Friday, 26 July 2013

Internalism, Externalism, Informationalism

I found out recently that I had been using the term "externalism" differently from others in the field - or at least differently from some self-proclaimed externalists.

I had been using "externalism" to refer to the idea that memes could exist outside minds - for example, in cultural artifacts. However, others seem to have used "externalism" to refer to the idea that memes only exist outside minds.

From my perspective, this presented a dilemma. Should I continue with my usage - or adopt theirs? I was initially reluctant to adopt their terminology - since use of the term "externalism" promotes their position. Also, we then need a new, different term for the position I favour: that memes consist of cultural information, and may thus be represented in any medium - including brains, behaviours and artefacts.

However, I've decided to bite the bullet. Henceforth, I'll discuss the topic in terms of "internalism", "externalism" and "informationalism". "Internalism" is the idea that memes only exist inside minds. "Externalism" is the idea that memes never exist inside minds. "Informationalism" refers to the idea that memes are cultural information and are substrate-independent. "Informationalism" isn't a great term, but it really has to fit in with the existing terms - and I think it is the best that we can do.

I endorse "neuromemes" as the term for what the internalists would call "memes".

1 comment:

  1. This does make important distinctions; and of course the fourth quadrant is that memes dont exist a all. Perhaps the terms could also be given 'hardline' or 'pure' modifiers. However, "In-form-ationalist" is very internalist, perhaps a more amphibian word would suit.