Note: this is the most difficult of the three postings on Harris’s ideas. The other two are available here (Part 1) and here (Part 2). Much of this is taken from my first book, Maps of Meaning, which has been available since June of 2018 in what I hope is the easier-to-understand audio version.

  1. Introduction: Reality as Forum for Action as well as Place of Things (taken from Chapter 1 of Maps of Meaning):

The world can be validly construed as forum for action, or as place of things.The former manner of interpretation – more primordial, and less clearly understood – finds its expression in the arts or humanities, in ritual, drama, literature, and mythology. The world as forum for action is a place of value, a place where all things have meaning. This meaning, which is shaped as a consequence of social interaction, is implication for action, or – at a higher level of analysis – implication for the configuration of the interpretive schema that produces or guides action.

The latter manner of interpretation – the world as place of things – finds its formal expression in the methods and theories of science. Science allows for increasingly precise determination of the consensually-validatable properties of things, and for efficient utilization of precisely-determined things as tools (once the direction such use is to take has been determined, through application of more fundamental narrative processes).

No complete world-picture can be generated, without use of both modes of construal. The fact that one mode is generally set at odds with the other means only that the nature of their respective domains remains insufficiently discriminated. Adherents of the mythological world-view tend to regard the statements of their creeds as indistinguishable from empirical “fact,” even though such statements were generally formulated long before the notion of objective reality emerged. Those who, by contrast, accept the scientific perspective – who assume that it is, or might become, complete – forget that an impassable gulf currently divides what is from what should be.

We need to know four things:

what there is,

what to do about what there is,

 that there is a difference between knowing what there is, and knowing what to do about what there is

and what that difference is.


To explore something, to “discover what it is” – that means most importantly to discover its significance for motor output, within a particular social context, and only more particularly, to determine its precise objective sensory or material nature. This is knowledge, in the most basic of senses – and often constitutes sufficient knowledge.

Imagine that a baby girl, toddling around in the course of her initial tentative investigations, reaches up onto a counter-top to touch a fragile and expensive glass sculpture. She observes its color, sees its shine, feels that it is smooth and cold and heavy to the touch. Suddenly her mother interferes, grasps her hand, tells her not to ever touch that object. The child has just learned a number of specifically consequential things about the sculpture – has identified its sensory properties, certainly. More importantly, however, she has determined that approached in the wrong manner, the sculpture is dangerous (at least in the presence of mother); has discovered as well that the sculpture is regarded more highly, in its present unaltered configuration, than the exploratory tendency – at least (once again) by mother. The baby girl has simultaneously encountered an object, from the empirical perspective, and its socioculturally-determined status. The empirical object might be regarded as those sensory properties “intrinsic” to the object. The status of the object, by contrast, consists of its meaning – consists of its implication for behavior. Everything a child encounters has this dual nature, experienced by the child as part of a unified totality. Everything is something, and means something – and the distinction between essence and significance is not necessarily drawn.

The significance of something – specified in actuality as a consequence of exploratory activity undertaken in its vicinity – tends “naturally” to become assimilated to the object itself. The object, after all, is the proximal cause or the stimulus that “gives rise” to action conducted in its presence. For people operating naturally, like the child, what something signifies is more or less inextricably part of the thing, part of its magic. The magic is of course due to apprehension of the specific cultural and intrapsychic significance of the thing, and not to its objectively determinable sensory qualities. Everyone understands the child who says, for example, “I saw a scary man”; the child’s description is immediate and concrete, even though he or she has attributed to the object of perception qualities that are in fact context-dependent and subjective. It is difficult, after all, to realize the subjective nature of fear, and not to feel threat as part of the “real” world.

The automatic attribution of “meaning” to “things” – or the failure to distinguish between them initially – is a characteristic of narrative, of myth, not of scientific thought. Narrative accurately captures the nature of raw experience. Things are scary, people are irritating, events are promising, food is satisfying – at least in terms of our basic experience. The modern mind, which regards itself as having transcending the domain of the magical, is nonetheless still endlessly capable of “irrational” (read motivated) reactions. We fall under the spell of experience whenever we attribute our frustration, aggression, devotion or lust to the person or situation that exists as the proximal “cause” of such agitation. We are not yet “objective,” even in our most clear-headed moments (and thank God for that). We become immediately immersed in a motion picture or a novel, and willingly suspend disbelief. We become impressed or terrified, despite ourselves, in the presence of a sufficiently powerful cultural figurehead (an intellectual idol, a sports superstar, a movie actor, a political leader, the pope, a famous beauty, even our superior at work) – in the presence, that is, of anyone who sufficiently embodies the oft-implicit values and ideals that protect us from disorder and lead us on.  Like the medieval individual, we do not even need the person to generate such affect. The icon will suffice. We pay vast sums of money for articles of clothing worn or personal items used or created by the famous and infamous of our time.[1]

The “natural,” pre-experimental, or mythical mind is in fact primarily concerned with meaning – which is essentially implication for action – and not with “objective” nature. The formal object, as conceptualized by modern scientifically-oriented consciousness, might appear to those still possessed by the mythic imagination – if they could “see” it at all – as an irrelevant shell: as all that was left after everything intrinsically intriguing had been stripped away. For the pre-experimentalist, the thing is mostly truly the significance of its sensory properties, as they are experienced in subjective experience – in affect, or emotion. And, in truth – in real life – to know what something is still means to know two things about it: the first is its motivational relevance; the second is the specific nature of its sensory qualities. The two forms of knowing are not identical; furthermore, experience and registration of the former necessarily precedes development of the latter. Something must have emotional impact before it will attract enough attention to be explored and mapped in accordance with its sensory properties. Those sensory properties – of prime import to the experimentalist or empiricist – are meaningful only insofar as they serve as cues for determining specific affective relevance or behavioral significance. We need to know what things are not to know what they are but to keep track of what they mean – to understand what they signify for our behavior.

  1. Things to Actions; Facts to Values: The Translation

What is a fact? A fact, as the term is used by empiricists and rationalists, is a statement about a consensually validatable (and therefore “objective”) phenomenon. There are, in principle, as many facts as there are phenomena. Worse: there are as many facts as there are combinations of phenomena. For all practical purposes, therefore, the world of facts is an infinite expanse. What should be selected? How is selection possible? What should be attended to, and perceived? What should be acted upon? Upon what aims should action be predicated? What, in a word, should be valued? These problems cannot be solved by the mere presentation of the facts themselves. To put it bluntly: Facts cannot be translated into values in the absence of an intermediary mechanism. For Harris, that mechanism appears to be “reason,” (or, perhaps, truth–and what exactly is the relationship between those two?), but a scientist might object: what exactly is this black box, this ‘reason’? It’s at minimum something that has to be considered at a much higher level of resolution.

Here is a presentation of the problem (taken from Maps of Meaning, Chapter 2.2., which provides a behavioral and neuropsychological explanation of the facts-to-values translation process):

It is particularly difficult to specify the value of an occurrence [a fact] when it has one meaning, from one frame of reference (with regards to one particular goal), and a different or even opposite meaning, from another equally equally or more important and relevant frame. “Stimuli” [facts?] that exist in this manner constitute unsolved problems of adaptation – still present us with a mystery, which is what to do in their presence (whether to pause, consume, stop, or move backwards or forwards, at the most basic of levels; whether to feel anxious, satisfied, hurt, or hopeful). Some things or situations may be evidently satisfying or punishing – at least from the currently extant “framework of reference” – and can therefore be regarded (valued, acted towards) in an uncomplicated manner. Other things and situations, however, remain rife with contradictory or indeterminate meanings. (Many things, for example, are punishing in the “short term” but satisfying or promising in the “medium” to “long term.”) Such circumstances provide evidence that our systems of valuation are not yet sophisticated enough to foster complete adaptation – demonstrate to us incontrovertibly that our processes of evaluation are still incomplete:

“A brain in a vat is at the wheel of a runaway trolley, approaching a fork in the track. The brain is hooked up to the trolley in such a way that the brain can determine which course the trolley will take. There are only two options: the right side of the fork, or the left side. There is no way to derail or stop the trolley, and the brain is aware of this. On the right side of the track there is a single railroad worker, Jones, who will definitely be killed if the brain steers the trolley to the right. If Jones lives he will go on to kill five men for the sake of thirty orphans (one of the five men he will kill is planning to destroy a bridge that the orphans’ bus will be crossing later that night). One of the orphans who will be killed would have grown up to become a tyrant who made good, utilitarian men do bad things, another would have become John Sununu, a third would have invented the pop-top can.

If the brain in the vat chooses the left side of the track, the trolley will definitely hit and kill another railman, Leftie, and will hit and destroy ten beating hearts on the track that would have been transplanted into ten patients at the local hospital who will die without donor hearts. These are the only hearts available, and the brain is aware of this. If the railman on the left side of the track lives, he, too, will kill five men – in fact, the same five that the railman on the right would kill. However, Leftie will kill the five as an unintended consequence of saving ten men: he will inadvertently kill the five men as he rushes the ten hearts to the local hospital for transplantation. A further result of Leftie’s act is that the busload of orphans will be spared. Among the five men killed by Leftie is the man responsible for putting the brain at the controls of the trolley. If the ten hearts and Leftie are killed by the trolley, the ten prospective heart-transplant patients will die and their kidneys will be used to save the lives of twenty kidney transplant patients, one of whom will grow up to cure cancer and one of whom will grow up to be Hitler. There are other kidneys and dialysis machines available, but the brain does not know this.

Assume that the brain’s choice, whatever it turns out to be, will serve as an example to other brains in vats, and thus the effects of its decision will be amplified. Also assume that if the brain chooses the right side of the fork, an unjust war free of war crimes will ensue, whereas if the brain chooses the left fork, a just war fraught with war crimes will result. Furthermore, there is an intermittently active Cartesian demon deceiving the brain in such a way that the brain is never sure that it is being deceived.

