Monday, February 25, 2008

The Meme, Ricoeur Style

For months I've been watching the silly 123-5 meme spreading around, wondering why it could have occurred to anyone to come up with this, what the point might possibly be, and why people bother to respond. But since I've now been tagged by both Fido and Gabriel, I find myself compelled to respond. Is this supposed to be a blog bonding thing?

The meme is this:
1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages)
2. Open the book to page 123
3. Find the fifth sentence on that page
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five bloggers.
The book is Paul Ricoeur's Husserl: An Analysis of His Phenomenology (the first book I reached for was Robert Kane's The Significance of Free Will, but page 123 didn't have enough sentences on it; then I realized I was already holding Ricoeur in my other hand--this is what I call "focused study"). Here's what I got:
Sunk into the midst of this nature, I experience myself as a "member of . . ." (Glied) this totality of things "outside me" (CM, p. 129:36). From this dialectic of the "outside me" and the "in me," which my body has instituted, proceeds the whole constitution of the alien "in" and "outside of" ownness.
How do we get from this admitted and accepted solipsism to the constitution of the Other?
How indeed? I do like the way Ricoeur basically re-reads Husserl in such a way as to make the sort of existential phenomenology in which the will takes primacy to representation a natural outgrowth, though also a reversal, of Husserlian phenomenology. And I wish that contemporary constitutivists, i.e., Korsgaard and Velleman, would take some time to go through Ricoeur, who carefully rejects both the notion that the will can be understood as an entirely reflexive capacity (Korsgaard) and that volitions ultimately share a kernel of sense common to representation (which, I think, is kind of Velleman's position). I also wish that I had some time to work this out myself... Well, soon I will. Hopefully.

And now, to tag some people. A bit hard, since I figure I can't tag either the people who tagged me, or the ones who tagged them. So, I tag Boram, Joe, Avery, Neil, and Joachim.

I don't know how people are supposed to find out if they've been tagged, though. I'm guessing not everyone regularly checks their Technocrati stats to cry about how unpopular their blog is.


  1. I don't know about Blogger, but on Wordpress it's fairly easy to check stats, incoming links, etc. For the time being I like the unpopularity and inactivity of my blog--I think my blog is a lazy Daoist recluse. ;)

    Nice Ricoeur quotation (the closest I've come to reading phenomenologists was Heidegger on death, which I very much liked). Anyway, have opened the nearest book (Mencius), and all I got was gibberish. So I will try something else perhaps.

  2. This isn't the Ricoeur quotation I would've preferred. What I really don't get about this meme is the point. I think it would be much cooler if the rule was "pick up the book closest to you, find a quote you like, and discuss." Who came up with this thing, anyway?

  3. My closest book is Phenomenology and the "Theological Turn": The French Debate by Dominique Janicaud, et al. Page 123 is within Jean-Francois Courtine's "Introduction: Phenomenology and Hermeneutics of Religion."

    The appropriate three sentences are:

    "In terms of what idea, experience or, better, ordeal of truth do we assess or interrogate the 'evidence' of the religious phenomenon thus apprehended in its greatest generality possible? At the very least, we can say: Beyond the evidence of the intended as such--'I can simply look at that which is intended as such and grasp it absolutely. There is no evidence that could ever be superior to this,' Husserl declared in the sketch that serves as preface to the 1913 edition of the Logische Untersuchungen."

    Since I have not yet begun reading this book, I can only have an empty and extremely indeterminate intention of these three sentences. They do make me salivate, though, and I will get to the book when I've finished with some Tillich and maybe some more Jean-Luc Marion.

  4. Okay, say you're now a guinea pig for a net-based stochastic study of meme propagation with the original memes sufficiently small and compact (the pass-along stuff) and moving to web-based diversity and complexity.

    Pick a trope in Ricoeur, say “identity,” and estimate the odds of particular trajectory for the distribution of the Ricoerian meme on “identity.”

    How many generations will pass before the “meme” is no longer recognizable as originating in Ricoeur? - what standards of parsimony-generosity of scrutiny in parsing the pass-along propagation do you set in tracing the lineage back to Ricoeur? – and, if you allow for mimetic “mutations” at different rates in different media (print book vs. net), and also allow for mimetic mutations to be differentially unequal for different memes (say, the “identity” meme is less resistant to change than the “narrative” meme), so that you have mimetic mutational “hot spots” or “cold spots,” then how do you sort out whether Ricoeur’s readers even understand what they’re passing along?

    There are most measurable concepts in biology, and ways to test “hidden beliefs” in law and religion; but, at the level of memes, how do you really test for propagation?