Transcendental Signifier Argument

under reconstruction (not finished)

The argument

1. Any rational, coherent, and meaningful view of the universe must of necessity presuppose organizing principles (Ops)
2. OP's summed up in TS
3. Modern Thought rejects TS outright or takes out all aspects of mind.
4. Therefore, Modern thought fails to provide a rational, coherent, and meaningful view of the universe.
5. minds organize and communicate meaning

6. Therefore universal mind, offers the best understanding of TS

7Concept of God unites TS with universal mind therefore offers best explanation
for a view that is Rational, Coherent, and Meaningful (RCM).


(1) Any rational, coherent, and meaningful view of the universe must of necessity presuppose organizing principles (Ops)
OP 's make sense of the universe and explain hierarchies of conceptualization: effects need causes, conclusions are mandated by premises, meaning in language is organized by rules of grammar. (RCM (rational, coherent, and meaningful) = Hierarchical order).This premise is rooted directly in observation, a coherent view of the universe requires OPs, and observation. That a rational and coherent view requires a principle that organizes reality according to some aspect of logic or math should be obvious. That's really no different than saying to really understand things we need a logical coherent view. At this point the skeptic might assume that the argument is a design argument or that it is saying that “laws imply a law giver.” Jerome E. Bickenbach and Jackqueline M. Davis tell us that the argument “laws require a law giver” is the fallacy of equivocation.[1] Right they are, since scientists don't mean the term “laws” in the sense that early modern scientists such as Newton and Boyle meant it. They really meant a divine command that the universe must behave in a certain way. The term “law” is a hold-over from a former age. “The laws of physics, and other scientifically discovered laws of nature are principles formulated by scientists (not prescribed by lawmakers) in order to describe regularities and patterns observed in the natural world...while there may be a God this is not shown by taking the existence of laws of nature as evidence.”[2] Whether or not physical laws are evidence of God remains to be seen, but this argument is neither design nor laws imply a law-giver. First, it's not a design argument to the extent that the inference is not drawn from design per se. Design works through either fitness, function, or the resemblance to things we know are designed. Since it does turn upon order there is overlap with design, especially the latter kind (resemblance to known design). Yet the point of inference is not taken from resemblance to known design but to the all pervasive nature of necessary to contingent order 
Secondly, the argument is not based upon the assumption laws imply a law giver. That idea assumes that physical laws are a simple list of rules mandated by a God. That concept of God is based upon the Suzerain model. The argument does not assume a set of rules but a more organic relation. The point of inference does not turn upon a set but upon one central, simple, and elegant idea that frames and grounds the metaphysical hierarchy in a single all-encumpasing first principle. Since I don't assume that scientists speak of “laws of physics” in the same way we speak of “laws of traffic” or The U.S, Code Annotated, or Black's Law Dictionary, then there is no fallacy of equivocation. How I connect physical “law” to a prescriptive sense without reducing description to prescription will be dealt with in chapter four. 
Above I point to grammar as an example of a TS. The skeptic might argue that grammar is just cultural, that would be wrong. First of all it doesn't have to be innate to be an example. If language is just cultural constructs ideas might still be formed in their function from logical necessity (not the actual signifiers themselves but the concepts to which they point). An example would be the logical rule A cannot be non A. That is not arbitrary, but self evident. A thing cannot be other than itself. Thus the logical law marks the fact as a road map marks geography, but like a map the two might not always line up. In that case, if grammar is a purely cultural construct, its still an example of hierarchical conceptualization. Secondly, there is a lot of good evidence that generative grammar is genetic. Children of one month old can distinguish between different phonemes in a language, such as “b” and “p.” Researchers know this by reaction of the infant to the sound. A phoneme is a unit of sound in a word. Two such studies are one by Kuhl and one by Scott, et al.[3] More on this in a subsequent chapter. 
Western thought has always assumed Organizing principles that are summed up in a single first principle (an ἀρχή) which grounds any sort of meaning: the logos or the transcendental signifie(TS). When I have made this argument skeptics have argued that there is nothing in science called an “organizing principle.” One opponent in particular who was a physicist was particularly exercised about my use of this term. While there is no formal term such that scientists speak of the “organizing principles” along side laws of physics or Newtonian laws, they speak of organizing principles all the time. A google search resulted in 320,000,000 results.[4] On every page of this search we see articles by cell biologists, cancer researchers, environmental biologists. Mathematicians, physicists, and so on. Yes there are also articles by crack pots, new age mystics, people with all kinds of ideas. There is even a book by a physicist who argues that the scientific thinking of the poet and dramatist Johann Wolfgang Goethe is valid in modern terms of quantum theory. He talked about organizing principles.[5] An Article in Nature entitled “Organizing principles” discusses a famous experiment in developmental biology: in 1924 carried out by Hilde Mangold, a Ph.D. student in the laboratory of Hans Spemann in Freiburg. “It provided the first unambiguous evidence that cell and tissue fate can be determined by signals received from other cells…This experiment therefore demonstrated the existence of an organizer that instructs both neuralization and dorsalization, and showed that cells can adopt their developmental fate according to their position when instructed by other cells.”[6]vi 
M.J. Bissell et. al. Discuss malignancy in breast cancer. “A considerable body of evidence now shows that cell-cell and cell-extracellular matrix (ECM) interactions are essential organizing principles that help define the nature of the tissue context, and play a crucial role in regulating homeostasis and tissue specificity.”[7] All objects in nature are connected to other objects. This can be demonstrated easily enough, as William Graham makes clear in discussing “Natures Organizing Principles.”[8]  He turns to ecosystems as an example. Fish in a school work by individually possessed set of common principles such that they act in unison without a leader. These are not evidences of God they are not a design argument. They merely serve to bring home the point there are organizing principles about. I know this general informal use of the term does not mean that the Ops I want to talk about exist. But it is clear there are plenty of structures that organize and guide the way things turn out we do not have an understanding of what organizes the OP. Yet modern science still seeks a logos or a TS that would bind them all together and unite them in one over arching principle. 
A skeptic could argue that there are self organizing structures in nature. The self organizing structure supposedly doesn't require an outside source to exist, that would defeat the principle of the necessity of organizing principles. Self organizing systems do exist, although they may not be truly self organizing. A self organizing system is one in which the organization is decentralized or distributed throughout the system. Examples include crystallization (snow flakes), swarms of bees or birds, or neural networks. There are two problems with trying to use self organizing against OP's. First, there are contradictions within the concept. self organizing is part of dynamic structures, but dynamic laws operate locally. They can't produce large structures (like a universe).[9] Moreover,

