Justification and the Nature of Human Distinctiveness (A Critique and Response)

Gregg Henriques
Unified Theory of Knowledge
22 min readJan 30, 2024


What follows are two essays on the concept of justification and human distinctiveness. The first is by Dr. Rick Repetti, who is a professor of philosophy, with expertise in meditation and the concept of agency. Rick is a friend, and he is familiar with UTOK, the Unified Theory of Knowledge, and he appreciates the system overall. Here we are on UTOKing with Gregg, critiquing Robert Sapolsky's views on free will and determinism. Rick feels something is not quite right in how UTOK frames human mentation relative to the minds of other animals. Specifically, UTOK often seems to frame the unique aspects of the human mind in terms of Mind3 and the concept of justification. As his essay makes clear, Rick sees the human mind as having many more and different capacities other than justification, and he explains why he is unconvinced that we should frame the human mind in that manner.

In the second essay, I (Gregg Henriques) explain that (a) UTOK does not claim justification is, necessarily, the only thing that makes our mental powers distinct, and (b) I then proceed to clarify why and how UTOK frames justification as being central to propositional language and our capacity to behave as human persons. I also explain why the domain of Mind3 on the Map of Mind references linguistic justification, as opposed to referencing the unique aspect of human mindedness in general. Finally, I conclude with a claim that it is justifiable to consider justification to be at the very heart of what makes human mental life so different than the mental lives of other animals.

What Justifies Considering Justification to Be Constitutive of Human Mindedness?

By Rick Repetti, Professor of Philosophy, and author of the Routledge Handbook on the Philosophy of Meditation

In this exploratory essay, I briefly describe Gregg Henriques’s three-tiered taxonomy of levels of mindedness, with an emphasis on what he terms “Mind3”, which is the level of mind he identifies with what is distinctively human about us, which he takes to be our ability to engage in practices of justifying our behavior, or justification. (See here for a brief summary of the Map of Mind that frames Mind3, and here for a longer and more detailed chapter laying the argument).

The purpose of this exploration is greater understanding, hopefully provided by Henriques in response to it. While I raise some questions about other elements of his taxonomy, I focus on Henriques’s treatment of Mind3 as essentially a justificatory function because I would like to better understand why he prioritizes this aspect of Mind3 over what I construe to be distinct and equally relevant features or aspects of mindedness that I take to be above Mind2 in terms of the evolutionary emergence of novel forms of mindedness, in which case my conception of the third level of mindedness is more broad than that of only the justificatory function.

My conception of Mind3, then, is much broader than Henriques’. In order to reconcile the two models, then, I will briefly explain Henriques’ three-tiered taxonomy of mind, and then I will elaborate on my broader conception of Mind3. Hopefully, explicating the differences between the two versions of Mind3 will make it easier for Henriques to explain how or why his model is justified, ironically, in prioritizing justification over the many other aspects of mind to be found in my interpretation of Mind3.

Gregg’s Taxonomy of Mind, Framed by UTOK’s Map of Mind:

Henriques’s taxonomy of mind involves an evolutionary hierarchical structure, with Mind1 reflecting the simplest level of mindedness found in simple organisms, discernible in their possession of neurocognitive sensorimotor feedback loops (Mind1a) and their performing of observable goal-directed actions, such as attracting to nutrients and avoiding toxins (Mind1b), and Mind2 as reflecting a slightly higher, more evolved level of mindedness reflecting sentience, subjective experience, interiority (Mind2a) or, perhaps more evolved, intersubjective experience (Mind2b), such as shared attention and shared intention with other members of the species.

