Re: Aristotle was a Memetician (and would have defended it)

Toby Foshay (
Tue, 10 Jun 1997 10:47:15 -0700

Message-Id: <l03020901afc33f80194b@[]>
In-Reply-To: <>
Date: Tue, 10 Jun 1997 10:47:15 -0700
From: Toby Foshay <>
Subject: Re: Aristotle was a Memetician (and would have defended it)

>William L. Benzon
>>I was trained as a literary theorist and moved to cognitive science
>because I wanted something
>>with more intellectual rigor. Now I find an aweful lot of whats done in
>>the name of memetics looking like good old literary criticism & rhetoric.
>>There is terminological aspiration to science, but memetic analyses seem
>>like lit crit under different terms. Why do astrology when astronomy is

Paul Marsden replies:

The philosophical foundations of memetics are relatively
>secure in a functionalist theory of mind, and the gene/virus analogies have
>already demonstrated that they offer a viable alternative to homuncular
>theories of behaviour. Lit Criticism, except in the radical constructivim
>of discorse analysis) posits authors behind texts, who you endow with all
>sots of supernatural powers, intention, meaning, freewill etc. Memetics
>offers an alternative non-homuncular understanding of the human condition
>that doesn't rely on ghosts rattling about in your brain.

Bill Benzon's choice of empiricist "rigor" over literary criticism and
rhetoric is not the only one. He might have gone to a more critical
philosophical foundation for his cultural theory than to an equally
questionable empiricism.

Paul Marsden rightly acknowledges that some literary criticism still
indulges in good old humanist author assumptions, but mistakenly implies
that this is still the dominant paradigm. Literary theory for two decades
now has systematically challenged liberal humanist and idealist aesthetic
theory with marxist, psychoanalytic, and deconstructionist approaches to
text, to name a few.

His assertion that the "functionalist" and "empiricist" foundations of
memetics are "relatively secure" has been challenged by me already, and
seems to me exactly what should remain on the table for discussion if
memetics is going to leave itself open to multiple stimulation and not
prematurely foreclose debate on foundations.

"Cyberspace is an accident of the real." - Paul Virilio

Toby Foshay Phone: 250.995.3043
2-652 Moss St. (Office) 250.721.7251
Victoria, B.C. Canada V8V 4N6

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