Re: RS

From: Dace (
Date: Sun 21 May 2006 - 01:21:41 GMT

  • Next message: Dace: "Re: presentation"

    Chris writes:

    > Memes are not real. Species are not real. Even genes are not
    > really real tbh. If there are exceptions to a concept, then it
    > is flawed unless it is understood from the outset that it is a
    > convenient 'model' or approximation, for the purpose of analysis.

    It depends whether or not the form of an object is intrinsic to it. For atoms and organisms, the form is intrinsic. For dust and machinery, it's either random agglomeration or externally imposed shape. So for instance, with a car we could say the tires aren't really part of the car but just an intermediary between it and the road. If this is a more convenient way of thinking about driving, we are free to go this route. But we can't say feet are just intermediaries between people and the ground because the form of a person is intrinsic, and that form includes feet. Memetics isn't a mere convenience, a handy tool for organizing the unwieldy material of culture and mind. Memes are real whether we have the concept of meme or not. In fact, that's the whole point of memetics, that our ideas think us as much as we think them. All sorts of ideas, benevolent and malignant, have taken on a life of their own since being hatched from the human psyche. So why not the idea of meme?

    Kate writes:

    > > Because we traditionally
    > > associate information with representation, we assume that physical
    > > information contains representation as well. The physical existence of
    > > representation never has to be demonstrated, instead being smuggled in
    > > through the back door. This isn't so much science as a trick of the
    > >
    > . . . but I don't see why the physics-level description must always
    > trump all others. So long as the letters exist on a page or screen, and
    > there are people who can understand them, why doesn't it make sense to
    > say that these letters represent information?

    It makes perfect sense, which is why we do indeed say it that way all the time. Language is about acting on the world more than understanding it. We say "words on the page" because it's easier than "bits of ink stamped onto processed wood pulp," which is still inadequate since it's really just a bunch of particles in quantum states. But then calculating and expressing the equations for the arrangement of particle/waves is a bit tricky, so we just stick with the "words on the page" routine instead. Problem is, our view of reality tends to reflect the pragmatic necessities of speech.

    > Of course they lose that
    > meaning when there are no human minds to interact with them, but that
    > doesn't mean that they are 'meaningless' in the sense that an
    > undiscovered boulder is meaningless.

    The written word stimulates meaning in the mind of the reader insofar as the writer has stamped the correct material configuration onto the page. Because its form is not intrinsic to it, a word on a page has more in common with a rock on a mountain than a word in the mind.

    > >> when I hum a note, e.g. middle C, it does not feel intuitively as if I
    > >> am representing information /about/ middle C. It feels like what I'm
    > >> humming simply /is/ Middle C.
    > >
    > > Yes, because music is not a representational system but an aesthetic
    > > While a piece of music can represent many things, such as beauty or "the
    > > cool" or any number of emotions, that's not really the point. It's not
    what a
    > > a song means but where it belongs in our aesthetic system that's
    > > What makes a set of sounds "music" is that it functions in the context
    of an
    > > AS, just as what makes another set of sounds "words" is how it functions
    > > the context of a linguistic RS.
    > I'm not sure that we can talk about an AS as being the same sort of
    > thing as an RS. I agree that music does not truly 'represent' emotions
    > (only evoke them in us), and I also see what (I think) you mean by a
    > piece of music functioning in a certain context - there are different
    > genres and styles of music - but I don't think that there is quite the
    > same relationship there, as between a representation and the system from
    > which it derives its meaning. Little children can imitate tunes and
    > rhythms without being taught any sort of 'system', whereas they need to
    > learn the RS of musical notation before they can do anything with even a
    > single note written in that system.

    That's because the AS is inborn, whereas the RS of musical notation must be learned. However, the RS of conceptualization is also inborn, as is the capacity to learn any other RS, such as musical notation.

    > > Is there a phenotypic manifestation of
    > > the belief that the earth revolves around the sun? Well, if you're
    > > a spaceship to Mars, this belief will make a difference, but in terms of
    > > day to day terrestrial existence, it simply doesn't matter whether you
    > > that the sun doesn't really rise and set. Such knowledge has no effect
    > > how we live or feel. So I think a meme can stand on its own as a
    > > without need for phenotypic accompaniment.
    > Yes - but its content will always potentially have effects, in some
    > contexts, and it is via these effects that it will be selected.

    Or it's selected simply because it's true, because we appreciate truth for its own sake. Ultimately, the natural selector of memes is us.


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