You are a Zombie

Paul Marsden (
Tue, 10 Jun 1997 07:28:01 -0400

Date: Tue, 10 Jun 1997 07:28:01 -0400
From: Paul Marsden <>
Subject: You are a Zombie
To: "" <>

Message text written by

>The central conundrum, as you so rightly put it, is not between
>Platonism and non-Platonism, but between free-will and
>determinism. I'm 'simply' saying that human beings have no
>'free-will' with which to modify a meme.

Well it all depends on what you mean by free will, but before I split
hairs, I think that you are largely correct about the implications of
memetics for agency and free will. As a an evolutionary perspective, I
would be surprised if many memeticians objected to the fact human beings
are the product of a long process of evolution by natural selection (S.J
Gould fans aside). And I would also be surprised if many think that Bill=
the proot-bacterium had any free will, so free will must have evolved if =
exists (barring the " ....and then a miracle happened" accounts that are
just plain loony). So any account of free-will cannot be of the
supernatural kind passed from the soul/homunculus or whatever other blac=
box you posit in the brain. (or any where else). However it is clear th=
human behaviour is not purely based on stimulus and response, since our
openness to memes depends on where our meme detectors are looking
(consciousness, that virtual serial machine that allows our behaviour to
appear intentional cf Dennett). =

The fact that we are vehicles for both our genes and memes necessarily
means the two will interact. The byproduct of this interaction of
different replicators generates something that could usefully be called
free-will since we have a measure of control over which memes we attend t=
and therefore how the two replicators will interact. I know its a poor
relative for fully blown freewill, but if we are zombies at leat we are n=
blind zombies.

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