Re: memetics and knowledge

From: Joe E. Dees (
Date: Sat Sep 16 2000 - 21:07:37 BST

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    Date sent: Fri, 15 Sep 2000 10:49:17 +0100
    From: Robin Faichney <>
    Subject: memetics and knowledge
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    > In a message I've deleted, Joe said something like:
    > If you can't say it, you don't know it.
    Saying it does not mean that the other person automatically gets it
    (some people just aren't too bright), just that (s)he in principle can
    (that it semantically adheres to the state or process of affairs being
    > This is simply wrong, but it opens up an interesting topic: the distinction
    > between memetic and non-memetic knowledge.
    > Intellectual knowledge is not the only sort -- there is also experiential
    > knowledge, that gained through experience, rather than verbally or via
    > other media, from books, parents, teachers and friends.
    Experience is the primordial source for all that verbal and written
    and other media knowledge passed on.
    > Now, there is obviously a large overlap between intellectual and
    > experiential knowledge, in that much of what we learn through direct
    > experience we can verbalise and pass on to others, and much of what we
    > learn from others, we could have learned through experience.
    Bingo. Perhaps all. But that is the crux of the contention.
    > But there remains a residue of experiential knowledge that is not
    > communicable. Can you ride a bicycle? Could you teach someone else
    > to do so using only words, so that the first time they mounted one,
    > they could display the same level of skill as yourself?
    See below, before you prejudge what I can and cannot verbally do.
    > Obviously not. We are talking about motor skills here, which can be
    > learned only through experience. And to say that this is not knowledge
    > is mere semantic quibbling. If I can swing an axe through, say, 135
    > degrees, the head travelling perhaps a couple of metres, to split a log,
    > hitting it within a centimetre of the point I was aiming at, then I know
    > how to use that axe! (At least, in the log-splitting context. I could
    > actually do that, a few years ago, but I'm sadly out of practice now.)
    If you described to me the series of interconnected motions you
    performed in order to do this, I could most likely learn to do it
    myself, but even if I couldn't, you could still describe it, at least
    much better than someone who does not possess, i.e. has not
    learned, the skill.
    > Mystical "knowledge" (and here we are reaching the limits of usefulness
    > of that word) is of the experiential sort, and it lies beyond the overlap
    > with intellectual knowledge, being largely non-communicable. Of course,
    > just as we can teach someone who is willing to do so to ride a bike, by
    > being with them as they practice and sharing the snippets we can find
    > a way to verbalise, with many hints and some actual physical support,
    > so mysticism can be taught, to those who are willing to learn, the first
    > several lessons usually being concerned with meditation.
    I've meditated on the above, and decided not to accept it <grin!>.
    > But, to sum up, some knowledge is non-intellectual, and non-memetic,
    > and our memetic theorising, and general intellectualization as well,
    > will be sadly lacking, if we forget that. I'd go so far as to say that
    > it's the ground upon which everything else is built. Unless it's based
    > upon, and ultimately returns to, actual experience, it's sheer hot air.
    How To Ride A Bike:
    Get on the bike with one foor remaining on the ground and the
    other one on a pedal, with you hands hpldong the handgrips. Push
    off with the ground foot while pushing forward and down with the
    pedal foot, then balance your body on the before-behind vertical
    plane as you steer forward (by keeping the handgrips equidistant
    from you) and pushing the pedals with both feet (they will describe
    circular paths). If you need to turn, pull the handgrip on the side
    you need to turn towards closer to your body (the other will move
    farther away) as you bank your body into the turn. To stop, either
    squeeze the handbrake (on some models) or pedal backwards to
    engage the footbrake( on others).
    See? It is easy to tell someone how to ride a bike (which is
    different that making them immediately able to do so).
    > --
    > Robin Faichney
    > ===============================================================
    > This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    > Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
    > For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)
    > see:

    This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
    For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)

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