GLOSSARY OF TECHNICAL TERMS
USED IN BIOGENETIC STRUCTURALISMby Charles Laughlin [Updated 4 September 1996]
The following is a list of technical terms used in biogenetic structuralism. Most of these terms have been borrowed from other people such as Roy Rappaport, Alfred North Whitehead, Edmund Husserl, C.H. Waddington, etc. A few terms are our own neologisms which we reluctantly coined to label processes for which there appeared to be no term.
biogenetic structuralism The original book of that title (Laughlin and d'Aquili 1974) represented an interdisciplinary merger of anthropology, psychology and the neurosciences. It presented the view that the universal structures of consciousness, including structures mediating human language, cognition about time and space, affect, certain psychopathologies, and the like, were due to the genetically predisposed organization of the human nervous system. The perspective has been broadened to incorporate issues of development, phenomenology, pre- and perinatal enculturation, transpersonal experience, and many other issues of pan-human relevance.
cognized and operational environments We call the totality of the network of neural models in an individual's brain that individual's cognized environment, and contrast this with the operational environment that includes both the real (essentially transcendental) nature of that individual as an organism and the organism's external environment (see Laughlin and Brady 1978:6, d'Aquili, Laughlin and McManus 1979:12, Rubinstein et al. 1984:21, Laughlin, McManus and d'Aquili 1990:82-90). We are endebted to Roy Rappaport (1968) for the concepts of cognized and operational environments. It is clear from Rappaport's (1979:97- 144, 1984:337-352) later writings that the meanings we have constructed for these terms are even closer to his thinking than we had initially thought. We originally interpreted him as simply equating cognized environment with the native worldview and the operational environment with the world as viewed by science. And of course, we consider scientific views of the world as also being cognized environments. Rappaport's (personal communication, May, 1993) thinking does not differ from our view in any substantial way.
conscious network The total field of experience arising each moment is mediated by what we call the conscious network, a continuously changing field of neural entrainments that may include any particular network one moment and disentrain it the next (Laughlin, McManus and d'Aquili 1990). Conscious experience is not a simple function that may be located in one place in the brain -- say in the hippocampus or in the frontal lobes. Rather it is a complex of functions of networks located over a wide area of cortical and subcortical tissue. Conscious network is the momentary, actual entrainment of neural models mediating experience. The total set of models potentially entrainable to conscious network in the individual brain is the cognized environment.
creode The developmental interaction between neural models and the operational environment -- an interaction involving selection of, growth of, entrainment and re-entrainment of, and hierarchization of initially neurognostic structures -- canalizes functional processes relative to particular stimuli in the operational environment. Using C.H. Waddington's term, neural models (as part of the phenotype) become relatively fixed in organization and structure, and thus produce creodes; i.e., become regularized, recursive and predictable in cognitive content and motor response relative to the intentional object. It makes sense, therefore, to speak of an individual's cognized environment and its constituent models as an autopoieic system of creodes adapting to its operational environment.
culture Culture is conceived as socially patterned creodes in individual cognized environments, as well as the social procedures by means of which those creodes are established. It is a central concept in American anthropology and is intended to label detectable patterns of social belief, attitude, behavior, institution, etc. The naive notion of culture is that it is set apart from "nature." Humans, being "culture-bearers" have somehow transcended or evolved beyond genetically determined or instinctual patterns. Biogenetic structuralism disputes this claim, teaching instead that humans remain animals with very clever brains, and that virtually all learning is grounded upon a system of genetically predisposed neural models that emerge in the early development of the brain. [see neurognosis]
cyborg Cyborg is short for "cybernetic organism." The term was invented by Manfred E. Clynes and Nathan S. Kline in a paper they published in 1960 entitled "Cyborgs and Space" in the journal Astronautics (September issue, pp. 26-27, 74-76). The term implies the physical merger of biological organism and machine, as for example when a limb is replaced by a prosthesis, or the human brain is augmented by computer chips. Biogenetic structuralism rejects the modern metaphorical extension of this term to imply all of human- technology relations, and often the dystopic implications of technocultural evolution. [see my Cyborg paper for application]
empirical modification cycle (EMC) The cognized environment is conceived as an "autopoieic" system; that is, it is an autonomous, self-constructing, self-regulating system, one function of which is to make possible the adaptation of the organism to its ever unfolding operational environment, and another function of which is to maintain the unitary autonomy of the organism. The action (motor) component of the cognized environment operates to control what arises within experience so as to fulfill anticipated events within the internal bounds of tolerance, a feedforward process we have termed the empirical modification cycle, or EMC (Laughlin and d'Aquili 1974: 84ff). This feedforward, cognitive anticipation-sensorial fulfillment process is required for learning, and for transformation of models confronting the flux and ultimately incomprehensible complexity of an essentially transcendental world.
