Stewart tes

From: Bill Spight (
Date: Fri 18 Oct 2002 - 01:25:28 GMT

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    Again we are discussing what kind of thing a meme is or might be. As Aungere points out, the lack of consensus on this point fuels criticism. If nobody knows what a meme is, is there such a thing, anyway?

    Despite this lack of consensus, I think that many memes pass the Stewart test. U. S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said, "I shall not today attempt further to define [pornographic] material but I know it when I see it." (

    One example, I think, is the phrase, "Beam me up, Scotty!" Is there anyone who thinks that memes exist that does not think that that is a meme? OC, people differ about what exactly that meme is. Some think it is the utterance, the act of saying or writing the phrase, some would include a bumper sticker with that phrase written on it as a meme, some think it is a neural structure or a set of neural structures, some that it is an idea, some that it is all of the above, and so on. But does any one of them doubt that it is a meme?

    Another example, I think, is the TIT-FOR-TAT strategy of playing the Prisoner's Dilemma game. (Axelrod: "The Evolution of Cooperation") Again, exactly what that means differs among memeticists, but is there not general agreement that such strategies are memes? (In fact, in a recent web search of "replicator" I found that economists are researching such strategies extensively. They call them replicators, rather than memes, it seems, but let's call a spade a spade. ;-))

    These are examples of two major classes of memes, I think: lexemes, which include words, phrases, etc., and situation-response pairs, which include game strategies, normative rules, techniques, etc. In fact, it seems to me that these encompass most memes in any culture.

    Am I wrong about whether such things are memes, regardless of how you define a meme? What do you say?


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