Here is a summary of Gregg’s taxonomy of mind, for ease of reference:

· Mind 1a. Neurocognitive functionalism: sensory-motor organism/environment feedback loop

· Mind 1b. Overt actions: intentional, teleological (stimulus/response, attract/avoid) behavior

· Mind 2a. Conscious experience: sentience, subjectivity, interiority, phenomenology, qualia

· Mind 2b. Intersubjective experience: shared attention/intention

· Mind 3a. Private (intrapersonal) justification: inner dialogue justifying the agent to the agent

· Mind 3b. Public (interpersonal) justification: outer dialogue justifying the agent to others

Here is the UTOK Map of Mind, which places those domains in relationship to each other:

I have no major problem with Mind1 or Mind2, although I have some questions about the differences between sentience, which I take to be having any type of experience whatsoever (e.g. seeing red, sensing a nutrient or a toxin, detecting an object, etc.), and hedonic sentience, which I take to be any type of experience marked by a hedonic valence (e.g., pleasant or unpleasant, positive or negative, safe or dangerous, attractive or aversive, etc.).

I imagine that hedonic sentience is a more evolved ability, selected for by evolution because it better enables organisms that possess it to flourish compared to organisms lacking any ability to discern life-threatening versus life-affirming environmental conditions. Henriques’s Mind1a seems to be neuro-centric, but Mind1b seems able to allow for organisms without neurons, as paramecia are able to avoid toxins and are attracted to nutrients, so they appear to engage in overtly intentional, goal-directed behavior. It is conceivable to me that any being that is sentient at all, able to sense elements of its environment and respond appropriately, including paramecia, may have an inner life, a subjective experience, what philosophers of mind refer to as a “what it’s like”, an interiority. I’m not sure why Mind1b would exclude subjective experience, but perhaps Henriques parses these levels the way he does in order to capture the possibility that organisms could indicate goal-directed behavior without subjective experience, e.g., plant tropism seems prima facie to illustrate this possibility (plants moving toward the light source). If there are Mind1 beings that lack subjective experience, then it would make sense to parse Mind1 as mindedness absent subjectivity and reserve Mind2 for beings with subjectivity.

I’m just not sure there are Mind1 beings that lack subjectivity, but perhaps Henriques is taking an epistemically conservative position here and only asserting subjectivity when the empirical evidence is solid. It may well be that any living thing is sentient and thus has a subjective experience, but the evidence for that biocentric theory of sentience is weaker than the evidence for a neurocentric model: clearly, beings with nervous systems have subjective experience. Panpsychic theorists hold what may be considered a hylocentric model: anything within the physical domain is subject to causal interference and thus ‘experiences’ its own modifications in a most rudimentary sense, perhaps as something like vibration: everything physical is minded. Of course, while this theory could be defended on meta-philosophical grounds, e.g., abductive reasoning or inference to the best explanation, Ockham’s razor, explanatory power, theoretical elegance, etc., the question of panpsychism goes beyond the scope of my concerns here, which are to better understand Henriques’s trifold taxonomy of mind, especially its third tier.

Henriques embeds his trifold model of mind in his broader Unified Theory of Knowledge (“UTOK”), which includes certain justifications for prioritizing justification, such as the fact that primates are social species with evolved behavioral norms of reciprocity, in-group power differential dynamics, describable via behavioral investment theory, and so on. These general ideas all make sense to me, and they do provide some general reasons for noting that justification plays an important role, and played an important role, in human social and psychological evolution. Thus, I will not cast any doubts on, nor try to develop, these ideas here. In other words, I accept that there are many good reasons to emphasize justification as distinctive of human persons. Instead, I wish to raise my doubts about Henriques’s placing justification at the center of his conception of the level of mindedness that we seem to otherwise agree is distinctive of human persons.

My Uncertainty about Henriques’s Interpretation of Mind3

I’m not sure why the narrowly identified category of justification is selected as constitutive of Mind3, since (to my understanding) justification is but one species of a much larger genus of mental states, modes, processes, and/or actions which, to my thinking, includes what John Vervaeke describes as the four Ps of knowing:

1. Propositional knowing and acting: includes a host of propositional attitudes, such as entertaining the possibility that P (where “P” is any proposition), affirming that P, denying that P, understanding that P, wondering whether P, explaining the fact that P, considering evidence for (or against) P, justifying the belief that P, doubting whether P, imagining that P (or that ~P), remembering that P, hoping that P, wanting it to be the case that P (or ~P), analyzing the meaning (semantic and/or syntactic) of P, relating P to Q (and/or R, S, T…), inferring P, implying P, discerning the implications of P, being happy or distraught because P, etc.;