Question: Ethically speaking, what should the brain do?”[2]

We cannot act in two ways at one time – cannot move forwards and backwards, cannot stop and go, simultaneously. When faced with stimuli, whose meaning is indeterminate, we are therefore placed in conflict. Such conflict must be resolved, before adaptive action may take place. We can actually only do one thing, at one time – although we may be motivated by confusing, threatening, dangerous or unpredictable circumstances to attempt many incommensurate things simultaneously.

  1. Too Many Facts: The Necessity for Reduction

There are not only too many facts, and too many combinations of facts: the facts themselves speak of too many things, as this example is designed to indicate. And we have only scraped the surface here: we have barely outlined the problems with the facts, and have already made things very complex. We still have to address the problems with ‘value’ (and, for that matter, for ‘reason,’ which presents a problem just as large.

What is a value? It is apparently something other than a fact, at least in principle, or (1) there would be no reason for the separate terms (I understand that this is only a suggestive argument, not one that is conclusive) and (2) the issue of the fact/value distinction and relationship would not have emerged as a paramount and somewhat intractable philosophical problem (interweaving itself, for example, into the debate about the nature of and relationship between the domains of science and religion). Here’s a potential definition, which is influenced at least in part by the efforts of behavioral scientists to empirically assess the existence and strength of motivation (an organism will expend effort to obtain something of value): A value is, in part, the process by which facts are selected for perception and, in part, a target for action.

Now, the simple truth of the matter is that it is virtually self-evident that there can be no translation of fact into value without a mechanism to undertake that translation. Something must exist to perceive the fact and to act upon it, or the issue of value never arises. It is biological entities which undertake that translation. Thus, it is to biology that we could and perhaps must look to understand the nature of the mechanism (AI systems arguably constitute an exception, but their functions are analogous by design to those of biological entities). This is something that Harris does not seem to take into account in any serious manner, despite his standing as an evolutionary psychologist and neuroscientist. This is particularly strange, given that his scientific publications emphasize the role that emotion (a clearly embodied and biologically-instantiated set of phenomena), as well as cognition, play in the mechanisms and processes of belief. It is even reasonable to consider a biological organism precisely as that the mechanism by which a fact (or set of facts) is turned into a value (or set of values). If this is not true of biological organisms in general, it is certainly and indisputably true of nervous systems.

Simple organisms, such as the marine sponge (to take a concrete example) are composed of sensorimotor cells that essentially map certain facts of the environment (in the form of patterns) directly on to motor output in an essentially one-to-one relationship, contracting and opening pores for filter food, for example, under some conditions of wave action and not under others. Among more specialized creatures, the sensory and motor functions separate and specialize, such that cells undertaking the former functions detect patterns in the world and cells in the latter produce patterns of motor output. A third type of cell – neural – emerges at even higher levels of complexity and serves as a computational intermediary between them. As nervous systems increase in sophistication, more and more layers of neural intermediation emerge, and the relationship between simple fact and motor output becomes more complex, opaque, unpredictable and sophisticated.

In the simplest organism fact “A” (more accurately stable pattern “A”) is mapped directly on to action “A”. Among more complex organisms, where specialization for sensory function and motor function have been independently established, finer and more diverse patterns can be detected, and more responses generated. Among organisms who have a nervous system as well as specialized sensory and motor functions the same sensory pattern can be mapped onto very different motor outputs (depending, for example, on changes in environmental context or the internal psychophysiological milieu of the animal). It is possible that these mapping functions are deterministic, but they are not so in any simple manner: it is very difficult to constrain even a laboratory animal so thoroughly that it will behave predictably under circumstances that have been made as similar across trials as possible.

To put it a different way: direct (as well as self-evidently deterministic) mapping from fact to value only occurs among simple organisms, with absent or rudimentary nervous systems. Reflexes (which are conserved in many forms even among complex organisms, not least for their speed of implementation) might be regarded as a vestigial remnant of such one-to-one mapping, and reflexes can be mediated in vertebrates with circuitry no more complex than spinal (and such reflexes can be quite complex: involuntary walking itself can be undertaken by human paraplegics suspended upright over a treadmill). If facts could be translated into values with no intermediation, then (a) organisms could be simply deterministic and (b) complex nervous systems—brains, in a word—would not be necessary.

Since complex nervous systems are apparently (1) necessary (or at least indubitably exist); (2) characterized by both inherent structure and function, and (3) do not merely map the world of facts one-to-one onto values then analysis of their structure and function may be required if we are to properly understand the translation of facts into values. Think about it this way (this is taken again from Chapter 2.2. of Maps of Meaning):

We tend to move forward[3] (to feel hope, curiosity, joy), and then to “consume” (to make love, to eat, to drink), in the presence of good things; and to pause (and feel anxious), then withdraw, move backwards (and feel pain, disappointment, frustration, loneliness), when faced by things we do not like. In the most basic of situations – when we know what we are doing; when we are engaged with the familiar – these fundamental tendencies suffice. Our actual situations, however, are almost always more complex. If things or situations were straightforwardly or simply positive or negative, good or bad, we would not have to make judgments regarding them; would not have to think about our behavior, and how and when it should be modified – indeed, would not have to think at all. We are faced, however, with the constant problem of ambivalence in meaning, which is to say that a thing or situation might be bad and good simultaneously (or good in two conflicting manners; or bad, in two conflicting manners).[4] A cheesecake, for example, is good when considered from the perspective of food deprivation or hunger, but bad when considered from the perspective of social desirability and the svelte figure that such desirability demands. The newly toilet-trained little boy who has just wet his bed might well feel simultaneous satisfaction, at the attainment of a biologically vital goal, and apprehension, as to the likely interpersonal socially-constructed consequence of that satisfaction. Nothing comes without a cost, and the cost has to be factored in, when the meaning of something is evaluated. Meaning depends on context; contexts – stories, in a word – constitute goals, desires, wishes. It is unfortunate, from the perspective of conflict-free adaptation, that we have many goals – many stories, many visions of the ideal future – and that the pursuit of one often interferes with our chances (or someone else’s chances) of obtaining another.We solve the problem of contradictory meanings by interpreting the value of things from within the confines of our stories – which are adjustable maps of experience and potential, whose specific contents are influenced by the demands of our physical being. Our central nervous systems are made up of many “hard-wired” or automatized subsystems, responsible for biological regulation – for maintaining homeostasis of temperature, ensuring proper caloric intake, and monitoring levels of plasma carbon dioxide (for example). Each of these subsystems has a job to do. If that job is not done, within a certain variable span of time, the whole game comes to a halt, perhaps permanently. Nothing gets accomplished then. We must therefore perform certain actions – by necessity – if we are to survive. This does not mean, however, that our behaviors are determined – at least not in any simplistic manner. The subsystems that make up our shared structure – responsible, when operative, for our “instincts” (thirst, hunger, joy, lust, anger, etc.) – do not appear to directly grip control of our behavior, do not transform us into driven automatons. Rather, they appear to influence our fantasies, our plans, and alter and modify the content and comparative importance of our goals, our ideal futures (conceived of in comparison to our “unbearable” presents, as they are currently construed).

Each “basic” subsystem has its own particular, singular image of what constitutes the ideal, so to speak – of what constitutes the most valid goal, at any given moment. If someone has not eaten in several days, it is highly likely that his vision of the (immediately) desirable future will include the image of eating. Likewise, if someone been deprived of water, she is likely to make drinking her goal. We share fundamental biological structure, as human beings, so we tend to agree, broadly, about what should be regarded as valuable (at least in a specified context). What this means, essentially, is that we can make probabilistic estimates about those things that a given individual (and a given culture) might regard as desirable, at any moment. Furthermore, we can increase the accuracy of our estimates by programmed deprivation (because such deprivation specifies interpretive context). Nonetheless, we can never be sure, in the complex normal course of events, just what it is that someone will want.

Judgment regarding the significance of things or situations becomes increasingly complicated when the fulfillment of one biologically-predicated goal interferes with the pursuit or fulfillment of another.[5] To what end should we devote our actions, for example, when we are simultaneously lustful and guilty, or cold, thirsty, and frightened? What if the only way to obtain food is to steal it, say, from someone equally hungry, weaker and dependent? How is our behavior guided, when our desires compete – which is to say, when wanting one thing makes us likely to lose another, or several others? There is no reason to presume, after all, that each of our particularly specialized subsystems will agree, at any one time, about what constitutes the most immediately desirable “good.” This lack of easy agreement makes us intrinsically prone to intrapsychic conflict, and associated affective (emotional) dysregulation. We manipulate our environments, and our beliefs, to address this conflict – we change ourselves, or the things around us, to increase our hope and satisfaction, and to decrease our fear and pain.

It is up to the “higher” cortical systems – the phylogenetically newer, more “advanced” executive[6] portions of the brain – to render judgment about the relative value of desired states (and, similarly, to determine the proper order, for the manifestation of means[7]). These advanced systems must take all states of desire into account, optimally, and determine the appropriate path for the expression of that desire. We make decisions about what is to be regarded as valuable, at any given time, but the neurological subsystems that keep us alive, which are singularly responsible for our maintenance, in different aspects, all have a voice in those decisions – a vote. Every part of us, kingdom that we are, depends on the healthy operation of every other part. To ignore one good, therefore, is to risk all. To ignore the demands of one necessary subsystem is merely to ensure that it will speak later with the voice of the unjustly oppressed; to ensure that it will grip our fantasy, unexpectedly, and make of the future something unpredictable. Our “optimal paths” therefore, must be properly inclusive, from the perspective of our internal community – from the perspective of our basic physiology. The valuations and actions of others, additionally, influence our personal states of emotion and motivation, as we pursue our individual goals, inevitably, in a social context. The goal, writ large, towards which our higher systems work must therefore be construction of a state where all our “needs” – and the “needs of others” – are simultaneously met. This higher goal, to which we all theoretically aspire, is a complex (and oft-implicit) fantasy – a vision or map of the promised land. This map, this story – this framework of reference, or context of interpretation – is the (ideal) future, contrasted necessarily with the (unbearable) present, and includes concrete plans, designed to turn the latter into the former. The mutable meanings that make up our lives depend for their nature on the explicit structure of this interpretive context.

