Re: RS

From: Dace (
Date: Tue 09 May 2006 - 21:19:45 GMT

  • Next message: Derek Gatherer: "Re: RS"

    Kate writes:

    > >> I'm not convinced that baseball rules do constitute an RS.
    > >>
    > >
    > > Nor am I claiming they do. The RS in question is natural language.
    > > via language that the rules of baseball are expressed. I agree with
    > > thesis, as expressed in *The Selfish Meme* (Distin, CUP, 2005) that
    > > exist only in the context of an RS. But the fundamental RS is not
    > > or musical or mathematical notation, etc., but conceptual thought
    > >
    > I don't think that there is a 'fundamental' RS. I think that all of
    > them have equal status (although natural languages are easily the most
    > flexible).
    > > It's because we share a conceptual RS
    > Presumably you mean some sort of Fodorian 'mentalese'? I'm not
    > convinced by Fodor on this one (or perhaps haven't read enough of him,
    > recently enough, to have been convinced yet).

    As I argued vociferously in my philosophy of mind class in college, if the brain had its own language, then we would need a translator in order to carry out our thoughts. Mentalese follows from the notion that the brain contains information that represents the world and ideas. Surely the brain doesn't encode its information in English. Hence the need for a translator between brain and consciousness.

    This is the sort of absurdity that pops up when thought is located in the brain, as if we inhabit the folds of the cerebrum rather than the outer locales of our actual lives. The brain doesn't think about the world but merely enables us to think about it. In the course of reflecting on the world of people, places and things, we develop a means of conceptualizing this material, as reflected in our natural languages. The RS of language merely expresses the internal RS of conceptual thought. As Chomsky shows, this universal RS includes complex grammar.

    > > that the baseball meme can be imparted
    > > by watching baseball games and reflecting on what we're seeing rather
    > > consulting a rulebook that imparts the meme on the basis of the RS of
    > > natural language.
    > When we watch games and infer the rules by reflecting on what we're
    > seeing, I don't think that the baseball meme *is* being imparted.
    > Rather than being replicated, we're re-inventing it for ourselves, the
    > basis of knowledge that we bring to the situation.

    It's precisely by reconstructing the rules of baseball that the individual enables the baseball meme to be replicated.

    > > So long as musician and listener share roughly the same
    > > aesthetic RS, the meme for a tune can can come across just as easily by
    > > hearing it as reading a score.
    > Again - I think that the tune itself can come across either way, but the
    > information underlying it (was that note a B flat or an A sharp? Is the
    > music written in 3/4 time or 6/8 time? etc.) does not come across unless
    > you have the music in front of you.

    When you listen to music, the meme that comes across carries the tune. When you read the score, the meme that comes across carries abstract information enabling easy reproduction of the tune. It's just a difference in the type of meme that comes across. Either way, the meme is reconstructed on the basis of an RS, one of them aesthetic, the other conceptual.

    > You can reconstruct it for yourself
    > by listening, but that isn't the same thing as replication.

    Where the meme is the tune, it's the other way round. When you read the score, you must reconstruct it. When you hear it played, it simply replicates in your mind.

    > > Physics is about
    > > matter and energy. When you claim that the words exist on the page,
    > > saying these are elements of the physical world, that physics includes
    > > "word" and "representation" as quantifiable concepts. Certainly, this
    > > not any kind of physics that Galileo, Newton or Einstein would have
    > > recognized.
    > Physics is one level of description for any natural phenomenon. There
    > are others, equally valid and in some contexts more useful: e.g.
    > biology, chemistry, psychology. Physics is about not only matter and
    > energy, but also the arrangements of matter and energy, interactions
    > between them, etc.

    All the arrangements of matter in the world will never yield representation. However you stack the atoms, A still equals A, not B.

    > > Rather than
    > > literally conveying the information, the arrangement of ink merely
    > > facilitates its reproduction from one mind to another. At no point is
    > > information physical. At no point does it materialize in the form of an
    > > artifact, such as a book of rules or a musical score, in its passage
    > > mind to mind. Yet the information still gets across.
    > Ok - I think that here you've crystallized our fundamental difference of
    > opinion. I accept that genuine replication happens in culture, and you
    > (in common with many others, it must be said) do not.

    I see reconstruction as a genuine, if inexact, form of replication. Only in physics does replication imply exactitude. Vagueness is an essential characteristic of mentality and therefore unavoidable in memetic transmission.

    > I agree with your interpretation (below) of what's going on when
    > watching a game or listening to a piece of music; but I think that there
    > is something fundamentally different going on when we get our cultural
    > information via RSs. I think that then there is genuine replication
    > going on.

    The problem with this view is that the meme for a piece of music comes across when reading the score but not when listening to it played. It's just not convincing. Clearly, a theory of memetics should explain how the meme gets across either way. So too, a theory of memetics that replaces consciousness with a memeplex is unconvincing. After all, consciousness is self-evident. A theory of memetics that finds memes in the minds of birds is also unconvincing, as it attempts to explain phenomena that can already be handled from a strictly biological standpoint. If memetics is redundant when it comes to birds, why not humans as well? By emphasizing the RS, you establish both a role for reflective consciousness, from which RSs emerge, and a boundary between memetics and biology. For this reason, The Selfish Meme is essential reading, particularly for those who've been led astray by Dennett and Blackmore.

    I think you've taken two steps forward, but in materializing the RS, you've taken one step back. Such is life!


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