Re: virus: Rationality

David McFadzean (
Sun, 23 Feb 1997 23:06:29 -0700

> From:
> Date: Sunday, February 23, 1997 4:28 AM

> Memes are little snippets of information, etc, which we use as an
> base for the way we act and react, right? Well, I was thinking
> Is ones rationale, and Logic a meme? Can one be infected by rationality,
> or does rationality control the memesphere (or vice versa)? Is
> built in, or is it learned?

The answer to each question is yes and no, depending on whether you are
talking about rationality as a description of the laws of the universe,
or the laws of the universe themselves. This is one of the reasons that
discussing memetics is often confusing, and why I was recently advocating
that we adopt a notation that would differentiate between something, X,
and the idea of meme, "X", that refers to X. If anyone has a better idea,
I'm open to suggestions.

So, "rationality" and "logic" are indeed memes that happen to be about
rationality and logic respectively (which aren't memes). You can be
by "rationality", but I would say that logic controls the memesphere
more than rationality (a subtle distinction) because the latter has
connotations of intentional behaviour.

Rationality is built in. We (like all animals) are hardwired to act
for the most part. We drink when we are thirsty and eat when we are hungry
which is quite rational compared to the alternative. It is sort of like how
a thrown rock follows a parabola without the benefit of knowing the
of conics, it just does it be virtue of its physical makeup embedded in a
system. Obviously the animals that behaved rationally (fleeing from danger,
had more descendants than their unfortunate peers, so rationality literally
evolved. This form of rationality I call "pre-rational", rational without
aware of rationality.

Many humans are rational as well, in that they can behave rationally by
consciously following logical rules. This type of rationality involves a
line of reasoning: "if I don't phone home soon I'll be in big trouble" or
"a benevolent and omnipotent god wouldn't let all those innocents die
horribly, so either he isn't benevolent or he isn't omnipotent or he
doesn't exist (or perhaps those innocents weren't so innocent after all)".
This type of rationality is usually what we refer to as "rationality" and
is only transmitted by memetic infection as far as I can tell.

A few humans are "post-rational" in that they recognize that "logic" and
"rationality" are memes, and as such are imperfect descriptions of logic
and rationality. And that "logic" as a formal system is not and cannot
be justified logically, but is rather a complex and beautiful set of
mutually supporting beliefs (a meme-complex) supervenient on our
pre-rational brain. (Which isn't to say that hypothetical aliens wouldn't
arrive at the same system of logic given that their pre-rational brains
evolved in the same physical reality.)

Any resemblance between my 3 levels of rationality and Richard's 3 modes
of consciousness are purely coincidental :) Well, not really. I would say
that the post-rational human is a Level-3 that chooses to operate

David McFadzean       
Memetic Engineer      
Church of Virus