At Larval Subjects Levi Bryant has just posted a ripping analysis of how memes (cultural units like hairstyles, songs and theories) work, starting with their basic aim to replicate themselves and then focusing on their development of defensive ‘immune systems’ to further that aim.
The target exemplar of memic self-defense in Levi’s post is ‘anti-realism’, roughly, the philosophical tradition holding that things only become real (to us) through our access to them in thought. His analysis of its characteristic defense strategies and their contextual elaboration through the work of trial and error is terrific. I’ve pulled Levi’s leg in the comments by turning the analysis back on his own ‘realist’, ‘object-oriented’ philosophy, reversal being another classic defense strategy that only works in this case if he has correctly identified a universal dynamic. As you know, Bob, claims made about geese apply to both gooses and ganders, which is also a good way to test them.
Before he gets to anti-realism, though, Levi illustrates the principles of memic self-defense by reference to religion, which sent me off on another thought. The afterlife thesis in various religions starts as a faith defense against the inconvenient but otherwise ordinary and irrefutable fact of death and our inability to see past its threshold. This fact need not bother us at all, of course – we could take life and death as they come and make the best of them. It strikes me that our access to the world only through our perceptions is another of these inconvenient but otherwise ordinary and irrefutable facts. Isn’t, then, a philosophical assertion of objects sealed from perception the same sort of defense against inconvenient facts that religious afterlives are? Couldn’t we just take our perceptions and thoughts as they come and make the best of them?