2. Procedural knowing and acting: includes a host of mental abilities and activities cultivating or constituting procedural knowledge or know-how, such as conceptualization; differentiating sense perceptions; recognizing objects, events, processes, relationships; discriminating between genus and species; differentiating interoception and exteroception; apprehending one’s own and others’ emotional and affective states and intentional behavior; performing complex sequences and tasks (recipes, algorithms, heuristics, competitive sports, poetry, fiction writing, legal argument, prayer, etc.);

3. Participatory knowing and acting: a host of participatory knowledge abilities, such as in dancing, singing, playing, ritual, performance, acting, art-making, celebrating, fighting, team efforts, etc.;

4. Perspectival knowing, being, and acting: a host of perspectival knowing practices, exercises, abilities, skills, and experiential states, such as role-reversal, thought experiments, intuition pumps, simulating, pretending, entertaining counterfactual worlds, meditating, contemplating, altered states, e.g., flow states, nondual awareness, being mode, etc.

I think justification occurs primarily as but one sub-element mostly within the first realm above of propositional knowing, which domain includes so many other things relevant to and distinctive of persons in addition to things that would rightly be characterized as elements of forms of justification.

Even within the realm of science, for example, justification does play a key role, but not the only one. Evidence and logical analysis combine to justify scientific conclusions and establish putative (albeit tentative) facts, but science also involves exploration, imagination, discovery, understanding, explanation, experimental procedures, data collection, and so on. The two overarching purposes of scientific research seem to be theoretical and practical: to understand reality, and to improve our standing within it (e.g., “better living through chemistry”). Some argue that the evolutionary purpose of understanding is ultimately pragmatic; others argue that they love understanding for its own sake. Both views seem at least partly correct.

Why does Henriques emphasize justification? In trying to imagine the answer, I can suppose that all justification functions as a response to some sort of “Why?” question, such as “Why do you believe that?” or “Why would you want to do that?”, and that every “Why?” question invites a “Because…” answer, and whatever fills in the ellipses there may be construed as a justification. That broad level of analysis can cover a lot of the things in the above differentiated species of propositional knowing in the broader genus that I’m construing as Mind3, but it still seems to leave out much in that very category and almost everything in the other three forms of knowing (and I think there are other forms of knowing than these four, but that’s not important here). But even so, it seems that to try to fit everything in the larger Mind3 category into the sub-propositional category of justification is a bit procrustean, possibly theory-driven.

For example, my drawing of imaginary beings when I was a kid, or my imaginal journeys into alternate possible worlds, do not appear prima facie to function as any sort of justification. If we are strictly committed to interpreting everything in the distinctively human realm of mind through the theoretical lens of justification, we could say those imaginal activities implicitly functioned as answers to the implicit question, “Why would anyone think there are possibly imaginary beings?”, and construe the drawing of one as an answer to that question: “Because this …” (pointing to the drawing). But that is something of a stretch, and somewhat reminiscent of the Freudian theory-driven tendency to reinterpret everything through the psychoanalytic theoretical lens of the libido.

Again, one reason Henriques prioritizes justification is that it very probably played a crucial role in the evolutionary development of communication and thought in our ancestral social species’ differentiation of relationship dynamics, as mentioned above regarding behavioral investment theory and the like. That’s fine, but other abilities arguably played equally important roles in that evolutionary development, such as may be seen along a hypothetical spectrum involving primate mimicry on one end of the spectrum (gaze following, monkey-see monkey-do, etc.), simulation of other minds somewhere in the middle of the spectrum (shared attention, shared intention, theory of mind, mind-reading, etc.), and counterfactual imagination on the other end of that spectrum (invention, philosophical conceptualization, scientific theorizing, etc.). When I think of what is distinctive of human mindedness, I think of these latter things more than I do of justification. Why treat justification as the sine qua non of Mind3? Am I missing something?

Again, the purpose of this investigation is greater understanding of Henriques’s otherwise comprehensive, conceptually elegant, highly explanatory and integrative UTOK model.

