Re: virus: Prisoners my Derrida!

David McFadzean (
Sat, 20 Mar 1999 11:17:11 -0700

At 11:36 PM 3/19/99 -0800, KMO wrote:

>The heart of Buddhist faith, the four noble truths and the eightfold
>noble path are do not seem to me to be the kinds of things that could be
>proven false.

Possibly, but given what Robin said I wouldn't be surprised if the DL would agree that no-one should be attached to any meme, even the 4 Noble Truths and the Eightfold Noble Path. Do you see the same relation I do between "attachment" to a meme and "faith"?

>> Sorry, I thought "dogmatic" was equivalent to "not on the table for
>> examination". My mistake. I have no idea what you mean by "dogmatic".
>Take these four statements:
>1) Consciousness is of the highest value.
>2) Life is suffering.
>3) The universe is approximately 6 thousand years old.
>4) Jesus of Nazerath was born of a woman who was litterally a virgin at
>the time of his birth, and this was thousands of years before artificial
>insemination or any other means of producing a pregnancy without sexual

>I see two different kinds of statements here. I would call not being
>willing to subject 3 and 4 to possible refutation "dogmatic" in the way
>that you say constitutes a Virion sin. Claims 1 and 2 seem to be a very
>different sort of affair.

I would agree that beliefs can be usefully categorized into those that are falsifiable and those that are not. Maybe this is an important step in resolving the great faith debate, call them type I and type II beliefs. (If there are other standard names for these categories, please speak up.) I think it is possible to hold either type dogmatically in the sense that the believer is unwilling or unable to considering changing the belief. (A potentially interesting tangent: If someone is unwilling to change a belief, is it because of another belief, and if so, is the meta-belief held dogmatically?)

Now, given the two categories, what can we say about dogmatism? Can we agree that it is never a good idea to hold a type I belief (falsifiable) dogmatically? If not, why not? What about type II beliefs? Does that fact that they are non-falsifiable necessarily imply that they are held dogmatically? Is "memes exist" a type II belief?

>Your question was, "I share your belief but I don't hold it
>dogmatically. What are the advantages of making it sacred?"
>My answer was:
>1) I didn't accept the axiom as an article of faith because I decided
>that there was an advantage in doing so. It's not even something that I
>DECIDED to accept.

On the other hand it is not an entirely unexamined belief either, is it? I mean, you obviously decided to keep it once you discovered you had it. Is that not a type of acceptance?

>2) I don't know if this is the kind of statement the holding of which
>without evidence constitutes "dogmatism."

Agreed, that is what I was hoping to explore with my question.

>If you think that these answers spring from an uncharitable reading of
>the question, I will be happy to give it another go. If you would like

No, this is exactly the kind of discussion I was hoping for.

>I ask again, do I seem like the kind of person you would call
>"dogmatic?" When you defined dogmatism as a CoV sin, was the dogmatic
>behavior you had in mind as something to be avoided; something which
>hobbles one's thinking, the kind of behavior or style of thinking that
>you observe in me?

No, you do not seem like a dogmatic person. That is why I was surprised to see you say something that could be interpreted as dogmatism which prompted me to ask you to elaborate.

>> So would it be safe to say that losing that meme would change your
>> fundamental identity? [disclaimer: I am not implying any sort of
>> value judgement by this question, I am just curious and trying to
>> understand what you're saying]
>Yes, I think that I would be a different person were my core values to
>undergo a dramatic change.

Actually I was asking about one core value in particular. It isn't a particularly strong claim to suggest a person would become different person if their core values (all of them) changed. It is much more interesting to suggest someone becomes a different person if any one core value changes. Would you still agree with the latter statement?

Here's what I'm thinking: Over the past few weeks of discussion I'm getting the impression that a person's identity is defined by some core group of memes. If so, it wouldn't be entirely accurate to say "you are your memes". Rather, you are a subset of your memes. This provides a way of resolving the apparent inconsistency between "you are your memes" and "you (can) choose your memes".

David McFadzean       
Memetic Engineer      
Church of Virus