Re: Durkeim's take on the categories

From: Scott Chase (
Date: Tue 17 Feb 2004 - 01:49:49 GMT

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    >From: John Wilkins <>
    >Subject: Re: Durkeim's take on the categories
    >Date: Tue, 17 Feb 2004 09:19:03 +1100
    >On Tuesday, February 17, 2004, at 05:42 AM, Scott Chase wrote:
    >>>It is my understanding that this view, that the Kantian synthetic a
    >>>prioria are the evolutionary post hoc traits of cognition, was first
    >>>proposed (in a Nazi journal!) by Konrad Lorenz in 1941.
    >>Yipes! Are you trying to set a Godwin's law record? One reply into the
    >>thread even...
    >No, and the location of the idea does not poison it, either.
    I suppose denigrating this view because of where it's located would be a textbook instance of the genetic fallacy (I wonder how many people herewill get hung up on the name of that fallacy by equating "genetic" with DNA...).
    >But it does pay to recall that Lorenz proposed it first, and that he was a
    >Nazi sympathiser. Both are true and we should not try to hide unpleasant
    Fully agreed.

    BTW, in my quest for a reputable article that compares "collective representations" and "memes" I managed to find the following:

    Gatewood JB. 2000. Distributional instability and the units of culture. Ethnology (39):293

    This gist of this paper is summed up as follows (quoting the author): (bq)
    "The essay suggests that the quest for natural units of culture is a doomed undertaking...On the other hand, various methods of data elicitation can produce replicable and superficially discrete results, which gives some hope for the possibility of a methodological pariculatism...My conclusion is that human culture is not really particulate. Thus, while methodological particulatism enables making some headway in the short term, eventually we will need to develop nontypological, nondiscrete modes of describing cultural phenomena." (eq)

    Gatewood mentions collective representations (*sensu* Durkheim) and memes
    (*sensu* Wilkins...yes that's right) in separate footnotes to the article. Not a whole lot to go on for explicit connections between collective representations and memes in this article that I can see. In one footnote he says: (bq) "The notion of functional or systematic patterns foreshadowed modern conceptions of "memes", for which some selective process must act to define the units (Wilkins 1998:10)" (eq). Previous to this allusion to foreshadowing of memetics, he pops the names Wissler, Goldenweiser, and Kroeber. Maybe they are the foreshadowers.

    He cites for memes:

    Wilkins JS. 1998. What's in a meme? Reflections from the perspective of the history and philosophy of evolutionary biology. Journal of Memetics--Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission 2>

    Also during the course of the article he takes issue with the notion of replication. In a footnote he uses Coca-Cola as an apt example. Yes, as a product this beverage is well replicated, within reason, but Gatewood points out the meaning of Coke has been in flux. He says: (bq)"Originally associated with home-remedy health care, it gradually became a purely recreational beverage, and more recently a symbol of cultural imperialism as well as unhealthy lifestyle."(eq) Does this bode well for the tenet of replication?

    Of course the brand Coke used to have something in common with the other coke didn't it? Removal of certain coca ingredients would not result a true product replication at some point in the products evolution I suppose. And let's not forget the innovations of Caffeine-Free Coke, Diet Coke and Cherry Coke, which have varied the product quite a bit after the cocaine got nixed.

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