Is Memetics a Science?

Date: Tue 09 Sep 2003 - 02:31:48 GMT

  • Next message: Brad Jensen: "RE: Is Memetics a Science?"

    By Joe E. Dees, crossposted from the Virus BBS:
            In my mind, memetics is presently more of a perspective, doctrine, or theory, in other words, a philosophy, than it is a science. Particular applications of this theory, such as double- blind experiments to discover, say, whether the more simple falsehood or the more complex truth is more readily accepted by others, may qualify as scientific investigations. But science has to do with the subsumptions of a restricted class of particulars to a common structure, whereas philosophy proposes general models that are supposedly applicable universally, to unobserved as well as observed phenomena, as a matter of logical principle. Thus, the
    'soft' sciences, such as psychology, sociology, anthropology, political science and economics, are rarely strictly scientific in the same sense that, say, physics and chemistry may claim to be.
            However, this fact does not invalidate the memetic stance, any more than it invalidates the stances of phenomenology, genetic epistemology, semiotics or hermeneutics. In fact, theory, while not in itself science, is indispensable to scientific inquiry. A case in point is the relation between cognitive philosophy and cognitive science.
            Cognitive philosophy encompasses such perspectives as the gestaltist stance, the associationist stance, the connectionist stance, etc. These stances are basically investigation engines, that is, they correlate and structure the data which cognitive science supplies, then propose logical entailments or possibilities, that is, other things that must or might be true if the correlations and structurations into which these systems fit the data are indeed correct. The consequences of these further suppositions are then cast into testable hypotheses upon which experiments are conducted, and the data are fed back into the models, where they enrich, elaborate, extrapolate and refine further developments of the stances/theories.
            What we have going on here is a dialectic, but not a Hegelian one, where a thesis and an antithesis are subsumed as special cases by an encompassing synthesis. Rather, we have a continuously evolving and mutually informing bouncing between theory and practice, or, in other words, an evolving praxis. Feedback from experiment winnow out some theoretical possibilities, while suggesting others; theoretical innovations/advances suggest areas where novel experiments might reveal new scientific knowledge. The two nurture each other.
            In fact, the philosophical stances I mentioned before are themselves interrelated in a broader overarching structure. Phenomenology and genetic epistemology are both stances addressing the realm of being, rather than the realm of meaning. Phenomenology is the introspective (from within the consciousness of the investigator) study of the invariant perceptual and conceptual structures which are congealed in the matured, that is, the self-and-other-consciously aware, mind, while genetic epistemology is an extrospective (from the data collected from questioned and observed others) study of the functional paths by which mind evolves and develops into self- and-other-conscious awareness. The same relationship obtains, in the realm of meaning rather than that of being, between semiotics and memetics; semiotics studies the structure of meaning-relation, that is the triadic relation between self, observed and symbol, whereas memetics addresses the inculcation of this symbolic relationship in the developing mind. Although our perceptual apparati provisionally reach an end-state where things like causality, conservation and completion are internalized and provide a template within which mind and world can relate in the realm of being through the dialectic of perception and action, we forever are developing and evolving new meanings by which we interpret and categorize our experiences of being, as well as discarding obscelescent ones. Presence is the ur-meaning as well as the ur-being; hermeneutics held that meaning was prior to being and existentialism held that being was prior to meaning, but it is now known that, for the self-and-other-conscious awareness, whose self-identity and self-existence in the face of the other its
    (things) and thous (people), (a self-existence and self-identity which itself was purposefully developed via engagement with responsive others (parents and caretakers)), that being and meaning are co-primordial.
            Thus memetics takes its rightful place in a larger structure that includes semiotics, genetic epistemology and phenomenology, a structure which itself is informed by the co- primordiality if existence and interpretation. My Present Addendum:
            If memetics is indeed a philosophical stance, as I have above maintained, than it must be informable by the rest of philosophical inquiry. There are three branches to philosphy; they are logic (theory of necessary conclusions given postulated premises, that is, theory of form), epistemology (theory of knowledge - I would include ontology here) and axiology (theory of value). This last includes aesthetics and ethics, the two main attributes of cultures.

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