Re: Substance and Form

Fri, 5 Jun 1998 14:02:02 -0400 (EDT)

Subject: Re: Substance and Form
Date: Fri, 5 Jun 1998 14:02:02 -0400 (EDT)

Paul wrote:

> Interesting point - perhaps worth defining how Rindos, Sperber et al.
> understand their equivalent to our meme. Basically their understanding
> (IMO) of units of cultural selection is they are of REpresentations, that is
> second order symbolic representations of objects of experience (cultural or
> material).

> In this sense they are not simply ideational, since they have been
> objectified through a system of signification - so I would beg to differ on
> your interpretation of representations as exclusively internal ideas. They
> may be
> internal, or external - the important point is that these artefacts are *re*
> presentations of objects presented.

Here we stray into the territory of Popperian ontology. If a
representation is external then it is taken to exist in World 3. If it
is purely part of our subjective consciousnesses, it is part of World
2, and if it consists of atoms it is part of World 1. A symbolic
artefact has both world 1 and World 3 reality, and may also appear in
World 2 if it is perceived by anyone.

Durham says (1991, p3, footnote 1):

'The conceptual reality of culture has been argued persuasively by Sir
Karl Popper, the noted philosopher of science, who differentiates the
reality of ideational phenomena as 'World 3': the world of knowledge,
principles, and statements in and of themselves. This world,
consisting of "the products of the human mind" is distinguished by
Popper from the world of physical objects or things ("World 1") and
from the world of subjective experiences ("World 2"). But, argues
Popper, World 3 is in no way "less real" than Worlds 1 or 2; the
influence of culture on human behavior proves its reality.'

So Durham seems to be saying that ideational culture is in World 3.
However, this strikes me as being at variance with Cloak's
(1975, p.63) insistence that i-culture is internal:

'.. an unobserved, enduring structure or set of related structures
internal to the animal' [Cloak italicises 'internal']

I don't reckon that Popper would have agreed that his World 3 culture
is internal - since he reserves internal states to World 2.

Perhaps we are beginning here to see the roots of much of the confusion
in memetics. Dawkins took a concept from Cloak which was of an
internal instructional pattern - this has its modern descendents in
Lynch's mnemons and in what one might call the memetic mainstream.
But maybe Cloak misinterpreted Geertzian anthropology? By failing to
make the World 2/World 3 distinction, Cloak, through Dawkins, drove us
into a dichotomy: memes/mnemons inside, artefacts and behaviour

Even so, as only a half-believing Popperian (which is a state not too
far from Graham Greene's Aunt Agatha - Greene 1969), I'd still be wary
of thinking I could make a quantitiative science out of World 3
objects, although Durham tries to, if I interpret him correctly.

I wrote quite while ago:

> >The second one is to say that memetics need not be about internal ideas
> >at all. This, I think, will be regarded as heretical (although I
> >subscribe to this, as I'll explain).

and Paul replied:

> I don't think this is heretical, I think it is entirely necessary if we are
> to operationalise memetics.

I'm glad we agree, but I don't think many other people on this list


Greene G (1969) Travels with my Aunt. Penguin, London.
Popper KR and Eccles J (1978) The Self and its Brain. Springer
Verlag, Berlin.

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