virus: Memes and Spirits

Reed Konsler (
Mon, 31 Mar 1997 20:08:20 -0500 (EST)

From: (David Kennerly)
Date: Sat, 29 Mar 1997 14:31:24 -0800

> Reed wrote:
> Spirits are percieved as having "intentionallity". A spirit can "want"
> something,
> can plan cognitively, etc. A spirit is a whole point-of-view without a
> current
> body. A spirit is as complicated as the person it is said to "possess".

Memes certainly want things too. They want to propagate. Or so it seems
from a distance. Up close I imagine they seem to be disinterested and
mechanistic. I imagine a meme to a be paradigm shift for a new thinkers to
better understand what is up until recently exclusively mystically
connotated. I think it is somewhat analogous to physics: light rays
relabeled as quantum wave-packets, and to biology: evil disease spirits
and bad vapours relabeled as germs.

Hmm...I think I understand what you are saying.
In fact, you are reiterating Dennett as stated in "The Intentional Stance"

Things we understand well we approach from the "Physical Stance"
This is how physics and simple chemistry in described, we speak
in terms of constitution and characteristics of matter leading
to certian stabilitied and changes.

Things we understand not so well we approach from the
"Design stance" This is how complex chemistry and simple
biology are understood. The things we study, we assume, are
"designed" to do something well and through observation
we try to descern what.

Things we understand not well at all we approach from the
"Intentional Stance" We assume the thing "wants to do
something and we try to negotiate with it as if it were at
least as complex as we some cases more so. This
is the level at which we become wary of subterfuge on the
part of the subject.

Spirits (I don't believe in them, so I'm basing this on their
assumed existence) can only be approached from the
"Intentional stance" since their inner structure (like most
mytho-religios concepts) is irreducibly vague.

Memes, however, are understood at the "design level"
however primitively. We speak of their function as
a result of their components the same
way you might describe how a engine or a simple
enzyme functions.

There has been much interesting speculation here as
to how our understanding might be reduced nearer the
"physical stance" ie, what physical characteristics and
constiution of matter corresponds to memes.

I think you pretty much said this, but perhaps we were
not using the word "intentionality" the same way. I was
specifically refering to Dennett's definition within the
structure above (that was a very bare bones sketch and the
book is VERY good, if a little complicated)

You're right, also, that it teaching people new theories we
often start at a higher level of abstraction first and then
work our way down. It is important to remember, however,
that for organisms "designed" by selection processes saying
"the organism wan'ts to survive" or "the genes [or memes]
want to be propogated" is a inaccurate but linguistically
convenient compromise.


Reed Konsler