From: Reed Konsler (
Date: Fri 23 May 2003 - 18:57:29 GMT

  • Next message: "Re: selfsameness"

    > The door doesn't expect anything.

    "No, indeed, it does not. But the people who put it there did. And the fact it is there will make you use it, if it works properly."

    Using your examples of Tinglit artifacts and Cargo Cults would refute that statement. The door is like the Tinglit artifact. Just because it exists doesn't mean I will use it, or use it as the person that built it intended.

    "The participants of the cultural venue who put that door there might well have packed up and gone, taken their tools and moved to another house, and they most probably did...So, what is _now_ participating?"

    Everyone in the house, using and adapting the materials available to suit our own uses. You give an excellent example below. In my opinion, the house is best thought of as a substrate, not an agent.

    "The venue itself is participating, and yes, the venue itself _is_ a required participant in the performance model."

    I've already accepted that. I've been pointing out that the only meaningful parts of the venue...the parts that have agency or can be thought of as participating in cultural evolution...are in the brain.

    "Don't please, attempt to deny it by saying that only the performer and the observer are there. They are not alone."

    They are in a physical environment, yes. But that physical environment does not have any agency. At best you could say it favors certain kinds of expression as geographical conformations favor certain paths for a river. I don't think it's best to think of the environment as "wanting" anything in particular to happen.

    "Meaning that the fact that there _is_ a door in your house leads you to use it, and see it as a means of ingress and egress."

    As I point out above, it's possible that the cultural context the door was created in will be lost. At that point, there is no 'door'. It is the mind-memes that bend your perceptions in such a way that you take it as
    'fact' that there is a door. But there is no such thing as a 'fact' that a physical object must serve a specific purpose. It might seem obvious to me that the 'door' is a means of entering the house.

    Well, of course. I learned that from other people. The memes in their mind were replicated in mine. Now, when I look at it, I see a door. My mind-viruses encourage me to make that identification because it benefits their replication. After all, if I can't leave my house it is harder for me to transmit them.

    "But, you can use it as a slab of wood if you like. Take it down and put four legs on it, bash it up a bit, and recoat it with some varnish, and you have a table, which is a slab of wood on legs, if it just sits there, although it is a place to put flashy magazines and cutglass fruit bowls if it is used."

    I couldn't have put it better myself.

    "I suspect you'll still have a door, though."

    The memes in your mind would cause you to identify it as a 'door'. The novelty would be that I have used the artifact for a purpose not intended by the original designer. In my mind, it is now a 'table-previously a door'. To my child, it may always be simply a 'table'. Wouldn't he be confused if you pointed at the slab of wood and called it a 'door'. And how can you connect the slab to it's previous other words, how can you maintain the cultural venue? Because, in your mind, there are a set of memes: proportions of size, surface features, and so on that are associated with 'door'. Without your mind it is just a slab of wood. It doesn't have any purpose itself, only that to which it is put by a mind.



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