Re: virus: Normativity

Eric Boyd (
Sun, 29 Jun 1997 18:32:45 -0500

KMO wrote:
> Eric wrote:
> > Hmmm. You are right that a line "in theory" can be drawn between
> > memetics the "science" and memetics the "normative theory" I think it's
> > a fairly small line, though.
> >
> > Example:
> >
> > 1) Memetics tells us that ideas will spread better if they are more
> > clearly stated. Clean langauge, simple vocabulary, and at least some
> > lip service to the gramatics conventions of the day...
> >
> > That is the science
> >
> > 2) One wants ones meme's to spread
> >
> > This is the normative step. Anyone want to argue with it?

This is now an example of replying to myself. I do want to argue this
point. In fact, this is the very question I was asking recently: should
I want to spread my memes? You are right, KMO, that this is the point
at which the normative framework would fit in. How do I know that I
*should* spread my memes? What makes that "good" or "desirable"?

As I've heard it said:
"Reason cannot establish values, and its belief that it can is the
stupidest and most pernicious illusion." Alan Bloom ("The Closing of
the American Mind," pg.194)

> That "should" is an imperative of reason, not virtue. Given that I have

Funny how easy it is to guide yourself astray with words. It never
occured to me that "should" could be an imperative of reason instead of
virtue. Just becuase a thing is /reasonable/ does not mean it is good.
Becuase /reason/ assumes that it's premises are "valid" already, and
carries that validity through into the conclusion.

1) reduction of human population is good
(central doctrine of the Church of Euthanasia)
2) murder means reduction of human population
3) therefore murder is good

Funny how that works, eh?

> a specific goal, I should take the necessary and available means to
> acheiving that goal. The normative step would come in justifying one's
> goals, and the fact that something appeals to me does not give it moral
> value. Memetics does not provide a framework for selecting ends which
> have moral value.

So lets get us one!

I think the first "moral" imperative of memetics should be "conscious
variation of memes." Not sure how I could go about justifying such a
claim, other than to say that if model building, "truth" discovery is
the goal of memes (that is, what we want from them, not what they want
from us) then obviously we would be well rewarded by considering /all/
the possibilities.

Prof Tim. wrote:
> All of these are parts of a normative theory, I think. My problem is I
> don't know how to approach the question either without resorting to other
> ethics (PCR, Zen, Golden Rule, etc).
> How do other "Churches" go about settling questions like this?

Christianity just relies on the Word. But that isn't very useful
here... (not useful, that is, until we *have* a word. Anyone want to
write an "inspired" normative theory for the CoV? Maybe it could be
from the view point of a Mind Virus, and teach in parables.)

> > Of course, I don't have any control over the CoV or over the Church of
> > Freethought, so all this is just my position...
> Yes you do. Your visible presence here (as opposed to lurking) makes you
> a controlling member. I believe we have a normative theory at work here

Yikes! A controlling member. Such a large responsibility... :-)

> on the list. Although unmoderated we are quite self policing and some
> ways of spreading memes are roundly frowned on (and actively fought
> against). Although we may be open to /which/ memes to spread, I think
> most of us are quite opinionated about /how/ we spread them. Now the task
> of putting that into words might prove difficult. Maybe our doctrine
> should cover *how* we select which memes to spread, rather than which
> particular memes to further. (Which brings us back defining a normative
> theory, I guess)

hmmm. Try this:

"If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight
rein on his tongue, he decieves himself and his religion is worthless.
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to
look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep onself from
being polluted by the world." James 1:26-27

One of the few quotations from the Bible I agree completely with. See,
sometimes a bad tree does bear good fruit!