Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Levin vs. Alexander in Cambridge, MA

This debate is among of the best I’ve heard on deep matters of metaphysics, though it strayed a fair bit from the topic question at times.  Muchos kudos to the Veritas Forum for bringing together two presenters who were articulate, brilliant, cordial, & downright erudite, for good hearty intellectual jousting. 

Since I’m an unregenerate cynic, thought, I’ll start with the low point of the event.  Probably the worst argument of the talk was this one from Dr. Alexander:

  1. Memes are (by definition) ideas which spread primarily due to characteristics other than rational persuasiveness.

  2. If some ideas are memes, then all ideas must be memes, including the idea of memes itself

  3. :. Meme theory cannot be rational, and implodes in a paroxysm of self-contradiction

Of course, he fails to make premise #2 explicit in his argument, presumably because if he had done so he would have seen this argument as unsound and not bothered to utter it aloud.  Perhaps there is some way to salvage this argument by recasting as inductive, but I cannot see how right at the moment.

For the most part, though, this debate is a fine exchange of worthwhile arguments and pointed counter-arguments.  Definitely worth a listen or two. 

  • Unbeliever rating: 5.0 stars
  • Believer rating: 4.0 stars
  • Overall rating: 4.5 stars

p.s. I’ve developed a bit of a crush on Jenna Levin.  Why didn’t we have any girls like that in my old physics department?

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