It is necessarily possible that some of our thoughts are not memetic

Bruce Edmonds (
Tue, 01 Sep 1998 11:43:04 +0100

Message-Id: <>
Date: Tue, 01 Sep 1998 11:43:04 +0100
From: Bruce Edmonds <>
Subject: It is necessarily possible that some of our thoughts are not memetic

Proposition (A): "We have some ability and propensity to recognise

1. Suppose (A) is correct.
Then It is possible to harness our thought processes by building on
this ability (however attained) to build essentially non-memetic
processes (e.g. inference).

2. Suppose (A) is incorrect.
Then there is no reason to suppose that any of our thoughts are
indicative of the truth, including theories about the memetic origin of

Conclusion: EITHER there is a mechanism which could build essentially
non-memetic thought processes OR there is no reason to suppose that all
our thought processes are memetic.

Note: that since proposition (A) does not specify the mechanism our
brains use to reach this truth or what "truth" means in this context,
the conclusion is independant of these considerations.

This is, of course, a variation on an old philosophical argument. To
some extent it attacks a straw-man, since the conlcusion is weak (in the
sense that it merely asserts that real possiblity of essentially
non-memetic thought processes).

Possible counter-arguments:

1. What if there is not such thing as "truth" at all but only
successful and unsuccesful memes, so that considerations 1 and 2 are
meaningless? But in this case one has to concede that there is no sense
in which memetic theories are true, merely fashionable. In this case
there is no reason to suppose they will continue to be held in the

2. Even if it is possible to build truth-indicative processes, might
not this just all be a result of an underlying memetic process? Yes,
but that does not make the top-level process memetic, anymore than the
fact that an evolutionary algorithm can be implemented on a computer
makes it a deterministic inference.

3. Might memetics not be a theory, but a self-coherent world-view?
Yes, but by its nature the memetic world-view allows for the conception
that other, contradictory world-views might evolve. What reason would
this world-view use to claim precedence over other equally self-coherent
world views? All possibilities cause some `problems' for its precedence:
It is successful - other world-views are more successful
It does not have precedence - then why not choose others?
It is more useful - this is yet to be shown, others are certainly
useful, so depending on the circumstances I would choose them
It somehow `fits in' with the world and our thought processes - then
the above argument kicks in again, with this `fitting in' being just a
possible definition for "truth".


Bruce Edmonds,
Centre for Policy Modelling,
Manchester Metropolitan University, Aytoun Bldg.,
Aytoun St., Manchester, M1 3GH. UK.
Tel: +44 161 247 6479 Fax: +44 161 247 6802

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