Essay #2: Reply to Rick

Justifying the Functional Centrality of Justification in Mind3 and Understanding Why Justification Is Central to Understanding the Minded Patterns of Human Persons

By Gregg Henriques

I thank Professor Repetti for his essay raising questions about my framing of the concept of Mind3, which characterizes the key domain of mental processes that makes human mindedness so different from that of other animals in terms of “justification”.

I empathize with Rick’s questions, and I agree with his assertion that there seems to be so much more to our unique mental capacities than justification. As such, on its face, it seems unjustifiable to try and reduce the uniqueness of human mentation to this one concept. However, the caveat “on its face” is an important one. The reason is that one needs to engage the many layers of UTOK, the Unified Theory of Knowledge, to get clear about what it is saying, exactly.

Mind3 and the Many Facets that Potentially Make Us Distinctive

In his essay, Rick notes that, although justification may have been important…

other abilities arguably played equally important roles in that evolutionary development, such as may be seen along a hypothetical spectrum involving primate mimicry on one end of the spectrum (gaze following, monkey-see monkey-do, etc.), simulation of other minds somewhere in the middle of the spectrum (shared attention, shared intention, theory of mind, mind-reading, etc.), and counterfactual imagination on the other end of that spectrum (invention, philosophical conceptualization, scientific theorizing, etc.). When I think of what is distinctive of human mindedness, I think of these latter things more than I do of justification.

Michael Tomasello is one researcher whose work I admire, and he makes exactly these kinds of claims (see, e.g., Becoming Human: A Theory of Ontogeny). And, as I spell out in my book, A New Synthesis for Solving the Problem of Psychology: Addressing the Enlightenment Gap, I embrace his analysis, and I think it fits directly with UTOK. How can this be so? Exactly what am I saying about justification, human distinctiveness, and the nature of Mind3?

There is a subtle and important distinction that needs be made about Mind3 and human distinctiveness. Mind3 is not a blanket term for what makes human mental behavior distinct; rather, it labels a particular kind of mental process that is distinct in humans.

This is subtle but an important difference. Specifically, in the language of UTOK, Mind3 refers to the mental processes mediated by propositional language that enable humans to develop systems of justification and to navigate the Culture-Person plane of existence. There may well be other dimensions of mental ability that humans can do but other animals cannot. Consider, for example, mental time travel and the capacity to sequence events in one’s subjective conscious experience. There is research to suggest these capacities maybe be better developed in humans than other apes. But if they are mediated by working memory and the capacity for mental imagery rather than verbal processes, then they would be part of Mind2, rather than Mind3.

With that stated, I will stand by the assertion that processes of linguistic justification referenced by Mind3 are at the heart of what makes our mental processes so different from other animals. Specifically, UTOK posits that there was a fundamental shift in human mentation that took place between 500,000 and 50,000 years ago. That shift is mapped by UTOK’s Tree of Knowledge System, so it is important to bring this perspective in to this reply.

The Tree of Knowledge System maps the dimensions of complexity and aligns with the Map of Mind, with Mind1 and Mind2 corresponding to the red area, and Mind3 aligns with the blue area.

The ToK System is a new map of Big History that tracks cosmic evolution as follows: First, there was the Energy-Information Implicate Order, then, at the Big Bang the Matter-Object plane emerged (the gray area); then about 4 billion years ago the Life-Organism plane emerged (the green area); about 530,000,000 the Mind-Animal plane emerged (the red area), and then between 500,000 and 50,000 the Culture Person plane appeared (the blue area).

Crucially, the ToK System makes a claim about the nature of emergent causation. Specifically, it posits that the Life, Mind, and Culture planes emerge because of novel information processing and communication networks. Genes and cells form information processing/communication networks that constitute the processes and patterns of Life, animals with brains and complex active bodies constitute the processes and patterns of Mind, and talking humans constitute the processes and patterns associated with Culture.

