Can memes explain the birth of comprehension?

Avant, Vol. X, No. 3/2019, doi: 10.26913/avant.2019.03.29
published under license CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

Paweł Grabarczyk orcid-id
IT University of Copenhagen,
University of Lodz
pagrab @

Published Online First 31 December 2019   Download full text

Abstract: The paper is a polemic with Daniel Dennett’s account of memes presented in his latest book From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds. This latest attempt at explaining the idea of memes ties it to the recent advances in Artificial Intelligence and tries to show how the mechanism of meme transmission affected the birth of human intelligence (which Dennett calls “comprehension”). I argue that even though the new version of the theory is not without its merits, it comes with two fatal flaws. First of all, even though on the surface Dennett talks only about words, gestures signs etc., he seems to smuggle in an additional notion of linguistic meaning which remains unexplained. Second of all, he does not provide identity conditions for memes which makes the whole idea of their transmission completely vague.

Keywords: memes; comprehension; artificial intelligence; meaning; Dennett


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“Avant” journal – the task financed under the contract 711/P-DUN/2019 from the funds of the Minister of Science and Higher Education for the dissemination of science.
Czasopismo „Avant” – zadanie finansowane w ramach umowy 711/P-DUN/2019 ze środków Ministra Nauki i Szkolnictwa Wyższego przeznaczonych na działalność upowszechniającą naukę.

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