Patterns of Mindfulness

In view of the structure of the body, it would be astonishing if the psyche were the only biological phenomenon not to show clear traces of its evolutionary history, and it is altogether probable that these marks are closely connected with the instinctual base. Instinct and archaic mode meets in the biological conception of the ‘pattern of behaviour’. There are, in fact, no amorphous instincts, as every instinct bears in itself the pattern of its situation. Always it fulfills an image, and the image has fixed qualities. The instinct of the leaf-cutting ant fulfills the image of ant, tree, leaf, cutting,transport, and little ant-garden of fungi. If any one of these conditions is lacking, the instinct does not function, because it cannot exist without its total pattern, without its image … The same is also true of man: he has in him these a priori instinct-types which provide the occasion and pattern for his activities, in so far as he functions instinctively. As a biological being he has no choice but to act in a specifically human way, and fulfill his pattern of behaviour … They [the primordial images] are not just relics or vestiges of earlier modes of functioning; they are the ever-present and bio-logically necessary regulators of the instinctual sphere, whose range of action covers the whole realm of the psyche and only loses its absoluteness when limited by the relative freedom of the will. We may say that the image represents the meaning of the instinct. (Jung 1960, para. 398, Jung’s emphases)

The universal attributes of language structure are by their nature the most variable in surface representation, variably mapped to processing tasks, and poorly localizable within the brain between individuals or even within individuals. Therefore, they are the least likely features of language to have evolved specific neural supports. Those aspects of language that many linguists would rank most likely to be part of the Universal Grammar are precisely those that are ineligible to participate in Baldwinian evolution! If there are innate rules of grammar in the minds of human infants, then they could not have gotten there by genetic assimilation, only by miraculous accident.(Deacon, The Symbolic Species: The Co-evolution of Language and the Brain, 1997, p.333)

I believe that recognizing the capacity of languages to evolve and adapt with respect to human hosts is crucial to understanding another long-standing mystery about language that theories of innate knowledge were developed to explain: the source of language universals. Grammatical universals exist, but I want to suggest that their existence does not imply that they are prefigured in the brain like frozen evolutionary accidents. In fact, I suspect that universal rules for implicit axioms of grammar aren’t really stored or located anywhere, and in an important sense, they are not determined at all. Instead, I want to suggest the radical possibility that they have emerged spontaneously and independently in each evolving language, in response to universal biases in the selection processes affecting language transmission. They are convergent features of language evolution in the same way that the dorsal fins of sharks, ichthyosaurs, and dolphins are independent convergent adaptations of aquatic species.(Deacon,  The Symbolic Species: The Co-evolution of Language and the Brain, 1997, p.115 f)

The synthesis of activities, producing the emergent pattern, cannot be paralleled in a corresponding synthesis of neurological correlates or mathematical characterizations. Interactive emergence means there exists no overall formal description of the high-level phenomenon, though its pattern will be clearly recognizable within the context of the creature’s environment. (Hendriks-Jansen, Catching Ourselves in the Act: Situated Activity, Interactive Emergence, Evolution, and Human Thought, 1996, p.228 f)

Papers:

Archetypes, complexes and self‐organization

Learning in the Cultural Process

How Learning Can Guide Behavior

Baldwin Effect

Lectures:

Terrence W. Deacon. Neither nature nor nurture: the semiotic basis of language universals – 28.10.16

Terrence Deacon — Language and complexity: Evolution inside out

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