Clarifying UTOK’s Map of Mind and Domains of Mindedness

The ToK System provides the basic descriptive metaphysical system for UTOK. It defines Mind as the property of mindedness that emerges with animals that have brains and complex active bodies. This sets the stage for UTOK’s Map of Mind, which Rick referenced. The Map of Mind builds from the ToK System’s conception of mindedness and the Mind-Animal dimension of complexification. It maps three different domains of mental activities, which are divided up: 1) based on whether they take place within the animal’s nervous system or between the animal and the environment, latter being typically called “behavior” and the former being “brain”; 2) based on the epistemological vantage point (either the third person, exterior perspective, or the first person interior perspective on mental processes); and 3) the dimension of complexification, either at the Mind-Animal layer (red) or the Culture-Person layer (blue).

These three divisions give us the domains of mental activity that Rick references in his work. Mind1a refers to neurocognitive activity within the animal; Mind1b refers to overt action (i.e., animal behaviors); Mind2 refers to subjective conscious experience that is only available via the first person, interior point of view (there is no direct exterior vantage point on Mind2); Mind3a refers to private speech (or internal linguistic justification) and Mind3b refers to public speech, or overt verbal/language behavior.

It is clear from reading Rick’s essay that we need to have some discussion about the nature and definition of Mind, mindedness, Mind1, and Mind2. The reason is that UTOK defines Mind and mindedness by yoking together both functional and structural requirements. The functional requirements are functional awareness and responsivity. The structural requirements for Mind, mindedness, and Mind1 are brains and complex active bodies. In his essay, Rick notes that the single-celled “paramecia are able to avoid toxins and are attracted to nutrients, so they appear to engage in overtly intentional, goal-directed behavior.” He goes on to note that they presumably have Mind1b.

But that is not right, according to UTOK vocabulary. Mind1 refers to the functional awareness and responsivity of animals with brains and complex active bodies. So, a fly avoiding a fly swatter is an example of Mind1 activity. If we look inside the brain of the housefly to examine its neurocognitive processes, that is the domain of Mind1a. If we track the fly’s behavior, that is Mind1b. Does a fly have a subjective conscious experience of the world? To me, that is an open question. If there is something that it is like to be a fly, then the fly has Mind2. This is the domain of subjective conscious experience. I am agnostic about whether flies have such experiences, although I lean toward answering yes.

In UTOK’s definitional system, paramecia are not minded. Even jellyfish are not minded. The reason is that they lack the structural requirement of brains and complex bodies. Of course, I am not claiming that paramecia and jellyfish don’t exhibit any kind of functional awareness and responsivity. That would be absurd (e.g., see here for an article on jellyfish learning). Rather, I simply would frame such behaviors as exhibiting living intelligence or biological intelligence of even bio-cognition. These are complex adaptive behaviors that are framed by the Life-Organism dimension (the green area on the ToK System).

The last point I want to make is about how we conceive of consciousness, sentience and which creatures have a subjective conscious experience of being. As this NOW UTOKing video makes clear, there are three different definitions of consciousness that we need to be clear about. The first is the broadest, and it refers to “functional awareness and responsivity.” These are behaviors that can be seen from the exterior position and are evidenced by the kind of awareness and adaptive responding that virtually all living creatures exhibit. Jellyfish and paramecia both exhibit functional awareness and responsivity, and thus both are “conscious” in the broadest meaning of the term.

The second definition is subjective conscious experience of being in the world. This is often referred to as sentience, and it relates to the so-called “hard problem.” Rick suggests that he believes that creatures like paramecia may have a subjective experience of being, and calls my frame “neuro-centric”.

I don’t have any idea of what subjective conscious experience might be absent a brain. Consider, for example, that it is clear that my body has much intelligence in it, but the idea that my blood and liver cells have sentience seems to me to be a massive stretch. I also have no idea what it means to even ask the question, “What is it like to be a tree?” Given all the data we have the connects subjective conscious experience to the activity of the nervous system, I think it is incumbent upon those who advocate for sentience in other creatures to justify what that form of subjective experience is like and how we know.

Finally, even with animals with brains there is much uncertainty where sentience emerges. For example, in Sentience: The Invention of Consciousness, the philosopher Nicholas Humphrey not only strongly critiques any notion of sentience without a nervous system, he argues that the subjective conscious experience of being emerges late in evolution, likely being present only with birds and mammals, and thus not even being present in fish or reptiles. In A New Synthesis, I detail this debate here, explaining the difference between early and late sentience models, and why I lean toward early sentience in minded animals (i.e., I think it is likely that flies and fish feel pleasure and pain), but acknowledge there is much debate about the issue, and explain why things are so murky.

