memes, things and verisimilitudes

Tue, 26 Jan 1999 17:13:57 GMT

Date: Tue, 26 Jan 1999 17:13:57 GMT
From: UEA <>
Subject: memes, things and verisimilitudes

It's nice when everyone gets involved, like on digest #133. One thing that always strikes me is that how heated the
conversation heated seems to correlate directly with how many people are involved in the particular discussion. My
two pennies are (and no, I'm not going to lose it):

1. To ask everyone to use the same language is like asking everyone around the Tower of Babel to shut up - you can't
do it unless everyone is speaking your own language anyway. Much as I agree with Bruce that a lot of conversation
would be short-cut if we were more specific with our definitions, by the same token, it's our language that couches the
terms of our science, philosophy and so on. The language that we use - our very definitions of memes - are the source
of tension and in some way the seat of conflict from which resolution comes out in science and philosophy (cf.
(loosely) Hegel, Popper, Kuhn). In short, language is our interface with reality, if the interface were perfect, our
understanding of reality would necessarily be perfect; but yes, we should be a bit more careful bandying about words
like *thing*

2. To me, the question of whether a meme (or a gene) is:

(A) a real material entity describable by observable and concrete limits or borders (this I take to be our definition of
*thing*), or
(B) merely an abstract idea or concept useful for explaining our observations of reality because of its high propensity
for predicting *results* (this I take to be the (*a*?) definition of a *verisimilitude*)

and the answer depends upon which camp you are in. The materialist-scientists who believes that we will eventually
have a complete (and unique) picture of how reality *works* will go for (A); not just for memes, but for every
plausible and workable scientific concept (e.g. Paul Churchland). The functionalist-philosopher who believes that we
will never have such a picture, and will only come up with ever-more workable and useful analogies and metaphors
(like Dennett) will go for (B).

any others go for this model?


alex rousso.

This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)