  1. Hierarchy: Necessity, Function, Derivation and Neuropsychological Instantiation

The process of translation from too-many-facts with too-many-meanings appears to occur in a hierarchical fashion (mirroring the existence of the hierarchical structure that gives rise to that process). Reflex exists at the bottom of the hierarchy (assuming that we are starting with organisms with a central nervous system). As more layers of nervous tissue and their attendant calculations are interleaved between pattern, sensory stimulation, and perception/action, the more opaque, complex and emergent the prices of mapping becomes (why juxtapose perception and action? Because perception requires motor output. Your eyes, for example, are always moving, actively inquiring, rather than passively absorbing self-evidence information. Your eyes are selecting and acting to ensure that selection).

The complexity, opaqueness and emergent quality of the fact-to-value mapping is evident even in the case of modern and still-comparatively-primitive AI/machine-learning systems, whose modes of mapping from fact to perception/action remain hidden even from and incomprehensible to the creators of the systems.

As nervous systems increase in complexity, reflexes are superseded by the operation of the basic motivational systems often known (too simplistically) as drives (too simplistically because they are not simply reflexive or deterministic). Superseding motivations, in turn—with no clear line of demarcation—are systems of emotion. Much later, from the phylogenetic perspective, emerge those systems that are cognitive, first taking form, arguably, as imagination, and later—and only among human beings—in the form of communicable language.

How does this hierarchy—a structure that emerged in large part from the bottom up over the vast spans of evolutionary time—attain its organization? Answer: Through the constant jockeying for position—the cooperation and competition—that defines the struggle for survival and reproduction in the environment. This jockeying for position organizes organisms into the omnipresent hierarchies that govern access to resources such as food and shelter, as well as reproductive opportunities. The learning of hierarchical position that must accompany actual hierarchical position means the reflection of the hierarchy in the processes of perception and action that define an individual organism. In a phrase: the internal hierarchy that translates facts into actions mirrors the external hierarchy of social organization. It is crystal clear, for example, that the chimps in a chimpanzee troupe understand their social world and its hierarchical strata at an extremely fine level of detail. Indeed, they understand it as if their survival and reproduction depends upon it, which it in fact does.

The reflexes of a baby organize themselves into basic functional motivational drives, each subsumed by specialized but plastic neutral architecture, in an intensely social context that is defined primarily by the presence of the mother and other immediate family members as well as the existence of other competing internal or psychological reflexes and drives. The developing infant must hone and perfect the operation of his or her various motivational states, in harmony with all the other internal motivational states, as well as in sufficient keeping with the demands, routines and opportunities of the social environment. This honing and perfecting first occurs within the confines of the maternal relationship and in the spontaneous play behaviour manifested by the child in that circumscribed but still social context. When the child has matured to the point where their hierarchy of motivational and emotional functions can be subsumed, even temporarily, within the organizational framework provided by a conscious and communicable abstract goal, then the child is prepared to play with others—and to do so, over time, in an increasingly complex and sophisticated manner.

Such play is dependent (as the great developmental psychologist Jean Piaget observed) upon the collective establishment of a shared goal with the play partners. The collective establishment of a shared goal, conjoined with rules governing cooperation and competition in relationship to that goal, constitutes a true social microcosm. All societies might be regarded as variations upon this play/game theme—and in all societies (with important exceptions made for certain specialized games) the basic rules of fair play, predicated upon reciprocity across situation and time, inevitably come to apply. Games must be playable to survive, and there are principles that apply to and undergird what constitutes “playable” (Piaget suspected, for example, that games that are undertaken voluntarily will outcompete games that are imposed and played under the threat of force. The importance of this assumption can hardly be overstated, and there is certainly evidence that exists indicating the emergence of such voluntary game-like arrangements among our non-human kin).

The rules of fair play include the ability to focus and to regulate emotion and motivation while cooperating and competing in pursuit of the goal during the game (that is part and parcel of being able to play at all) as well as the ability and will to establish reciprocally beneficial interactions across time and situation (as indicated previously). That process of fair play—that ability to win and lose gracefully, to maintain the game, to act in a manner that is of mutual benefit and to be an engaging and desirable play partner constitutes (1) an emergent ethic and (2) (more complexly) enactment of the process by which facts are in fact turned into values. The repetition of that process—in repeated practice—instantiates the complex sophisticated structure whose increasingly automatic function is the translation of fact into value.

And life is not a game, but a series of games, each of which has something in common (the fact of the game) and something unique (or there would be no reason for multiple games). Because of the commonality, there is an ethic—or, more properly a meta-ethic—that emerges, from the bottom up, across the set of all games. For example: the best player might be, among other things, he or she who is invited to play the largest number of games. How should you play, to be that player? What structure must take form within you so that such play is possible? And those two questions are inter-related, because the structure that will enable you to play properly (and with increasing and automated or habitual precision) will only emerge in the process of continually practicing the art of playing properly.

Each game is a microcosm of society. Its proper mode of play therefore constitutes a micro-ethic. The proper mode of play—the micro-ethic—involves perception of the relevant facts and undertaking of the actions necessary to play (and, if possible, within the confines of fair play, to win). The meta-ethic is the ethic that emerges across the set of properly played games. It involves perception of the relevant facts and undertaking of the actions to be invited constantly to play as all of the games that make up life unfold and present themselves (although, as stated earlier, that is not all it involves). The meta-ethic is, therefore, the process whereby the structure that generates the set of all necessary values from all possible facts is itself generated.

What is that process and structure? The answer is: we don’t know. Because it has been generated from the bottom up in the complex, opaque manner outlined (as a consequence of continually social shaping and jockeying for position and striving), we do not have direct access to its contents (any more than we have direct access to the function of an AI neural net). What we do have access to, however, are the perceptions and actions generated by the operations of that process and system. It is those perceptions and actions that we observe and evaluate and judge and reward and punish both explicitly and even more importantly implicitly when we watch ourselves and others perceive and act.

We capture those observations in stories. We tell stories about success and failure in adventure and romance. Success moves us forward to what is better, to the promised land; failure dooms us and those who become entangled with us to the abyss. The good moves us upward and ahead, and evil drags us downward, across the universe of stories. What is noble and good in perception and action is a process and a structure, like what is contemptible and evil. The stories reflect the structure and the operation of the structure that give rise to the perceptions and behaviors described in the stories (and those stories are themselves a summary of patterns of behavior across contexts, or they contain no depth: no story is about exactly what anyone did, in all its detail, in an ordinary day). In this manner, stories come to mirror the unconscious and processes and structures that help us translate the intransigent world of facts into the sustainable, functional reciprocal social world of values.

Here is another section from Chapter 2.2. of Maps of Meaning that explains this process in some detail, as well as providing a description of its functional, neuropsychological basis:

Our brains contain two emotional systems, so to speak – one functions when we do not know what to do, and initiates the (exploratory) process that creates secure territory; the other functions when we are in fact secure. The fact of the presence of these two subsystems, but not their “locale,” has been known for a good while; Maier and Schnierla[8] and Schnierla[9] hypothesized more than five decades ago that mechanisms of “withdrawal” and “approach” (characteristic of animals at virtually all levels of the evolutionary scale) provided the foundation for motivation, as such. The nature of these two systems can best be understood by relating emotional state to motor activity, as we have done previously.Each hemisphere, right and left, appears to have what might be described as a family of related functions, portrayed in Figure 11: The Twin Cerebral Hemispheres and their Functions. The right hemisphere, less language-fluent than its generally more dominant twin, appears specialized for the inhibition and extinction of behavior (and, therefore, for the production of negative emotion), for generation and manipulation of complex visual (and auditory) images, for coordination of gross motor actions, and for rapid and global recognition of patterns.[10] The right hemisphere appears to come “on-line” when a particular situation is rife with uncertainty – appears particularly good at governing behavior when what is, and what to do, has not yet been clearly specified.[11] It might be posited, in consequence, that this hemisphere is still under limbic control – since the limbic system is responsible for detecting novelty and initiating exploratory behavior. This archaic control mechanism would then “drive” the processes of imagistic “hypothesis” generation that constitute the processes of abstract exploration – fantasy – we use to give determinate (and oft-bizarre) form to the unknown.

The left hemisphere, by contrast, appears particularly skilled at linguistic processing and communication, at detailed, linear thinking, at fine motor skill, and at the comprehension of wholes in terms of their constituent elements.[12] The left hemisphere – particularly its frontal or motor (sub)unit – also governs approach behavior,[13] in the presence of cues of satisfaction, is integrally involved in the production of positive affect, and appears particularly good at carrying out practiced activities, at applying familiar modes of apprehension. The left seems at its best when what is and what should be done are no longer questions; when tradition governs behavior, and the nature and meaning of things has been fixed. The dual specialization of the left – for what has been practiced, and for what is positive – can be understood, in part, in the following manner: positive affect rules in known territory, by definition: a thing or situation has been explored most optimally (and is therefore most well known) if it has been transformed by behavioral adaptations manifested in its presence into something of determinate use (or satisfaction) or into potential for such (into promise).