entrainment; re-entrainment; disentrainment Biogenetic structuralism embraces an "entrainment" model of neurocognitive functioning. As the word implies, neural networks connect to produce a function much like cars are connected to make a train. And, like a train car, the same car can be connected up in various trains. This view is in contrast to "epiphenomenal" models that would have consciousness floating about as holograms or "emergent properties" unrelated to the dynamic organization of the neural cells themselves. Consciousness and all of its aspects are functions of the on-going entrainment of neural networks. Networks of cells communicate among themselves in a particular configuration during one moment of consciousness (they become entrained), cease communicating in that configuration the next moment (they become disentrained) and link-up in a whole new configuration the next moment (they re-entrain). When networks grow to link up with each other during ontogenesis, we call this "developmental entrainment." This has also been called a "trophic" theory of brain physiology in the literature (see Davis et al. ??).
exaptation The neurognostic brain is the preeminent organ of exaptation -- that is, an organ whose structures have evolved to be "coopted" by way of development to a variety of adaptive configurations and functions, dependent upon the characteristics and demands of the environment (see S.J. Gould (1991) "Exaptation: A Crucial Tool for an Evolutionary Psychology." Journal of Social Issues 47(3):43-65). Exaptation is a broader term than the more commonly used term, "preadaptation." With reference to the nervous system, exaptation implies selection has favored structures that are flexible in function and that may change their structure and function to some extent to meet novel adaptational requirements.
experience We mean by experience "that which arises before the subject" in consciousness (see Dilthey 1976, Husserl 1977). This includes perception, thought, imagination, intuition, affect and sensation. Experience is structured by the intentional dialogue between prefrontal cortical and other areas of the nervous system, and involves the constitution of a phenomenal lifeworld within the sensorium, the latter being a field of neural activity that arises and dissolves in temporally sequential epochs and that is coordinated with cognitive processes that associate meaning and form in a unitary frame (Laughlin 1993b). Both the sensory and the cognitive-intentional aspects of experience are active (never static!) products of neurological functioning, and are exquisitely ordered in the service of abstract pattern recognition, both in moment-by-moment adult experience, and in development from earliest periods of pre- and perinatal consciousness (see also "lifeworld" and "intentionality").
homeomorphogenesis Although the systems and organs of the body intimately interpenetrate each other via entrainment of their respective organizations, the effects they produce upon each other vary with the particular functional organization of the systems involved. We can say, therefore, that a morphogenesis (a change in form or organization) occurring in one somatic system may produce a morphogenesis in other somatic systems, but that the various changes of state are only partially isomorphic with each other. Interpenetration among the various parts and levels of the body may therefore be said to result in homeomorphogenesis. Homeomorphogenesis is our own neologism required by the fact that we could find no currently available term in either systems theory or mathematics, much less in the neurosciences, for the kind of relation we wish to emphasize. The term combines the concept morphogenesis out of certain biological formulations with the root homeo- (as in the word "homeomorphic," meaning of similar structure) to denote causally linked transformations of a similar, but not identical, kind in two or more structures (see Laughlin, McManus and d'Aquili 1990:192-194). Lesions in one part of the body may produce dream imagery in the visual cortex via homeomorphogenic entrainment.
intentionality The ongoing, moment-by-moment operation of the cognized environment is essentially "intentional" in organization; that is, neural networks tend to become entrained about an object (Laughlin 1988c, 1992b). The object may be a thing, thought, feeling, sensation, attribute of a thing, etc. That object is of course the cognized object and is also mediated by a neural network. The object is, for the moment, the central focus of cognitive, affective, metabolic and motor operations for the organism (Neisser 1976: 20ff). Intentionality derives from a characteristic dialogue between the prefrontal cortex and the sensorial cortex of the human brain (Laughlin 1986, 1988c, 1993b). Subsidiary structures entrained as a consequence of the dialogue between prefrontal and sensorial processes may be located over a wide expanse of cortical (e.g., parietal visual attention structures, right lobe imaginal structures, left lobe language processing structures), subcortical (e.g., hippocampal recognition structures, brainstem arousal structures, limbic emotional structures) and endocrinal (e.g., hypothalamic and pituitary structures) areas. It is true to say that every moment of consciousness is intentional, and that there exists no moment of consciousness that is not intentional. Intentionality is thus one of the universal and essential properties of the cognized environment.
isomorphism, adaptive The term implies that models are partially isomorphic to at least the extent required for survival. "Isomorphic" means that the elements and relations comprising the model are not the same as those of the noumenon (see "noumenon") being modeled. And just as there is more to a real airplane than there is to a model airplane, so too is there "transcendentally" more to the noumenon than there is to the model -- unless, of course, it is the network comprising the model that is itself the noumenon. We have given a technical definition of "adaptive isomorphism" in d'Aquili et al. (1979: 17). Adaptive isomorphism implies an adaptively relevant, minimal isomorphism between model and noumenon; e.g., the concept of "germs" in most people's lifeworld is very fuzzy, but sufficient to motivate adaptive sanitation.