Extending the familiar notion of algorithmic complexity into the context of dynamical systems, we obtain a notion of “dynamical complexity”. A simple theorem then shows that only objects of very low dynamical complexity can self organize, so that living organisms must be of low dynamical complexity. On the other hand, symmetry considerations suggest that living organisms are highly complex, relative to the dynamical laws, due to their large size and high degree of irregularity.[10] 
Secondly, the term itself (“self organizing”) is a misnomer. Systems are not organizing themselves, they are being organized by physical laws and properties. As the Johns article points out self organizing systems are limited by “dynamical laws,” thus the prior conditions under which the system emerged (physical laws) is a limit on the system. An example of physical laws limiting self organizing is entropy.[11]   The Gershen and Heylighen article shows that according to the second law of thermodynamics entropy in an isolated system can only decrease, thus, “[self organizing] systems cannot be isolated: they require a constant input of matter or energy with low entropy, getting rid of the internally generated entropy through the output of heat('dissipation')..”[12]   John Collier finds that, “Self-organization requires an entropy gradient that is external. But this need contain no further organization...”[13]   He goes on to say that new “selves” can emerge within the system but as stated above it does depend upon external forces. The article deals with self organizing systems and questions of identity. He defines self organizing as “a process by which larger scale (macro) order is formed in a system through the promotion of fluctuations at a smaller (micro) scale via processes inherent in the system dynamics, modulated by interactions between the system and its surroundings..”[14]  Apparently even his definition of the process defeats the argument that self organizing is indicative of some kind of emergence from true nothingness. Some of the questions he explores include:

