Am I a Group Agent?

Presumably not, but maybe it’s more difficult to tell than it seems.

Kirk Ludwig attended my recent talk at the ENSO V conference and raised an interesting issue during the Q&A. I argued against analysing being a group member as being a part of a group (plus a restriction to individuals). He suggested that there is an easier argument against analysing group membership as such a restricted parthood: Even if I had a part who was an agent, I would not be a group agent. Say it turned out that one of my body parts was an agent, this body part would not be a member of me and I would not be a group. At least that is what Ludwig proposed.

I tentatively replied that perhaps one might consider the body part a member after all and I might turn out to be a group, but Ludwig wasn’t swayed by my bold assertion and we left it there. After all, his point wasn’t threatening my argument. It only provided further support for my overall conclusion. Nonetheless, I keep thinking about Ludwig’s argument and I’m not sure I agree with him. Continue reading “Am I a Group Agent?”

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Dennett’s FBtBaB: Chapter Thirteen

I continue my series of short comments on Daniel Dennett’s From Bacteria to Bach and Back. These comments are mainly written for an online forum, in which undergraduate students of Professor Dennett post. Each time I raise a point about one chapter. This time I comment on chapter thirteen.

Cultural Evolution– Cultural Progress?

Chapter 13 treats the evolution of culture. A picture emerges that shows cultural development residing between two extremes, on the one side strictly Darwinian memetic evolution, on the other side intelligent design by individual geniuses.

My question is whether there is place for a notion of cultural progress here. I take for granted that we should conceive of Darwinian evolution as a non-progressive development. There is no progress in the evolution from dinosaurs to birds; adaptation to a changing environment, perhaps, but no progress. The same should be true for strictly Darwinian memetic evolution. Continue reading “Dennett’s FBtBaB: Chapter Thirteen”

Dennett’s FBtBaB: Chapter Twelve

I continue my series of short comments on Daniel Dennett’s From Bacteria to Bach and Back. These comments are mainly written for an online forum, in which undergraduate students of Professor Dennett post. Each time I raise a point about one chapter. This time I comment on chapter twelve.

How Much Work Can Memes Do for Explaining the Origin of Language? Continue reading “Dennett’s FBtBaB: Chapter Twelve”

Dennett’s FBtBaB: Chapter Eleven

I continue my series of short comments on Daniel Dennett’s From Bacteria to Bach and Back. These comments are mainly written for an online forum, in which undergraduate students of Professor Dennett post. Each time I raise a point about one chapter. This time I comment on chapter eleven.

Are Dollars Memes? Continue reading “Dennett’s FBtBaB: Chapter Eleven”

Dennett’s FBtBaB: Chapter Ten

I continue my series of short comments on Daniel Dennett’s From Bacteria to Bach and Back. These comments are mainly written for an online forum, in which undergraduate students of Professor Dennett post. Each time I raise a point about one chapter. This time I comment on chapter ten.

On page 212 Professor Dennett suggests that a memetic theory of cultural evolution might provide the mechanism that Durkheimian functionalism lacked. I find the claim intriguing, yet dubious for the following reason: At least as far as I am familiar with sociological functionalism the function of social practices, traditions and so forth is relative to the whole society. Memes might also be functional e.g. a word functions very well to express a certain issue and therefore may be operated upon by natural selection. But how could a meme be functional relative to the whole society? How would this functionality lead to the meme being selected for?

Until this question is answered, I do not see Professor Dennett’s account of cultural evolution helping Durkheimian functionalism.

UPDATE (9. 3. 2017)

I have received confirmation from Professor Dennett that he in fact asserts that memes can functional relative to the whole society. Furthermore, I have been pointed to chapters 5-8 of Breaking the Spell.

Dennett’s FBtBaB: Chapter Nine

I continue my series of short comments on Daniel Dennett’s. These comments are mainly written for an online forum, in which undergradute students of Professor Dennett post. Each time I raise a point about one chapter of his recent From Bacteria to Bach and Back. This time I comment on chapter nine.

I took some issue with Professor Dennett calling words minimal agents and comparing them to viruses (p. 189). Allow me to explain what I take to be the decisive difference. Words do not have a structure of functionally differentiated parts. They are not organisms in this sense of the term. They do not have any perceptual organs, nor any parts exhibiting a mechanism analogous to perception. Viruses have at least some functionally differentiated parts. The letter a in the word apple has no corollary differentiated function. Continue reading “Dennett’s FBtBaB: Chapter Nine”

Dennett’s FBtBaB: Chapter Eight

This post presents a question about chapter 8 of Daniel Dennett’s From Bacteria to Bach and Back. For more information see this post.

 

On pages 161-162 Professor Dennett expresses his regret for certain formulations he used for presenting his position. The position in question is homuncular functionalism and Professor Dennett has come to regret the use of the terms “committee” and “machine” in presenting it. I can see, why he finds the term “committe” misleading. He is unhappy with the “cooperative bureaucracy” suggested by it. Continue reading “Dennett’s FBtBaB: Chapter Eight”