Re:The Meme Machine

joe dees (
Thu, 08 Apr 1999 03:50:49 -0400

Message-Id: <>
Subject: Re:The Meme Machine
From: "joe dees" <>
Date: Thu, 08 Apr 1999 03:50:49 -0400

At Wed, 7 Apr 1999 10:51:54 -0400, you wrote:
>One difficulty in understanding the statement:
>"The self is an illusion"
>could be that, whenever we think of illusion we
>are contrasting whatever we describe thus with
>another more real entity. It is less significant
>to ask if this is a true or false statement that to
>understand what each word might mean and, in
>each case, what the standards of argument are.
>I presume that most people on this list have read
>Dennett's _The Intentional Stance_ or his other
>works. In _Darwin's Dangerous Idea_, one of
>the final chapters is entitled "Universal Acid:
>Handle with Care". Why?
>The concept of natural selection allows and
>requires the removal of intentional agency in
>explainations of phenomena to which it is
>applied. If you apply this paradigm of analysis
>to the mind it is inevitable that it's legitimate
>extercise will result in an understanding devoid
>of intentional entities.
>I presume we understand memetics to be the
>extention of the concept of evolution by natural
>selection into the realms of psychology and
>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.
>What Susan Blackmore has done, like a number
>of good writers and thinkers, is to clearly present
>the inevetiable such that it is obvious. I don't
>think her ideas deviate too much from Dennet's
>concept of the self as a "center of narrative gravity"
>She argues that the self is created for the utility of
>memes and not the organism within which it emerges.
>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.
>Potentially deceptive becuase "the self" is understood
>as an intentional entity. This understanding is
>incompatible with the theory of evolution by natural
>selection. The message I take from _The Meme
>Machine_ is not that concepts of the self are useless
>in all contexts..
>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.
>This requirement will, perhaps, make it more obvious
>to us why many resist Darwinism with so much furvor.
>Most people put their faith in God and Providence.
>Darwin teaches us that God is an illusion and Providence
>is capricious and wasteful in the extreme.
>We, as scientists and philosophers put our trust in
>ourselves and in our fellow rational people. Darwin
>now teaches us that our-selfs are an illusion.
>Will we take the step that we would require of the
>faithful? Is depth of understanding more valuable than
>the comfort of the host?
It ain't the same, Reed. Animals are under the rubric of evolution by natural selection because they are predominantly governed by species-specific instincts, while we have, through self-awareness, gained the capacity to transcend them. We, who have evolved to the point of recursive consciousness, evolved to the point where we are programmed to transcend our programming, may plan, create and assert an amazing degree of individuality, freedom and choice, and the selection pressures that matter with us are as different as our responses may be. There is nothing approaching a generic human. Our selves are not things, but they are nevertheless real; the proof is that they differ enough to be contrasted, while remaining similar enough to be compared, and they are constantly changing. Nothing cannot change, anymore than nonexistent selves may suffer the illusion that they exist.
> Reed Konsler
>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)
Joe E. Dees
Poet, Pagan, Philosopher

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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)