or drone over issues of epistemology.
[...] whether or not knowledge - including knowledge of our own subjectivity and that of others - is representational and, within that, how we are to construe the relationship between epistemological and ontological questions. (Wolfe 2010: 31)
It is exemplified, he writes, "by the theretical claim that the mind is like the sort of 'computation that takes place in electronic computers. In simpler terms, minds are software (programs) run on the hardware (neural circuits) of the brain." The "strong" version of this claim (or the weakest, depending on your point of view) is called "eliminative materialism," which holds that "notions such as mind, intention, belief, thought, representation, and so on will eventually be eliminated in discussions of cognitive processes in favor or [sic] more mechanistic synonyms that refer to chemical-electrical signaling processes of the brain. Mentalistic terms, it is suggested, are merely glosses for more complex brain processes that we at present do not understand." (Wolfe 2010: 32)
Yeah, it does seem to be heading that way.
They key finding of the study, we are told, is that Rico is apparently capableof a process called "fast mapping" - an ability to instantly assign a meaning to a new word, a strategy human toddlers use to learn language at a prodigious rate, and a skill thought to be exclusively the province of humans. (Wolfe 2010: 33)
And now I fast mapped the concept of fast mapping.
In Kinds of Minds and throughout his work, Dennett rightly rejects the idea that "some central Agent or Boss or Audience" - what he also sometimes calls a "Cartesian puppeteer" - takes in and "appreciates" the information produced by the neural networks and uses it to "steer the ship" of subjectivity. (Wolfe 2010: 34)
I on the other hand reject the other extreme that divorces mind from body in favour of the body by imputing "some central Agent or Boss or Audience" on the body. Recent speaker in Semiosalong, Veronika Valk, used constructions such as "what the body needs/wants". She viewed the body as a separate consciousness, a puppeteer of sorts.
The source of our greater intelligence when compared to our mammalian relatives, he [Dennett] argues, is not the size of our brains but "our habit of off-loading as much as possible of our cognitive tasks into the environment itself - extruding our minds (that is, our mental projects and activities) into the surrounding world, where a host of peripheral devices we construct can store, process, and re-present our meanings, streamlining, enhancing, and protecting the processes of transformation that are our thinking" - a process that "releases us from the limitations of our animal brains." And "thanks to our prosthetically enhanced imaginations," he continues, "we can formulate othewise imponderable, unnoticeable metaphysical possibilites." (Wolfe 2010: 35)
Oh wow. I haven't met the concept of off-loading in a long while. When I first met it I assumed that my readings blog is one such "peripheral device". I still think it is so.
The problem is that it is not clear how such prosthetic processes and devices can be said to constitute - to "store, process, and re-present" (in Dennett's words) - "our" thinking. After all, if we pay attention to the material, social, technical, and cultural complexities of such devices, then in what sense can the internal psychic states Dennett calls "our thinking" be said to be "re-presented" by such devices? And this is obviously true not just for storage devices such as archives, encyclopedias, books, and the institutional and disciplinary contexts in which they are embedded, but also for that first and most fundamental prosthesis of all, language itself, which cannot be said to "re-present" "our" thinking for at least two reasons. First, as Niklas Luhmann has put it (with characteristic astringency), language, like all forms of communication, "operates with an unspecific reference to the participating state of mind; it is especially unspecific as to perception. It cannot capy states of mind, cannot imitate them, cannot represent them." Second, there can be no "re-presentation" of "our" thinking in language because the meaning of an utterance is always subject to differential interpretation, an interpretation that itself takes place within multiply embedded protocols, traditions, conventions, and so on. (If this weren't the case, then it would be a private language, and we couldn't use it to communicate "our" thinking at all.) (Wolfe 2010: 35)
Both of these arguments can be negated. Firstly, language does enable one to express and/or represent states of mind. These guys completely neglect the so-called "emotive" function of communication. Secondly, language is not either all-social or all-personal. As Bakhtin put forth in his work, everyone speaks his or her own language, but we understand each other because our individual languages have commonalities - we can negotiate our meanings.
Maturana and Valera offer an extremely valuable accont of the evolutionary emergence of language proper from "linguistic domains" - an account that reaches back to Gregory Bateson's important work on "meta-communicative frames" in mammalian communication (especially in forms of "play"), and forward to the latest work is these areas by Noam Chomsky, Marc Hauser, and others. (Wolfe 2010: 37)
This is interesting, but it is merely a hint. The note says: "For a more detailed discussion of Bateson that situates his work in relation to Maturana and Varela, see my chapter "In the Shadow of Wittgenstein's Lion," in Zoontologies." Perhaps I will.
If this has a familiar ring to it, it should, because it is exactly the strategy that Jacques Lacan famously uses - in his essay of 1960, "The Subversion of the Subject and the Dialectic of Desire in the Freudian Unconscious" - to juridically separate the human from the animal as that being, alone among the living, who can lie by telling the truth. The animal, in Lacan's terms, can pretend, but not pretend to pretend - only the human, as "subject of the signifier," can do that. (Wolfe 2010: 39)
Neat. I wonder if this has anything to do with Remo's ostentation.
"Don't confuse ontological questions (about what exists) with epistemological questions (about how we know about it)!" (Wolfe 2010: 40)
The simplest circumlocutions to these philosophical terms I have seen. Dennett in Kinds of Minds.
As Derrida's later work makes clear, that Cartesianism rests on two fundamental points: (1) the assertion that animals, however sophisticated they may be, can only "react" but not "respond" to what goes on around them. And this is so because (2) the capacity to respond depends on the ability to wield concepts or representations, which is in turn possible only on the basis of language - and precisely in the sense voiced by Dennett when he writes, "No matter how closely a dog's 'concept' of cat is to yours extensionally (you and the dog discriminate the same sets of entities as cats and noncats), it differs radically in one way: the dog cannot consider its concept. ... No languageless mammal can have a concept of snow in the way we can, because a languageless mammal has no way of considering snow 'in general' or 'in itself.'" (Wolfe 2010: 40)
This is quite interesting, actually, as it paints "reaction" as physical response and "response" as meaningful reaction. In humans the difference is between nodding or vocalizing "mhm" (reacting) and actually saying something relevant in turn (responding). // The argument itself doesn't seem to hold, though, unless of course a languageless mammals have told Dennett that they have no way of considering something 'in general' or 'in itself'. Everyday experience tells that animals do respond, but then again I know too little about them to be sure.
As Marc Hauser - one of Chomsky's coauthors - argues is a separate study (and again I quote Haraway), this means that "organisms possess heterogeneous sets of mental tools, complexly and dynamically put together from genetic, developmental, and learning interactions throughout their lives, not unitary interiors that one either has or does not have." (Wolfe 2010: 41)
I'm sorry to say M. and P., in their metatheory of consciousness, seem to rely on this "unitary interior" approach - you either have consciousness or you don't (or, you either are in the sphere of consciousness or you aren't).
[...] the difference between communication and metacommunication, signifying and signifying about signifying, thinking and knowing you're thinking, and so on. (Wolfe 2010: 42)
I hate that you don't know how much I hate how you don't know how beautiful I think you don't think you are. ...and so on.

