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Re: [ontolog-forum] Dennett on the Darwinism of Memes

To: ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
From: John F Sowa <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 11 Apr 2013 09:45:27 -0400
Message-id: <5166BE77.6030701@xxxxxxxxxxx>
John B, Pat H, Doug F, et al.,    (01)

> My question was where to put them in an ontology.
> Are you recommending that they should be kept under drinking discussions?
> Is that under entertainment, or should memes be kept under fantasy
> entities with Pegasus?    (02)

Memes are signs.  They have a strong affinity with words and other
kinds of signs that humans produce for various purposes.    (03)

You can classify signs in various ways:  how they're produced, how
they're used, what they refer to, how they evolve, etc.    (04)

>> The metaphor underlying the notion of 'meme' is based on an analogy
>> to genes.  But memes are transmitted by mechanisms that have no
>> similarity whatsoever to the mechanisms for transmitting genes.    (05)

> Dawkins notes this and explains why it is not important in the
> originating work, "the selfish gene".    (06)

I agree that a kind of "natural selection" occurs in cultural or
sociological evolution that has similarities with biological evolution.    (07)

I also agree that sociological studies would benefit from more
thorough analysis of the evolutionary processes.  But I'm still
skeptical about pushing the analogy between genes and memes too far.    (08)

> Memes may be for example musical phrases or architectural patterns.    (09)

But they're still signs and patterns of signs.  The distinction
between "bits" and "atoms" is huge.  The ways they're transmitted,
stored, interpreted, etc., have some similarities, but many more
differences.  Genes are not only made of atoms, they are transmitted
and generated by a highly specialized process.    (010)

> All words are things. Not all words *describe* things, maybe.    (011)

The mark-type-token distinction is useful.  All signs, including
words and memes, are represented as *marks* in some physical medium.    (012)

Marks that serve a similar semiotic function are classified as
*tokens* of some *type*.  The interpretation of the type, which
usually changes over time, is always another sign.    (013)

The sign that serves as the interpretation of a type can refer
to something physical, something imaginary, or something that
serves as the mark of another sign.    (014)

> I suggest that a character string (or even a langString) is not a 'word'
> in the common sense of the term.  Words have various properties
> (conjugations, declensions, combining rules, homonyms, possibly multiple
> spellings, histories of usage, etc.)  that character strings do not have.    (015)

The terminology of mark-type-token can keep track of what is being
discussed.  If you see the mark "the" on your computer screen, you
can interpret it as the word _the_ or the character string 'the'.    (016)

But your cat would probably ignore it, unless it happened to be moving
around.  Then the cat might interpret it as a "cat toy" -- a kind of
mouse analog, which cats clearly distinguish from real mice.    (017)

All those interpretations by humans and other sentient beings are
ways of interpreting the same mark as a token of different types.    (018)

 > With Dawkins, Dennett, Blackmore, Gottsch, Balkin and Salingaros,
 > that would be one hell of a bull session.    (019)

I agree that it would be entertaining and perhaps enlightening.    (020)

But I doubt that it would be more likely to converge on anything
that could be called "science" than the over two dozen notes
in this thread.    (021)

John    (022)

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