Spring 2013 Philosophy of Culture Practice Exam Questions

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Hellen Memes are culturally defined ideas and actions. They are made up of information. Memes are analogical like genes. You can view culture as groups of memes trying to get themselves reproduced. Mme theory can account for cultural ideas because it explains how ideas are passed on and survive. Meme theory states that memes are not consciously reproduced and they are under a selection pressure. Some criticism of meme theory are that bad things or cultural things that don't help our fitness still get reproduced.


(Memes are gene-like and made up of information. memes relate to cultural ideas in that the memes are information that can be passed from one person to another and spread throughout a culture. Memes can be helpful skills for survival, passed down through generations. Some memes are not as easily explained such as artistic or musical ability, however today these can be professions. Some memes that negatively affect a culture, such as genocide, are not as easily transmitted. Some aspects of meme theory do not seem to make much sense. Why does the music meme get transmitted? It seems counterintuitive to the evolutionary idea "survival of the fittest". This is one potential criticism would be asking how harmful memes catch on at all.)

What are "memes" and how might meme theory account for cultural ideas? Identify some potential criticisms of meme theory. (2 paragraphs)

Luna Lovegood

Meme theory revolves around the idea of spreading ideas, practices, beliefs, etc in a culture from person to person. In this way, a meme is sort of "created" and is picked up by others and continues in a snowball effect. This idea or practice generally diffuses in a culture due to fitness or something of the sort. This can also be picked up by other cultures in an across-the-border diffusion, which can commonly be seen in areas such as American pop culture and fast food. A criticism may be that this is not a scientifically explained phenomenon and these "memes" don't hold "fitness" like real genes do. These memes are generally looked upon as the cultural dimension of genes, when the science isn't there to support that correlation. Memes don't undergo natural selection.


Meme theory is the idea that culture has a life of its own. Culture develops from a collection of memes that advance on their own. Memes infect you like a virus, or that is the analogy used anyways. A meme is an idea that develops and then turns beneficial somehow, which is then how it continues in our society. Like the example of music, it may have started from just a nervous tick. A guy taps a log, and then it becomes infectious and mnay people start doing it. Then one day people start to realize that it is pleasurable to make these noises, then fast forward and being good at music has now become something that will help you attract a mate. Potential criticisms of the meme theory are that it doesn't allow for the idea of us developing our own culture, it's for the most part unintentional.

(No Name)

A meme is the information we receive, the "how to" in a question. They pass down from each generation by imitating information by practice. Although they are not like genes that are passed down perfectly to the next generation. Instead the agent may choose certain parts of the meme to keep. This meme theory accounts for cultural ideas by passing down different cultural aspects to the next generation. Memes also focus on one self by applying the question "qui bono" who benefits?

Harry Potter

The idea of memes is centered around the theory that rather than human genetic traits being selected for, causing evolution over time, that ideas and concepts and abstract cultural phenomenons are selected for, causing evolution over time. Like genetic traits, certain "memes" will last longer, develop, and flourish, while others will fade away from the culture. The analogy to genetics implies that certain "memes" help us as a species more than others do, like genes, and those are the memes that "survive" or last over time in human culture.

An example of a "meme" might be Evolutionist theory, the idea of global warming, the popularity of a particular phrase such as "YOLO", or even a fashion trend like North Face jackets. These are all cultural ideas and things that are spread among societies - some of them catching fire and lasting for years and being taken for scientific truths (like genes that promote fitness and stick around), while others do not endure as strongly, like the fashion trend that is "in" one season and "out" the next.

One criticism of this "meme" theory is that its analogy to genetics and fitness is not equal enough. There are many things about genetics that can't be explained by meme theory, such as gene mutations.

Mary Poppins

Memes are small cultural behaviors that come together to form one culture. The behaviors are constantly evolving and over time allow a culture's ideas and beliefs to change.

A criticism of meme theory is that memes are not directly related to genetics.


Memes are the social congruent of genes. They are the means by which cultural ideas are passed from one generation or group to another. Meme theory argues that these cultural ideas are either passed on, and always with some sort of variation, or are not passed on and die out. There are selection pressures for memes, just as there are selection pressures for our genetics, and these include cultural norms which have already been passed on earlier. Some criticisms of meme theory include stuff.

The Lone Ranger

Memes are basically the different aspects of culture. They are like the genes of culture. Meme theory would say that a person's memes are unique to that person. The memes of a person work to make up that person's culture. Memes are the biggest influence in a person's views on culture, both their own and other cultures. These memes are what make a person's culture and also what influences their thoughts on other cultures. Memes, just like genes, are under pressure to survive. The good survive and the bad memes will eventually die out. Some criticisms of meme theory could have something to do with people being more towards scientific theory. Memes are able to come back after being extinct.


We can view culture as a collection of memes. Memes are the informational equivalent to "how to's." The are the guidelines for social/cultural norms. Memes dictate the way a culture evolves; they do not reproduce faithfully or consistently.


