Re: Substance and Form

Aaron Lynch (
Tue, 02 Jun 1998 15:56:37 -0500

Message-Id: <>
Date: Tue, 02 Jun 1998 15:56:37 -0500
From: Aaron Lynch <>
Subject: Re: Substance and Form
In-Reply-To: <>


>Hi Aaron,
>Thanks for your email. And I'm sorry that the one time I appear on your
>listserve it is by accident!

No need to apologize about the accidental appearence. Besides, this is not
my listerve, but JOM-EMIT's listserv. Bruce Edmonds is the moderator.

>Honestly, I am not sure if Campbell used only the adjective and
>adverbial versions "mnemonic" and "mnemonically". But since English has
>those rules of transformation that is all fair. In my view he still
>would have coined the term either way. Just so, had Dawkins only said
>"memetics" we would have understood "meme" as his.
>But all of this goes to a bunch of linguistic splitting-of-hairs and is
>not very important. We refer to the project as "memetics" because "meme"
>really is a lovely turn of phrase. But Dawkins is not the inventor of
>the discipline and his word is just the most clever amongst a crowd of
>proposed words and a longer history. *This* is my point; that we need to
>keep ourselves aware of the body of work -- from all these folks. And to
>be the inventor of a neologism, in and of itself, is not much of a


I'm all for keeping ourselves aware of the body of work, and certainly
appreciate the value of reviews of the literature. I derived the word
"mnemon" directly from its Greek roots, and gave it a new definition.
Hence, I should clarify that it would be inaccurate to cite Campbell as a
source, much as it would be inaccurate to cite a mnemonics (memory tricks)
book as a source. Had Campbell used the word _mnemon_ literatum, with a
meaning clearly akin to my own, then I should of course have cited Campbell
even if I arrived at the word by completely independent reinvention. In any
case, defining a term "mnemon" in my article was meant to clearly
distinguish replicated and non-replicated memory items. It thus does not
matter whether being the inventor (or reinventor) is a personal distinction.

I agree that the word history is but a minor issue compared to some others
you have raised. I only asked about the page number for "mnemon" in
Campbell (1974) because if the word were really there as such, then I could
count on you to enlighten me. For the workings of my mathematical model, it
is obviously up to me to provide the further enlightenment.


>Aaron Lynch wrote:
>> >OPPS! I am very sorry for sending that last email to the entire list! I
>> >meant to just send it to the individual. What a moron I am; perhaps I
>> >need another cup of coffee.
>> >
>> >My apologies for cluttering up your inbox.
>> >
>> >Regards,
>> >Mike Best
>> Mike,
>> A pleasure to see you on this list.
>> After your cup of coffee, perhaps you (or someone else on this list) can
>> answer a question regarding your recent letter to JOM-EMIT. In it, you
>> state that Campbell (1974) uses the word "mnemon," but you do not give a
>> page number. I don't recall seeing this word in my original reading of
>> Campbell, and my present re-read only finds the phrases "nonmnemonic
>> problem solving" and "mnemonically supported thought," not _mnemon_. In
>> case my eyes have deceived me, perhaps you could provide some
>> Cordially,
>> --Aaron
>> Campbell, D.T. (1974). Evolutionary epistemology. In P.A. Schilpp (Ed.).
>> The philosophy of Karl Popper. La Salle, IL: Open Court Publishing.
>> --Aaron Lynch

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