1) What is the self that organizes ? 2) Why is it a self ? 3) What is it for a process to be inherent to the system dynamics ? 4) What does it mean for interactions with the surroundings to modulate rather than determine or control ? Maturana holds that there are no satisfactory answers to the first two of these questions, if for no other reason than that the self that supposedly organizes does not exist at the onset of organization. Self-organization appears to require a sort of lifting oneself by the bootstraps without having even boots at the beginning. Self-organization thus appears to be an oxymoron, or at least a misnomer. Autopoiesis is a self-producing process that presupposes an organized self (Maturana and Varela, 1992 : 43ff).[15]  
Collier finds that Maturana and Varele are wrong, Autopoiesis does not explain the process of self organizing. The “new self” that emerges is changed enough to deserve the name self organizing, but it is not a process whereby a self creates itself apart from external forces. Of course we need not think of God interacting with new entities as each new process comes up. Clearly there is a law-like regularity that must be set up in advance of the effects it produces. We explore that law-like regularity in chapter four (are laws of physics descriptive or prescriptive?). Suffice to say self organizing systems do not negate the necessity of a TS 
skeptic who is a physicist pointed out to me that science doesn't recognize anything called an “organizing principle.” Yes it does, they just don't call it that. Sometimes they are called “laws of physics,” or “natural laws.” But the concept is not limited to laws. There is an organizing principle grounding and influencing anything organized. Alphabetical listings, political ideas against or for which the group needs to be organized, necessity and contingency, any principle which forms the basis for organizing something, but science recognizes this too. They are also called “causes.”

