From: Wade T. Smith (email@example.com)
Date: Mon 10 Mar 2003 - 17:01:58 GMT
On Monday, March 10, 2003, at 11:09 AM, memetics-digest wrote:
>> It's good to see somebody else recognizing the "how" (proximate)
>> "why" (ultimate) distinction. I recall, quite a while back, on this
>> list folks not recognizing the *importance* of "why" questions. IIRC
>> thought "why" questions were meaningless.
> You have to understand something a lot deeper to get to the "why"
> class of
> questions. It took years before I realized the connection between
> and cults can be understood using evolutionary psychology. Once you
> understand that, a heck of a lot of other things fall into place.
Things falling into place and finding the why's behind the how's also
describes the genesis of my debating for the performance model. It
seems it's rather a matter of what you want to mix in.
You see, I have a background in theatre, and in my tangential studies
of aesthetics and music theory, I came to some sense of what the
process of culture might be from the artistic viewpoint, especially the
viewpoint of the artist. I read everything I could about dramatic
criticism and aesthetics, everything I could from the artists about
creation and performance, and philosophies and other writings from
And then I encountered The Selfish Gene, and, something priorly
half-lit became much more visible, but it was still not fully
illuminated, and the hand-waving of the meme itself was very
unsatisfactory. But the core- that culture was also, like life, to be
held to darwinian mechanisms, was too attractive, and, yes, (perhaps
unfortunately), felt too right not to be examined further.
And in all the ensuing examination, all the 'meme in the mind' has ever
felt like to me has been hand-waving. And none of it jibed in any way
with the examples of performance and creation and performance theory
and aesthetic theory and creative performance that I had read, and that
I also felt was too right to not be examined further.
The idea of memetics was one that, to me, seemed to consiliate the
cognitive sciences with the aesthetic philosophies, and that remains
its main attraction to me.
The performance model fits this desire of mine the best, and is not
hand-waving, does not invent new particles in its physics, and is
And I rest with it. I have, personally, given up on any concept of
cultural evolution via memesinthemind.
And I think memetics should let the cognitive scientists do what they
do- examine and discover the mechanisms of the brain- and it should let
the aesthetic philosophies do what they do- examine and discover the
mechanisms of artistic performance- and memetics should show how the
two are working together to create cultures within human societies.
Some of the virus mechanisms are valid perspectives for this. I don't
think there is any argument about the viral effects, just the actual
mechanism itself. The mechanisms of survival that are already in place
are sufficient to allow viral infusions- no meme is necessary.
But the viral mechanism is just that- a system of propagation. It says
nothing about the purpose or quality of the 'virus'. We need to do
comparative studies of cultures to do that, and comparative studies of
cultures has always been a biased and difficult study. But, with a
darwinian viewpoint, cultural success is more a matter of adaptation in
a fitness landscape, with the added body of a culturally changing, as
well as a physically changing, fitness landscape.
So, what changes the cultural landscape? Human behavior does. What
changes human behavior? Well, nothing- human behavior is a conditional
process of human development and human behavior has been genetically
constant for several thousands of years. The human beast has not
evolved within recorded history. But what is the physical cultural
landscape itself? And is that not what is actually changing? With every
new tool, or music, or slogan, or dress, the normal behavior of the
artifact-creating human is changing the cultural landscape, and the
landscape itself is a recursive feedback loop of cultural survival.
As Joe says- put enough self-conscious social creatures into a
landscape, and a culture will happen, much in the same way the self
happens in a brain. And this culture will have echoes and tremors of
basic survival and developmental behaviors as its groundwork, and the
artifacts created by the self-conscious creatures within the time/space
of the cultural landscape will mutate and alter to fit that landscape.
No need for memesintheirminds.
Of course, if one's concept of self-consciousness requires a meme,
then, well, there that is. Seems specious to me, but it is a reason to
need one, I suppose.
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