RE: Zenification or Dennetization? Or both?

Gatherer, D. (
Wed, 09 Jun 1999 08:45:08 +0200

Date: Wed, 09 Jun 1999 08:45:08 +0200
From: "Gatherer, D. (Derek)" <>
Subject: RE: Zenification or Dennetization? Or both?
To: "''" <>


Why does removing the homonculi mean that we necessarily say that self is an

illusion? There is nothing compelling about that conclusion, unless of
course one is incapable of thinking of self as anything other than a


I think the Dennettian conclusion has to be that it is a homunculus.

This theme was unecessary to making any clarifications about

I think that I can agree with you in so far as I don't think it is an issue
in the day-to-day practicalities of doing memetics. But I think it was
necessary to show how memetics sits in the Dennettian framework. Modern
memetics is, rightly or wrongly, a post-Dennetian phenomenon. You can't
really discuss it without invoking him. Sue chooses to invoke him
positively, that's all.

It was a thoroughly unecessary philosophical side track that did
nothing to adress memetics and made it look very ridiculous for scientific
respect. Especially by going so far as to inject Buddhism into the
That can only succeed in selling her book to new-age audiences.

Pointing out that some aspects of western thought (ie. memetics in this
case) have come to a point where their conclusions are similar to those of
some aspects of eastern thought (ie. Zen in this case) is not a problem as
far as I am concerned. There's a long history of such coincidences. I did
the same for Averroes and Popper - it's just a matter of academic interest.
I wasn't attempting to 'inject' Islam any more than Sue is attempting to
'inject Buddhism'.

At least Dennet sticks to the more limited philosophy of Hume, and treats
"illusion of self" as a more didactic exercise rather than a new ontology to

be embraced like zen Buddhism. The self does not have to be homoncular in
order to be treated as a legitimately existing thing in itself. Resolving
these issues is unecessary for memetics, and it was irresponsible to make
them the central theme in her book.

I think that my problem is I don't see how Dennett's work is acceptable but
Sue's isn't.

If she has succeeded in framing the issues for memetics, then I would have
conclude that memetics is destined to be just another new-age fad - the JoM
notwithstanding. I sure hope Dennet doesn't choose to follow her over that
cliff, though his endorsement of her work is troubling.

I don't follow. It's a natural consequence of his own work....

However, I can
imagine the monetary profits of doing so could be considerable, so if they
become the newest new age rage, I hope they profit handsomely. They could
really test the boundaries between celebrity and science.

Perhaps somebody has access to some sales figures and we can actually come
to a firm conclusion on this question. So, is Meme Machine the best-selling
memetics book ever???? Somebody out there must know.....

One small thought that occurred to me - Dennet does like to wring his hands
lot about "how disturbing" the possibility of no homoncular self, and even
self at all, would be for so many people. I wonder what world he lives in.

New agers literally get ecstatic about "transcending the self", and religion

both east and west is full of imagery about losing the self in union with
"the all" or with "God" thingies. I rather think, that far from being
disturbed, many people are overjoyed at the possibilities that Dennet
describes. Many people feel that thinking for themselves is just an
uncomfortable pain in the ass. How relieving it would be to have no self to

think for!

So it has occurred to me, that this small piece of culture warp that Dennet
possesses (assuming there is a Dennet to possess it) just might confirm that

Blackmore really does represent Dennet's position.

Yes, I think so. Sue is quite careful to show how she follows Dennett, and
even devotes a page (p238) to detailing where she differs from him (and
incidentally in the process she disarms Steven Pinker's criticism in the
Time articles).

All the worse for Dennet
IMO. Maybe he really has reached the zenith of his philosophical career,
now it is time for him to cash in for a little new age fame and the money
that will be bound to follow that. That would be a loss to the
community, though it might truly represent Dennet thinking for himself (or
for his non-Dennet non-self).

Deconstructionism, as useful as it has been, is getting to be old hat. What

would be much more interesting is a deconstructionist that also knows and
appreciates the REconstruction that can follow. If Dennet goes the way of
Blackmore, I guess that will have to be some future philosopher.

Dennett spent a year in Paris at the height of deconstructionism in the late

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