Re: Durkheim redux

From: Scott Chase (
Date: Sun 10 Apr 2005 - 19:01:14 GMT

  • Next message: Chris Taylor: "Re: Durkheim redux"

    --- Kate Distin <> wrote:

    > Scott Chase wrote:
    > >
    > >
    > > 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.
    > >
    > >
    > Right - you need to be able to reflect on it and
    > think about your
    > thoughts - or in other words to meta-represent your
    > mental
    > representations. I don't mean to be too evangelical
    > about this (ok,
    > maybe I do: book sales are at a very early stage
    > after all!) but I do
    > enjoy the fact that this aspect of memetics ties in
    > so well with what
    > I've learned with my other hat on, as a former
    > counsellor to gifted
    > children and their families.
    > What I mean is this. I've suggested that memes are
    > a certain type of
    > representation. In particular, humans are
    > distinguished by our ability
    > to meta-represent, or in other words to represent
    > our representations:
    > to think about and reflect on how they are
    > represented, and to change
    > the representational system if necessary. So we can
    > talk about the fact
    > that numbers can be represented via roman numeral,
    > arabic
    > place-convention, spoken languages, etc. and ask
    > questions about which
    > system is the most useful for a given purpose. When
    > we do this we are
    > talking about (representing) not only the
    > information contained in those
    > systems, but also the systems themselves.
    > Meta-representing.
    > If this is the case - that meta-representation is
    > one of human beings'
    > unique characteristics - then we should be able to
    > see evidence for
    > variation in this tendency, and I believe that in
    > the minds of gifted
    > individuals this is exactly what we can observe: a
    > greater tendency,
    > ability, whatever you want to call it, to
    > meta-represent. Gifted
    > children and adults are noted for their ability to
    > reflect on
    > information presented to them, to ask questions
    > about it, to make
    > connections that others have not seen. (Indeed they
    > are sometimes
    > tormented by an inability *not* to do this.)
    > This also ties in with Chris's point about the
    > source of novelty, which
    > I'd agree (contra Blackmore, Dennett, etc.) lies in
    > the human mind.
    > Thought experiments, the recombination of ideas, are
    > all enhanced by an
    > ability to reflect on the way in which information
    > is represented, as
    > well as on the information itself. Innovation is
    > almost bound to be
    > nourished by this tendency.
    > Just climbing down from my hobby-horse now . . .
    Yet what about the so-called "benign user illusion" or the notion that "self" is but a memeplex? All this metarepresentation you talk about could be reduced to memetic activity and "we" would thus be taken out of the picture, the pseudo-homunculi "we" are...

    Don't get me wrong, I'm on your side, but I'm trying to anticipate arguments from hardcore meme machinists. But in doing so aren't I exercising some freedom of thought beyond the constraints of whatever stuff is floating in my head thanks to Blackmore and Dennett? Are my memory fragments pulling my strings or am I the executive in charge here?

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