Re: emperors old clothes

From: Dace (
Date: Sun 16 Mar 2003 - 00:29:00 GMT

  • Next message: Scott Chase: "Re: Dennett article on post-modernism"

    > From: "Alan Patrick" <>
    > My thought was about memes that are "emperor's old clothes" memes, ie that
    > are still in situ even though their basis for existence is provably
    eroded -
    > do they work mainly by:
    > (i) having strong self-reinforcing elements, and/or conversely are good
    > preventing entry of new memes for long periods


    > (ii) "perverting" the vision of the meme-carrier so that he/she cannot see
    > reality

    Memes can't pervert their hosts. Perversion is strictly psychological. People are perverted, not memes. Memes just promote themselves (and thereby crowd out competitors). Mental causation goes on at both the memetic and personal levels. In fact, it's carried on at three levels: memes, people, and groups of people. Each level has automonous, causal power, and each level can become pathological and dangerous. As Dennett has finally realized, the attempt to use memetics as a way of "explaining" culture without resort to conscious agency can only discredit the emerging field of study.

    > (iii)a "natural half life" exists for dominant old memes and they have to
    > fall below a certain strength before they are dislodgeable

    "Half life" is a chemical concept and has no bearing on biological evolution. So, it probably doesn't make a very good analogy for memetics.

    Incidentally, the resilience of not only useless but actively harmful memes is the only way to study the subject scientifically. This is because the existence of helpful memes can be ascribed to the ordinary attributes of ideas, which passively replicate on the basis of their value from one person to the next. The point of memes is that they're "selfish." They self-replicate, just like genes. When an idea that's clearly harmful is also impossible to eradicate, then we know we're dealing with a meme.


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