Wenner, Adrian M. 1969. The Study of Animal Communication: An Overviev. In: Sebeok, Thomas A. and Alexandra Ramsay (eds.), Approaches to Animal Communication. The Hague; Paris: Mouton, 232-243.

In spite of an eagerness to organize working outlines, we have yet to find a formally stated, comprehensive framework within which we can consider even the field of animal communications. Until we have such a comprehensive view of the relationship among various behavioral acts, we can hardly develop meaningful classifications within more restricted areas of communication. (Wenner 1969: 232)
How comprehensive can you be at such an early stage? A complete overview of all aspects couldn't possibly be viable in the late 1960s.
A study of animal behavior largely concerns itself with an analysis of the activities of a sender or receiver, before and after signals (stimuli) pass. A study of animal communication, on the other hand, concentrates on an analysis of those signals which produce certain types of activity and on attendant circumstances which contribute to the activity generated. (Wenner 1969: 234)
I'm not sure what this distinction contributes to the discussion. Ideally, you would be interested in the signals and their circumstances as well as their effects.
That is, it is relatively easy to see an animal do something, but it may be very difficult to intercept the signal(s) responsible. (Wenner 1969: 234)
The situation was eerily similar in the study of human nonverbal communication. But unlike animal communication, which was studied as if from a blank slate, the researchers brought a wealth of cultural symbols, pre-interpretations and bias to the study of humans.
These physical features can involve more complicated factors, as well. Can a signal contain information about past or future events or can it be used only at the time of production? (Wenner 1969: 237)
Sounds like a question not unlike one involving Mead's truncated acts.

Hediger, Heini 1968. The Psychology and Behaviour of Animals is Zoos and Circuses. Translated by Geoffrey Sircom. New York: Dover.