neurognosis, neurognostic structure, neurognostic model A term we coined to label the inherent, rudimentary knowledge available to cognition in the initial organization of the fetal and infant nervous system (Laughlin and d'Aquili 1974:83, Laughlin 1991). A human baby was conceived as perceptually and cognitively competent and taking its first conscious stance toward the world from the standpoint of a system of initial, genetically predisposed neurognostic models that come to mature in somatosensory interaction with the world. The process of development of these models is also conceived to be genetically predisposed, so neurognosis not only refers to the models themselves, but the process of their growth and course of their development.
neurophenomenology The understanding of the processes of intuition, and the interpretation of the intuition of essential structures of consciousness carried out by way of any phenomenological method, are explained with reference to the neurosciences. Consciousness is the only scope of inquiry in the world that we may know from both the inside (via contemplation) and from the outside (via observation of the nervous system and its activities in cross-cultural expression). Neurophenomenology takes advantage of this fact and unites these two most direct approaches to consciousness in a common dialogue. [see phenomenology]
nexus, nexuses A special sense of the concept of "noumenon," used in reference to quantum reality. A "nexus" is a noumenon of high energy density like a rock, planet, human being, sun, etc. The emphasis is upon the object being a part of a cosmic monad, a single sea of energy that varies in its density from lowest "zero point" energy to the most dense in the heart of a black hole.
noumenon A Kantian term for any object, relation or event in the operational environment, apart from any knowledge or model of the object. The noumenon is the transcendental fact that is the focus of a model of an object in the world. If I am interacting with you, then I am interacting out of my model of you, but the repercusions of my actions effect your transcendental being, most of which is beyond my knowledge. The transcendental "you" would be out there, whether I model you or not. We may, of course, have models of things for which there is no corresponding noumenon, and there are probably a vast number of noumena in the operational environment that we do not, or cannot model. Under some circumstances, we speak of a sub-class of noumena as "nexes" (see "nexus").
penetration "Penetration" labels the effect that one cell (or network, system or organ) has upon another. Changes of state in the one cell are said to "penetrate to" the other cell. Penetration may also between levels of organization; e.g., cortical activity results in releasing a hormone into the blood stream which in turn effects a change of state in the cells of a target organ. Systems often "interpenetrate," which means that either system may initiate the penetration of the other (see symbolic penetration).
phenomenology The term "phenomenology" is bantered about a good deal these days and is frequently used in the most general way to mean any sort of experientially-based methodology. Even within the western philosophical tradition the word labels a very broad movement and not a precise school or unitary method. The philosophies that have been grouped under the aegis of phenomenology are very diverse and often downright contradictory, and include many views such as those of Dilthey, Husserl, Schutz, Merleau-Ponty, Ricoeur and Gurwitsch that have directly or indirectly influenced anthropology. Generally speaking, however, phenomenology may refer to any method for the study of phenomenal consciousness that: (1) grounds knowledge about consciousness in intuition as the prime source of insight and as the final arbiter of truth about consciousness, and (2) recognizes the possibility of, and seeks knowledge about the essential structures of consciousness. From our point of view, both Husserl's transcendental phenomenology and the Buddhist Satipatthana ("Foundations of Mindfulness") may be considered phenomenologies. Both approaches advocate direct intuition as the best access to knowledge about consciousness, and both recognize the existence of structures that are interpreted as essential to consciousness and universal to humanity. [see neurophenomenology]
producer and cause We make a distinction between "cause" and "producer" (see Laughlin, McManus and d'Aquili 1990:10 for a more technical definition; see also Ackoff and Emery 1972). A producer of something is part of the cause of that something. We may say that both A and B "co-produce" C, and that A and B are, taken together as a package, the "cause" of C if there are no other co-producers. The noumenon that stimulates sensory receptors (say, a real cup stimulates the retinea of the eyes) and the model of the noumenon (say the perceived cup) are each co-producers of the experience of the object. They are not the "cause" of the experience, for there are many other variables involved in causing the experience (say, the light energy, the body's orientation response, etc.) It would be a fallacy to say that ingesting a particular drug "causes" a particular hallucination, because while the drug may be necessary for that experience, it is hardly sufficient in and of itself to cause the experience.
