MAR 24

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18: MAR 24


  • Dennett, Daniel. Chapter 6: "The Evolution of Open Minds" Freedom Evolves. (300) (170-193)

Dennett, Daniel. Chapter 6: "The Evolution of Open Minds" Freedom Evolves

  • Offers a "circa 2003" account of cultural transmission. We will update this a bit with Henrich.
  • New leaf preference for butterfly can be "imprinted" Point: transmissable trait without genetic change.
  • Alludes to "phenotypic selection" . In recent gene/culture theories, this is more central (Sapolsky). "Unibrow example"
  • Considers various mechanisms by which nature "outsources" traits that promote transmission: prolonged parent-offspring contact, attentional biases of babies and children to parents. (My examples: recent research on "thinking your child is special" and judgements of beauty in partners.)
  • Primate examples of transmission of learning. Culturally specific norms 173.
  • Transmission independent of language, but human language makes a huge diff. A "virtual machine" in our heads that extends the self. Language makes possible memes.
  • Memes -- theoretical concept for modelling cultural "variants". Odd image of the lancet fluke. Henrich will give us a more updated way of thinking about this.
  • Memes do nicely modelled the paralled process of genetic mutations.
  • Memes like other can be parasites, commensals, or mutualist. examples 177.
  • Important point here. You don't have to assume that we create memes intentionally with a clear idea of why they might be good for us. As we'll see in Henrich, when cultural variation produces viral memes, even intentionally, the distant consequences (secular society) might not have been intended at all!
  • To question about "meme science" on 178. No, probably mostly an imagination stretcher.
  • Back to the Fluke! Interesting to think of how memes "capture" our minds. 179 fanatacism.
  • The concept of the "extended self" -- review. What is that's where the freedom is? In the virtual machine that we are running in our heads, through language and culture, to connect ourselves to each other, partially, through shared memes.
  • Memes as "pure information" haven't survived in the theoretical discussion. Better though of as automatic processes (recall examples from above) and automatic inferences (intuitions).
  • Religion as cultural system. One reason for Henrich is that he's not preoccupied, as Dennett is, with the range of possibilities for theorizing religion.
  • Religion likely an example of "convergent evolution".
  • Reasonable to ask whether a religion is serving the human good or not. Rapa Nui. Radicalized forms of religion.
  • Last section (186): quote.
  • Idea of Darwinian evolution as "substrate neutral" (hence, it could be instantiated in a virtual machine, or network of virtual machines, processing memes. Society!