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The Meme Machine unleashed, according to Susan Blackmore.

Andres Moreira andres.moreira at terra.cl
Thu Oct 3 11:54:41 EST 2002

In general, I liked Blackmore's book, and agreed with most of her 
points. However, I often wasn't convinced by her arguments (I just 
agreed with the conclusions, for my own reasoning, but I felt she didn't 
make the point). Below, some comments.

Richard Lancashire wrote:

> "Simon Laub" <silanian at mail.tele.dk> wrote 
>>Except Susan Blackmores claim that the self
>>is a complex meme. Certainly, it is puzzling
> I enjoyed the book too, as an introduction to memetics. However, it
> was not without its weak points; I was unconvinced by the notion of
> 'self' as a meme or consistent part of meme-complexes, and in reading
> the bibliography I notice Dr Blackmore was writing on Buddhism before
> she became really interested in memetics;. It seems like the

Well, since all of us are embedded in one culture or another, there is 
nothing bad in the fact that she was influenced by some stuff different 
from the stuff that influences me or you. Difficult as it is to accept, 
I agree with the idea of the self as a memeplex. Not all of it - there 
is in all biological systems a distinction between the self and the 
other - but most of what we call "self" and the attributes we name for 
it, like beliefs and options. Perhaps buddhism was just useful to grasp 
the idea, since it has being trying to get rid of such beliefs and 
options for centuries now (or so I understood it). No I usually talk 
about the self as "the little Tamagotchi we all carry inside". I think 
the image applies. Could you (both) explain why you don't agree with the 
  self as a memeplex?

> Another point that I found less than satisfactory was her suggestion
> that the development of language preceded (and presumably drove)
> symbolic representation. This seems too counterintuitive to me to
> state as theory and then move on without elaboration.

I don't remember this part very well, and don't have my copy of the book 
around, but I do remember that it was rather obscure.

> I think as a fundamental philosophy of existence it is lacking; as a
> practical philosophy of information and action it contains very
> interesting points to be addressed.

One think I liked in the book is that she didn't try to round everything 
up into a pleasing philosophy of existence, as some writers insist in 
doing at the end of the books. The view she offers is not pleasant, and 
not easy. The "darwinian acid" of Dennet pours on the cherished 
tamagotchi, and there is no easy way out.


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