Re: Different words for the same thing?

From: William Benzon (
Date: Wed 19 Mar 2003 - 21:09:53 GMT

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    on 3/18/03 11:22 PM, Grant Callaghan at wrote:


    > Except that Freeman would find nonsensical the notion that thoughts (that is
    > "memes" in your terms) can somehow propagate from one person to another.
    > Freeman is quite clear in asserting that meaning is constructed in brains
    > and that each brain does so in a way that is unique to it. For each brain
    > has a unique history and its meanings reflect the whole of that history.
    > Meanings do not propagate from one brain to another in the way you want
    > memes to.
    > Well, he does say:
    >> thought - aprocess by which Neuroactivity constructs meaning, modifies
    >> intentional structure, and makes representations for purposes of
    >> communication among humans and animals
    > Isn't that a way of propagating meanings from one brain to another?
    > Grant

    Well, it depends on what you mean by those terms. If you mean "propagate" to indicate the kind of process by which a computer virus moves from one computer to another, then, no, that is not what Freeman is saying. He doesn't believe that brains operate by moving patterns of bits from place to place within themselves and he certainly doesn't believe that human interaction involves copying bit patterns from one brain to another. Further, just what he means by "meaning" is best grasped by reading some of his work on odor recognition in the brain. While it's not such a peculiar sense of the word, it helps to have some command of the type of data he's working with. He certainly would not identify "meaning" with patterns of bits.

    I recall that some time ago made a remark to the effect that these distinctions only matter if you're trying to construct a science of memes. I can buy that. And I'm trying to construct a science that's realistic about neural process. While Freeman has no interest in memetics that I can tell, he's certainly interested in scientific rigor. Details matter in science that may well be irrelevant in less rigorous discourse.

    Bill B

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