Justification Frames How Our Propositional Knowledge Systems are Functionally Organized

The point here is, according to UTOK’s vocabulary, brains and complex active bodies are the structural requirements for mindedness. The same logic operates when we look to distinguish Mind3 from Mind1 and Mind2. In this case, the key element is propositional language, which is the information processing and communication network that mediates Mind3.

What about the functional element of Mind3? Well, that is where we get to the crux of the issues that are framing this exchange. UTOK posits that the core functional organization of propositional language is well-framed by the concept of justification. Broadly defined, justification refers to the process of legitimizing claims and actions. And UTOK claims that this dynamic is, functionally, at the heart of how our propositional systems are organized.

This brings us back to how I opened the essay. On its face, the concept of justification seems to be about how people try to defend themselves from other’s accusations. Although this is important, it hardly seems like it would be the way to frame the uniqueness of human mentation.

However, when we shift and think about justification systems and processes to be the network of systems of propositions that function to legitimize claims and actions, then we get a much broader and deeper conception. In addition to justification networks as being the glue that holds together our propositional beliefs and values, we can also see that there are justification processes, which refer to the dynamics by which people engage in challenging and constructing such systems. UTOK labels these processes “question answer dynamics” that take the form of reason giving, debate, exploration, argument, etc. For example, this essay exchange.

I recently did a blog on why we can consider justification to be the most important word in language. It explains how the concept characterizes the networks of propositions to generate belief systems. It explains how the word captures both what Freud meant via the concept of rationalization and what Plato meant by epistemology. Of course, normally we think of defensive rationalizations to be the exact opposite of refined knowledge about the truth. And yet, justification functionally shows up in both cases. Thus, justification is a concept that stretches from Freudian rationalizations all the way to Plato epistemological justifications for truth claims.

A Metatheory of Justification Processes, Dynamics, and Systems

Long ago, Aristotle divided the natural world into the four scales of: 1) inanimate matter; 2) living matter, like plants; 3) animals that operate on a sensorimotor loop, and 4) humans as rational animals that could generate reasons for their actions. A great weakness of Aristotle’s scales of nature was that there was no clear evolutionary path from one level to the next. UTOK provides clarity about the continuity and transformational shifts that happened to give rise to the next scale.

Behavioral Investment Theory is UTOK’s metatheory of the structure and function of mindedness. It is the theoretical joint point between living organisms and minded animals. It states that the functional properties of the brain and complex active bodies is framed by the work effort animals expend to control the flow of resources.

Justification Systems Theory is UTOK’s metatheory of the structure and function of Mind3. It is the joint point between the Animal-Mind and Culture-Person dimensions. It consists of three related, interlocking ideas that allow us to see justification as being the core functional aspect of our propositional language networks.

The first core idea of JUST is called the Justification Hypothesis (JH). As I make clear in this chapter on Justification Systems Theory in A New Synthesis, the JH reverse engineers the evolution of human language, especially the shift from cooperative, mimetic gesturing into symbolic tagging into symbolic-syntactical propositional language. In that final shift, the JH homes in on the fact that propositions carry positive meaning that can be challenged via questions. The JH is the idea that we can frame this “question-answer-dynamic” as giving rise to what UTOK calls the adaptive problem of justification, which is the problem of generating a network of propositions that work to legitimize one’s claims and actions. This problem of justification is then posited to play a central role in giving rise to both the evolved design of the human ego and the Culture-Person plane of existence. And the next two ideas that constitute the whole of JUST lay this out.

The second aspect of JUST is the model of human consciousness that arises out of the Justification Hypothesis. It is called the ESP-A Updated Tripartite Model, which offers a modern frame for understanding the domains of human consciousness (ego, [core] self, persona, and [pure] awareness) that updates Freud’s structural model.

