Re: Words and memes

Date: Tue Feb 05 2002 - 20:57:00 GMT

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    Date: Tue, 05 Feb 2002 15:57:00 -0500
    Subject: Re: Words and memes
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    > > Hey Ted
    > >
    > > Thanks for the clarification. It is an interesting distinction but I
    > see
    > > it as one that would cause more confusion than is necessary. Suppose
    > > someone goes back and relearns the underlying processes behind the
    > > meme and then chooses to consciously repropagate what had since
    > > become a meme, would it then loose its memetic quality?
    > Something similar to this is happening all the time, and it's why
    > children
    > ask so many annoying questions. Children consciously engage the
    > cultural
    > verities that, for most of us, proceed on automatic. With each new
    > generation culture is regenerated from the ground up. Memes transform
    > back
    > into ideas in the minds of children, and then, as the children grow up,
    > revert once more to memes. And children don't have a monopoly on this
    > process. Philosophy is all about going back and relearning the basics,
    > not
    > so as to relaunch the same old memes, but to correct the underlying
    > errors
    > in our thinking.
    > > Similarly suppose that some people were
    > > 'intentionally' propagating the idea and others were just passing it
    > > along without thinking would it be a meme or not? Since acquisition
    > of
    > > any idea requires some mental processes where could we draw a line
    > > that we distinguish for data gathering purposes? Wouldn't we have to
    > > ask everyone who passed the idea along whether they were acting
    > > 'intentionally'? And isn't the term 'intentional' going to be subject
    > to
    > > numerous interpretations?
    > There's no definitive line between intentional and memetic culture.
    > Between
    > an ideal (nonexistent) intentionality and an equally ideal
    > mindlessness,
    > culture is on a continuum. The less we feel we have to reflect on an
    > idea
    > in order to believe it, the more memetic it's become. Without this
    > tendency
    > for ideas to become culturally ingrained, we could never have passed
    > beyond
    > the most primitive stage of culture. Memes are essential to cultural
    > evolution because they enable us to set aside the most basic stuff and
    > advance into greater complexity. It's no different than habits of mind
    > freeing up consciousness to move on to more interesting things.
    > > Also I have to disagree with your statement that 'learned behavior'
    > would
    > > necessarily equate to 'meme' in the absence of an 'intent'
    > distinction.
    > I'm merely saying that we must not allow memes to be equated with
    > either
    > learned behaviors or ideas.
    > > Memes would have to have been learned from interaction with other
    > > organisms possessing the same meme while a large of class of
    > behaviors
    > > can be learned with resort to acquisition from other organisms (ie
    > > learning not to touch a burning candle after doing it once)
    > >
    > > Thanks for the response,
    > >
    > > Ray Recchia
    > Okay, sometimes learning occurs through imitation, and perhaps this
    > trait
    > isn't universal to life. But this doesn't solve the problem. If we
    > equate
    > memes with learning through imitation, then memetics is reducible to
    > mimesis. And if memes are equated with ideas, then why not just refer
    > to
    > ideas that have replicated versus ideas that haven't? Who needs memes?
    > Just another gratuitous neologism. This is why it's important to
    > delineate
    > memes precisely, in order to secure a field of study that belongs
    > exclusively to memetics.
    > Ted
    'Replicating Idea' is too limiting concept as is 'mimesis'. Some
    behaviors are replicated with no conscious awareness on the part of the
    recipient as you pointed out above. If you live in the southern United
    States and acquire a Southern accent no one would say that you have
    acquired the 'idea' of Southern accent. Susan Blackmore makes an
    excellent argument that 'mimesis' is the fundamental basis for all
    memetic transfer but it requires a very broad definition of that term to
    encompass transfer of a factual concept like 'The earth revolves around
    the sun.' There are no specific behaviors associated with this transfer
    and nothing is really imitated except a mental concept. This is why I
    like the broad term 'replication' better.

    On the other hand you conceded that the kind of distinction you were
    trying to make would be difficult to measure because of its subjective
    nature. When one is attempting to secure a field of study the sort of
    vague distinction you are using probably is not the best place to start.

    That is not to say that the distinction has no value. We learn to do
    lots of things without going through the steps of understanding why it is
    important that we do them simply because we trust that others have done
    all that thinking for us. In addition if we have not bothered to learn
    to understand something then we are unlikely to attempt to alter it since
    out alteration would not be informed alteration and more likely result in
    a lack of success in modification. There is some meat here to be played

    Ray Recchia

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