Re: Kate's book/ "recessive memes"

From: Kate Distin (
Date: Sat 26 Mar 2005 - 11:41:33 GMT

  • Next message: Bill Spight: "Re: Kate's book/ "recessive memes""

    Scott Chase wrote:

    >--- Scott Chase <> wrote:
    >>--- Bill Spight <> wrote:
    >(snip for brevity)
    >>>Is the belief that the earth is flat a meme? In
    >>>modern times, I suppose
    >>>so, but what about in the pre-Columbian Great
    >>>of North America?
    >>>Among land-locked peoples the earth is apparently
    >>>flat, and if people
    >>>were not taught otherwise, that belief was
    >>>widespread without cultural
    >>Good point. One might look at the belief as a meme
    >>it takes one person in a group (say Great Plains
    >>natives) to point it out to another person and that
    >>person would say "Now why haven't I ever thought
    >>that before? Doh!" But, I think what you say is
    >>important in that many people can converge upon the
    >>same idea just because of shared external
    >>The earth looks kinda flat to me from my view out my
    >>window. If I lived on the beeach and could stare at
    >>the horizon for extended periods of time I might say
    >>"Hmmm...looks sort of curved...I wonder." When I
    >>present my findings to my village they pelt me with
    >>rocks and tell me to go live with the squirrels.
    >I had forgotten that Kate made a contrast between
    >beliefs and memes in her book where she is critical of
    >Blackmore's arguments. She says (p. 169): "[B]eliefs
    >are not memes, but *responses* to memes." So in this
    >sense a belief would be a way of one looking at the
    >idea that the earth is flat. They could say "I
    >believe" or "I don't believe". There would be a flat
    >earth meme that, if it wasn't merely independently
    >converged upon by a group of people, could be passed
    >from person to person. Each person could decide
    >whether to believe the meme. Even if they don't
    >believe, they could still pass it on and the person
    >they tranmit it to could say: "I believe that."
    >Is contrasting beliefs and memes splitting hairs? Kate
    >addresses this distinction in the context of
    >distinguishing her views from Blackmore's so there's
    >lots more than I can convey comfortably. Maybe she can

    Yes - I'd intended to raise this, too. As Bill says in his reply, the meme is the propositional content of the statement, and we can have various "propositional attitudes", as philosophers put it, towards that content. We can believe it, disbelieve it, hope it, fear it, etc. It seems to me that when Blackmore and other writers fail to distinguish between memes and beliefs/other attitudes towards memes, they are begging the question in favour of their view that there's no distinction between memes and the mind. Whereas if memes are essentially information then of course they are things that minds deal with, not all that there is to a mind.


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