Re: playing at suicide

From: Grant Callaghan (
Date: Mon Jan 07 2002 - 16:31:50 GMT

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    From: "Grant Callaghan" <>
    Subject: Re: playing at suicide
    Date: Mon, 07 Jan 2002 08:31:50 -0800
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    >On 01/06/02 21:33, Grant Callaghan said this-
    > > A hammer is, after
    > >all, more useful to a carpenter than it is to a mathematician.
    >Unless the mathematician wants to do some carpentry. Tools are useful for
    >tasks, not people. I use 'meme' a lot, when it's useful, and it's only
    >been useful in casual, general, discussions about culture. Once we
    >actually have a nail to hit, I try to grab one, and come up empty-handed.

    What is it you're trying to nail down? What, precisely, do you want to use
    the concept to accomplish? For me it helps me look at culture as an
    accumulation of artifacts carved out one idea at a time to solve specific
    problems faced by individuals who came up with them. Over time it has
    evolved into a number of larger systems that now obscure the process.
    People tend to analyze the system as it exists today without looking at the
    forces that created it.

    The English language, for example, is the result of many small wars between
    Danes, Celts, Romans, French and other cultures that go back to the
    Indo-European underpinnings of all Western languages. We borrowed
    grammatical memes from the Danes and Celts and vocabulary memes from the
    Romans, Greeks and French and memes for pronunciation from all sources,
    which gives us a language with a larger number of vowels to play with than
    almost any other language on earth. But these borrowings came into our
    language bit by bit and built up over time as they were used or dropped by
    the people trying to communicate with them.

    After they were adopted and the process settled down, we created sets of
    rules about them. We tried first to make them fit the rules already
    established for Latin, but that didn't work so we came up with a descriptive
    approach that attemted to freeze in place a dynamic process that is still
    going on. If you look at English from the point of view of grammarians, you
    will miss much of how the process is shaping the language we use today and
    will use tomorrow. The worldwide adoption of English is adding new elements
    (memes) that are not covered by existing rules. The rules are not designed
    to describe the process -- only the result.

    That's why I adopt the memetic point of view. It attempts to deal with the
    dynamics of what is going on rather than describing a single point in time
    that will already have passed by the time someone gets a chance to study it.

    My views on this subject are, of course, my own and I do not mean to imply
    they are also held by others, although some of them may be. The memes I
    borrowed to forge my world view are now part of that view and it's the
    totality that is mine alone, not the pieces I borrowed.


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