RE: virus: The One or the Many? (was: META)

Eva-Lise Carlstrom (
Thu, 23 Oct 1997 12:00:29 -0700 (PDT)

On Thu, 23 Oct 1997, Robin Faichney wrote:

> > From: David McFadzean[]
> >
> > At 08:26 PM 10/18/97 +0100, Robin Faichney wrote:
> >
> > >Thanks for the refs, but while I rearrange my schedule
> > >to make time for reading them, could you just give me
> > >a very brief explanation as to why a fad is not a meme,
> > >but an expression of one? Thanks alot.
> >
> > It is like the difference between blues eyes and the
> > genes for blue eyes, phenotypes and genotypes. Why would
> > you want to merge the two concepts in memetics?
> >
> Because they're not different things there?
> This stinks of taking metaphors too literally,
> to me.

You don't think a thought and an expression of a thought (such as an
action or statement) are different things? You don't think my utterance
and its effect on you are different things?

> Actually, I'm beginning to suspect quite strongly
> that whether memes are actually behaviour, or
> something else, is not a well-formed question.
> Robin

If we recognize the difference between communicable ideas and the external
phenomena, such as utterances, which constitute the means of replicating them,
then we can argue about which is more usefully called a "meme", which is
something we seem to do on this list periodically. I think the sensible
way to use the term is to refer to the ideas themselves, and not to the
expressions of them in the world outside the vector's mind. We seem to be
able to discuss aspects of memetics, if clumsily, without having agreed on this
point, so long as it is clear whether someone is referring to ideas or
utterances/behaviours in a given instance. It would be much more
efficient if we could agree on our core terminology, but so far we seem to
be a mess. Is it just us, or does memetics in general have this
difficulty? I thought it was clearer than this.