UTOK’s ESP-A Updated Tripartite Model of Human Consciousness

Importantly, the ESP-A UPM grows out of the JH. The idea is that to solve the problem of justification, what will emerge is an ego and a persona on top of a primate experiential self. In my first paper on how the ToK System solves the problem of psychology (Henriques, 2003), I explained that this frame enabled us to explain Freud’s key insight. That is, we could now characterized the ego as the mental organ of justification. The model predicts that, because the dynamics of justification-to-self is different from justification-to-others, then there should be different dynamics and filters associated with the ego and the persona. In A New Synthesis, I explain why this is, in fact, precisely the case. The ego is structurally and functionally arranged as the “self-justifier” whereas the persona is the “other-justifier”.

With this model of human consciousness in place, we can now align it with the Map of Mind and, specifically, Mind3. The domain of Mind3a is the private justification to self (AKA the human ego), and Mind3b refers to public justifications to other (AKA the persona).

Mind3, as the domain of private and public justification, also functions as a bridge to the third idea that constitutes Justification Systems Theory. This is the claim that Culture, with a capital “C”, can be framed as consisting of large-scale systems of justification that coordinate people. Chapter 15 in A New Synthesis is titled, Mind3 and the Culture-Person Plane of Existence, and it gives this argument in detail. It explains how this analysis allows us to define what a person is (a capacity to justify one’s actions on the social stage), characterize the dynamics of folk psychology as describing processes of investment, influence and justification, frames much work in social psychology, defines culture and clarifies the relationship between small ‘c’ culture as shared/learned practices framed by Behavioral Investment Theory, capital ‘C’ Culture as propositionally meditated justification systems, and the evolution of technology, with the complex whole being “society,” and, following Lene Rachel Andersen’s work on metamodernity, frames the evolution of culture sensibilities, from oral-indigenous to traditional to modern to postmodern.

In his essay, Rick cites John Vervaeke’s four Ps of knowing as a good taxonomy for human knowing and notes the taxonomy is broader than justification. Indeed, it is. As embodied primates, we engage in perspectival, participatory, and procedural knowing that is part of our animal mindedness. The base of these kinds of knowing that are shared with our great ape cousins and many other animals. And to the extend that we frame them as explicit, justified forms of knowing (e.g., the surgeon understands the procedures for the surgery), well, then they are part of justification and propositional knowledge.

Only humans have developed propositional knowing. And the propositional knowing systems are structurally and functionally arranged as justification systems. These justification systems form a key element of human society, and they are the primary way we become socialized as persons (i.e., the process of becoming a person is the process of learning how to justify yourself on the social stage).


In sum, there may be several aspects of our mental life that are distinct compared with other animals. We may be able to time travel, developed advanced intersubjective capacities, or effectively sequence events in our minds better than other animals. These are all in the domain of mindedness, and, by themselves, do not translate into us being human persons.

In the language of UTOK, Mind3 refers to the processes of linguistic justification that emerged with propositional language and generated a complexity building feedback loop that gave rise to the human mind’s “Big Bang,” depicted by the ToK System. The Map of Mind provides the vocabulary to clarify the domains of mental processes based on epistemic vantage point, layered processing, and location (i.e., inside the animal or between the animal and environment). And JUST, UTOK has an evolutionary metatheory of human consciousness and culture that provides the deeper explanatory network that, well, justifies the analysis.

I will conclude with a quote from my 2004 article, Psychology Defined, which I think gets to the heart of what I am saying:

Unlike all other animals, humans everywhere ask for and give explanations for their actions (Brown, 1991). Arguments, debates, moral dictates, rationalizations, and excuses all involve the process of explaining why one’s claims, thoughts or actions are warranted. These phenomena are both uniquely human and ubiquitous in human affairs. In virtually every form of social exchange, from warfare to politics to family struggles to science, humans are constantly justifying their behavioral investments to themselves and others.

I have enjoyed the bridge between my Mind3 and Rick’s, and I appreciate his thoughtful inquiry, and I look forward to continuing our productive dialogues.



Gregg Henriques
Unified Theory of Knowledge

Professor Henriques is a scholar, clinician and theorist at James Madison University.