As you point out Gans would not deny that the originary event was unlikely, hence contingent on some unlikely factor. But he does believe that contingencies aren’t that important to us after the event, or after many mini events, but only the revelatory power of the great esthetic event really matters. Maybe this is why he can be a great fan of David Goldman and yet carry on as if China has little to teach him! What would it take? So if you are ignored by GA it’s not so much they disagree with you as they have yet to see how imagining contingencies can compete with the kind of synthesis inherent in any great revelation. Your theory is brilliant… but as yet still theory. I had perhaps the opposite problem writing my failed history dissertation: had endless variations on my theme to present, showed their relative success and failure, but couldn’t make overall sense to anyone because i refused existing social science and couldn’t find an anthropology to tie things together. It would have been even harder if I had some radical faith in contingency to justify or illustrate, instead of intuitions.

If every possible event must entail some mix (however undeveloped) of ostensives and imperatives, then this would account for the metaphysical declaratives of "contingency" and "necessity". If so, then any event or scene deemed "best" or "inevitable" is, as you say, obscuring the field of ostensives and declaratives but it isn't necessarily denying the contingency of the religious or esthetic revelation. It is just stuck in a problem of exposition and not only because it has an ideological agenda. Indeed, in his latest Chronicle Gans again says that "The perspective of GA is incompatible with deterministic theories of history". You call on us to reflect on what we can only partially track down…

One can clearly see how Gans has used GA to defend his vision of the modern marketplace (though he admits other politics are possible in GA). But I'm wondering if your readers should have any pause when your vision of originary thinking does the same. Your account of an originary scene where those who hesitate in face of the scene's saboteurs and who mostly lose but on one decisive occasion get the upper hand rings true to me. However, I reflect on how it meshes with your Veblenian (B&N) understanding of the centrality of sabotage in the evolution of capitalism (but what about sabotage in the highly ritualised world in the many millennia before the axial age? you only emphasize the importance of rituals of desecration in the modern world, the always renewing society of 30 January, 1649.). I don't see this as a problem, because I too see wholesale sabotage as pervasive to power today, and so am inclined to believe in it as originary, if only in the sense of what the originary had to overcome - many thinkers point out that foundings are rare, decline pervasive. Still I wonder if you fear charges of putting the cart before the horse?

A few days ago someone on twitter, er X, was linking to Rupert Sheldrake's "banned" TED talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sF03FN37i5w

Sheldrake is someone new to me and the Wikipedia consensus seems to be that he is a nutter who believes in magic. Others aren't so sure that he might not be onto something in his claims that genetics alone can't explain how "memory" works in reproducing the (not just) biological world. He thinks nature evolves by learning habits. He wants a non-materialistic account and cites, in that TED talk, CS Peirce's discussion of habits as one of his inspirations. This got me wondering about you and what you might be assuming in arguing that the originary scene was not quite "miraculous" but far from likely. (If humans widely share the concept of miracles, maybe they are not so miraculous after all...) Can originary thinking really have any idea of how "contingent" or how "inevitable" it or they (the many proto-originary scenes) were? I don’t see that as a useful question at the moment.

The proto humans, without yet language, could not have been the best hunters. If we are to assume that dividing up a significant kill was at the origin of the originary scene, then i think we are assuming the scene probably did not emerge among homos more adapted to gathering, in a rich marine environment. Our proto humans, as you suggest, may have had to have had tools/weapons but absent language/ritual I can't see how these could have been much more than crudely worked sticks and stones. So lacking the organizational abilities that come with language/ritual and with only crude weapons, our proto human hunters must have had a hard time even if somehow they had learned to "organize" in ways that would allow them, say, to regularly run animals off cliffs. If we allow for weapons on the originary scene, aren't we also allowing for some kind of not-quite animalistic organization, some honing, of the hunting party if only through mimesis of the more dominant (but can’t that add up to something “memorable” even before language?) But if one were to assume any such “proto learning” then the originary scene would become not just about distributing the kills but wouldn’t it also, at least implicitly (as the animals learn timing, hesitation, etc.), be about improving the hunting party's collective and individual skill? In any case, I don't imagine the proto humans, since we are assuming they were mimetically-troubled, could have sustained large groups, or groups in close proximity to each other. But even a group of, say, ten people, must have many tens of significant kills each year in order to survive. (I can't imagine them being successful with the largest mammals who would fight back, for reasons of their primitive tools, organization, but limited to smaller animals and ruminants.)

So if we imagine a small group that has to divide up many tens if not hundreds of kills each year. And we might imagine further that not every group will have particularly strong alphas, or particularly reserved betas, but perhaps be more like an A- B+ B- C+ configuration of adult males, then it doesn't seem to me so near "miraculous" that at some point signs of hesitation got shared and ritualised instead of any proto scene simply falling apart at the hands of the more aggressive. But how can one possibly judge absent some account, that a Sheldrake might be right to charge we lack, i.e. that biology gives us no way to really know how well genetics alone can explain the reproduction of pecking orders, or how possible it might be that there might be other aspects to memory among animals that we are not accounting for. The Sokal hoax made fun of Sheldrake, affirming that he was uncovering quantum mysteries, but, again, how can we, originary thinkers, possibly weigh "contingency" vs. "necessity" on the originary scenes? Your claim is simply that we must respect contingency much more and find ways to show this?

I am reminded again of Gans' line from Chronicle 774 (where he too decries the present decadence of the sciences): "What is attractive about Goldman’s exhortation is that, in the radical simplification that treats the universe as made of “sacred” material, it does not affirm an élan vital of its own, but merely insists that we cannot know a priori the degree to which what we experience as our human (self)-consciousness, whose root is the sense of the sacred that we have acquired through our experience of mimetic desire, corresponds to a capacity of the matter-energy of the universe that may be able to manifest itself in other forms."

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This is a very powerful critique of GA, so much so, that it might be best to re-label the column itself as the Originary Hypothesis newsletter (and drop the implied approval of "GA" that the current title for the column carries). There seems to be a desire here to continue with the originary hypothesis or something like it, but not "GA."

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This is an interesting article, do you have recommendations to start for Pierce? Obviously we're all throwing bets down, and this seems like a pretty substantial one, that I'm not quite sure the tradition it comes from.

Obviously it's easier for me talking through heuristics and anthropology, precisely because it actually limits the hypothesis even more away from literary critique: but there's a subsequent domain I haven't tread too much in the proto-human, human distinction in terms of mimesis and hierarchy.

If you have a good book to start (that's his main work) I can figure out the rest from there and see if I can consolidate something.

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