Re: memetic fitness and suicide

Chris Lofting (
Fri, 23 Jul 1999 00:25:44 +1000

From: "Chris Lofting" <>
To: <>
Subject: Re: memetic fitness and suicide
Date: Fri, 23 Jul 1999 00:25:44 +1000

-----Original Message-----
From: Paul Marsden <>
To: memetics <>
Date: Thursday, 22 July 1999 8:16
Subject: memetic fitness and suicide

>To translate this into a concrete memetic example - why does suicide qua
>acquired (social learned rather than inherited -which it may also be)
>behavioural strategy persist? Because, of course it is, evolutionarily
>Please can we have a stab at unpacking this and provide a proto-memetic
>explanation for suicide.

Rough comments on Suicide:

positive aspect: sacrifice to preserve the rest of the family/group/species.
Seen as a heroic act. Learnt (since it is social and we do need to learn
these sorts of skills although there are primitive forms in that of parent
sacrificing for child.) to die with honour? according to whom? social rules?
There is an emphasis on immortality here in that you live on in the history
of the group.

negative aspect: breakdown of self-image. Breakdown of relationship of self
to social context (e.g. Japan). Loss of honour/face etc to die due to
dishonour (reverse of above)Not that in the chivalry days you gave the
failed General a gun and a room to go to... where does 'honour' come from?

In a psycholical context, there are paths of darkness that include a drive
to sink back into the context and dissapear. In sex some prefer this form of
satisfaction, to loose one's boundaries and so sink back into the context
and in doing so become blended with the universe.

Put this blending into a context that is negative and the dissapearence can
be taken literally -- the only way being death. (there are some sexual
behaviours that include suffocation etc as a 'high' in the sex act -- but
then the boundary areas are always areas of interest :-))

If we analyse the general behavioural threads 'in here' (where left/right
hemisphere assymetries are manifestations of these threads) the left thread
is reductionist with a drive to make things clear; it is linked to the
concept of establishing identity; to establish the 'one' from the 'many'.
The reductionist bias means to reduce to a single context; you are stripped
down to the basics before the universe. In an immortal context this would
include a willingness to sacrifice the body for the immortalisation of the
spirit (all very fundamentalist dont you think!)

The right thread on the other hand has a negative emphasis in that the drive
is the make the boundary of identification 'fuzzy'; the idea is to either
exagerate and so stick out from the context or else to dissapear, to blend
in with the context. There is an emphasis here on change that can become

Abstract these concepts (and combine positive/negative aspects into sets of
mental states) and suicide becomes an acceptable feature within the context
of human (and other species) behaviour!

Can self sacrifice be extended (generalised) into group sacrifice? (e.g.
Jonestown, the UFO/Comet group, etc etc)? In this area so death is a
'logical' step, inevitable (and so logic can also breakdown in that it makes
no distinction, no assertion of *value* re life/death since the boundary (!)
is fuzzy to a degree where there is no 'break', it is seen to be an illusion
where crossing the 'boundary' just takes you to another dimension. Note how
'right thread' this is in that we make the boundary fuzzy enough such that
the individual will willing 'cross over'.

Introduce the honour/dishonour dichotomy as a fundamental property of local
context and from that, logically, will emerge behaviours that include death
as a logical necessity; an inevitable conclusion (fight to the last etc )

Notice in all of this that only the extremes 'die', your heroes (strongest
etc) or your failures (weakest); the 'middle', the area of highest diversity
and so best chances for adapting to adverse conditions live on.

In general I think that suicide can be traced back to left thread/right
thread sources as outlined above. Group behaviour, that 'wave' thing again,
can be used to break down self preservation (the 'wall') to allow for the
seeding in the social self of death as being an acceptable option (or even
no option, it is inevitable!) The 'seed' is to do with honour.



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