Re: Durkheim redux

From: Scott Chase (
Date: Sat 09 Apr 2005 - 22:53:42 GMT

  • Next message: Scott Chase: "Re: Durkheim redux"

    --- Chris Taylor <> wrote:

    > Something that may throw light on this, and which,
    > by luck is
    > semi-germane, is the source of novelty; which is
    > mostly the
    > thought-experiment-remixing of existing ideas' bits,
    > plus error (which
    > is rarely a good thing). That is very much something
    > that only happens
    > in minds really. Which as I say throws a small light
    > on some of the
    > kinds of mechanisms we need to think about.
    Blackmore is most lucid in her "The Meme's Eye View" contribution to _Darwinizng Culture_ when she hits on this "creative recombination" versus "degradation" thingy. This is sorta turning into a hobby horse for me now, if you recall my recent exchange with Wilkins.

    I'm not super partisan on the imitation warfront, but I think it was Richerson and Boyd in _Not By Genes Alone_ (back at library no longer have it handy) that pointed out that relying too much on imitation could cause trouble when the environment shifts. If everybody is imitating too much, who are the innovators that get the population back on track and is the innovator gonna like having the imitators riding coat tails? Maybe some people innovate in some circumstances and imitate in others so there's a mutual backscratch dynamic going on.

    So called meme fountains need to imitate stuff that's gonna satisfice on the exaptive landscape or the population's gonna fall off a cliff into the hated maladapted vortex land. From where do the good ideas come that keep them on track? Yet are bad ideas and blind imitation as bad as one would assume from a heavily adaptationist POV? People made it through the Dark Ages I suppose. After several Republican presidents the US hasn't gone the way of the Roman Empire yet.

    If it's asked how many teeth are in a horse's mouth who's going to actually bother to look in the horse's mouth versus the scholastics who consulted Galen instead (interesting story from Kent and Miller
    _Comparative Anatomy of the Vertebrates_ 8th edition, p,. 20).

    Learning from observing one's environment is important. Taking the word of others (via imitation) can get you in trouble. But, as Popper noted, we can't take the bucket head approach. If one is going to observe they've got predispositions that will influence what parts of their surroundings they concentrate upon and these neo-Kantian schema could be factory presets (sensu Lorenz) and/or aftermarket additions (sensu Durkheim).

    Regardless of whether your notions of what to expect derive from innate schemes or memes, it's gonna take some personal gumption and elbow grease to get yourself over the hump. You gotta know how to use what you got. You may have gotten it from imitating others or from making personal observations, but without initiative it ain't goona amount to a hill of beans. Crap, now I'm sounding like a motivational speaker :-(

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