Re: Durkheim redux

From: Kate Distin (
Date: Mon 11 Apr 2005 - 18:42:42 GMT

  • Next message: Scott Chase: "Re: New Memes Book"

    Chris Taylor wrote:
    >>> 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...
    > Yaaay that's what I'm about! Government does not require the existence
    > of anything but the same humans that chipped flint -- it emerges as the
    > information encoded in the system increases, and simultaneously other
    > features of the environment like persistence (archives) and connectivity
    > (measured as internode length or whatever) change (similar to going from
    > several small biomes [=reserves or whetever] to one large equal area
    > biome).
    >> Don't get me wrong, I'm on your side, but I'm trying
    >> to anticipate arguments from hardcore meme machinists.
    > Oh. Ahem. In 'my' defence there is no 'me' as such...
    >> 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?
    > The appearant sensation of linear, rational consciousness is extremely
    > deceptive and is full of holes but you have to look sideways to see
    > them; for example the apparent persistence of the first second on any
    > watch with a second hand that you begin to look at -- this is because,
    > apparently in defiance of the arrow of time, your brain has filled in
    > the saccade time for your eyes with the image of that which they could
    > not yet see, then presented this as somehow plausible to your
    > consciousness. The key is that of course we are _so_ far removed from
    > reality in terms of whateverthebloodyhell 'we' are (and I _do_ want to
    > know that before I die) that any niggly book-keeping about something so
    > subjective as time is farcical. cf. waking from dreams with a plot that
    > redefines 'juxtaposed' and 'tangential'; again this is just a paper thin
    > attempt by your newly waking mind to rationalise whatever thoughts are
    > hanging around like stragglers at a party. Dreams are not so mysterious.
    > The design of the consciousness-generating machine seems to be try to
    > force things into a linear pattern for the one-body host; in dreams
    > though we unleash the full power of our brains to explore the space
    > between the existing creatures. Sleep on it...
    > Epilogue: Story from a 'Brains Are Funny Aren't They' book I read (god
    > knows, don't ask). Guy (in a hypnotist's stage show iirc) is put in a
    > state and told to get a flower pot and wrap it in a blanket, near (I
    > think) some sort of fake hearth. He is then brought around and
    > challenged to explain his behaviour. His explanation is that 'the flower
    > pot was cold'. This is related to notions of relative fitness; when
    > everything else fails, whatever remains has to be the plan, cos you
    > _have_ to have a plan.

    But none of this implies that the mind is just a memeplex. Of course the brain is complex, and has evolved gradually over time to make sense of the environment and its sensory input - and there's lots of fascinating evidence to show how it fills in the gaps without us realising what's going on. You don't have to be a Cartesian Dualist, or even an over-simplicist, in order to believe in an independent mind.

    But the fact that our brain is limited in scope and capacity, so that at times (probably all the time) we proceed on the basis of false information, which we can't avoid because it's the result of genetically programmed types of interpretation, doesn't mean that there is no real mind at all. It just means that our minds are limited by their genetic hardware. No need to halt the presses for that news. You wouldn't deny that we have nerves which give our brains information about what's touching our bodies, just because lots of that information's quite limited (e.g. the *weird* experience of guessing how many fingers somebody's using to touch your back at any one time - when you can't discern whether it's one, two, three or more because your back doesn't have that sort of detailed sensation). So why deny that there's really a mind just because it too is limited by its biology?

    None of this tells us anything about the relationship between memes and the mind, so far as I can tell.


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