Re: earliest memetics paper? and a question.

From: Dace (
Date: Sat 14 Feb 2004 - 19:53:10 GMT

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    > From: "Scott Chase" <>
    > >From:
    > >
    > >I think the first precise reference made to memetics using the gene-meme
    > >metaphor is by Jung. I stumbled across it the other day. I'll find the
    > >exact qoute and put it up on the list if anyone's interested, but it's
    > >something t to the effect of, "The body is constructed out of Mendelian
    > >units, it is not unreasonable to assume that the psyche is made out of
    > >similar units." He also likes to talk about the autonomous nature of
    > >complexes, and though he focuses on the positive force of religions more
    > >than the negative, he does have awareness about the mechanisms they use
    > >spread. His ideas seem to me to be the true precursor of the meme-meme.
    > >I've also wondered, how memetics would deal with the issue of archetypal
    > >signs? Are they just a fundamental meme-set that is common to nearly all
    > >cultures? Are they a fundamental part of the pysche seperate from
    > >If so how do they interact and select for memes? I think this is of
    > >philosophical importance for memetics, th!
    > >is is the main barrier memetics would have to overcome to find itself a
    > >useful place, in psychology. I find using memetic models of the mind
    > >useful in my own thinking, but they are limited by this particular
    > >question. Does anyone have any thoughts on this?
    > >-Matthew Broudy
    > >
    > >
    > >
    > I'd have to see the quote where Jung talks about Mendelian units in its
    > larger context. His view of the psyche was that it rests upon a substratum
    > called the collective unconscious and this could be broken into components
    > he called archetypes. He might have been toying with the notion that the
    > Mendelian units are the bases of inheritance for the collective
    > and this substratum when broken into archetypes would be a primitive sort
    > modularity not unlike that celebrated by the ev psychers. Archetypes could
    > be closer to culturgens than memes as a concept. Cultugens IIRC are more
    > strongly leashed to genes where memes more freely operate. Jung placed
    > archetypes within the depths of the psyche, where memes operate outside
    > person as cultural entities.

    Since when was culture outside of people? My friend's 80s leather jacket hangs in the closet gathering dust, not because there's anything wrong with it, but because if she wears it, everyone will go, "Omigod, that's so 80s!" Culture exists, not within artifacts themselves, but in our minds as we interpret them. That's not to say culture exists within individual minds. The whole point is that everyone who takes part in the culture or subculture has the same reaction. Culture is both mental and collective.

    This is where neural reductionism becomes incompatible with the study of culture. Brains come in discrete units. If minds are really just brains, then a collective unconscious would require a collective brain. But a brain is only one perspective onto a two-sided phenomenon. What is brain from the outside is consciousness from the inside. The underlying reality is mind. Unlike brains and consciousness, mind need not be individual and discrete. Yes, we have individual minds, but these minds can be regarded as
    *individuations* of collective mentality. Rather than six billion buckets of water, we have six billion waves rising and falling on a single ocean.

    Just as a meme cannot exist in a brain (which would endow brains with nonmaterial properties), they cannot exist in individual minds. What exists in a mind is an idea or a propensity to interpret something one way and not another. It's a meme only insofar as other people in a given culture happen to share the same propensity. Only in the context of other minds is a meme a meme and not simply an idea. The meme itself exists only in the collective unconscious. An archetype is an old meme. A horror of 80s-style leather jackets is a new meme. Scientific paradigms exist somewhere in the middle. Tens of thousdands of years from now, a scientific paradigm could be an archetype, but for now science just hasn't been around long enough to achieve archetypal status.

    > Archetypes OTOH are shared by inheritance, but by
    > what mode? There's the rub.

    Archetypes are inherited via the collective unconscious. There's no point arguing that minds are integral to the functioning of brains but nothing else. If brains need minds to take form and operate, then so do hearts and spleens and lymph nodes. A heart or a five-fingered hand is an archetype of the body as "mother" or "wise old man" is an archetype of the psyche. While DNA serves to distinguish one individual from another (such as blue eyes instead of green), the actual source of bodily form (as in the structure of the eye) is the collective memory of the species. I know it's difficult to make the jump from a collective pool of mental forms to a collective pool of bodily forms, but it's the only way to preserve the concept. It's all or nothing. Mind, both collective and individual, is either essential to all living forms-- intestines as much as brains-- or it's a completely useless, archaic notion. The only alternative to a thorough-going reductionism is a thorough-going holism. Either it's all reducible to DNA, or it's all an expression of the "phylogenetic psyche." There's no gray area.


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