Re: Memetics in Time magazine

t (
Tue, 20 Apr 1999 16:43:30 EDT

From: <>
Date: Tue, 20 Apr 1999 16:43:30 EDT
Subject: Re: Memetics in Time magazine

In a message dated 4/20/99 1:47:23 AM Central Daylight Time, writes:

>>>He just dances around this "self" thing. I don't think he has ever gone
>quite so far as to say it is an illusion. But Blackmore certainly does,
>Dennet's endorsement of her causes one to wonder about his own position on
>this. As a philosopher, he chooses his words well though. I have never
heard him say such a thing. Unfortunately many people do not read
philosophers as carefully as they express themselves. I imagine after this
book many may erroneously believe that he has expressed Blackmore's belief
himself, unless they have actually read Dennet very closely.

What about the last 2 chapters of Consciousness Explained? He alludes to
this again on p367 of Darwin's Dangerous Idea (Penguin paperback ed.)


Unfortunately I have discovered that I loaned my copy of CE to my
father-in-law so I will have to wait until this weekend to review those
chapters again. But I did get a chance to read the place you cite in DDI.

Yes, Dennet dances around this subject in some very tantalizing ways, but I
still do not hear him coming to the full stop conclusion that "self is an
illusion" like Blackmore does. In my latest "selfishness, Buddhism, and
memetics" EM to the list, I think I am making myself a little clearer on this
subject. Blackmore seems to be saying in several different ways that self is
an illusion because it is pure memetics - our memes "decieve us into thinking
that we exist". But I think it is genetics as well, and Blackmore herself
provides some of the basis for contradicting herself over these things when
she calls in her knowlege and references about our language instincts as
humans. I am begining to suspect that she is going out onto the Zen limb all
by herself, though perhaps erroneously believing that she has a lot of her
collegues support which I suspect she simply doesn't.

To pick what I see as the most charitable sentence to that view on the pages
of DDI that you cite, I still don't see this pure meme illusion view of self

In re: to celibacy and chastity

"I am not saying that because the priest's body is "doomed" to sire no
offspring, this is a bad or "unnatural" thing. That would be to side with
our selfish genes, which is exactly what we don't want to do. I am saying
that this is just the most extreme, and hence vivid, example of the process
that has made us all: our selves have been created out of the interplay of
memes eploiting and redirecting the machinery Mother Nature has given us."
(my bolding emphasis)

Close, but no cigar. All through that and the surrounding pages he talks
about the interplay between memes and genes, which doesn't lead me to any
conclusion that he thinks that self is purely a meme illusion. I would be
interested if you can show me something that makes this conclusion on his
part more apparent. It would seem to me that this would be a pretty dramatic
conclusion to be hiding and not coming out and explicitly saying, and
considering Dennet's treatment of some ideas and some biologists in his
books, I couldn't imagine him pulling punches like this. It simply doesn't
seem to me to be his style.

Unfortunately I won't have access to my copy of CE until this weekend, but
please feel free to bring up any specifics out of there, I will make a point
of checking them out this weekend. From my recollections, I didn't remember
Dennet coming to that conclusion in there either, but I could be wrong about
that - I have read an awful lot of stuff since then and I may be confusing it
with something else.


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