Re: Sensory and sensibility

From: Dace (
Date: Tue Jan 22 2002 - 01:22:18 GMT

  • Next message: Francesca S. Alcorn: "Re: Sensory and sensibility"

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    Subject: Re: Sensory and sensibility
    Date: Mon, 21 Jan 2002 17:22:18 -0800
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    > Salice:
    > >Wasn't platon already thinking about this? I can remember the
    > >example of the horses being all different from each other but we
    > >can all identify them as horses.
    > Steve:
    > >Yes, Plato did discuss this in The Republic when he was arguing
    > >about representation of Ideal forms and their worldly couterparts.
    > Now that we come to mention it, here's some additional
    > info. I quote from Darwin's Dangerous Idea page 36:
    > `Thus Aristotle had taught [...], all things-not just
    > living things-had two kinds of properties: essential
    > properties, without which they wouldn't be the
    > particular kind of thing they were, and accidental
    > properties, which were free to vary within the kind.'
    > `Aristotle had developed his theory of essences as an
    > improvement on Plato's theory of Ideas, according to
    > which every earthly thing is a sort of imperfect copy
    > or reflection of an ideal exemplar of Form that existed
    > timelessly in the Platonic realm of Ideas, reigned
    > over by God.'
    > What an active imaginition these guys had. But
    > different times, different memes.

    Different times, same memes. We're still faced with exactly the same
    debate, now characterized in terms of "intension and extension." For
    instance, the intension of telephone is the idea that each of us comprehends
    in our mind, while the extension of telephone is the set of actual
    telephones in the world. Plato argued that reality is intensional
    (transcendent) while Aristotle countered that reality is extensional
    (immanent). For Plato the essence of the telephone is our idea of it. For
    Aristotle its essence is physically inherent to it. This question is still
    unresolved. The modern outlook is primarily Platonic. Newtonian Laws are a
    streamlined version of Platonic Forms. Instead of having a Form for which
    each object is a manifestation, we have a small set of laws, and in obeying
    these laws, matter naturally forms into the various objects of the world.
    Like Plato, we take a mathematical approach. We don't believe anything
    until we've seen the math, be it electromagnetism, relativity, or chaos.
    It's the math that makes it so.

    The only real challenge to the dominance of Platonism in Western thought was
    Darwin. Like Aristotle, Darwin regarded matter as inherently creative.
    There's no deity shaping the species. Our forms arise from within.
    Organisms are material entities which creatively adapt to environmental
    conditions, and these adaptations are passed on to future species. Alas,
    the Darwinian view was entirely discredited early in the 20th century. The
    new view, known as neo-Darwinism but better known as Weismannism, does away
    with the concept of adaptation and replaces it with "exaptation." Random
    mutation in our genes causes a new trait to emerge. Then the organism makes
    use of the newly-acquired trait when the need for it happens to arise. So,
    there's no creativity on the part of the organism, just a mechanical process
    in which randomly altered genes are selected by environmental conditions.
    In conformance with Newton, matter is under the control of mathematical,
    deterministic processes.

    While the ancients struggled with the issue of materialism versus idealism,
    the moderns loudly proclaim the former while silently assuming the latter.
    Our approach reflects the survival strategy of the idealism meme, which
    propagates by cloaking itself in its exact opposite. It also exploits our
    male-centric attitude. Matter is another word for mother. The earth is
    traditionally regarded as feminine, while the sky is masculine. That
    intelligent idea dominates helpless and random matter is sky-god thinking.
    In this mental environment, there was no possibility that Darwin's meme
    would be selected.

    > By the way, these kind of memes are pathological according to Ted,
    > as they obviously give an false interpretation of reality.

    I'm not the one reducing an unresolved 2500 year-old philosophical debate to
    a battle of the memes. Obviously, there's going to be some truth in there s
    omewhere. I'd take Aristotle over Plato any day (and Darwin over Weismann).
    The point is that some memes carry truth (or the nearest we can come to it)
    while other memes carry nothing other than whatever enables them to
    procreate more effectively. The essence of logical memes is their content.
    The essence of pathological memes is their memeness, that is, their ability
    to reproduce and to colonize minds.


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