Memes are cultural genes that are passed on from generation to generation. Meme theory describes culture as a kind of virus which infects its host in order to pass on its genetic legacy. A common example would be music. Music is costly, and serves no purpose and yet it thrives in human culture. According to meme theory, music is a meme which has infected humans and therefore flourishes in modern culture. In this way, meme theory can explain many cultural practices, especially artistic ones that may not necessarily be beneficial to the host.

Meme theory is certainly interesting, and serves as a very creative solution to a complex problem but it is very abstract. The association between cultural practices and genes is very loose. This theory may help us think about culture in a new way, but there are certainly other reasons behind culture.

Regina George

Memes are facets of information, practice, or tradition that make up culture. Like biological genes in a body, memes make up culture. In order for something to be a meme, an idea must be transferred and accepted for it to be successful. The problem with meme theory is that people in positions of privilege have the most power when monitoring what, when, and which ideas are being communicated. This is a problem because usually those privileged powers assert "universal memes" that aren't true for marginalized groups.

Kevin Garnett

Dawkins originally came up with this theory of cultural memes which essentially says that culture is just a collection of memes, or different types of information that encode or describe the aspects of culture. He also claimed that memes are similar to genes because they are the stepping-stones to the make-up of a culture and they vary immensely just like genes within a human. A cultural meme could be something that illustrates music or fashion within a specific culture. However, these cultural memes as described by Dawkins theory can be criticized because they are under selection pressure. And it is unknown whether or not these characteristics are random or not.


As described in our reading on memes, they are "like viruses." Essentially they are ideas or behaviors that are easily passed from one organism to another. Given their association with teh spread of culture, memes are a human construct. In this way meme theory can easily be used to explain the transmission of ideas such as fashion, dance, and the example from our reading explained a possible early history of music.

The most apparent criticism of meme theory is that perhaps it still does not fully explain both the reasons why certain behaviors began nor their significance. Arguable one of the first milestones in human culture as we know it today was cooking. Meme theory would explain cooking as an interesting idea that makes food more palatable but actually there are biological processes and genetic selection at work when deciding whether to begin cooking or not because cooked food is actually more efficently digested and therefore enhances genetic fitness. In short, meme theory does not include the binding importance of evolution.

Turd Ferguson

A meme is an "idea" or set of information that may or may not be relayed from individual to individual. This theory proposes a unique way to look at culture through a selection process. It looks at a meme (ex. fire starting, neck stretching, sporting, etc.) as information competing for a finite amount of space in the human mind/brain. This information is selected and bred with other information to create cultural ideas that then may or may not live on.

This perspective creates an almost biological view of ideas. It compares this information, or memes, to genes or alleles. The criticism that this theory receives is heavy because the idea is not supposed to be thought of as physical. It takes flak for seeing culture as a science, or almost evolution like.



Memes are the adaptations that humans attain. They attain them depending on the type of culture they are in. The meme theory states that because of our adaptations to the environment we live in, we develop congruent ideas as a group that define our culture. These ideas are a direct result of the qualities we have as a community of people. Not all anthropologists are believers of the meme theory. One potential criticism would be the belief that memes can affect people in the same culture differently depending on circumstances and experiences. One person might adapt differently than another if they experience it in a different light.


Memes are strands of information that exist with a culture. They are commonly compared to like viruses. Memes change and evolve over time as new ideas enter its design space thus altering the overall meme. An example of this is music. "Music" probably started out with a Cromagnum man tapping a stick in rhythm against a rock. Soon one of his kin might realize that they enjoy this "beat" and create his own version of stick tapping. Throughout the course of history this meme of tapping a stick starts to evolve into the modern beats we hear in todays society. The same could happen with a cultural idea. A small idea can start to evolve, just like the stick tapping, into a full blown cultural idea.

A criticism that may arise out of meme theory would be that there are more or less general ideas that have always existed. This would mean that the alterations we see would simply be small deviations along a cultural idea. Also it is hard to think about why these ideas change overtime because this is difficult to explain.


A meme is a contagious cultural idea. It does little to increase fitness, but spreads anyway. A good way to think of a meme is as a virus. Despite the fact that it does nobody any good, and despite the fact that people may try to prevent it from spreading, it spreads anyway.

Music is one of the earliest memes. The earliest music probably did nothing to evaluate fitness; it exploited some quirk in the human brain in order to spread. Like a human disease it spread from person to person, living through them.


Memes are information-they are the "how to". Memes are like genese and you can view cultures like memes. Meme theory might account for cultural ideas through the idea of reproduction.

Some potential criticisms for meme theory are that memes aren't produced faithfully, they aren't like genes-which are produced faithfully. Memes are also under a selection process, which could cause problems,

Donald Duck

Memes are meant to be much like "genes" but in a cultural sense. Memes are our way of organizing culture into events, practices and structures that tell us why and how culture can be created and reproduced. Although we don't consciously create memes, the memes that create our culture can be transmitted and popularized by cultural practices, ideas in one region or sect of a culture can catch on and be adapted by more and more groups within cultures.

One of the main criticisms that biologists in particular have with the meme theory is that it's just an analogy and culture is obviously nothing like our genes and biological structures. Memes also can't explain practices within a culture that are deemed problematic because the theory can't predict problems, understand problems or try to solve problems that can arise out of cultural practices.