Re: reading a book

From: Kate Distin (
Date: Mon 25 Apr 2005 - 17:44:06 GMT

  • Next message: Bill Spight: "Re: reading a book"

    Bill Spight wrote:
    > Dear Kate,
    >> So (continuing from my answer above) animals obviously are able to
    >> copy each other's behaviour - to engage in a some kind of
    >> transmission of cultural information - but what I mean by "primitive
    >> replicators" is that they are limited to exchanging simple,
    >> context-bound representations and do not have access to the abstract
    >> complexities that abound in human culture as a result of our
    >> meta-representational abilities.
    > Two things. First, and most important, why should memes be context free?
    > Second, human knowledge and cognition is not as context free as it may
    > appear. For instance, the Wason task defeats most subjects in its formal
    > "context free" form, using cards with letters and numbers on them, but
    > is easy in its detect social cheating form, even when the kind of social
    > cheating is unfamiliar. In Piagetian terms, almost everybody masters
    > concrete operations, but not everybody masters formal operations. In
    > fact, most people seem to have trouble with them.
    > Best,
    > Bill

    When I stress the importance of humans' ability to free information from its original context, I don't mean that memes should be "context free" in the sense of "independent of *any* context". As you say, it's from context that information often derives much of its meaning - and certainly it's context that gives us clues about appropriate behaviour based on that meaning.

    What I see as significant is our ability to move information between contexts - to choose how and in what medium it should be represented. It is this which has enabled human culture to develop such breadth and depth. Unlike genes, which have just one medium and system of representation (RS), in culture not only the information itself has evolved but also its RSs and media.


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