Re: Review of The Selfish Meme

From: Kenneth Van Oost (
Date: Wed 06 Jul 2005 - 18:44:59 GMT

  • Next message: Kate Distin: "Re: Review of The Selfish Meme"

    ----- Original Message ----- From: Kate Distin <>

    > > Kate wrote,
    > > There are several different issues here. First there are questions of
    > truth: if truth is roughly-speaking a mapping to reality, and you're
    > claiming that this is never possible, then there's a kind of circular
    > argument going on which undermines itself - because if we can never
    > attain the truth then how can we know that the statement "we can never
    > attain the truth" is true? This taps into a vast philosophical debate
    > about the nature of truth, of course . . . thankfully rather off-topic.
    > Secondly, there's the question what precisely we are meant to be trying
    > to say, which language can't quite manage. Are you claiming that our
    > "real" thoughts are in some sort of mentalese, to which natural
    > languages only approximate? In which case again I'm getting the
    > sensation of being on thin ice over deep philosophical waters (off-topic
    > also I'm hoping).

    <<< Yes, oh so true (sic), we' re getting too deep into philosophical arguments if we keep followin ' this road, but yes I do think that language can only approximate what we claim to be the real truth of what we' re saying. But not only of what we want to express vocally_ there are times we ain 't got the proper words to express what we feel:- getting older can for some be a very painful experience. Loosing your children, the loss of social/ economical status; the physical/ psychological distress; the sense of knowing death awaits; the loss of friends and of those close to you- are part of a normal/ natural process, but how will you express all of these deep emotional discourses !? With words !? Into language !? What words, which language can/ will be sufficient to say what you really feel on the day your son/ daughter leaves home to start a life of his/ her own !?

    You can say it with so many words possible, in such a way that all its very understandable for the ones close to you, but is it the truth, the whole tru th and nothing but the truth !? Is what you said, in the real sense, that exactly what you wanted to express !? I doubt that !

    The notion that inevitable you can 't say what you exactly wanted to express, leads in the end to a kind of depressive- like- suffering, a lonely place where we all end up someday, or have been in the past. What you wrote in your book, made sense to you and although it did too for all of us, we' re all left with questions; we interpretate, represent things where in the first place ( your place) there was no need to. Ain 't you getting ' sick', frustrated of all of my off- topic or not questions, ain 't you getting a little bit deprest realizing that the words you used aren 't making the intented sense to me or to one other !? That is what I claim language can 't manage !

    Words have such power that if someone masters language an alternative construction of experiences can that be convincing as the event itself. We can only reflect on our experience with linguistic tools_ we can only
    ' think ' about what we experience with the help of words_ and in such a way that we become victims of our own mastering of language. It can seem that we ( you) tell everything what can be told, that what we tell ourselves about reality IS the reality !!

    > I share your sense that when somebody tells us something they can only
    > possibly give us their own idiosyncratic version of events or theories,
    > and that when we absorb that information and re-express it for ourselves
    > there is an inevitble risk of distortion. Siblings' recollections of
    > shared childhood events can be startlingly diverse and even
    > contradictory. But this isn't about language failing to capture
    > meaning, is it? Rather, it seems to me that it's about the limits on
    > memory, and how we as individuals always filter experiences through our
    > own self-interest, prejudices and limited powers of understanding and
    > empathy.

    <<< Language doesn 't fail to capture meaning no, it doesn ' can 't capture enough ! The word ' hurt ' like in your example, can 't convey what you think my kid did to yours and can 't convey the meaning/ consequentions to and for me ! Memory have nothing to do with this, memory just works well if we want to recall/ represent what hurting a kid means for both parties involved. Interesting would be to look into something like a meme- act; following Austins speech- acts, and try to figure out why you and I filter different things out regarding the hurting of your kid. That is where ' the meme ' is, IMO !!



    =============================================================== 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 : Wed 06 Jul 2005 - 19:04:32 GMT