Re: Memes and associative learning inneurons

Fri, 6 Nov 1998 09:06:05 -0500 (EST)

Subject: Re: Memes and associative learning inneurons
Date: Fri, 6 Nov 1998 09:06:05 -0500 (EST)

I was trying to say that Heidegger is not very compatible with
science, and If replied:

> Is this not precisely what memetics does.
> As I understand the essential
> Heidegger he addresses states of being (Dasein) languaged into
> existence in
> particular organisational contexts. (Pascal, R, 1990 Managing on
> the Edge).
> Selfish memetic patterns provide a good evoluionary explanation.
> (Price and
> Shaw 1998)

That's an interesting take on Heidegger and not one that had
occurred to me. I haven't read Pascal but your new book is my
current bedtime reading, and I am enjoying it tremendously.

I always thought of Heidegger as a religious thinker, and I know
there are people who have drawn parallels between him and various
aspects of Hindu philosophy. As I understand it, his main concern
is with our 'thrown-ness' (Abgeworfenheit? Pardon my lousy
German) into the world, the contingency of our existence and the
inevitability of its termination. Lacking meaning we find it
through authenticity of personal choice and action.

But here lies the problem in squaring Heidegger with memetics. We
are taken to be soi-pour-soi (I'll switch to Sartre because
whenever I travel to Existentialismland I prefer to fly Air France
rather then Lufthansa), and as such soi-pour-soi we are condemned
to freedom. To deny this is, to the existentialist, the ultimate
crime of mauvaise foi. 'We alone can defy the tyranny of the
selfish replicators', said Dawkins. He didn't quote Sartre but
the whiff of Gauloise fairly rises off the page.

The problem is that we can't do this. There is no pour-soi
lurking within us that can make such choices, that can engage in
such acts of defiance. The whole thrust of memetics is towards
the dissolution of the cultural individual. Just as a
gene-centred biology blurs the role of the biological individual
(as Gary Boyd says, following Gordon Pask, the skindividual) so
does a meme-centred culturology diminish the role of the 'self'.

The horrid truth is that we are just en-soi, not pour-soi. Just
en-soi like all the other material objects in the universe. Now
of course, you may want to refute that by saying: I am going to be
free, I am going to make my own choices, and indeed any
self-respecting (no pun intended) existentialist would say the
same. But that's a religious move, not a scientific one.

Part of the fundamental irrationality of religion in the 20th
century lies in its insistence on personal autonomy when science
is telling us that all that exists are impersonal forces. So
that's why I don't see any room for Heidegger in memetics.

Of course there can be religion without such misguided notions of
self (it's called Calvinism, but that's another matter entirely).


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