Re: What does the replicating?

Timothy Perper/Martha Cornog (
Sat, 7 Jun 1997 20:14:10 -0500

Message-Id: <>
Date: Sat, 7 Jun 1997 20:14:10 -0500
From: (Timothy Perper/Martha Cornog)
Subject: Re: What does the replicating?

Collin Brooke wrote in relation to a posting by Randy Groves:

>snip interesting stuff<
>One final comment, and that's to wonder, Randy, if it isn't precisely the
>perspective internal to history that encourages you to see the disanalogy
>that you do. In other words, doesn't the disciplinary meme-bundle of
>history foreclose on memetics in the way that you discuss? This isn't
>meant to be a nasty comment, but a genuine question. Can you see the post
>that you sent in as representing a certain set of memes? I think that
>you're right to question the role of memetics within your particular
>discipline, and I hope you'll share more of your thoughts on the matter.
>And I hope that I've foregrounded my own disciplinary background enough to
>make some of my points...

Collin Brooke, coming "from a disciplinary perspective of rhetoric," is of
course making a *rhetorical* point, and skillfully too. If Groves' doubts
and questions arise from historiography, then those doubts are themselves
"memes" and the reality of memes is thus demonstrated, against Groves' own

Which implies that Aristotle -- who describes this sort of ploy in his book
on rhetoric -- is actually a proto-Dawkins, a memeticist-manque. Or is it
the other way around? Is memetics simply a fashionable novelty that does
little more than give a new name to old ideas? Thus we learn that rhetoric
cuts both ways.

But, as Brooke of course knows, rhetoric is only a technique for
foregrounding the issues, and which he has donely nicely. Memeticists need
to address the issues that Groves is raising: and one of them is to
demonstrate substantively that a memetics perspective offers unique
insights that other -- and older -- disciplines lack. Another is to show
that memetics has a solid grounding in something other than its own
assertions about the nature of mind, free will, self-action, thought, and
communication -- a grounding for example in evidence. Thus, memeticists
need to make some *distinctions* -- that favored technique of both
rhetoricians and scholars -- between its own efforts and those of other
scholars. Are these disinctions purely in the opaque terminology of
memetics, or do they refer to significant issues that uniquely privilege a
memetics perspective? And if so, can someone give an example of such a
uniquely valuable memetics perspective concerning any historical, social,
political, or social phenomenon?

The answer, it seems to me, is not to say "Well, I can see that you are
simply not with it!" Memetics has an appeal blending charm and promise.
But charm is not enough. Sooner or later we need substance.

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