Determinism and Fatalism

N Rose (
Tue, 17 Jun 1997 13:02:54 +0000

Message-Id: <>
Date: Tue, 17 Jun 1997 13:02:54 +0000
From: N Rose <>
Subject: Determinism and Fatalism

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.

Mario wrote:
>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 will').

I agree, the illusion that 'we' have free will is a meme-complex,
thus a construct of the brain. I merely suggest that 'we' as
memeticists do not need such an illusion in order to explain the
complexity and apparent design of nature.

>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.

Psychological comfort is neither here nor there. The benign
illusion spreads because it is good at spreading. What makes you
think people only select memes which are psychologically
comforting? I don't!

>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?

Aye, a brain full o' memes which have restructured the
'environment' to the advantage of some memes over others. The
'I' that I use in my sentances is existentially passive - because
'I' don't exist beyond these constructs.

>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.

I concur.

>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.

Paul in the 'Hardline' camp. If you reject the homunculus in the
brain hypothesis, you are left with the 'Self' as a meme

>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.

Yes, and meme determinism says that this is true for humans too,
but it is the memes which co-determine behaviour (and sometimes
independent of the interests of genes) rather than genes alone.
Our decsions result from previous behaviours and decisions
starting shortly after birth PLUS genetic pretendancies to
particular kinds of behaviour.

>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.

Unpredictability of the system is certainly true - it's a complex
determinist system! To claim otherwise would be fatalist surely!
But is the fact that the deterministic system is unpredictable
allow space for 'free will'? If brains are biased towards the
meme of free will can hook this associated meme as 'scientific
proof' then good for them. We as memeticists don't need to fudge
the issue, we can say, clearly and sometimes repetitively; 'there
is no free will'. We don't need free will to describe how
complexity and apparent design arose within cultural behaviour.

Is there much left to argue here? The only reason I shifted
topic is that the group appeared to stabilise within two views,
and there appeared to be very little movement between the camps.
Does anyone have a good defence for Omar de la Cruz's original
(and non-shorthand) view that 'people' (as she phrased it)
'modify memes'? I have no problem with the idea that the 'self'
as a construct exists, or that the brain (which may include a
construct of 'self') selects memes. As I said before, if the
'Self' is supposed to be 'free will' stuff, then memetics can
reject it.


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