The right hemisphere, in contrast to the left, appears to have remained in direct contact with – appears specialized for encounter with – the unknown and its terrors, which are apperceived in the domain of instinct, motivation, and affect, long before they can be classified or comprehended intellectually. The right hemisphere’s capacity for inhibition and extinction of behavior (for inducing caution during exploration, for governing flight, for producing negative affect) ensures that due respect is granted the inexplicable (and therefore dangerous) when it makes its appearance. The right’s aptitude for global pattern recognition (which appears as a consequence of its basic neurophysiological structure[14]) helps ensure that a provisional notion (a fantastic representation) of the unknown event (what it is like, how action should be conducted in its presence, what other things or situations it brings to mind) might be rapidly formulated. The right hemisphere appears integrally involved in the initial stages of analysis of the unexpected or novel – and its a priori hypothesis is always this: this (unknown) place, this unfamiliar space, this unexplored territory is dangerous, and therefore partakes in the properties of all other known dangerous places and territories, and all those that remain unknown, as well. This form of information-processing – “a” is “b” – is metaphor; generation of metaphor (key to the construction of narratives – dreams, dramas, stories and myth) might well be regarded as the first stage of hypothesis construction. As situation-specific adaptive behaviors are generated, as a consequence of exploration, this provisional labelling or hypothesis (or fantasy) might well undergo modification (assuming nothing actually punishing or determinately threatening occurs); such modification constitutes further and more detailed learning. Anxiety recedes, in the absence of punishment or further threat (including novelty); hope occupies the affective forefront, accompanied by the desire to move forward, and to explore (under the governance of the left hemisphere).

The right hemisphere appears capable of dealing with less determinate information; can use forms of cognition that are more diffuse, more global,[15] and more encompassing to come to terms initially with what cannot yet be understood, but which undeniably exists. It uses its capacity for massive generalization and comprehension of imagery to place the novel stimulus in an initially meaningful context, which is the a priori manner of appropriate categorization. This context is defined by the motivational significance of the novel thing, which is revealed first by the mere fact of novelty (which makes it both threatening and promising) and then in the course of its detailed exploration – and not by its objective sensory qualities (at least not primarily). The right hemisphere remains concerned with answering the questions: “what is this new thing like?” and this means – “what should be done in the presence of this unexpected occurrence?” not “what is this thing objectively?” “What is the new thing like?” (which is a question about its fundamental nature) means “is it dangerous, or threatening (first and foremost), satisfying or promising?’ [although each of these basic categories of affective value can be subdivided more particularly (can it be eaten? can it eat me? will it serve as mate?)]. Categorization according to valence means that the thing is what it signifies for behavior.

The chaos that constitutes the unknown is rendered predictable – is turned into the “world” – by the generation of adaptive behaviors and modes of representation. It is the process of novelty-driven exploration that, in the individual case, produces such behaviors and strategies of classification. However, we are not only individuals; we exist in a very complex social environment – an environment characterized by the constant exchange of information, regarding the means and ends of “proper” adaptation. The human capacity for the generation of self-regulatory behavior and representation has been expanded immensely – expanded in some ways, beyond our own comprehension – by our capacity for verbal and non-verbal (primarily mimetic[16]) communication. We can mimic – and learn from – everyone who surrounds us, and who we can directly contact. In addition, we can obtain information from everyone who can write – assuming we are literate – or who could write, when they were alive. But there is more – we can also learn from everyone who can act, in the natural course of things, or dramatically, and we can also store the behaviors of individuals we come into contact with (directly, by copying them; or indirectly, through the intermediation of narrative and dramatic art forms). Furthermore, our capacity for copying – for mimesis – means that we are capable of doing things that we do not necessarily “understand” (that is, cannot describe explicitly). It is for that reason, in part, that we need a “psychology.”

Patterns of behavioral and representational adaptation are generated in the course of active exploration and “contact with the unknown.” These patterns do not necessarily remain stable, however, once generated. They are modified and shaped – improved and made efficient – as a consequence of their communicative exchange. Individual “a” produces a new behavior; “b” modifies it, “c” modifies that, “d” radically changes “c’s” modification – and so on, ad infinitum. The same process applies to representations (metaphors, say, or explicit concepts). This means that our exploratory assimilative and accomodative processes actually extend over vast periods of time and space (as anyone who has had a document-mediated “conversation” with a great figure of the past is sure to appreciate). Some of this “extension” – perhaps the most obvious part – is mediated by literacy. An equally complex and subtle element, however, is mediated by mimesis.

Patterns of behavioral adaptation and schemas of classification or representation can be derived from the observation of others (and, for that matter, from the observation of oneself). How we act in the presence of things, in their constantly shifting and generally social context, is what those things mean (or even what they are), before what they mean (or what they are) can be more abstractly (or “objectively”) categorized. What a thing is, therefore, might be determined (in the absence of more useful information) by examination of how action is conducted in its presence – which is to say that if someone runs from something it is safe to presume that the thing is dangerous (the action in fact defines that presumption). The observation of action patterns undertaken by the members of any given social community – including those of the observing subject – therefore necessarily allows for the derivation and classification of provisional value schema. If you watch someone (even yourself) approach something then you can assume that the approached thing is good, at least in some determinate context – even if you don’t know anything else about it. Knowing what to do, after all, is classification, before it is abstracted: classification in terms of motivational relevance, with the sensory aspects of the phenomena serving merely as a cue to recall of that motivational relevance.[17]

It is certainly the case that many of our skills – and our automatized strategies of classification – are “opaque” to explicit consciousness. The fact of our multiple memory systems, and their qualitatively different modes of representation – described later – ensures that such is the case. This opaqueness means, essentially, that we “understand” more than we “know”; it is for this reason that psychologists continue to depend on notions of the “unconscious” to provide explanations for behavior. This unconsciousness – the psychoanalytic god – is our capacity for the implicit storage of information about the nature and valence of things. This information is generated in the course of active exploration, and modified – often unrecognizably – by constant, multigenerational, interpersonal communication. We live in social groups; most of our interactions are social in nature. We spend most of our time around others and, when we are alone, we still wish to understand, predict and control our personal behaviors. Our maps of the “understood part of the world” are therefore in large part maps of patterns of actions – of behaviors established as a consequence of creative exploration, and modified in the course of endless social interactions. We watch ourselves act; from this action, we draw inferences about the nature of the world (including those acts that are part of the world).

We know that the right hemisphere – at least its frontal portion – is specialized for response to punishment and threat. We also know that damage to the right hemisphere impairs our ability to detect patterns and to understand the meaning of stories.[18] Is it too much to suggest that the emotional, imagistic and narrative capabilities of the right hemisphere play a key role in the initial stages in the process of transforming something novel and complex – such as the behaviors of others (or ourselves) and the valence of new things – into something thoroughly understood? When we encounter something new, after all, we generate fantasies (imagistic, verbal) about its potential nature. This means we attempt to determine how the unexpected thing might relate to something we have already mastered – or, at least, to other things that we have not yet mastered. To say “this unsolved problem appears to be like this other problem we haven’t yet solved” is a step on the way to solution. To say, “here is how these (still essentially mysterious) phenomena appear to hang together” is an intuition, of the sort that precedes detailed knowledge – is the capacity to see the forest, though not yet differentiating between the types of trees. Before we truly master something novel (which means, before we can effectively limit its indeterminate significance to something predictable, even irrelevant) we imagine what it might be. Our imaginative representations actually constitute our initial adaptations – constitute part of the structure that we use to inhibit our responses to the a priori significance of the unknown – even as they precede the generation of more detailed and concrete information. There is no reason to presuppose that we have been able to explicitly comprehend this capacity – in part because it actually seems to underly (to serve as a necessary or axiomatic precondition for) our ability to understand, explicitly.

It appears that the pattern-recognition and spatial capacities of the right hemisphere appear to allow it to derive from repeated observations of behavior images of action patterns that the verbal left can arrange, with increasingly logic and detail, into stories. A story is a map of meaning, a “strategy” for emotional regulation and behavioral output – a description of how to act in a circumstance, to ensure that the circumstance retains its positive motivational salience (or at least has its negative qualities reduced to the greatest possible degree). The story appears generated, in its initial stages, by the capacity for imagery and pattern recognition characteristic of the right hemisphere, which is integrally involved in narrative cognition,[19] and in processes that aid or are analogous to such cognition: the ability to decode the nonverbal and melodic aspects of speech, to empathize (or to engage, more generally, in interpersonal relationships), and the capacity to comprehend imagery, metaphor, and analogy.[20] The left-hemisphere “linguistic” systems “finish” the story: adding logic, proper temporal order, internal consistency, verbal representation, and possibility for rapid abstract explicit communication. In this way, our explicit knowledge of value is expanded, through the analysis of our own “dreams.” Interpretations that “work” – that is, that improve our capacity to regulate our own emotions (to turn the current world into the desired world, to say it differently) qualify as valid. It is in this manner that we verify the accuracy of our increasingly abstracted presumptions.

The process of creative exploration – the function of the knower, so to speak, who generates explored territory – has as its apparent purpose increase in the breadth of motoric repertoire (skill) and alteration of representational schema. Each of these two purposes appears served by the construction of a specific form of knowledge, and its subsequent storage in permanent memory. The first form has been described as knowing how. The motor unit, charged with origination of new behavioral strategies when old strategies fail (when they produce undesired results), produces alternate action patterns, experimentally applied, to bring about the desired result. Permanent instantiation of the new behavior, undertaken if the behavior is successful, might be considered development of new skill. Knowing how is skill. The second type of knowing, which is representational (which is an image or model of something, rather than the thing itself) has been described as knowing that[21]I prefer knowing what. Exploration of a novel circumstance, event, or thing, produces new sensory and affective input, during active or abstracted interaction of the exploring subject and the object in question. This new sensory input constitutes grounds for the construction, elaboration and update of a permanent but modifiable four-dimensional (spatial and temporal) representational model of the experiential field, in its present and potential future manifestations. This model, I would propose, is a story.

