Re: On Gatherer's behaviourist stance

Ton Maas (
Tue, 13 Oct 1998 21:55:43 +0200

Message-Id: <v0310280eb2493bbff704@[]>
In-Reply-To: <>
Date: Tue, 13 Oct 1998 21:55:43 +0200
From: Ton Maas <>
Subject: Re: On Gatherer's behaviourist stance

>There is an inconsistency between the above 2 paragraphs. If a meme is a
>*behavior* (such as running a maze) then it is not something "stored" or
>"memorized." What is "stored" or "memorized" is not the behavior itself
>(e.g., an internal homunculus forever running the maze), but a neural
>condition that may *cause* the behavior at a later time.
>If I take a rat, temporarily shut down its brain, and use spinal electrodes
>to make it run a maze, then this is a case of the animal exhibiting the
>behavior without having a meme or a mnemon for that behavior. As I see it,
>the behavior alone is not eligible for consideration as a mnemon or a meme.

As Gregory Bateson showed, behaviorists have a hard time explaining why
rats _continue_ to stick their noses through shutters, "knowing" they stand
a fairly high chance of being administered a _very_ unpleasant dose of
electricity. How's that for a reward? His own solution is that instead of
_specific_ pleasures, the more abstract behavioral category of "curiosity"
is what gets rewarded. This resembles the dillemma of criminal justice:
what society wants to eliminate is crime (which is a class or pattern of
behaviors), but by definition all it can address is mere members of the
class - specific acts which can only be defined as "criminal" by referring
to the context in which they have taken place.


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