[...] the greatest attention must be paid above all to the animals' expressions in the zoo, as these provide an important factor in determining the animals' mental and physical well-being. Characteristic changes in facial expression, and in the body, are of frequent occurrence in most animals. (Hediger 1968: 140)
Because nonverbal communication is the only means of communication available with animals.
What astonishes and interests us was that this lady visitor to the zoo had completely failed to recognize the extraordinary state of excitement of the maned sheep. Let us consider, then, by what signs this could have been recognized. First of all, the total situation, quite apart from the disappointed keepers, panting for breath: the animal was not just running, it was dashing up and down, and along the fence as well. This had nothing to do with play, or desire for exercise; the whole external appearance of its movements was obviously caused by some strong urge or other. Direction, tempo and type of movement of the animal were expressive of extreme distress and excitement. (Hediger 1968: 141)
The lady failed to recognize the definition of the situation.
Additional signs were the violently heaving flanks and the hoarse panting - an audible form of expression. (Hediger 1968: 142)
A circumlocution for strepitation.
Although animals, particularly wild ones, are as a rule excellent observers, far superior to men, it sometimes happens that they misunderstand one another; in other words they misinterpret the expressions of other animals. In the zoo, where animals that are quite foreign to each other come into contact, this happens comparatively often. (Hediger 1968: 142)
The case is similar with humans in so called "melting pots" where numerous cultures meet. Because the behaviour patterns of remote cultures are different, they pose a lot of misunderstanding to even very casual interactions.
Anyone critically inclined can of course object that this is just assertion without proof, since I could never know what was going on in the vulture's mind. The objection is theoretically justified. On the other hand, it must be stated here and now that people who have some experience in this field, and who see hundreds or thousands of animals daily eventually, by noting the expressions, develop a kind of intuition, rather like a doctor's diagnostic sense. (Hediger 1968: 143)
Define intuition as a "feeling for relations" as Edward Sapir did.
Optical Phenomena of Expression
These may be roughly divided into facial, gesture, and colour-change phenomena. (Hediger 1968: 145)
Colour-change is a marginal aspect of expression in humans as well. E.g. the estonian word jume (colouration, complexion).
Kind of step (e.g. goose-stepping in deer). The kind of step has also proved to have important expressive value in man (G. Kietz, 1952); similar studies for animals would be most interesting. (Hediger 1968: 145)
He's referring to Gertraud Kietz's 1952. Der Ausdrucksgehalt des menschlichen Ganges.
In mammals, the whole body is like an open book, to be read by those who know how. Every item, from the way the hair lies, to the position of the tip of the tail, has its special meaning. As a rule, the closer one gets to an animal, the clearer one finds the expressions of its condition, i.e. the external symptoms of the mood. On the other hand, there is a large number of expression phenomena we can understand the first time we meet, as they are more or less non-specific or resemble those with which we are already familiar in other animals. Indeed, some human grimaces are found in much the same form in animals. (Hediger 1968: 148)
The nature-book metaphor also makes its appearance. I suspect the "internal expression phenomena" Hediger is talking about inspired Sebeok's discussion of the biosemiotic self.
Moreover, the fact that most important facial nerve in human beings, the nervus facilis, in this branch of the animal kingdom, controls a considerable region, that of the gill-covers, shows how wrong it is to regard these denizens of the water as expressionless. (Hediger 1968: 148)
This is the nerve that gets affected by Bell's palsy.
Charles Darwin pointed out the many similarities and even correspondences in his far-reaching work "Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals". One important difference between man and animals, however, lies in the fact that conscious deception through shamming, i.e. falsified expression, really occurs in man alone. The pretence of lameness, in the crane or golden plover, the famous shamming dead of the opossum, or the often doubted but really genuine shamming sleep of the fox has certainly nothing to do with deception. We look for this characteristic in vain in the animal kingdom, a fact which has earned for animals many friendships with human beings. Exceptions occur only among trained animals, whose characters, as D. Katz (1927) expresses it, have been "tainted by man's fall from grace", and occasionally among very highly developed species, such as anthropoid apes living in close contact with man. (Hediger 1968: 150)
Shamming is an odd term. I prefer dissembling or dissimulating. He may be right about man being the only creature that falsifies expressions, but only because this is not a "survival mechanism" as it is in other species who "play dead" (e.g. the shamming sleep of the fox).
In the animal kingdom, and among mammals in particular, there is an extremely widespread and remarkably highly developed faculty of interpreting human expressions, usually with great accuracy. One might expect the domestic animal, which has been so intimately connected with man for centuries to be able to understand and act upon man's signs better than the wild animal. Animals, especially domestic ones perhaps, are better observers and more accurate interpreters of expression than men, if we exclude his technical aids such as films, microscopes, psycho-galvanometers, etc. (Hediger 1968: 153)
This was also Sebeok's conclusion in his exposition of "Clever Hans and Smart Simians" (1981).


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