reduction "Reduction" is one term used by transcendental phenomenologists to label their central method. It is a kind of insight meditation, the root meaning of the term being "a return to the beginning." The reduction is a radical shift of consciousness that requires training to realize with any consistent results. Performing the reduction is a sort of staged process of discovery of the constitution of the world leading to the point of clear reflection required for apprehension of the essential given order of phenomena and meaning. The reduction is not a process of analyzing the meaning of words, an activity dear to the hearts of orthodox philosophers, for words are notoriously ambiguous. What is sought is clear, absolute and unambiguous self-knowledge. What are gradually intuited and changed in the reduction process are the many onion layers of seemingly "natural", but nonetheless delusory views upon the foundations of which the naive understanding of self and consciousness is constructed. These are set aside via certain knowledge of their artificiality. At the same time the mind comes to gradually intuit the principles upon which it, itself, constitutes the phenomenal world for itself. And in the process of learning to clearly see the essential nature of mind, the mind comes to free itself from the chains of delusory misapprehensions, thus replacing the naive empirical ego with knowledge of the transcendental ego, or what Buddhists might call "the builder" -- that hidden "me" that desires the world and for whom the world is constituted by the brain.
rule of minimal inclusion Because the true nature of the operational environment is transcendental, and because all forms of knowledge -- all theories, models, conceptions and points of view -- are partial, incomplete and distortions of the true nature of things, biogenetic structuralism has imposed a methodological discipline it has called the "rule of minimal inclusion" (see Rubinstein, Laughlin and McManus 1984: 93): Any explanation of a living system (including its behavior, perception, cognition or experience) must take into account any and all levels of organization efficiently present (or "co- producing" in that system and the interaction between that system and its environment.
rule of multiple interpretations All experiences, including all intuitive insights and all transpersonal experiences, are amenable to multiple interpretations. Put negatively, the rule states: There is no such thing as an experience or an intuition that admits of only one interpretation. This rule is similar to Jean Piaget's suggestion that any behavior may be produced by multiple structures. The rule is applied to ethnographic fieldwork when it suggests that the ethnographer may attain experiences had by the native host, but is under no logical obligation to accept the native account of the experience. In the same way, no scientific account of any phenomenon can ever be the sole account of that phenomenon. Hence, the rule may also be used to combat "scientific imperialism;" the tendency of many people to uncritically accept reductionistic scientific accounts as the "true" accounts.
structural monism Biogenetic structuralism is a structural monist approach (Laughlin, McManus and d'Aquili 1990:13) that insists upon the theoretical recognition of the embodiment of consciousness. The approach is grounded upon the axiom that "mind" and "brain" are two windows upon the same scope of inquiry. "Mind" refers to a kind of inside-out view of consciousness and "brain" to a kind of outside-in view of the same scope. Both "mind" (or "consciousness") and "brain" are imperfect, incomplete accounts of the same transcendental scope of inquiry.
symbolic function The symbolic function refers to the relationship between the sensorial object and the cognitive, neuroendocrinal and other somatic processes intended upon the object. The symbolic function of the nervous system is that by which the whole network of models mediating the "meaning" of an object is associated with that object. The object, whether anticipated, imagined or actual, is mediated by a network of cells that provides a partial meaning (the topographical or other order of the object, its constituent features and its sensory context). The object is commonly called a "symbol." The cognitive associations intended upon the object -- that is, the conceptual, imaginal, affective, arousal, metabolic and motor networks that become configurationally entrained to the network formed between the prefrontal "subject" and the sensorial "object" -- function to extend and elaborate the meaning of the object-as-symbol for the subject.
symbolic penetration This is a special use of the concept of penetration (see above). When we understand that a symbol is an object that is mediated by a sensory model in the cortex of the brain, we can see that the symbol becomes meaningful by penetrating to the perceptual, affective, somatic, or cognitive structures with which it becomes entrained, and thus associated. Symbolic percepts tend to repeatedly evoke the same pattern of neural association, and hence may be said to be creodic in organization. And because conscious network is intentional in organization, symbols may be said to penetrate to their intentionality. But keep in mind that, as with all other entrainments, a symbolic evocation is reciprocal. That is, meaning (intentional) structures can evoke the symbolic percept as well as the percept may penetrate to its intentionality.
transcendental It is a fundamental axiom in biogenetic structuralism that the operational environment is transcendental relative to the capacity of any individual or group to comprehend it. That is, the cognized environment is a point of view, a system of knowledge about the operational environment, and there is always more to know about the operational environment, or any aspect of it, than can be known. The operational environment may be modeled in an adaptively isomorphic way -- and this is precisely the function of the higher neural processes of the human brain -- but there always exists a set of boundaries to knowledge (see "zone of uncertainty").
zone of uncertainty A zone of uncertainty (d'Aquili et al. 1979:40, 171) is formed by the limits to spatial discernment and discrimination, and to the capacity to apprehend and anticipate temporal and causal relations. Edmund Husserl's term for zone of uncertainty is "horizon." The zone of uncertainty is the directly experienceable interface between the transcendental nature of the self and the world, and the limits of an individual's understanding.