Re: Non Homuncular Memetics

Mario Vaneechoutte (
Wed, 01 Oct 1997 11:43:30 -0700

Message-Id: <>
Date: Wed, 01 Oct 1997 11:43:30 -0700
From: Mario Vaneechoutte <>
Subject: Re: Non Homuncular Memetics

Paul Marsden wrote:

> >Mario Vaneechoutte wrote
> >Memes do not replicate, they are being processed and - to some degree
> >- - replicated by human minds. Like you, many on this list put homunculi
> >inside memes, blaming others to put a homunculus inside the human mind.
> >The scientific approach is trying to explain things without homunculi of
> >any kind.
> I agree totally with your last comment, but without wanting to put words
> into Nick's mouth I don't think Nick did "go wrong" here. First of all
> your point that Nick doesn't ask 'Why are they (memes) good at
> replicating?' I would presume it is precisely because " why" questions are
> out of the domain of scientific explanation.

I am confused by this remark.
Are 'Why did dinosaurs die out?' or 'Why are some alleles/memes more
abundant in the gene/meme pool than others?' not scientific questions. I
thought this was what science was about.

Science can (hopefully)
> uncover models that account for *how* memes are replicated differentially
> but metaphysic questions such as why do we get up in the morning, why do we
> go to bed at night and why do we spend so much of the intervening time
> talking about memes are not scientific questions proper (but very
> interesting questions they are to).

>Why do genes get replicated - Science must draw a blank on this one

Really? I thought this is what evolutionary biology is about offering
answers to the phenomenon of different replication rates.

, but how do they get replicated - and we're
> in business, building hypotheses and testing them to build theoretical
> edifices that can account for the phenomena. The same goes, I think, for
> memes which is where I echo your call for a non homuncular (where-ever
> those little critters are in hiding) memetic theory.
> Your criticism that Nick endows the meme with all the qualities of the
> homunculus previously resident in the mind is not fair.

If you read past discussions, I think you will notice that homuncular
reasoning is lurking around the corner (I hope you understand my English
here) all of the time, when you speak of memes as replicators. Intention
or not, memes are treated as active agents, while all they are is
information which is being replicated.

>The meme doesn't
> have intrinsic intentionality - it doesn't want to do anything it just
> does it, blindly. The meme doesn't have agency, or a self, it has no
> understanding or appreciation of what is going on whatsoever. This is *
> very* different from the metaphysical self supposedly posited over and
> above memes according to the majority of current postings which include
> such ephemeral attributes. The self is nothing more than a centre of
> narrative gravity, a functional shorthand for the meme-complexes that the
> human brain gets infected with through the process of interaction.
> Memetics can explain how it can be that the lights are on when when there
> is nobody at home. When you conduct a functional analysis of culture at a
> memetic level the English language obliges you, grammatically speaking, to
> make the meme the subject of the dicussion. Just because the meme is the
> subject of the discussion does't automatically mean that it has
> subjectivity.
> Paul Marsden

Mario Vaneechoutte

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