Re: The Meme Machine

Bill Benzon (
Wed, 7 Apr 1999 12:21:16 -0400

Message-Id: <>
Date: Wed, 7 Apr 1999 12:21:16 -0400
From: (Bill Benzon)
Subject: Re: The Meme Machine

>An explaination of the mind which includes
>intentionallity may be valid by a number of
> may even be "scientific" in the eyes
>of the community.

But, one can use control theory to come up with a comprehensible and
materialistic notion of intention. See:

William Powers, Behavior: The Control of Perception. 1973.

You might also take a look at:

Walter J. Freeman, Societies of Brains, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1995.

>Her one significant deviation is the conclusion that
>the self is not simply "an illusion" but irrelevant
>and disposable. This isn't exactly an arguement for
>determinism. What I understand her to be saying
>is that each person makes decisions according to
>some at present poorly understood process. Dennett's
>self as "center of narrative gravity" then rationalizes
>how each action was, in fact, a freely willed choice
>of the self. It is that process of rationalization which
>is potentially deceptive.

The issue, it seems to me, is whether or not a person can operate without
this self, whatever it is. But then that's me talking in terms of my own
theoretical stance. I think of the self as a construct -- perhaps not too
different from Dennett's notion of a narrative center of gravity (though I
don't know, not having read Dennett) -- and, in my sense, both Blakemore
and Dennett obviously are using their own instantiations of that construct.
And, if that construct were obliterated from their minds/brains, I suspect
that neither would be able to continue living coherent lives and making
arguments about the non-existence or non-ultimacy of the self. This
constructed self may not be really real, but living without one is really

Dan Dennett may really believe that "Dan Dennett" is just an illusion, but
I doubt that he'd agree to a phamaceutical regime that would free his brain
from that illusion permanently. So there are limits to just how far he's
probably willing to go with this. As long as he can write books, give
speechs, cash checks, etc. as Dan Dennett, he's willing to say he's an
illusion. But that's as far as it goes--unless, of course, he's finally
decided that philosophical consistency demands some sacrifice and he's
already taken up anonymous residence in an empty refrigerater carton

Now, though I am not a Zen practitioner, nor do I practice any sort of
meditation, I have, on occasion, been in states of mind my self wasn't
there. This didn't involve the ingestion of chemicals nor anything that
got me involved with a shrink. On one occasion it involved playing music
and on other occasions it involved writing undergraduate term papers (which
I then turned in and got good grades on). So I have concrete experience of
functioning at a high level without this self-thingy calling the shots.
Though those experiences were both intriguing and disconcerting, I do not
thereby conclude that the self-thingy is an illusion.

>A *memetic* model of the mind requires that we give
>up the concept of self. If we do not, then we will not
>understand the processes of the mind any better than
>we do at present.

The fear that some of us have is that memetic fundamentalism is taking us
three steps back.

>We, as scientists and philosophers put our trust in
>ourselves and in our fellow rational people.

How can we trust ourselves if those selves are illusions? What's there to
trust? If the self is an illusion then that trust is quite meaningless and
the rationality of our fellows is no doubt an illusion as well.


William L. Benzon 201.217.1010
708 Jersey Ave. Apt. 2A
Jersey City, NJ 07302 USA

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)