Re: Emotional memes?

Fri, 28 Aug 1998 15:14:14 -0400 (EDT)

Subject: Re: Emotional memes?
Date: Fri, 28 Aug 1998 15:14:14 -0400 (EDT)


> My "obvious" may not have been so obvious but we have discussed on this
> board and elsewhere many times using terms such as "seed, token,
> husk," etc., to
> represent that symbology of the meme external to the mind.

I have no problem with the idea of symbology or 'husks'. I don't deny
the importance of mental events, and I acknowledge that all we have to
go on (externally) is often of a husk-like nature. The problem is
rather that:

> .....because of the uniqueness of each individual cognitive milieu,
the meme construct in situ is unique in each individual

so therefore when you say 'meme for x', where x is any objective aspect
of culture, you don't mean that there is a single replicating thing
which is the meme, but rather that the meme is a set of non-identical
constructs which are, in themselves, 'unique to each individual'.
Since there are many people in the world, we have a fairly largish set
here. In fact too large a set to make it a tractable device for any
kind of empirical investigation.

> but the over all impact of both the meme and the meme
> "token" is "close enough for government work"

Since the meme (your definition) is in principle infinitely variable,
your statement above reduces to the following:

'the overall impact of an infinitely variable thing and its
very-definitely-not-infinitely-variable token is close enough for
government work'

better to say: 'the overall impact of the token is close enough for
government work'

So I ask you: why not just drop the infinitely variable thing?

a) It is superfluous to requirements, your sentence makes more sense
without it.
b) you can't even begin to define it
c) in set theory, what kind of a set do you propose? (It is clear that
you are proposing some kind of set)

> the behavioral resultant of the meme is far from fixed from organism
> to organism.

so the behaviour resultant from something you can't define is far from
fixed? Scarcely surprising really.

> neither can a meme token or symbology mean much sans the reactive >
> organism or symbiote as it is the symbiotic relationship that we >
> study.

I agree entirely, behaviour means nothing without the organism. But
does that mean that behaviour means nothing without the (internal)
meme? No. This is a different issue entirely. Behaviour implies
organisms, it does not imply (internal) memes. The behaviour is the

> certain refinements may be a matter of taste or technical description

It's more than that. The issue is: what is memetics all about? It's
been going for 22 years now, and has made not exactly impressive
progress, because we are chasing things which aren't there, or rather
they are right under our noses, but we insist on looking for them

Sorry if I sound exasperated. It is not my purpose to discourage or
put down the many people who are sincerely striving to create a science
of memetics. But if we are to be scientific, we have to look at what
is observable. You seem to be chasing.. well not exactly a ghost, but
a piece of folk psychology, an infinitely variable internal entity that
somehow causes behaviour. I've been wrestling with this for...well at
least since 1984, and in my early memetics papers I try desperately to
put a case for it, but frankly I've given up. It just doesn't wash.

Best wishes

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