Re: Memetics framework

Ton Maas (
Tue, 3 Mar 1998 19:41:51 +0100

Message-Id: <v03102803b121f919aa31@[]>
In-Reply-To: <>
Date: Tue, 3 Mar 1998 19:41:51 +0100
From: Ton Maas <>
Subject: Re: Memetics framework

>>There's always the option of "essential" versus "processual" definitions.
>Which one is chosen usually follows from the underlying world-view.
>Dualists tend to favor "essential" definitions, while cybernetically
>informed monists prefer processual ones. In the end there seems to be no
>common ground upon which this argument can be settled. Radical monists are
>rare - most fashionable monists are actually dualists-in-disguise and
>unfortunately Dawkins is no exception.
>Can you (or someone else) please explain this with some examples applied on
>the same structure. I=EDm not sure I understood this correctly.

What I meant to say was that most contemporary scientists entertain a
rather reductionist or materialist world view, as a basis for their
theoretical meanderings. Usually this means that they resort to "trap
doors" (not unlike the old Deus ex Machina) for introducing stuff they
cannot explain in terms of their materialism. Gregory Bateson used to say
that "magic" is actually a degenerate form of religion and _not_ the other
way around, some sort of forerunner. He claims that ESP, out-of-body
experiences and the like are mistaken attempts to escape from a crude
materialism which becomes intolerable. A miracle is a materialist's idea of
how to escape from his materialism.

Monists, on the other hand, especially the more modern brand which has been
informed by 2nd order cybernetics, don't accept the notion of mental
phenomena as being somehow "separate" from material ones and believe that
these are simply two modes of describing what is ultimately a unified
process. Many contemporary thinkers who are somehow connected to new-ageism
(such as Capra, Sheldrake and others) claim to present a monistic world
view but actually resort to various supernatural explanations (or hints in
that direction).

Dualists seem to have a trendency to employ definitions of "things" (or
items with at least the suggestion of tangibility), such as bits, genes and
memes. They then have to invent all sorts of scenarios as to what happens
to these "things" when they are not used, but "stored". For monists the
emphasis is on the processual side to begin with, so they tend to define
relations rather than relata, processes rather than "things". If you define
information as bits and bytes, you'll have to start juggling with concepts
like "content", "relevance" etc. Defining information as the difference
which makes a difference, opens a whole new domain of understanding complex


This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)