RE: What does the replicating?

Bill Benzon (
Sun, 8 Jun 1997 12:17:41 -0500

Message-Id: <>
Date: Sun, 8 Jun 1997 12:17:41 -0500
From: (Bill Benzon)
Subject: RE: What does the replicating?

>You'd be amazed at the number of letters I get from people very well
>educated in X, where X is philosophy, psychology, anthropology, etc.,
>who read Virus of the Mind and conclude (despite my warnings at the
>beginning and end of the book about Kuhnian paradigm shifts) that
>memetics is simply a mapping of what they already know onto some weird
>new jargon.

I'm not at all surprised. As for the "Kuhn defense" (" don't agree w/
my ideas because you don't get the paradigm..."), it is one of the most
pernicious devices in contemporary intellectual life. It is also, alas,
all too valid. I use it all the time.

>model. Remember, the key thing about memetics is the thesis that the
>future will be full of culture with "good memes" -- memes that replicate

Without an explicit account of "goodness" this is circular.

Now, over the long haul, I think this may well be true. Certainly my
account of the evolution of musical styles in 20th C. America
( suggests that that evolution
is moving toward styles which support a richer and fuller range of
emotional expression. But in that essay I try to do more than simply say
that the music that remains standing is, by definition, more fit than the
music which doesn't. I'd like to recast that argument in explicitly
evolutionary terms. But memetics isn't going to help me do that if
memeticists remain content to gloss over the problem of cultural fitness.

William L. Benzon 201.217.1010
708 Jersey Ave. Apt. 2A
Jersey City, NJ 07302 USA

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