Re: Lorenz on the "mneme"

From: John S. Wilkins (
Date: Mon 04 Apr 2005 - 02:40:54 GMT

  • Next message: Scott Chase: "Re: Lorenz on the "mneme""

    Scott Chase wrote:

    >I found this little aside by Lorenz most interesting,
    >given that, despite his dark National Socialism
    >related past, he reached the prominence as an
    >ethologist to get a Nobel Prize. Lorenz was talking
    >about learning and memory when he wrote during his
    >stint in a Russian POW camp (p. 163):
    >[KL] "In an objective sense, a "mneme"- a memory of
    >what has happened previously- is already present
    >wherever the behavior of an organism is influenced *by
    >what it has just done*." [KL]
    >I wonder how Lorenz had been introduced to the concept
    >of "mneme" (the "mneme" meme)?. I see no apparent
    >reference to Semon nor is Semon's work in the
    >Here we see an ethologist using the term "mneme". I'm
    >not sure how often this word was used in ethological
    >circles. Dawkins himself emerged from the ethological
    >scene, so this could be an interesting thing to
    >ponder. If its ethological use was confined to
    >Lorenz's Russian Manuscript then it was lost until
    >unearthed in 1990.
    Dawkins' advisor was Niko Tinbergen, who was a very good friend of Lorenz's:

    And Semon's views were widely read and discussed in the period before the war, as you would know. His term "engramm" was adopted pretty widely. So I suspect you have uncovered a direct link, a smoking gun, in the conneciton from Semon to Dawkins. [from 1927]

    >Konrad Lorenz. 1996. The Natural Science of the Human
    >Species. The MIT Press. Cambridge, Massachusetts
    >for more on Lorenz's controversial past:
    >Franz de Waal. 2001. The Ape and the Sushi Master.
    >Basic Books. New York
    >Ute Deichmann. 1996. Biologists Under Hitler. Harvard
    >University Press. Cambridge, Massachusetts

    John S. Wilkins
    Postdoctoral Research Fellow
    Biohumanities Project
    School of History, Philosophy, Religion and Classics
    The University of Queensland
    Brisbane, QLD 4072, Australia
    Tel +61 7 3365 6348
    Mobile 0418 543 856
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