 (2) OPs summed up in TS

Op's can be categorized and understood in relation to a few key principles that describe their relation to each other, such as mathematics, language, thought, culminating in one overarching first principle or ἀρχή (are-kay) that makes sense of it all. Just reason might be said to make sense of thought. TS's are first principes and they vie for status each one as the first principle (TSED). 
I've already discussed the logos of the Greeks and the use made of that concept in various ways. Kant's categories and abstract principles that regulate our understanding of everything, which corresponds to Ops to some extent or perhaps transcendental signifiers. I spoke of Paul Davies and his assertion that laws of physics have replaced God in the works of modern physicists, and in his own ideal along those lines as well. There's another aspects in which modern physics sees a TS. In principle this concept of a single elegant idea that explains everything is what science has been working toward for years. John Horgan says of Steven Weinberg, “In his 1993 book Dreams of a Final Theory, he extolled particle physics as the culmination of 'the ancient search for those principles that cannot be explained in terms of deeper principles.' He predicted that 'the convergence of explanations down to simpler and simpler principles will eventually come to an end in a final theory.'[17]  A skeptic might question the scientific veracity or the idea of a single principle that reveals explanations built into the logical structure of nature. Yet in Dreams of a Final Theory, Weinberg tells us, “this is what our science is about: the discovery of explanations built into the logical structure of nature.”[18] David Deutsch a quantum physicist at Oxford produced a constructor theory that is a framework that unites all physical theories and eliminates the impossible in hopes of finding the basic principle that explains it all.[19] The concept of uniting theories and the meta law are organizing principles. The meta-law is a transcendental signifier, so where is the TS? That's the reality in the real world that these theories point to. The physicists are talking about things like gravity. The ideas in their minds that point to the TS are impersonal forces of nature; that single structure might well point to God and the physicists would have no way of knowing it or ruling it out. We have a couple of ways. One of them is to follow the logic of the argument. Clearly the premises are not ruled out by physics. 
I have used TS and OP in a seemingly interchangeable way and this may lead one to ask “which is it?” TS is a form of OP. I usually use OP in speaking of ideas that are known to be either naturalistic, or if constructed, the notion of something no one disputes. The latter might be bigotry (most people agree it exists), or that of freedom. The former might be a more easily demonstrated idea such as cause and effect. TS is more theoretical and might be metaphysical such as justice, or the absolute soul, God, or the Buddha mind. TS is an organizing principle but I tend to use the term of more theoretical ideas, or ideas not as easily demonstrated to which some may or may not give ascent. If there is an actual TS, it organizes the organizers, the OP's. The TS tends to be the next wrung up in the metaphysical hierarchy; yet since TS organizes it is an OP. 
The TS is necessary and cannot be abandoned. Even attempts to abandon it result in the adoption of new Transcendental signifiers that refer to to the perennial concept of the ultimate first principle. One example of this replacement theory is that of Derrida trying to break down ethics, the attempt leads to the establishment of a new TS for ethical paradigm, i.e., “differance.”[20] The goal of difference as the answer to hierarchy and becomes the new principle around which the ethical paradigm is structured. An example of imposing a new OP in science would be the paradigm shift. An example of imposing a new TS is the atheist abolishing God talk from her vocabulary and putting science in its place. Or Marx with the same motivation makes ideology his version of God or the TSED, the top of the metaphysical hierarchy.
Finally, TS as a term stands for the top of the metaphysical hierarchy. The actual thing at the top itself is the TSED, the object of belief to which all TS's point. In other words as transcendental signifiers point to one reality at the top, the transcendental signified. so any given transcendental signifier might be wrong, but there has to be a Transcendental Signified. The words that describe the reality may very but there is a reality there. That which is all pervasive and mutually exclusive is not necessarily part of the definition but it flows out of the nature of being the top of the metaphysical hierarchy. It is clear that for some examples of the TS it is exclusive, such as “God.”
We can understand this tendency of all OP's to be summed up in and explained by the TS as hierarchical ordering, This is what I call “metaphysical hierarchy,” the TS functions as the top of the Metaphysical hierarchy. This forms a major part of the argument because the TS is the best explanation for the hierarchy.

(3Modern Thought rejects TSED
It would be more technically correct to say postmodern thought rejects TS. But modern thought may keep TS's such as reason but doesn't allow them to be connected to mind. I use the term “modern” here to mean contemporary, no reference to the academic schools. I've already described this process. They reject God but leave in place an organizing principle in terms of laws of physics as a mindless principle that can take the place of a creator. It is impossible to do without OPsall attempts to do so have ended in establishment of a new organizing principles: such as the Derrida and ethics examples I just go through describing (see chapter 2 for greater depth). We cannot organize without a principle of organizing. Chapter two is all about this example of Derrida and ethics. The way the OP's are summed up in TS's is hierarchical and suggests the basic reason for hierarchical ordering.
Modern thought either reduces the TS to laws of physics or rejects it out right but in either case fails to unite the grounding function of the TS in such a way as to explain a coherent hierarchical ordering in the universe with an understanding of what it means to be. I don't know who invented the term “transcendental signifier,” but Derrida took it over in a sense and made it famous. It actually refers to any universal concept in human understanding. There are so many TS's because it's not limited to one notion, but also because it refers to or includes the ultimate first principle. That means it's basically about the areas of reality of which we know so little, thus there are many different ideas about it. Yet the hierarchical nature implies a single first principle. There are many different ideas, God, the life force, the over soul, the Buddha mind, being itself, but they all point to a single first principle at the top, The discussion is always about which one: reason, logic, math, God.