It is the hippocampal system – [an integral component of the neuropsychological subsystems that regulate anxiety]– that is critically involved in the transfer of information from observation of ongoing activity to permanent memory,[22] and that provides the physiological basis (in concert with the higher cortical structures) for the development and elaboration of this mnestic representation. It is the right hemisphere, which is activated by the unknown, and which can generate patterns rapidly, that provides the initial imagery – the contents of fantasy – for the story. It is the left hemisphere that gives these patterns structure and communicability (as it does, for example, when it interprets a painting, a novel, a drama, a conversation – or a dream). The hippocampus notes mismatch; this disinhibits the amygdala (perhaps not directly). Such disinhibition “releases” anxiety and curiosity, driving exploration. The right hemisphere, under these conditions of motivation, derives patterns relevant to encapsulation of the emergent unknown, from the information at its disposal. Much of this information can be extracted from the social environment, and the behavioral interactions and strategies of representation – emergent properties of exploration and communication –that are “embedded” in the social structure. Much of this “information” is still implicit – that is, coded in behavioral pattern. It is still knowing how, before it has been abstracted and made explicit as knowing what. The left-hemisphere gets increasingly involved, as translation “up the hierarchy of abstraction” occurs.

Knowing-how information, described alternatively as procedural, habitual, dispositional, or skilled, and knowing-what information, described alternatively as declarative, episodic, factual, autobiographical, or representational, appear physiologically distinct in their material basis, and separable in course of phylo- and ontogenetic development.[23] Procedural knowledge develops long before declarative knowledge, in evolution and individual development, and appears represented in “unconscious” form, expressible purely in performance. Declarative knowledge, by contrast – knowledge of what – simultaneously constitutes consciously accessible and communicable episodic imagination (the world in fantasy) and subsumes even more recently developed semantic (linguistic) knowledge, whose operations, in large part, allow for abstract representation of the contents of the imagination, and communication thereof. Squire and Zola-Morgan[24] have represented the relationship between these memory forms according to the schematic of Figure 12: The Multiple Structure of Memory.[25] The neuroanatomical basis of knowing how remains relatively unspecified. Skill generation appears in part as the domain of the cortical pre/motor unit; “storage” appears to involve the cerebellum. Knowing what, by contrast, appears dependent for its existence on the intact function of the cortical sensory unit, in interplay with the hippocampal system.[26] Much of our knowing what, however – our description of the world – is about knowing how, which is behavioral knowledge – wisdom. Much of our descriptive knowledge – representational knowledge – is representation of what constitutes wisdom (without being that wisdom, itself). We have gained our description of wisdom by watching how we act, in our culturally-governed social interactions, and by representing those actions.

We know how, which means how to act to transform the mysterious and ever-threatening world of the present into what we desire, long before we know how we know how, or why we know how. This is to say, for example, that a child learns to act appropriately (assuming it does) long before it can provide abstracted explanations for or descriptions of its behavior.[27] A child can be “good,” without being a moral philosopher. This idea echoes the developmental psychologist Jean Piaget’s notion, with regards to child development, that adaptation at the sensorimotor level occurs prior to – and lays the groundwork for – the more abstracted forms of adaptation that characterize adulthood. Piaget regarded imagistic representation as an intermediary between sensorimotor intelligence and the (highest or most abstract) stage of “formal operations”; furthermore, he believed that imitation – the “acting out” of an object – served as a necessary prerequisite to such imagistic representation (portrayal in image or word, instead of behavior). The process of play appears as a higher-order, or more abstract form of imitation, from this perspective. Piaget presents two main theses:

“The first is that in the field of play and imitation it is possible to trace the transition from sensory-motor assimilation and accomodation to the mental assimilation and accomodation which characterize the beginnings of representation…. [The second is that] the various forms of representation interact. There is representation when an absent model is imitated. There is representation in symbolic play, in imagination and even in dreams, the systems of concepts and logical relations, both in their intuitive and operational forms, implies representation.”[28]

Piaget believed that imitation could be described in terms of accomodation: “… if there is primacy of accomodation (matching of behavior) over assimilation (altering of schemas)… the activity tends to become imitation.”[29] This implies that the imitating child in fact embodies more information than he “understands” (represents). He continues: “representation… can be seen to be a kind of interiorized imitation, and therefore a continuation of accomodation.”[30] [With regards to the three-memory-system model (which Piaget is of course not directly referring to): “… even if there were justification for relating the various stages of mental development to well-defined neurological levels, the fact remains that, in spite of the relative discontinuity of the structures, there is a certain functional continuity, each structure preparing for its successors while utilizing its predecessors.”[31]]

What can be said of children appears true, more or less, phylogenetically: our cultures (which we absorb as children, through the processes of imitation) consist primarily of patterns of activity, undertaken in a social context. As parents are to children, cultures are to adults: we do not know how the patterns we act out (or the concepts we utilize) originated, or what precise “purposes” (what long term “goals”) they currently serve – these patterns are in fact “emergent properties” of long-term social interactions. Furthermore, we cannot describe such patterns well, abstractly (explicitly, semantically) – even though we duplicate them accurately (and unconsciously) in our behavior (and can represent them, episodically, in our literary endeavors). We do not know why we do what we do – or, to say the same thing, what it is that we are (all ideological theories to the contrary). We watch ourselves, and wonder; our wonder takes the shape of the story or, more fundamentally, the myth. Myths describing the known, explored territory, constitute what we know about our knowing how, before we can state, explicitly, what it is that we know how. Myth is, in part, the image of our adaptive action, as formulated by imagination, before its explicit containment in abstract language; myth is the intermediary between action, and abstract linguistic representation of that action. Myth is the distilled essence of the stories we tell ourselves about the patterns of our own behavior – and about the inevitable consequences of those patterns, as they play themselves out in the social and impersonal worlds of experience. We learn the story, which we do not understand (which is to say, cannot make explicit), by watching. We represent the action patterns we encounter in action – that is, in ritual – and in image, and word: we act, then represent our behavior, ever more abstractly (ever more explicitly, “consciously”).

The central features of our (socially-determined) behavior thus become key elements – characters – in our stories (just like the procedural elements of the emergent games of interacting children become explicit “rules” later in development). The generation and constant refinement of these stories, told and retold over centuries, allows us to determine ever more clearly just what it is that proper (and improper) behavior consists of, in an environment permanently characterized by the interplay between security and unpredictability. We are extremely (uncontrollably) imitative, appallingly social, and interminably exploratory. These characteristics allow us to generate and communicate represented images, and, simultaneously, serve as the focal point of inquiry for those images. Our capacity for creative action frees us, constantly, from the ever-shifting demands of the “environment.” The ability to represent creative action – to duplicate observed creativity in our own actions, and to represent that creativity in detail and essence – allows everyone to benefit from the creative action of everyone else (at least everyone with whom communication might conceivably take place). The fact of our sociability ensures that our adaptive behaviors are structured with the social community in mind – at least in the long run – and increases our chances of exposure to creative intelligence. We observe others acting, in a manner we find admirable, and duplicate their actions. In this manner, we obtain the skills of others. Our capacity for abstraction allows us to take our facility for imitation one step farther, however: we can learn to imitate not only the precise behaviors that constitute adaptation, but the process by which those behaviors were generated. This means – we can learn not only skill, but meta-skill (can learn to mimic the pattern of behavior that generates new skills). It is the encapsulation of meta-skill in a story that makes that story great.

Our imitative proclivity, expressed in behavior, appears to find its more abstracted counterpart in the ability to admire, which is a permanent, innate or easily acquired constituent element of our intraspsychic state. This capability for awe, this desire to copy, often serves to impel further psychological and cognitive development. The worshipful attitude that small boys adopt towards their heroes, for example, constitutes the outward expression of the force that propels them towards embodying, or incarnating (or even inventing) oft ill-defined heroic qualities themselves. The capacity for imitation surfaces in more abstract guise in the human tendency to act “as-if”[32]– to identify with another – to become another, in fantasy (which means, to ritually identify with or unconsciously adopt the story of another). (This means – the ability to adopt someone else’s goal, as if it were yours.[33]) The capacity to act “as if” expresses itself in admiration (ranging in intensity from the simple respect accorded a competent other, to abject worship) and, even more abstractly, in ideological possession. No independent “instinct” necessarily needs to be postulated, to account for this mimetic ability (although one may well exist): all that may be necessary is the capacity to observe that another has obtained a goal that is also valued by the observer (that observation provides the necessary motivation), and the skill to duplicate the procedures observed to lead to such fulfillment.

Mimetic propensity, expressed in imitative action, provides for tremendous expansion of behavioral competence[34]; allows the ability of each to become the capability of all. Precise duplicative facility, however, still retains pronounced limitations. Specific behaviors retain their adaptive significance only within particular, restricted environments (only within bounded frames of reference). If environmental contingencies shift (for whatever reason), the utility of strategies designed for the original circumstance (and transmitted through imitation) may become dramatically restricted, or even reversed. The capacity for abstraction of imitation – which is, in the initial stages, capability for dramatic play – overcomes the specific restrictions of exact imitation, elaborating reproduction of particular acts, removing the behavior to be copied from its initial specific context, establishing its first-level declarative representation and generalization. Play allows for the permanent extension of competence and confidence through pretence, which means through metaphoric and symbolic action (which is semantic use of episodic representation), and for natural expansion of behavioral range from safe, predictable, self-defined contexts, out towards the unknown world of experience. Play creates a world in “rule-governed” fantasy – in episodic or imagistic representation – in which behavior can be rehearsed and mastered, prior to its expression in the real world, with real-world consequences. Play is another form of “as-if” behavior, that allows for experimentation with fictional narratives: pretended descriptions of the current and desired future states of the world, with plans of action appended, designed to change the former into the latter. To play means to set – or to fictionally transform – “fictional” goals. Such fictional goals give valence to phenomena that would, in other contexts, remain meaningless (but valence that is informative, without being serious). Play allows us to experiment with means and ends themselves, without subjecting ourselves to the actual consequences of “real” behavior – and to benefit emotionally, in the process. The goals of play are fictional; the incentive rewards, however, that accompany movement to a fictitious goal – these are real (although bounded, like game-induced anxieties). The bounded reality of such affect accounts, at least in part, for motivation to play – for the intrinsic interest that accompanies play (or immersion in any dramatic activity).

