Re: Memes and associative learning in neurons

Martin de Jong (
Fri, 6 Nov 1998 13:18:32 +0000

From: "Martin de Jong" <>
Date: Fri, 6 Nov 1998 13:18:32 +0000
Subject: Re: Memes and associative learning in neurons
Message-Id: <>

Stephen ( 3 November wrote)
> - thus, my body parts and their actions are also memes)

Derek replied:

>Is there anything which isn't a meme in your theory? Pardon me if
>this seems to be flippant. It isn't intended to be so. I just
>worry that your net is cast so wide it will catch virtually

I tend to agree with Derek here. The best way to weaken a theoretical
approach is to claim it applies to anything and everything.It quickly
loses its credibility that way. If a meme has been defined a
replicator of cultural ideas (be they concepts, images, smells, i.e.
anything tangible by senses), it is risky to apply it to actions.
Possibly only the images or smells these activities provoke in
neurons can be termed replicators. On the other hand, the analytical
difference between the input to a neuron and a neuron itself may be
hard to draw. By necessity, in a neural net theory the line between
neuron and net becomes blurred. That is an empirical 'fact' memetic
analytical concepts cannot easily cope with.


> The only way that complex colonies of neurons can emerge, I propose, is if
> each neuron made choices from its ecology. These choices are subjective,
> they are contextual and they are associative. The neuron's interpretation
> of the world is achieved through its bodily senses (via its synapses),
> hence, it too, has a mind-body relationship.
> What I am getting at is that conceptualisation is the stuff of life.

Stephen would apply this framework to all levels, leading Derek to
conclude he is a panpsychist. I have no idea what it means to be a
panpsychist, probably that psyche rules over matter. Personally, I do
not have the impression that this is what Stephen means (though it
is of course up to him to give a final judgement). I think he is
poiting at the fact that mind and matter are inextricably linked. I
would call this position spinozistic (after Spinoza, who was opposed
to Descartes' dualism between I and what I think) and I am inclined
to see Kauffman (Stephen refers to him, I believe) as a Spinozist. I
think that is a very laudable position to take. Not mind rules over
matter or vice versa (both would be philosophically ridiculous
standpoints), but they are the 'other sides of the same coin'. Being
a social scientist, I have the experience that social scientist
systemtically underestimate the strength of physical aspects in the
social world and the influence of genetic material in how children
grow up. Some physicists and biologists on the other hand usually
point just at material aspects of life thereby despiritualising world
phenomena. It may permit them to be more concrete, quantifying and
circumscribed about definitions, but that doesn't make these
descriptions necessarily better suited to reality. Presumably, the
more complex phenomena get, the less materialistic reduction will
help to understand these phenomena. Why, if neurons do realise
associations with former events and experiences, can they not be
called 'subjective'? That seems perfectably reasonable and realistic
to me. You do not have to a 'pan psychist' to share that opinion.

Martin de Jong

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