Memes and Leibniz's view of intellect

Mark M. Mills (
Tue, 28 Sep 1999 13:08:31 -0400

Date: Tue, 28 Sep 1999 13:08:31 -0400
From: "Mark M. Mills" <>
Subject: Memes and Leibniz's view of intellect
In-Reply-To: <2CDFE2C8F598D21197C800C04F911B203493BF@DELTA.newhouse.akzo

I'd like to propose a perspective of memes based on Leibniz's view of
intellect. I've been reading a little about Leibniz recently and maybe
here can clarify my understanding of his ideas.

Of particular interest for me is the way Leibniz viewed intellect. For him,
intellect was both spiritual and material. As I read it, Leibniz saw
as a property of the body. I don't know if he associated it with the neural

Locke and Hobbes take much different views. Locke attacks the idea of innate
ideas and intuitive knowledge. For Locke, intellectual cognition is a complex
amalgams of so called simple ideas originating in sense perception. His
representation of the mind as a passive tabula rasa paved the way for all
Sensationism and Phenomenalism. For Hobbes the mind is material, and all
knowledge is ultimately sensuous. Condillac and Hume expand on these ideas.

As I read it, Locke and Hobbes are rejecting what Leibniz sees as the
of intellect prior to sensation.

This seems directly relevant to our discussion of memes. As most use the term
'meme,' it is involved in a neural representation of sensation (l-meme) or
represents the source of sensation (G-meme).

In evolutionary terms, Leibniz seems to claim that intellect emerges prior to
sensual equipment. In other words, decision making abilities preceded neural
differentiation. This is the view taken by Bonner in 'The Evolution of
in Animals.' Bonner points to decision making abilities in single celled

At this point, I tend to speculate on how Leibniz would have used memes.
Perhaps Leibniz would conclude our neural system represents an expression of
intellect. In more familiar terms, perhaps the neural system represents a
structural opportunity founded upon bio-electro-chemistry entirely independent
of neural sensation. If this is the case, then L-memes might emerge
independent of their utility as culture replicators. In other words, L-memes
might be a feature of intellect rather than 'culture.'

This seems an attractive idea to me. It solves the 'chicken and egg' problem
for memes. L-memes emerge from properties of bio-electro-chemistry. G-memes
(cultural expressions) emerge from populations of L-memes. Additionally, it
puts the G-meme/L-meme conversation in terms of Leibniz, Locke and Hobbes.


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