Play transcends imitation, in that it is less context-bound; it allows for the abstraction of essential principles from specific (admirable) instances of behavior – allows for the initial establishment of a more general model of what constitutes allowable (or ideal) behavior. Elaboration of dramatic play into formal drama likewise ritualizes play, abstracting its key elements one level more, and further distills the vitally interesting aspects of behavior – which are representative (by no mere chance) of that active heroic/social (exploratory and communicative) pattern upon which all adaptation is necessarily predicated. Theatrical ritual dramatically represents the individual and social consequences of stylized, distilled behavioral patterns, based in their expression upon different assumptions of value and expectations of outcome. Formal drama clothes potent ideas in personality, exploring different paths of directed or motivated action, playing out conflict, cathartically, offering ritual models for emulation or rejection. Dramatic personae embody the behavioral wisdom of history. In an analogous fashion, in a less abstract, less ritualized manner, the continuing behavior of parents dramatizes cumulative mimetic history for children.

Emergence of narrative – which, paradoxically, contains much more information than it explicitly presents – further disembodies the knowledge extant latently in behavioral pattern. Narrative presents semantic representation of play, or drama – of essentially abstracted episodic representations of social interaction and individual endeavor – and allows behavioral patterns contained entirely in linguistic representation to incarnate themselves in dramatic form on the private stage of individual imagination. Much of the information derived from a story is actually already contained in episodic memory. In a sense, it could be said that the words of the story merely act as a retrieval cue for information already in the mnestic system (of the listener), although perhaps not yet transformed into a form capable either of explicit (semantic) communication, or alteration of procedure.[35] [36] It is for this reason that Shakespeare might be viewed as a precursor to Freud (think of Hamlet): Shakespeare “knew” what Freud later “discovered” – but he knew it more implicitly, more imagistically, more procedurally. (This is not say that Shakespeare was any less brilliant – just that his level of abstraction was different.) Ideas, after all, come from somewhere – they do not arise, spontaneously, from the void. Every complex psychological theory has a lengthy period of historical development – development that might not be evidently linked to the final emergence of the theory.

Interpretation of the reason for dramatic consequences, portrayed in narrative – generally left to the imagination of the audience – constitutes analysis of the moral of the story. Transmission of that moral – that rule for behavior, or representation – is the purpose of narrative, just as fascination, involuntary seizure of interest, is its (biologically-predetermined) means. With development of the story, mere description of critically important (and therefore compelling) behavioral/representational patterns becomes able to promote active imitation. At this point the semantic system, activating images in episodic memory, sets the stage for the alteration of procedure itself. This means establishment of a “feedback loop,” wherein information can cycle up and down “levels of consciousness” – with the social environment as necessary intermediary – transforming itself and expanding as it moves. Development of narrative means verbal abstraction of knowledge disembodied in episodic memory and embodied in behavior; means capability to disseminate such knowledge widely and rapidly throughout a communicating population, with minimal expenditure of time and energy; means intact preservation of such knowledge, simply and accurately, for generations to come. Narrative description of archetypal behavioral patterns and representational schemas – myth – appears as an essential precondition for social construction and subsequent regulation of complexly civilized individual presumption, action and desire.

It is only after behavioral (procedural) wisdom has become “represented” in episodic memory, and portrayed in drama and narrative, that it becomes accessible to “conscious” verbal formulation (procedural knowledge is not representational, in its basic form) and to (potential) modification, in abstraction. Knowing how information, generated in the course of exploratory activity, can nonetheless be transferred from individual to individual, in the social community, through means of imitation. Piaget points out, for example, that children first act upon objects, and determine object- “properties” in accordance with these actions, and then almost immediately imitate themselves, turning their own initial spontaneous actions into something to be represented and ritualized.[37] The same process occurs in interpersonal interaction, where the other person’s action rapidly becomes something to be imitated, and then ritualized (and then abstracted and codified further). A shared rite, where each person’s behavior is modified by the other, can therefore emerge in the absence of “consciousness” of the structure of the rite; however, once the social ritual is established, its structure can rapidly become described and codified (presuming sufficient cognitive ability and level of maturation). This process can in fact be observed during the spontaneous construction (and then codification) of children’s games.[38] It is the organization of such “games” – and their elaboration, through repeated communication – that constitutes the basis for the construction of culture itself.

Behavior is imitated, then abstracted into play, formalized into drama and story, crystallized into myth and codified religion – and only then criticized in philosophy, and provided, post-hoc, with rational underpinnings. Explicit philosophical statements regarding the grounds for and nature of ethical behavior, stated in a verbally comprehensible manner, were not established through rational endeavor – their framing as such is (clearly) a secondary endeavor, as Nietzsche recognized:

“What the scholars called a ‘rational foundation for morality’ and tried to supply was, seen in the right light, merely a scholarly expression of the common faith in the prevalent morality; a new means of expression for this faith.”[39]

Explicit (moral) philosophy arises from the mythos of culture, grounded in procedure, rendered progressively more abstract and episodic through ritual action, and observation of that action. The process of increasing abstraction has allowed the knowing what “system” to generate a representation, in imagination, of the “implicit predicates” of behavior governed by the knowing how “system.” Generation of such information was necessary to simultaneously insure accurate prediction of the behavior of others (and of the self), and to program predictable social behavior through exchange of abstracted moral (procedural) information. Nietzsche states, further:

“That individual philosophical concepts are not anything ca­pricious or autonomously evolving, but grow up in connection and relationship with each other; that, however suddenly and arbi­trarily they seem to appear in the history of thought, they never­theless belong just as much to a system as all the members of the fauna of a continent – is betrayed in the end also by the fact that the most diverse philosophers keep filling in a definite funda­mental scheme of possible philosophies. Under an invisible spell, they always revolve once more in the same orbit; however inde­pendent of each other they may feel themselves with their critical or systematic wills, something within them leads them, something impels them in a definite order, one after the other – to wit, the in­nate systematic structure and relationship of their concepts. Their thinking is, in fact, far less a discovery than a recognition, a remem­bering, a return and a homecoming to a remote, primordial, and inclusive household of the soul, out of which those concepts grew originally: philosophizing is to this extent a kind of atavism of the highest order.”[40]

The knowing what system, declarative (episodic and semantic), has developed a description of knowing how activity – procedure – through a complex, lengthy process of abstraction. Action and imitation of action developmentally predates explicit description or discovery of the rules governing action. Adaptation through play and drama preceded development of linguistic thought, and provided the ground from which it emerged. Each developmental “stage” – action, imitation, play, ritual, drama, narrative, myth, religion, philosophy, rationality – offers an increasingly abstracted, generalized and detailed representation of the behavioral wisdom embedded in and established during the previous stage. The introduction of semantic representation to the human realm of behavior allowed for continuance and ever-increasing extension of the cognitive process originating in action, imitation, play, and drama. Language turned drama into mythic narrative, narrative into formal religion, and religion into critical philosophy, providing for exponential expansion of adaptive ability. Consider Nietzsche’s words, yet again:

“Gradually it has become clear to me what every great philosophy so far has been: namely, the personal confession of its author and a kind of involuntary and unconscious memoir; also that the moral (or immoral) intentions in every philosophy constituted the real germ of life from which the whole plant had grown.”[41]

The procedural system provides (constitutes?) memory for behavior. Such memory includes imitative representation of behaviors generated spontaneously in the course of creative individual action, whose precise circumstance of origins have been lost in the mists of history, but which have been integrated into a consistent behavioral pattern, over time – integrated into culturally-determined character. Integration means active balance of competing subjectively-grounded motivational demands within the context of the social environment; means internalization of socially-regulated behavioral expression of subjective desire. Such internalization constitutes construction of a value (dominance) hierarchy – determination of the relative contextual propriety (morality) of imitated or otherwise incorporated patterns of action. Such construction inevitably “precedes” episodic or semantic representation of the basis of the construction, although such second-order representation, once established, becomes capable (indirectly) of modifying procedure itself (as what is imagined can then be acted out). This is the loop that feeds the development of explicit “consciousness” itself: procedure is established, then represented, then altered in abstraction, then practiced; the procedure changes, as a consequence of the abstracted and practiced modification; this change in turn produces an alteration in its representation, and so on, and so on, from individual to individual, down the chain of generations. This process can occur “externally,” as a consequence of social interaction, or “internally,” as a consequence of word and image-mediated abstract exploratory activity (“thought”). This interactive loop – and its putative relationship to underlying cognitive/memory structures – is represented schematically in Figure 13: Abstraction of Wisdom, and the Relationship of Such Abstraction to Memory. (Only a few of the interactions between the “stages” of knowledge are indicated, for the sake of schematic simplicity.)

Behavioral knowledge is generated during the process of creative exploration. The consequences of such exploration – the adaptive behavioral patterns generated – are imitated, and represented more abstractly. Play allows for the generalization of imitated knowledge, and for the integration of behaviors garnered from different sources (one “good thing to do” may conflict in a given situation with another; “good things to do” therefore have to be ranked in terms of their context-dependent value, importance or dominance). Each succeeding stage of abstraction modifies all others, as our ability to speak, for example, has expanded our capacity to play. As the process of abstraction continues – and information vital for survival is represented evermore simply and efficiently – what is represented transforms from the particulars of any given adaptive actions to the most general and broadly appropriate pattern of adaptation – that of creative exploration itself. This is to say: individual acts of “heroism,” so to speak (that is, acts of voluntary and successful encounter with the unknown) might be broadly imitated; might elicit spontaneous imitation. But some more essential (“prototypical”[42]) feature(s) characterize all acts of heroism. With increasing abstraction and breadth of representation, the essential features comes to dominate the particular. As Eliade[43] points out: traditional (that is, nonliterate) cultures have a historical memory that may be only three generations long – that is, as long as the oldest surviving individual is old. Events that occurred previous to this are telescoped into something akin to the aboriginal Australian’s “dreamtime”: into the “trans-historical” period when ancestral heroes walked the earth, and established the behavioral patterns that constitute the present mode of being. This telescoping is the “mythologization” of history – and is very useful, from the perspective of efficient storage. We learn to imitate (and to remember) not individual heroes – not the “objective” historical figures of the past – but what those heroes represented: the pattern of action that made them heroes. That pattern is – to say it once again – the act of voluntary and successful encounter with the unknown: the generation of wisdom through exploration. (I am not trying to imply, either, that the semantic or episodic memory systems can directly modify procedure; it is more that the operations of the semantic/episodic systems alter the world, and world-alterations alter procedure. The effect of language and image on behavior is generally secondary – mediated through the environment – but is no less profound for that).