[1] Jerome E. Bickenbach and Jackqueline M. Davis, Good Reasons for Better Arguments: An Introduction To The Sills and  Values of Critical Thinking. Calgary: Broadview Press, 1996, 189.
[3]Patricia Kuhl, “Early Language Acquisition: Cacking the Speech Code.” Nature reviews Neuroscience 5, (Nov. 2004) 831-843, doi:10.1038/nrn1533.
Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences and the Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195, USA.
See also: Sophie K Scott et al, “Categorical speech representation in human superior temporal gyrus. Is Categorical perception a fundamental property of speech perception?" Nature Neuroscience,(2010). 13: 1428-1432.
[4]Google search, organizing principles in nature, accessed 5/3/16
[5]Henri Bortoft, Wholeness of Nature of The Universe: Goethe’s Way Toward a Science of Conscious Participation in natureHerdon VA:Lindisfarne Books originally published by Steiner Books,1971, 1985, re worked version 1992, 69.
Henri Bortoft, (1938 – 29 December 2012) received undergraduate degree at university of Hull then did Postgraduate research at Beirbeck college. He studiedQuantum Physics with David Bohm.
[6]Barbara Marte, “Milstone 1: Organizing Principles,” Nature.Org (july 1,2004) doi:10.1038/nrn1449   
Marte is senior editor Nature.
[7]viiM.J. Bissell, D.C Radisky, and A. Rizki, “The Organizing Principle:Microenvironmental Influences In The Normal amd Malignant Breast.” Pub Med, NCB, Dec;70(9-10): 2002, 537-46. on line resource URL: accessed 6:3/16
[8]viiiWilliam Graham, “Natures Organization Principles,” Nature’s Tangled Web: The Art, Soul, and Science of a Connected Nature. Oct. 30, 2012, Online resource. accessed 6/3/16.
[9]ixRichard Johns, “”Self Organizations in Dynamical Systems,” Synthese, Volume 181, issue 2,( July, 2011) 255-275
Johns is in the Dpartment of Philosophy, University British Columbia.
[11]xiIbid., 258.
[12]xii Carlos Gershen and Francis Heylighen, “When Can We Call A System Self Organizing?” Advances in Artificial Life, Berlin Heidelberg: Springer, Volume 2801 of the series Lecture Notes in Computer Science 2003,
Gershen is from Mexico, he earned his Ph.D. from University of Burssels in interdisciplinary studies. He studies self organizing systems.
[13]John Collier, “Self Organization, Individuation, and Identity,” Revue Internationale De Philosophie, 2004/2 (n 228) 151-172, 172.
John Collier is a philosopher at University of Natal. The University of Natalis in Durbin South Africa, it has now become The University of Kwazulu-Natal. Collier is from Canada, he has taught at MIT and published extensively on self organizing systems.
[14]Ibid., 151.
[15]xv Huberto R. Maturana and Francisco J. Varele, The Tree of Knowledge: The Biological Roots of HumanUnderstanding. Boston: Sambhala,, 43ff.
[16]xviCollier, “Self Organization...” op. cit.
[17]xviiJohn Horgan, “Nobel Laureate Steven Weinberg Still dreams of a final Theory,” Scientific American, (May 1, 2015) Graham isa marine biologist.
John Horgan was staff writter, A teacher at Stevens Institute of Technology, Horgan is the author of four books, including The End of Science, 1996, re-published with new preface 2015; and The End of War, 2012, paperback published 2014.
[18]xviiiSteven Weinberg, Dreams of a Final Theory: Scientists Search For the Ultimate Laws of Nature. New York: Vintage, reprint edition, 1994, 10.
[19]xixZeeya Merali, ”A Meta-law to rule them all: Physicists Devise a Theory of Everything.” Scientific American, (May 26, 2014) online rfesource URL accessed 9/20/15.
[20]Derrida misspells “difference” for special reasons dealing with his theory “deconstruction.” Se chapter three on “the Derridian Background of the Argument.

Derrididan background part 1

Derridian Background part 2

Rauser Interviews me on the TS argumemt