Re: A more "sciency"-sounding mysticism.

t (MemeLab@aol.com)
Wed, 31 Mar 1999 18:14:35 EST

From: <MemeLab@aol.com>
Date: Wed, 31 Mar 1999 18:14:35 EST
To: memetics@mmu.ac.uk
Subject: Re: A more "sciency"-sounding mysticism.

In a message dated 3/31/99 3:12:21 PM Central Standard Time, EGraham1@aol.com
writes:

<< In a message dated 30/03/99 15:01:03 GMT Daylight Time, MemeLab@aol.com
writes:

<< Now I certainly can and do understand the need to reconceptualize free-
will, to wrench it from more supernatural-dualistic paradigms. But to write
off
their own and everyone else's corresponding individual experiences of
actively making choices and of an emergent self, as being "just an illusion"
is every
bit if not more ridiculous than the more religiously-minded people's
attempts
to attribute these experiences to supernatural causes. At least they are
addressing their experiences, however "simple-minded" and irrational their
religious approach. These other atheistic folks are foolishly denying them,
with a more "sciency"-sounding mysticism. >>

Hi Jake and hello to everyone else, this is my first mail in this group. I
hope I am not speaking out of turn. I'm an earth scientist who has had an
amateur interest in the concept of memes since reading The Selfish Gene over
10 years ago. There are a few remarks I'd like to throw in here.

I agree with the importance of empiricism, but subjective mental "experience"
is hardly that. Are you denying that it is possible for our perceptions to
be
at odds with reality?>>

Are you suggesting that our experiences can be *so*consistently* at odds with
reality? Do you not have any sense of your agency? I do. It is my
understanding that other individuals consistently do. And even some that
might try to convince me that they do not, seem to otherwise be perfectly
willing to use language of agency. They speak of acting, doing things, and
otherwise controlling their own behavior, and treat themselves as a distinct
entity just as surely as the rest of us. We hold them responsible for their
debts and most of the time they accept this responsibility willingly. They
set goals, speak of their life story, talk about overcoming their past, and
other hardships. What is free will at all if not these things?

Certainly if I told you about the time that I spoke with a "God" thingy and
watched miraculous faith healings, and the spontaneous creation of water out
of dust, these would not qualify as the consistently shared sort of subjective
experiences that we should be granting legitimacy. But there is nothing
likewise incredible about discussing our sense of free will, and granting that
legitimacy as something more than "just an illusion."

>>I have no problem with redefining "self". I suspect the concept of memes
could greatly assist in this endeavour. However, I'm not clear whether you
are proposing to simply redefine "free will" as the perception of "self
control" or whether you are really suggesting that genes and memes can somehow
produce agents which are independent of.....well of genes and memes, and all
other aspects of nature and nurture.<<

Free will is an issue of CONTOL, not of CAUSE. Trying to attribute free will
to supernatural causes or treating as uncaused - is the typical
misconceptualization of the experience of cultural agency and self control.
But it is to this consistent and common experiential reference point that
people refer to when they talk about free will, not to the
misconceptualization that they associate with it.

>>I think the term "free will" carries too much baggage to redefine it to that
extent.<<

The first question is 1)does it refer to anything? The second question is
once we have discovered what it refers to (and that it does refer to
something), how do we define it? If it has been misdefined, that is a fixable
problem. If it doesn't refer to anything that exists, that is not a fixable
problem. When people tell me that free will, or selves are "just an
illusion", they are essentially telling me that we have a problem with the
first question (does it refer to anything?) which is unfixable. If it is
fixable, "baggage" is not a prohibitive problem - since we actually have
something to refer to independent of any baggage that the problem definition
contains.

>>I cannot conceive of how genes and memes might create genuine agents,
independent of themselves.<<

Then let's just concentrate on how genes and memes might create genuine
agents, instead of "illusions".

>>Just to clarify my own position on one or two things. IMVHO the concept of
memes, as imitated information stored in the brain, seems to be derived from
inductive reasoning and is therefore essentially philosophical in nature. It
will remain unfalsifiable until we have the capability of "reading" brains.<<

Certainly if memes are entirely "in the brain", they will remain philosophical
for long time to come.

>>However, it is a philosophical idea which appears quite intuitive to me
(what ever little that is worth). It is one which I would not like to give up
easily.<<

Really? Well, me too. Sort of odd to me, however, how you would give up on
free will. I guess if we throw a little "subjective mental experience" into
witches brew, its all over for you. Or is it? Maybe if we couldn't have any
experiences of it at all, and all we could do is philosophize about it, it
would seem more intuitively right?

(continued)

-Jake

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