Re: Dennett article on post-modernism

From: Scott Chase (
Date: Sun 16 Mar 2003 - 00:27:32 GMT

  • Next message: Grant Callaghan: "Re: Dennett article on post-modernism"

    >From: "Grant Callaghan" <>
    >Subject: Re: Dennett article on post-modernism
    >Date: Fri, 14 Mar 2003 08:21:43 -0800
    >Dennett seems to me to be playing the blame game with his assertion the
    >everyone should be responsible for what other people do with the words we
    >say and the memes we drop into society. In other words, I should be
    >responsible for what you do with the memetic tools I invent or pass on.
    >It reminds me of the problems being caused by old soldiers from Taiwan
    >visiting their families in mainland China and bringing back a new virulent
    >form of pneumonia that is sweeping the island. Should we blame the old
    >sodiers who fled to Taiwan in 1949 and went back to visit their families
    >one last time before they die? Or should we blame the mainlanders for
    >catching the disease in the first place and passing it on to visitors? Why
    >bother to blame anyone? It's all part of the world we live in and germs
    >and memes will do what they always do -- propagate.
    This points out the limitations in the pathogenic analogy for memetics. Your blatant comparison of ideas to a diase organism fails to account for responsibility as it connects to human behavior. We have little control over what pathogens we might uknowingly pick up and spread. We do have some control over how we relate to ideas and thus hae some level of responbility for consequences of implementation of our ideas. If you went too far in the direction you're aiming at, we'd have to drop the idea of responsibility altogether. In that case lawyers and prison guards would be suddenly unemployed.

    I don't think being infected by a bad idea would be a good defense to use in a court of law.

    As for Dennett's new book _Freedom Evolves_, I've just started it and I'll need to finish it befor I decide how I feel about his arguments. To begin with, I've got no aversions to the notion that volition might emerged as an evolved trait in a large brained species capable of language, thought, and reasoning. Perhaps volition is an autapomorphy unique to our species. If Dennett's talking free will, I'm all ears and interested in what he's got to say.

    Hopefully he's not dropping as much of the universal acid and there's a minimum of flashbacks in this new book ;-)

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