Re(2): virus: Forwarding: some comments about the concept of memes

Chris Stefaniw (
Fri, 15 Dec 95 09:05:24 -0800

>I agree we choose what ideas we think and say and write and we should
take responsibility for them. (And, yes, I believe we have free will
as far as I understand this vague concept.) I *don't* think we are
independent of the memes that infect us; our choices are a product
of the interaction of the memetic ecologies we call "I". This doesn't
mean we are passive nor does it absolve us of responsibility.-David McFadzean

Would it be fair to assume that you are referring to who and what we are by
"the interaction of the memetic ecologied we call 'I'"? Do you think that
this is all there is to who we are and that we can be fully explained by the
interaction of these "memetic ecologies"? Collections and systems of ideas
have a lot to do with our identities, but don't you think there is more to it?
Here's some examples that I doubt there is an explanation for how they
originated from the the interaction of memetic ecologies: consciousness,
attention, changes in states of mined (e.g, the more physiological ones such
as dreaming vs. being awake), the more primal emotions, etc. Do you agree
that all of these have a lot to do with who we are and with our minds, but are
not the interaction of memetic ecologies? The theory of memes appears to be
useful, but I don't see how it could possible make up an adequate psychology
or theory of identity. The way we relate to ideas and the way we remember
them, act on them, associate them, synthesize new ideas in reference to them,
etc. are all fascinating topics that could do a lot to build on both
pstychology and general theories of identity. I just don't see the grounds
for thinking of ourselves as "the interaction of memetic ecologies." I'd even
agree that they play a large part in the outer reaches of our personality.

By the way, while we are speaking of biological metaphors for ideas, does the
metaphor of food work better than that of genes? We gather them from outside,
assimilate them into who we are as the useful ones act as material for
building and maintaining our bodies, good ones are good for our health and
when we are young they are good for our growth, etc. This avoids the problems
asociated with thinking ovf ourselves as fundamentally memetic ecologies when
we can tell that this just isn't so through introspection, research, etc. It
's also better than that of a viral metaphor since ideas are incapable of
"infecting" and "reproducing" in and of themselves since they are not
organisms and we know of little or no reason for thinking that they act in any
way, much less in an organic way.