Re: 'Spandrels' of Culture

Mario Vaneechoutte (
Fri, 13 Jun 1997 14:45:10 -0700

Message-Id: <>
Date: Fri, 13 Jun 1997 14:45:10 -0700
From: Mario Vaneechoutte <>
Subject: Re: 'Spandrels' of Culture

N Rose wrote:
> The meme complex instructing my brain that the 'Self' has no
> power to select or modify memes has biased that brain against
> memes which instruct for further discussion on free will vs
> deterministic argument. Besides, I can't expect to convince
> anyone who believes that they have free will that they don't.

We should be careful not to confuse will with free will.

The self could be considered as a construct of your brain (a rather
essential construct when a multicellular colony is to behave as a single
unit). Also the notion of free will can be a possible construct of the
brain and this notion of free will is also essential to many people
(e.g. those who have difficulties as seeing humans as really nothing
more than smart animals, and thus can say 'Well, at least, we have free

So I agree with you that free will can be considered as an artefact. The
example of free will fits perfectly my very restricted definition of a
meme as being a very specific kind of idea, which spreads because of the
psychological confort which it offers to the individual.

Still, after all it is your brain which is the selective environment
which 'decides' whether it needs the meme of free will or not, isn't it?
How else could different brains differ in their believe in free will?
Because they have had different information in the past (different memes
if you want), but still it is the brain which compares all this
information and selects whether new information fits or not.
This has nothing to do with a homunculus inside the brain, as - sue me
if I'm wrong - you and Paul Marsden (the hardliners) seem to suggest.

Well, this is a possible subject a small discussion group could try to
work out first.

So, maybe there is confusion between the notion of will and free will.
Animals have will, can choose, can make decisions and so can we. But
there is nothing 'free' in it: all the behaviours and decisions are a
result of previous behaviours and decisions, starting some 4 billion
years ago (and beyond). So, I guess I am a determinist. Fortunately the
interactions are so manifold, such that the smallest initial deviation
may lead to very different outcomes and thus determinism doesn't include
predictability (also something which is often inferred). As such chaos
theory is still deterministic as well (it is even highly deterministic
since it says that the smallest initial deviation is of importance for
the final outcome of a process), while chaotic processes are often used
as a scientific proof that there is something like free will, by those
who want there to be free will.

Mario Vaneechoutte

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