RE: Thoughts and Perceptions

From: Vincent Campbell (
Date: Wed Apr 10 2002 - 13:18:43 BST

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    From: Vincent Campbell <>
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    Subject: RE: Thoughts and Perceptions
    Date: Wed, 10 Apr 2002 13:18:43 +0100
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    Assertion heavy, evidence free stuff from the coffee table meme book.

    Categorisation, which I presume Richard means by 'distinction' here, is an
    adaptive trait (hence the ability to distinguish between tigers and mice,
    say). Some categorisations, or rather the ability to categorise, is not
    part of the memetic 'programming' that Richard talks of. Indeed the
    tendency to categorise is genetic, not memetic, and neither are the things
    we categorise entirely in our heads. Dirt is something different to the
    absence of dirt- the_term_dirt bears no necessary relation to the thing it
    refers to, but it does refer to something. Territory too is a part of this
    so things like nations and states are rooted in innate tendencies. The
    memetic line here reminds me of Anderson's 'Imagined communities' (although
    this supports the artefact-meme brigade too- what is a nation but an idea
    bound around events, symbols, and practices- e.g. in my current location
    these would include things like the declaration of Arbroath, the stone of
    scoon, robert the bruce etc.).

    That doesn't mean that humans are free from inherent biases, exactly the
    opposite, but what it does mean is that at least some of our inherent biases
    have utility. Being able to distinguish between nice and nasty foods, safe
    and dangerous animals etc. etc. are useful. And we are able to utilise
    these tendencies socially for both good and ill. And trying to
    "de-programme" ourselves from some of the most dominant, and demonstrable,
    categories seems to me to be burying one's head in the sand (akin to
    Thatcher's famous claim 'there is no such thing as society').

    Seeing all ideas/concepts etc. as memes, and thus distinction/categorisation
    as memes is dreadfully problematic IMHO. To give an obvious example-
    gender. Is gender a 'distinction-meme' or something actual and
    physiological? Does arguing the latter legitimate patriarchal society or
    merely acknowledge a biological reality that is an adaptive trait to be able
    to make that distinction? Doesn't arguing the former take memetics into the
    camp of the cultural relativists where anything goes?


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