Re: A more "sciency"-sounding mysticism.

t (MemeLab@aol.com)
Wed, 7 Apr 1999 08:56:50 EDT

From: <MemeLab@aol.com>
Date: Wed, 7 Apr 1999 08:56:50 EDT
Subject: Re: A more "sciency"-sounding mysticism.
To: memetics@mmu.ac.uk

In a message dated 4/7/99 2:35:22 AM Central Daylight Time, EGraham1@aol.com
writes:

<< In my mind, in order to have true "free will" a thing must be free of all
material causation, not simply have the ability to process input from the
environment (of which it is a part) for it's own benefit (due to the action
of the evolution algorithm). If you want to convince me that your
definition
of "free will" is acceptable, you will have to explain to me what exactly a
thing which has "free will" is *free* from. As you have said you are trying
to define a process of control not freedom. >>

Ah, see this is where the language really starts to unravel. You have
unraveled the idea of free-will as meaning something uncaused or
supernaturally caused, and now I have to ask you what then does "freedom"
mean? Nothing at all? If it means nothing, how can we credibly value it?
What then does "freedom of expression" mean, and why do people even care
about it? If "free" and "freedom" mean supernaturally caused, then is this
all just supernatural thinking? If I am valuing these things am I really
just engaging in supernatural thinking? That is news to me, and probably
lots of other people as well.

I am not being entirely facetious either. Just to give you a leg to stand on
(though I am sure that you already have a couple), think about the fact that
John Locke - one of the intellectual grandfather's of the American culture of
freedom - based this all on natural rights - they are "God given" dontcha
know? In fact he believed that atheism was an assault on this doctrine since
it denied the "God" thingy which he saw as the source of these natural rights.

So really now, is this the only way that we can even talk about "freedom" and
"free will"? If we don't hold some supernatural beliefs, must we then opt
out of this culture of freedom entirely? Is there no other way to
conceptualize these things? Do they refer to nothing?

An analogy that I often provide, and you may have seen in my AOL rants, is
that of rain. Perhaps a primative people believe that rain is the "gods
weeping". Upon contact with greater knowlege they discover in fact that it
is not the "gods weeping". Must they then give up on the concept of
precipitation and write it off as "an illusion" since it doesn't exist as
they defined it before? Were they irrational in the first place for even
providing a label since they erroneously defined it with supernaturalisms?
Must they then discard all cultural objects, manifestations, and practices
that were associated with this supernatural belief?

Since John Locke was basing his ideas about "free will", "natural rights",
and "social contract", on supernatural ideas, does it follow that for those
who reject supernaturalism there can be no such things?

Once again just to bring this back to the issue of memetics - these same
arguments are closely related to and parallel the issues about "self". It
seems to me that in regards to these things we are talking about issues of
very basic cultural ontology. We are talking about our most basic
experiences of being social entities operating on cultural terms. We CAN
argue about the definitions of things like "self" and "free will" - those are
essentially epsistemological arguments, but if we CAN'T even agree on the
ontological validity of "self" and "free will" - calling them "just
illusions" brings their ontological validity clearly into question - then we
cannot even begin to build an epistomology - a body of knowlege - a science
of memetics. How could we even begin to talk about an "ecology of
intentions" if we can't agree on these basic ground rules/assumptions?

-Jake

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