Re: Determinism and Fatalism

Mario Vaneechoutte (
Wed, 18 Jun 1997 14:26:58 -0700

Message-Id: <>
Date: Wed, 18 Jun 1997 14:26:58 -0700
From: Mario Vaneechoutte <>
Subject: Re: 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:
> >
> >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!

'It is good at spreading' is an observation, not an explanation. One
must ask 'Why is it good at spreading?', which is a question of a
hardliner. As a matter of fact, I'd say that hardliners put a homunculus
in memes, while I simply consider memetics as an interaction between
biological nerved organisms (especially the talking ones among them) and
'cultural' information. I would ask : 'Why is it this information spread
so easily?". Offering psychological confort to an individual human being
(plagued by silly questions possible because of words) is an important
reason why some ideas are spread so easily, I think (see some brief
thoughts at

> 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.

OK. But also memes are part of the selective environment as well, just
like organisms are part of the selective environment towards other

> >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.

> >From what you have said so far you appear to be with myself and
> Paul in the 'Hardline' camp. If you reject the homunculus in the
> brain hypothesis, you are left with the 'Self' as a meme
> construct.

OK. But see my remarks above. I shouldn't have split us up in camps, I
did only for some simplification of the debate. So, many of our ideas go
in the same direction, only I think there is some personification of
memes in the view of the hardliners, and as such you may make the
homunculus mistake from the other side (putting it in memes, while you
don't need any neither in memes, nor in humans).
So, I hope you can correct my interpretation of your vision again, and
as such we get a constructive discussion.

> >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.

Yes, we can agree again.

> 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.

I wrote that chaos theory is often used by freewillies to proof that
there is freedom in the macrophysical world animals and memes find
theriselves in. Others point to quantum physics as proof.
I tried to explain that these are false arguments. Because chaos theory
just proofs how very deterministic the macrophysical world is (since
even the slightest initial difference can have enormous consequences:
only we are too limited in measuring accuracy and calculation capacities
to make the right predictions and as such think this is freedom). And
because quantum physical strangeness seems to stop at the door of the
macrophysical world (see latest Sci Am issue) and as such is not of any
influence in our world.

>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.

OK. That is what I'd tried to make clear as well. But maybe I didn't
make myself very clear.

> Is there much left to argue here?

My English is too limited to know how I have to interprete this
question. Could you explain what you mean?

>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.

Could you agree that there is some movement now?

Mario Vaneechoutte

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