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Omar Aan
Richard Barbrook
Ars Electronic '96

Onar's response to Richard
The discussion continues.

>I'm glad that my article inspired your contribution to
>the Memesis debaHowever you seem to be unwilling to let
>go of biological reductionism. The memes concept is
>nonsense precisely because it refuses to accept that
>humans are specifically human! We're NOT like
>protozoa, ants or any other animal. We possess
>consciousness and the ability to plan something
>before we do it.

It's true what you say, but this is not in anyway incompatible with our biological nature. I am NOT a biological reductionist. (In fact I am a phenomenologist). I do not think that we are "just genes". Our consciousness is very real and undismissable. But at the same time consciousness is not without limits. It is structured, i.e. lawful, and as such is together with other minds capable of forming emergent structures.

>From John Locke onwards, almost all social thought focuses
>on this humanness of human society. This is why the
>Feurbachian critique of memes still stands. Of course, we
>use abstraction and representation to understand the
>material world. The stupid thing is not only to confuse the
>signifier with the signified, but to refuse to understand
>the dialectic between the individual and the species.
>Biological reductionism is yet another attempt to deny any
>element of human subjectivity in our historical
>development. This is why it needs to be thoroughly dissed!

I think there is room for both. The problem with the popular version of memetics is that it is the precise anti-thesis of free will. As such memetics is equally flawed as the free will dogma, for in a sense they are each others mirror images. Of course there is no such thing as an "absolutely free will". Our actions cannot in any way violate the laws of physics, and they cannot violate our biology. However, it is equally silly to say that we are blind, mechanistic processes. This certainly violates our own phenomenology: we are thinking, perceiving and feeling beings with among other things the ability to willfully choose our actions.

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