Re: Zenification or Dennettization? Or both?

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Wed, 9 Jun 1999 15:22:03 EDT

From: <>
Date: Wed, 9 Jun 1999 15:22:03 EDT
Subject: Re: Zenification or Dennettization? Or both?

In a message dated 6/9/99 9:57:30 AM Central Daylight Time, writes:

>>> I understand that research since her publication is
> already eroding that hypothesis severely though I haven't had the time to
> over these new developments myself.

Really? I must have missed something.... Can you give me a rough idea
where this stuff was published?


I don't precisely know Derek, but I seem to recall seeing something in a
review of her book somewhere - I believe somewhere on the web - I can't
really remember who it was or where. If I recall Blackmore correctly
however, she was claiming that "true imitation" is something that is very
rare outside the realm of humans (hence addressing her totally unnecessary
philosophical question about what is so different about humans), and she went
to great pains to show how many instances of imitation in the rest of the
animal world were really instances of "social learning" and not true
imitation at all. The references that I remember dealt with those claims.
Feel free to discount my statement on that, I was just speaking from the
patchy scraps of memory I had on the subject. I hope that I made that clear
the first time, but if not allow me to make it clearer, yes I was shooting
from the hip. But if you do ever locate what I was talking about, I would be
interested if you would remind me where it is.

Regardless though, it seems to me that Blackmore got a little too concerned
about distinguishing humans from other animals - a pointless philosophical
issue that had little directly to do with memetics. And yet in fine myopic
behaviorist fashion she refuses to squarely place the significance for
memetics on language, and indeed I think that is probably even the answer to
the side issue about the difference between humans and other animals.

Even after appropriately acknowleging Pinker on language she somehow finds it
more imperative to make these painstaking and tenuous distinctions between
social learning and true imitation and then place all of the importance on
true imitation. It was mildly interesting, and perhaps even valid, but I
think totally irrellevant to the issues of memetics.

Perhaps imitation has some role to play in our instinct for language, but it
is language and not mere imitation - be it "true imitation" or just the
"social learning" type of imitation - that is the most powerful and
significant force that drives memetic replication. Without it, we would be
very little more interesting than chimpanzees - a species for which
behaviorist dogma is much more fruitful than for humans. And indeed that
very fundamental language instinct is the basis for us having selves in the
first place. Kind of convenient for her to prefer focussing on some other
behavior aspect to come to a conclusion that just happens to confirm her
religious convictions - that there is no real self. That would be harder to
take seriously if she placed the significance where it truly belongs - in
language - where a proposition for no self is more obviously absurd.


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