  1. Personality as Hierarchy

The embodied hierarchy of values is a personality (that personality composed of the integration of the multitude of sub-personalities). Every hierarchy has something at its pinnacle. It is for this reason that a story, which is a description of the action of a personality (and therefore a description of the process and structure of the personality) has a hero. All stories are about someone. That someone is the hero (and even if that someone is the anti-hero, it doesn’t matter: the anti-hero serves the function of identifying the hero through contrast: the hero is what the anti-hero is most decidedly not). The hero is he who is at the pinnacle, the victor, the champion, the comedian, the truthful individual. The value at the pinnacle of the hierarchy of values is the highest value. The most desirable personality is that which most effectively integrates all the necessary personality sub-elements in accordance with the constraints placed on each by all the others, and by society and, of course, by the world itself. That most desirable personality is shaped by social convention (as the most desirable person rises to the top and is rewarded) but is also selected, in the strict evolutionary sense (as, for example, the most admirable man among men becomes the most attractive man to women).

What psychological factors characterize the man who is the most admirable to other men and hence most desirable to women? The man who reflects the pattern of behaviour embodied in the most compelling of narratives (hence their compelling nature). That is, by definition, the pattern portrayed in the myths of the hero, who heeds the call to adventure, faces the dragon, rescues the virgin, gains the treasure, consults his people, reaninamates his father, defeats the tyrant, withstands the temptation of Satan in the desert, leads his people out of slavery, sacrifices properly to God, repents, atones, lives in truth, speaks the redeeming word, dies and is eternally reborn. And that is He who has in truth been selected by everything that exists (even by the world of facts, considered across a sufficient frame of time). It could be thus said that insofar as the archetypal hero is the central pattern of man, insofar as he is a success, that central pattern has been called forth into the world by the totality of Being itself. And does that make that which has been called forth a mirror of that Being?

And that is a scientific account at the phylogenetic and ontogenetic levels of how the process and the structure that translates facts into values is reflected in story (and, most particularly, in archetypal or religious story). And that is why the unconscious mind that translates fact into value (at least in the West, but elsewhere insofar as Western values reflect the human universal) is something best modeled by the religious story (whatever it may be in and of itself).

Here is a description of the structure of such stories, taken from Chapter 1 of Maps of Meaning (prefaced by a few notes on what might be the proper methodology and appropriate approach to the problem of solving the facts-to-values conundrum):

We presently possess in accessible and complete form the traditional wisdom of a large part of the human race – possess accurate description of the myths and rituals that contain and condition the implicit and explicit values of almost everyone who has ever lived. These myths are centrally and properly concerned with the nature of successful human existence. Careful comparative analysis of this great body of religious philosophy might allow us to provisionally determine the nature of essential human motivation and morality – if we were willing to admit our ignorance, and take the risk. Accurate specification of underlying mythological commonalities might comprise the first developmental stage in the conscious evolution of a truly universal system of morality. The establishment of such a system, acceptable to empirical and religious minds alike, could prove of incalculable aid in the reduction of intrapsychic, inter-individual and intergroup conflict. The grounding of such a comparative analysis within a psychology (or even a neuropsychology) informed by strict empirical research might offer us the possibility of a form of convergent validation, and help us overcome the age-old problem of deriving the ought from the is; help us see how what we must do might be inextricably associated with what it is that we are.Proper analysis of mythology, of the type proposed here, is not mere discussion of “historical” events enacted upon the world stage (as the traditionally religious might have it), and it is not mere investigation of primitive belief (as the traditionally scientific might presume). It is, instead, the examination, analysis and subsequent incorporation of an edifice of meaning, which contains within it hierarchical organization of experiential valence. The mythic imagination is concerned with the world in the manner of the phenomenologist, who seeks to discover the nature of subjective reality, instead of concerning himself with description of the objective world. Myth, and the drama that is part of myth, provide answers in image to the following question: “how can the current state of experience be conceptualized in abstraction, with regards to its meaning?” [which means its (subjective, biologically-predicated, socially-constructed) emotional relevance or motivational significance]. Meaning means implication for behavioral output; logically, therefore, myth presents information relevant to the most fundamental of moral problems: what should be? (what should be done?)” The desirable future (the object of what should be) can only be conceptualized in relationship to the present, which serves at least as a necessary point of contrast and comparison. To get somewhere in the future presupposes being somewhere in the present; furthermore, the desirability of the place travelled to depends on the valence of the place vacated. The question of “what should be?” (what line should be travelled?) therefore has contained within it, so to speak, three subqueries, which might be formulated as follows:

1) what is? – what is the nature (meaning, the significance) of the current state of experience?

2) what should be? – to what (desirable, valuable) end should that state be moving?

3) how should we therefore act? – what is the nature of the specific processes by which the present state might be transformed into that which is desired?

Active apprehension of the goal of behavior, conceptualized in relationship to the interpreted present, serves to constrain or provide determinate framework for the evaluation of ongoing events, which emerge as a consequence of current behavior. The goal is an imaginary state, consisting of “a place” of desirable motivation or affect – is a state that only exists in fantasy, as something (potentially) preferable to the present. (Construction of the goal therefore means establishment of a theory about the ideal relative status of motivational states – about the good.) This imagined future constitutes a vision of perfection, so to speak, generated in the light of all current knowledge (at least under optimal conditions), to which specific and general aspects of ongoing experience are continually compared. This vision of perfection is the promised land, mythologically speaking – conceptualized as a spiritual domain (a psychological state), a political utopia (a state, literally speaking), or both, simultaneously.

We answer the question “what should be?” by formulating an image of the desired future.

We cannot conceive of that future, except in relationship to the (interpreted) present – and it is our interpretation of the emotional acceptability of the present that comprises our answer to the question “what is?” [“what is the nature (meaning, the significance) of the current state of experience?”].

We answer the question “how then should we act?” by determining the most efficient and self-consistent strategy, all things considered, for bringing the preferred future into being.

Our answers to these three fundamental questions – modified and constructed in the course of our social interactions – constitutes our knowledge, insofar as it has any behavioral relevance; constitutes our knowledge, from the mythological perspective. The structure of the mythic known – what is, what should be, and how to get from one to the other – is presented in Figure 1: The Domain and Constituent Elements of the Known.

The known is explored territory, a place of stability and familiarity – is the “city of God,” as profanely realized. It finds metaphorical embodiment in myths and narratives describing the community, the kingdom, or the state. Such myths and narratives guide our ability to understand the particular, bounded motivational significance of the present, experienced in relation to some identifiable desired future, and allow us to construct and interpret appropriate patterns of action, from within the confines of that schema. We all produce determinate models of what is, and what should be, and how to transform one into the other. We produce these models by balancing our own desires, as they find expression in fantasy and action, with with those of the others – individual, families and communities – that we habitually encounter. “How to act,” constitutes the most essential aspect of the social contract; the domain of the known is, therefore, the “territory” we inhabit with all those who share our implicit and explicit traditions and beliefs. Myths describe the existence of this “shared and determinate territory” as a fixed aspect of existence – which it is, as the fact of culture is an unchanging aspect of the human environment.

“Narratives of the known” – patriotic rituals, stories of ancestral heroes, myths and symbols of cultural or racial identity – describe established territory, weaving for us a web of meaning that, shared with others, eliminates the necessity of dispute over meaning. All those who know the rules, and accept them, can play the game – without fighting over the rules of the game. This makes for peace, stability, and potential prosperity – a good game. The good, however, is the enemy of the better; a more compelling game might always exist. Myth portrays what is known, and performs a function that if limited to that, might be regarded as paramount in importance. But myth also presents information that is far more profound – almost unutterably so, once (I would argue) properly understood. We all produce models of what is, and what should be, and how to transform one into the other. We change our behavior, when the consequences of that behavior are not what we would like. But sometimes mere alteration in behavior is insufficient. We must change not only what we do, but what we think is important. This means reconsideration of the nature of the motivational significance of the present, and reconsideration of the ideal nature of the future. This is a radical, even revolutionary transformation, and it is a very complex process in its realization – but mythic thinking has represented the nature of such change in great and remarkable detail.

The basic grammatical structure of transformational mythology, so to speak, appears most clearly revealed in the form of the “way” (as in the “American Way of Life”). The great literary critic Northrop Frye comments upon the idea of the way, as it manifests itself in literature and religious writing:

“Following a narrative is closely connected with the central literary metaphor of the journey, where we have a person making the journey and the road, path, or direction taken, the simplest word for this being ‘way.’ Journey is a word connected with jour and journee, and metaphorical journeys, deriving as they mostly do from slower methods of getting around, usually have at their core the conception of the day’s journey, the amount of space we can cover under the cycle of the sun. By a very easy extension of metaphor we get the day’s cycle as a symbol for the whole of life. Thus in Housman’s poem ‘Reveille’ (“Up, lad: when the journey’s over/ There’ll be time enough to sleep”) the awakening in the morning is a metaphor of continuing the journey of life, a journey ending in death. The prototype for the image is the Book of Ecclesiastes, which urges us to work while it is day, before the night comes when no man can work….”

