Re: Knowledge, Memes and Sensory Perception

From: Wade T. Smith (
Date: Tue Jan 15 2002 - 02:07:38 GMT

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    Subject: Re: Knowledge, Memes and Sensory Perception
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    On Monday, January 14, 2002, at 07:23 , Francesca S. Alcorn wrote:

    > For instance a meme of intolerance may result in one group isolating
    > itself from society at large (the amish) or jihad.

    (My far from anything but general understanding of the amish is that
    they are distinct, but not isolated. I don't see them as intolerant.)

    At any rate, here's my take, coming off the fence, if only to stand

    There is no meme of, say, intolerance, since that's what you mentioned,
    until intolerance is performed. And thus, there is no 'may result'.
    Schroedinger's cat is in a memetic box.

    Intolerance, or any other societal or philosophical position, can sit
    unpracticed for several generations, or it can be vigorously taught at
    all times, or any of a million variations.

    In all cases, until that jihad or that teacher or that parent or that
    cop or that guy down the street tries to demonstrate this intolerance,
    there is no meme whatsoever.

    There are no memes outside of the behavior _to_ transmit them, _that_
    transmits them.

    That is what is memetic. That is how the meme travels. And that is _all_
    we can study, or analyze, memetically.

    The rest are just-so stories, regardless of attempts at nomenclatural
    definition by position, or, they are artefactual products, records kept
    or produced by the behavior, with their own cultural contexts and

    Motivation is not a meme, anymore than a nailhead above a board is a
    motivation for a hammer. But, when a person strikes that nail with that
    hammer because it is not fully driven into that board, that (particular)
    meme is broadcast. And yes, memes are not present without (some
    intention, however slight, of) apprehension.

    The meme is the behavior. And it is a cultural behavior, as differing
    from an autonomic or innate or reflexive or developmental behavior. If
    it's observed, it might 'travel' or 'be understood', and the only proof
    of that is that another behavior might manifest. Each behavior is
    performed within a complex of motivations, ideas, social yearnings,
    cultural conditionings, environmental constraints, and by an individual
    with genetic and physical determinants and developments.

    None of these conditions is _a_ meme or _the_ meme. They are the source
    of the behavior's manifestation, the parts that produce it. (Memeticists
    like the word instantiation, but I see that as errant, since it implies
    the meme _before_ the behavior.) If you want to say that these parts are
    a memeplex, and that memeplexes produce memes, that is a fine
    possibility, as long as a memeplex is not considered an entity
    _composed_ of memes, but rather as the composer and performer of them,
    and as long as this memeplex is a cultural entity, and not just the way
    one breathes when fatigued, or desires food when hungry, or any of the
    other biological reactive behaviors presented to us all by evolution on
    this sphere. (Which, granted, are myriad and still largely not
    understood fully. It could even be, returning to the fence briefly, that
    these biologically reactive behaviors are all we really have, and
    cultural behavior is a myth. If we didn't tell stories, I'd be totally
    at home with this view.)

    But, yeah, this is all my take on it. And, it's mostly definitional, in
    my own attempt to be parsimonious, since the mechanisms are hardly new
    or unique. But, 'meme' itself was wandering way too far over the map to
    be useful to me, or, I think, really available to anyone else, unless
    their intent was to be vague, in which case, since it fit so many
    situations, it was a very handy word indeed, and, IMHO, colloquial to a

    - Wade

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