Re: What Meaning Means (was: RE: presentation)

From: Dace (
Date: Sat 17 Jun 2006 - 22:34:09 GMT

  • Next message: Robin Faichney: "Re: What Meaning Means (was: RE: presentation)"


    > Ted wrote:
    >>It's a core belief of memetics that cultural meaning is
    >>contained in artifacts such as books, musical scores,
    >>game rules, etc.
    > This statement seems incorrect to me,

    Yes, I should have said "prevalent" belief. The other commonly-held belief is that memes are in brains, which fails for the same reason, namely that brains are physical objects and obey the identity principle, whereas memes entail representation, i.e., A = B. Memes exist in minds and nowhere else.

    > (2) I don't think memetics actually speaks much to questions of "meaning"
    > per se.
    > Memetics is much better suited to address itself to questions of
    > diffusion,
    > distribution, frequency & adaptation of cultural items, or trends within
    > those aspects, rather than addressing interpretation of their
    > objective/subjective "meanings" per se.

    If we can't define memes, we don't know what it is that's diffusing and adapting. All our models of distribution and frequency have no meaning because we don't know what they refer to. A meme carries with it a certain meaning that either enables it to propagate or prevents it from doing so. The meaning of "round wheel" is that if you attach four of them to a vehicle, it will go. The meaning of "square wheel" is that it won't. One meme lives; the other dies.

    >>I initiated the RS thread specifically to dispute this point.
    >>No one on the list expressed agreement with my assertion
    >>that meaning is strictly mental.
    > That's because it isn't.

    See my point above about the identity principle and representation.

    > "Meaning", as far as cultural tokens or artifacts are concerned, is an
    > emergent phenomenon resulting from the interaction of mind & artifact
    > within
    > a cultural context.
    > Just mind alone is not enough -- and neither is just artifact.

    I agree that meaning requires a cultural context but not necessarily an artifact. We can have meaningful thoughts in reference to ourselves and each other, and these thoughts can memetically propagate. My point is that memetics is too focused on artifacts. The real action is not in books and buildings and clothes, etc., but in minds, both conscious and unconscious, individual and collective. Artifacts merely echo the goings-on of memes rather than containing them.


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