The word ‘way’ is a good example of the extent to which language is built up on a series of metaphorical analogies. The most common meaning of ‘way’ in English is a method or manner of procedure, but method and manner imply some sequential repetition, and the repetition brings us to the metaphorical kernel of a road or path…. In the Bible ‘way’ normally translates the Hebrew derek and the Greek hodos, and throughout the Bible there is a strong emphasis on the contrast between a straight way that takes us to our destination and a divergent way that misleads or confuses. This metaphorical contrast haunts the whole of Christian literature: we start reading Dante’s Commedia, and the third line speaks of a lost or erased way: “Che la diritta via era smarita.” Other religions have the same metaphor: Buddhism speaks of what is usually called in English an eightfold path. In Chinese Taoism the Tao is usually also rendered ‘way’ by Arthur Waley and others, though I understand that the character representing the word is formed of radicals meaning something like ‘head-going.’ The sacred book of Taoism, the Tao te Ching, begins by saying that the Tao that can be talked about is not the real Tao: in other words we are being warned to beware of the traps in metaphorical language, or, in a common Oriental phrase, of confusing the moon with the finger pointing at it. But as we read on we find that the Tao can, after all, be to some extent characterized: the way is specifically the ‘way of the valley,’ the direction taken by humility, self-effacement, and the kind of relaxation, or non-action, that makes all action effective.”[44]

The “way” is the path of life, and its purpose.[45] More accurately, the content of the way is the specific path of life. The form of the way, its most fundamental aspect, is the apparently intrinsic or heritable possibility of positing or of being guided by a central idea. This apparently intrinsic form finds its expression in the tendency of each individual, generation after generation, to first ask and subsequently seek an answer to the question “what is the meaning of life?”

The central notion of the way underlies manifestation of four more specific myths, or classes of myths, and provides a more complete answer, in dramatic form, to the three questions posed previously [what is the nature (meaning, the significance) of current being?, to what (desirable) end should that state be moving? and, finally, what are the processes by which the present state might be transformed into that which is desired?] The four classes include:

(1) Myths describing a current or pre-existent stable state (sometimes a paradise, sometimes a tyranny);

(2) Myths describing the emergence of something anomalous, unexpected, threatening and promising into this initial state;

(3) Myths describing the dissolution of the pre-existent stable state into chaos, as a consequence of the anomalous or unexpected occurrence;

(4) Myths describing the regeneration of stability [paradise regained (or, tyranny regenerated)], from the chaotic mixture of dissolute previous experience and anomalous information.

The meta-mythology of the way, so to speak, describes the manner in which specific ideas (myths) about the present, the future, and the mode of transforming one into the other are initially constructed, and then reconstructed, in their entirety, when that becomes necessary. The traditional Christian (and not just Christian) notion that man has fallen from an original “state of grace” into his current morally degenerate and emotionally unbearable condition – accompanied by a desire for the “return to Paradise” – constitutes a single example of this “meta-myth.” Christian morality can therefore be reasonably regarded as the “plan of action” whose aim is re-establishment, or establishment, or attainment (sometimes in the “hereafter”) of the “kingdom of God,” the ideal future. The idea that man needs redemption – and that re-establishment of a long-lost Paradise might constitute such redemption – appear as common themes of mythology, among members of exceedingly diverse and long-separated human cultures.[46] This commonality appears because man, eternally self-conscious, suffers eternally from his existence, and constantly longs for respite.

  1. Conclusion: The Story as Intermediary Between Facts and Values

The neurological instantiation of the story—and the meta-story—provides the mechanism by which the infinite domain of facts is narrowed to the manageable domain of relevant facts (to the world of value). The process of acting out that story applies the wisdom of the story to the world, in the manner most likely to be successful, and eternally updates the details of the story, maintaining, shaping and appropriately modifying its neurological instantiation.

That is whatever ‘rationality’ is, at a much higher level of resolution, and it is certainly not the simple, self-evident, one-to-one mapping of facts on to values. And what of ‘truth’? The honest player does not cheat, develops the abilities of his team-mates, strives to win (and to improve his ability to win, simultaneously) and, upon occasion, transforms a rule—or even the game itself. All of that takes place within an intensely social context. All of that is dependent upon negotiation, which is in itself dependent, in the final analysis, on truth.

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[1] Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ tape measure sold for $45,000 in 1996 [Gould, L., Andrews, D., & Yevin, J. (1996, December). p. 46].

[2] Patton, M.F. (1988). p. 29.

[3] Wise, R.A. (1988); Wise, R.A. & Bozarth, M.A. (1987).

[4] Dollard, J. & Miller, N. (1950).

[5] Dollard, J. & Miller, N. (1950).

[6] Luria, A.R. (1980).

[7] Goldman-Rakic, P.S. (1987); Shallice, T. (1982); Milner, B., Petrides, M., & Smith, M.L. (1985).

[8] Maier, N.R.F. & Schnierla, T.C. (1935).

[9] Schnierla, T.C. (1959).

[10] see review by Springer, S.P. & Deutsch, G. (1989).

[11] Goldberg, E. (1995); Goldberg, E. & Costa, L.D. (1981); Goldberg, E., Podell, K., & Lovell, H. (1994).

[12] Springer, S.P. & Deutsch, G. (1989).

[13] Fox, N.A. & Davidson, R.J. (1986); Fox, N.A. & Davidson, R.J. (1988).

[14] Goldberg, E. & Costa, L.D. (1981).

[15] Goldberg, E. (1995).

[16] Donald, M. (1993).

[17] “… we believe that the internal and external states which constitute the response to the stimulus are identical with the ‘evaluation’ of the stimulus” [Kling, A.S. & Brothers, L.A. (1992). p. 372]; “affect is no more and no less than the confluence and integration of sensory information in several modalities, combined with immediate coactivation of somatic effector systems (motor, autonomic and endocrine)” (p. 371); “… reciprocal connections between amygaloid nuclei and the hippocampal formation may serve to link affective response patterns with the encoding of perceptions in memory, thus providing rapid access to appropriate motivational states when complex social situations or particular individuals are re-encountered” (p. 356).

[18] Vitz, P.C. (1990).

[19] Vitz, P.C. (1990).

[20] Vitz, P.C. (1990).

[21] Ryle, G. (1949).

[22] Milner, B. (1972); Zola-Morgan, S., Squire, L.R., & Amaral, D.G. (1986); Teylor, T.J. & Discenna, P. (1985); Teylor, T.J. & Discenna, P. (1986).

[23] Squire, L.R. & Zola-Morgan, S. (1990).

[24] Squire, L.R. & Zola-Morgan, S. (1990).

[25] Squire and Zola-Morgan state:

“the term declarative, which we have used, captures the notion that one kind of memory can be “declared”; it can be brought to mind explicitly, as a proposition or image. The capacity for declarative memory may be a relatively recent feat of evolution, appearing early in the vertebrates with the development of the hippocampus, and the capacity for declarative memory may be ontogenetically delayed. Procedural knowledge, by contrast, can be expressed only through performance, and the contents of this knowledge are not accessible to awareness. Procedural knowledge is considered to be phylogenetically primitive and ontogenetically early…. We agree with Tulving and his colleagues that the episodic-semantic distinction, which has something interesting to say about the structure of normal memory, is a subset of declarative (propositional) memory.” Squire, L.R. & Zola-Morgan, S. (1990). p. 138.

My presupposition is that a story is a semantic representation of an episodic representation of the outputs of the procedural system: a verbal description of an image of behavior (and the consequences of that behavior).

[26] Schachter, D.L. (1994).

[27] Kagan, J. (1984).

[28] Piaget, J. (1962). p.3.

[29] Piaget, J. (1962). p.5.

[30] Piaget, J. (1962). p.5.

[31] Piaget, J. (1962). p.6.

[32] Adler, A. (1958); Vaihinger, H. (1924).

[33] Oatley, K. (1994).

[34] Donald, M. (1993).

[35] An idea is (in part) an abstracted action, whose consequences can be analyzed in abstracted fantasy. The distance between the idea and the action has widened within the course of recent evolutionary history. Medieval people, unused to rhetorical speech, were easily seized emotionally or inspired to action by passionate words [see Huizinga, J. (1967)]. In the modern world, flooded by meaningless speech, words have lost much of their immediate procedural power, under normal conditions. However, music still unconsciously compels movement, dance – or at least, the compulsion to keep the beat. Even chimpanzees seem capable of becoming possessed by simple rhythms [see Campbell, J. (1987). pp. 358-359]. In addition, modern individuals are still easily seized and motivated by drama, like that portrayed in motion pictures – much like the “primitive,” seized by ritual – and can easily lose themselves, in enjoyment, in the act of acting “as if” the drama is actually happening. In the absence of this seizure, which is meaningful, drama loses its interest. Rhetoric – the call to action – also still dominates advertising, with evident effect.

[36] “Meaningful” drama – or meaningful information, per se, has that characteristic because it produces affect, indicative of occurrence outside of predictability, and because it implies something for alteration of behavior. The phenomena of meaning occurs when information can be translated from one “level” of memory to another, or to all others.

[37] Piaget, J. (1932).

[38] Piaget, J. (1962).

[39] Nietzsche, F. (1966). p. 98.

[40] Nietzsche, F. (1968a). p. 217.

[41] Nietzsche, F. (1968a). p. 203..

[42] Wittgenstein, L. (1968).

[43] Eliade, M. (1978b).

[44] Frye, N. (1990). pp. 90-92.

[45] Richard Wilhelm translated the Chinese Tao, the ground of being, the way, as “sinn,” the German equivalent of “meaning” [Wilhelm, R. (1971). p. lv]. The way is a path of life, guided by processes manifested outside the area circumscribed by defined, logic, internally-consistent cognitive structures. From such a perspective, meaningful experiences might be considered “guideposts” marking the path to a new mode of being. Any form of art that produces an aesthetic seizure, or intimation of meaning, might therefore serve as such a guidepost – at least in principle [see Solzhenitsyn, A.I. (1990). pp. 623-630].

[46] see, for example, Eliade, M. (1975).