Re: PHIL: Memes & Free Will?

Freespeak (
Mon, 09 Mar 1998 21:02:50 -0700

Anyone interested in the "evolution" of the
notion of "I" may find Julian Jaynes's 'The
Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of
the Bicameral Mind' of interest.

My understanding is that all epiphenomena are

The phenomenon of hypostatization -- the notion
that because we use a certain word, there must
be a corresponding existing entity -- may be
relevant here.

Frederick Mann

At 07:24 PM 3/9/98 -0500, Reilly Jones <> wrote:
>Christopher Fedeli wrote 3/7/98: <I've noticed a strong tendency for all
>memetically minded thinkers to keep clinging to some notion of the
>metaphysical "I". How can one accept that all of our traits came to be the
>way that they are by the evolution of genes and memes, and yet still think
>that somewhere 'in there' is a "me" who is capable of exercising some
>control over the process?
>To take a famous example, Richard Dawkins argues that humans can "rebel
>against the tyranny of the selfish replicators." He gives the example that
>every time we use contraception, we are rebelling against the tyranny of
>genes who want us to procreate. But who is really rebelling in this
>example? To me, this seems like an case of the meme for contraception
>winning a big victory in the battle for survival against certain genes.
>But to hypothesize a magical "self" that lurks around in our brains,
>deciding which memes and which genes will exercise influence over our
>behaviors at which time is a joke that no reflective thinker could suffer.
>Will anyone argue differently?>
>And Frederick Mann replied 3/7/98: <I agree that there is no magical "self"
>or "I" in reality. However, in the same way that I can load a program
>"I" into a computer, some complex brain circuitry could evolve and call
>itself "I." And at some point this circuitry could achieve sufficient
>complexity to spontaneously produce the epiphenomenon of free will
>or volition.>
>I know this seems to be difficult for many individuals to grasp, but there
>really is a subjective "I". Subjectivity is an unpleasant fact of nature
>for scientists because there is no way to study it, measure it, experiment
>on it, or theorize about it. So all too many of them take the
>intellectually lazy or dippy way out of their conundrum by pretending it
>away. It never works, of course. Subjectivity is just one of those things
>in reality that is a given, there is an "I" that is just as real as
>external objects that we can measure. Free will or volition is not an
>epiphenomenon, it is real. The brain does not work the same way a computer
>does in at least one very important respect. Information does not exist in
>the absence of an "I", a knower who is distinct from the known. "I" can
>exchange information with "my" environment, with external objects, with
>other subjective selves, even with "my" own body, in that it is an external
>object to "me." However, "I" cannot exchange information with myself, with
>"I". "I" cannot be both subject and object, both knower and known. When
>Socrates said "know thyself," he could only be talking about knowing your
>body as it is an object to you and about your relations with other selves
>and the external environment. He could not be talking about knowing your
>own self, your "I". You don't know yourself, you don't exchange
>information with yourself, you simply decide. Decisions are the atmosphere
>of subjectivity. The protection of volitional freedom is of primary
>importance because of this.
>Perhaps a consideration that "selfish genes" and "memes" are a load of
>hooey is in order if you are forced to pretend that subjectivity isn't
>real, or that there is no real "I". Perhaps some deeper reflection is in
>Reilly Jones | Philosophy of Technology:
> | The rational, moral and political relations
> | between 'How we create' and 'Why we create'
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