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Replicate After Reading. On the extraction and evocation of cultural information.

Boudry, Maarten (2018) Replicate After Reading. On the extraction and evocation of cultural information. [Preprint]

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Abstract

Is replication in the cultural domain ubiquitous, rare, or non-existent? And how does this compare to that paradigmatic case of replication, the copying of DNA in living cells? Theorists of cultural evolution are divided on these issues. The most important objection to the replication model has been leveled by Dan Sperber and his colleagues. Cultural transmission, they argue, is almost always reconstructive and transformative, while strict ‘replication’ can be seen as a rare limiting case at most. By means of some thought experiments and intuition pumps, I clear up some confusion about what qualifies as ‘replication’. I propose a distinction between evocation and extraction of cultural information, and apply these concepts at different levels of resolution. I argue that we should stick to a purely informational definition of replication, and resist a more material conception. Even after taking Sperber’s valuable and important points on board, the notion of cultural replication still remains valid and useful. This is fortunate, because we need it for certain explanatory projects (i.e. understanding cumulative cultural adaptations).


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Item Type: Preprint
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Boudry, Maarten
Keywords: Keywords: cultural evolution; replication; information; granularity; extraction and evocation; memes
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology > Evolutionary Theory
Depositing User: Maarten Maarten Boudry
Date Deposited: 19 May 2018 19:12
Last Modified: 19 May 2018 19:12
Item ID: 14692
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology > Evolutionary Theory
Date: 18 May 2018
URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/14692

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