Re: Durkheim redux

From: Chris Taylor (
Date: Fri 15 Apr 2005 - 00:02:11 GMT

  • Next message: Bill Spight: "Re: Durkheim redux"


    >> ish...
    >> What I'm driving at is that the 'culture' we grow in isn't just the
    >> actions people perform in front of us. All that is in our heads
    >> (ignoring some basic pattern recognition wired up to our midbrains
    >> (faces seems to be one) comes either from copying (explicitly or
    >> through some internal model generation) or is 'inspired' by the
    >> environment in the widest sense. Therefore without stimuli we are
    >> literally nothing (except the experience of existing will create some
    >> stuff).
    >> Culture is not meaningless, it is key (in the wider sense as I have
    >> tried to define it above). What is meaningless is to draw a ring
    >> around some portion of that which we experience in the world and say
    >> that _that_ 'is' culture (i.e. to stop at culture as usually defined).
    >> I admit I'm stretching what most people would understand by the term,
    >> by making it synonmous with the environment in full. I'm not
    >> tremendously bothered what camp this puts me in tbh.
    >> (Nearly) all that is in me came in from outside, through my senses.
    >> Cheers, Chris.
    > Yes - I like your boundary-pushing here. It raised a couple of
    > questions for me. First, when you say that "nearly all" that's in you
    > came from the outside, would you also say that nevertheless *you* have
    > responded in an individual way to that input - in a different way, say,
    > from how another individual in that same environment might have done

    Nah. As far as I am concerned it's a (qualified) tabula rasa. Of course once there's stuff in there and that stuff starts to act as an ensemble then 'unique me' exists and starts to react to stuff.

    The qualifiers: Firstly, I learn from my physical self; strictly speaking this is external to my mind and so no different to the rest of the environment, but others may see my body as part of me so I mention it. Secondly; there are as I mentioned some hard-wired thingies lurking about -- responding to faces does seem to be one of them. Finally I think that being as it is the result of an extremely complex, yet essentially ballistic developmental program there is all sorts of room for variation in the structural quality of the brain (variability in myelination [G- or E-based], variation in alleles for synaptic machinery, variation in other aspects of structure, probably stochastic variations in interconnections also in some sense); I'd strongly link all this to autism also (especially the savant angle).

    > This is a bit of a tangle, of course, because from the moment of
    > conception you have had environmental input, all of which has cascaded
    > forwards to influence your responses to future environmental input - but
    > is there, for you, an essential "you" that also has its input into your
    > responses?

    Nope. All there is is machinery to facilitate our sort of 'mental ecology' coming about, including some sort of consicousness-generating /
    / linearising thingy (I'd love some thoughts on that, as it is one of the many brain-specific things, not in other similar systems; kind of like having 'species assemblage of the month' at an ecoweb near you).

    > Secondly, I think you're right about the unacknowledged haze over the
    > culture/environment boundary. Again, is this perhaps the result of
    > man's history - I mean that the English countryside, for instance, is
    > the product of generations of farmers, builders, etc, whose influence
    > cascades over us even when we don't know it. So when we react even to a
    > rural idyll we are really being influenced by the products of human
    > culture as well as by nature. But are we nonetheless carving reality at
    > its joints if we distinguish the natural from the man-made - even if we
    > can't always see clearly where the line should be drawn?

    I just think that although there is a difference between a purely natural feature of the world and a human-manufactured one (btw if a chimp made art is that allowed to be culture rather than environment under the strict definition..?) that this is like trying to draw the line as to what we allow to be 'alive' (take any definition you want, the only one that works just talks about information and I think was Shannon). To illustrate that; a human is alive, is a bacterium? A virus? A prion? A manufactured poisonous protein that looked a hell of a lot like a prion? Truth is 'alive' is not a useful classification and life is not a meaningful concept. _Nothing_ is alive because alive doesn't actually mean anything. We are just _very_ flashy molecules affected by our environment. What else could there be?

    Of course that still doesn't explain why it _feels like this_. I'll probably hear the answer to that one in the afterlife I don't believe in
    (but will be very chuffed to find myself part of).

    Cheers, Chris.

      Chris Taylor (
      HUPO PSI: GPS --

    =============================================================== This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing) see:

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Fri 15 Apr 2005 - 00:19:43 GMT