Re: playing at suicide

From: Scott Chase (
Date: Mon Jan 07 2002 - 18:05:53 GMT

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    From: "Scott Chase" <>
    Subject: Re: playing at suicide
    Date: Mon, 07 Jan 2002 13:05:53 -0500
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    >From: "Grant Callaghan" <>
    >Subject: Re: playing at suicide
    >Date: Mon, 07 Jan 2002 08:31:50 -0800
    >>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
    >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,
    >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
    I'd stick with "elements" and hold off on "memes" until further convincing
    warrants the switchover.
    >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
    >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.
    "Weltanschauung" is a grand word for a world view and I'd wait before I
    decide to consider it a "meme-plex".

    I'm no linguist, indeed anyone attempting to read my posts might come to the
    conclusion that I'm linguistically challenged (lysdexic perhaps), but I've
    been trying to delve into Chomsky's stuff. I've got some beginner books and
    a couple by Chomsky himself (BTW his political views are...well...quite off
    in *left* field).

    What am I to make of his "universal grammar" ideas? Would the "memetic"
    element be the local fluff which rides atop the global/universal and
    primordial base with genetic underpinnings?
    One intro book, Maher and Groves' _Introducing Chomsky_ (ISBN 1-84046-112-8)
    takes a brief moment to mention Jung's collective (ie- phylogenetic)
    unconscious while in the midst of discussing Chomsky's universal grammar :-/

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