Re: reading a book

From: Kate Distin (
Date: Tue 26 Apr 2005 - 13:07:44 GMT

  • Next message: Chris Taylor: "Re: reading a book"

    Chris Taylor wrote:

    > Okay so this is linked to my vague point about imagination: Is it simply
    > the case that this ability to recontextualise a pattern, and to exploit
    > serendipitous accidents (either in the world, or internally) is much
    > more advanced in us, but no different in kind; or is there more?
    > Is it the ability to deconstruct and recombine disparate parts that is
    > the key (fish genes in tomato iyswim), or can 'lower' forms do that too,
    > but again to a less advanced (=speedy?) degree?
    > Maybe we can think of 'living' ~memes as 'beginning' in a similar way to
    > the kinds of piggybacking genetic elements that exploit the copying
    > machinery of the nucleus (something that is still really poorly
    > understood actually, as we can't really get stuck in until we know how
    > genomes work). For instance a simple one Keith touched on is bird song
    > -- for some passerines, the more songs you know, the better
    > (reproductively speaking). This is I'd assume an indicator that (1) your
    > brain works better than okay, which is a good telltale for genetic
    > fitness and (2) you are a cluey lil' bugger that has lived long enough
    > to pick up lots of tunes (and other behaviours?). But what of the songs
    > themselves? They are alive by a Shannon/Bianchi+Hamann-style definition...
    > Cheers, Chris.

    I have two separate (and slightly conflicting) intuitions about this. The first is that the apparent continuum between human and non-human culture implies to me that the specifically human abilities are more advanced rather than very different in kind.

    But on the other hand there *does* appear to me to be a difference in kind: the metarepresentational instinct is not apparent in any other species. I've suggested that it emerged on the back of the language instinct - although it ironically freed us from being tied only to natural languages, enabling us also to construct alternative representational systems (of written notation, etc.).


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