Re: Sticky Memes

From: Kate Distin (
Date: Tue 24 Jan 2006 - 18:43:52 GMT

  • Next message: Kate Distin: "Re: Sticky Memes"

    Chris Taylor wrote:

    >> As a slight aside, this is one of the key reasons why I don't go for
    >> the mind-as-a-memeplex view. Philosophers talk about "propositional
    >> attitudes" - i.e. the fact that we can take a variety of different
    >> attitudes to any given proposition: we can
    >> wish/fear/believe/disbelieve that "it's going to rain today" or "the
    >> earth is flat" or whatever. We respond to incoming memes - we are not
    >> identical with them.
    > This is not incompatible, in fact the memes-only thing provides the most
    > compact explanation. The diversity of responses is purely a result of
    > the diversity of memes in there, and the difference between awareness
    > and acceptance relates to previous discussions about having the 'same'
    > idea.

    I don't think it can be *purely* a result of the diversity of existing memes, or how could this account explain what goes on in newborn (or, going back in time, newly evolving) brains which have not yet got any memes? And where would memes have come from in the first place?

    A more likely explanation, for my money, is that the human brain has a certain innate potential, which can vary like any other innate potential
    (e.g. height) and develops as a result of interaction with incoming memes. Kind of like a muscle, which develops with exercise. Obviously I'd agree with you that as we acquire more and more memes, our existing stock must influence our reaction to incomers; but I think it's also important to acknowledge the influence of our innate mental capacities - which will vary from person to person. And once you do this, there's a gap between people and their memes.

    To put this in non-memetic terms, would you say that we are purely cultural creatures? Blank slate at birth? That *seems* to be implied by what you're saying (possibly only to me!). What, though, of genetically-related people who meet late in life and discover many freakish similarities in personality and habit?


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