Gregory Bateson Quotes

A man walking is never in balance but always correcting for imbalance.

Character: the system of interpretation which we place on the context we encounter

Context: pattern through time

Nothing has meaning except it be seen as in some context.

All perception of difference is limited by threshold.

Difference does not have location.

In the world of creatures, nothing can be understood until differences and distinctions are invoked.

Dream is a process, uncorrected by either internal rigor or external “reality.”

Entropy: the plethora of uncommitted alternatives

Is there a biological species of entropy?

Epistemology: the pattern that connects

Those who lack all idea that it is possible to be wrong can learn nothing except know-how.

If you are going to deceive somebody, you had better get an honest man to carry the message.

on George Creel, President Wilson, and the Treaty of Versailles

Explanation: the mapping of experience onto a tautology

Lamarck proposed that environmental impact could directly affect the genes of the single individual. That is untrue. What is true is a proposition of next-higher logical type: that the environment does have direct impact on the gene pool of the population.
What lasts longer among the ripples of the random must last longer than those ripples that last not so long. That is the theory of natural selection in a nutshell.

Two legged geniuses like you and me

Grammar: contextual shaping

We are unwilling to accept the necessities that follow from a clear view of the human dilemma.

Rigor alone is paralytic death, but imagination alone is insanity.

Information: any difference that makes a difference

Interactions between different logical levels produce phenomena unseen at either level.

On the Liar’s Paradox: Taking as an example the paradox presented by the man who says, “I am lying,” we are caught in paradox because he makes a statement, and he makes a statement about this statement, the second being of a different order of abstraction from the first. The paradox arises from the interplay of these two levels of abstraction.
In discussing metacommunicative propositions, we land ourselves at once in this position because metacommunicative statements are of a different level of abstraction from the simple objective statements upon the stream of which they are carried.
A considerable amount of inquiry in the last twenty years has gone into the attempt to unravel these difficulties, which came to the fore in the twenties. It was then hoped that the whole of mathematics and logic might be made self-contained and unified without recourse to “self-evident” propositions, and Russell and Whitehead labored in the Principia Mathematica to establish such a unity between mathematics and logic. It was found, however, that any such attempt involved asking, “What is really meant by the ‘self-evident’ axioms on which any mathematical system rests?” and that the statements which would define the axioms and give them logical foundation must always be statements of a different order of abstraction from the axioms, as the latter are contained in the theorems which are built upon them. The statements explaining the axioms are in fact metacommunicative as compared with the axioms themselves, and the latter are metacommunicative as compared with the theorems. The status of the axioms therefore becomes ambiguous, since they are used at two levels of abstraction, one relatively metacommunicative and the other relatively “objective”; and the total system of statements thus becomes comparable to the electric buzzer which must oscillate between the “yes” and “no” positions.
Since the days of the Principia Mathematica the matter has become even more difficult and more directly relevant to the questions with which we are here dealing. Godel has now demonstrated with rigorous proof that no system of statements can be self-contained in the sense of explaining its own axioms and not be self-contradictory; that always — as a result of the very nature of communication and metacommunication — contradictions of the Russellian type must creep in. This statement of Godel’s — and there is apparently at present no reason to doubt his proof — means in fact that psychology and the study of human communication can never hope to build a self-contained and coherent system which will not be self-contradictory.
In brief, we have to face the fact that when we deal simultaneously with both objective communication and metacommunication, contradictions will arise within the very field of our own inquiry.

Logic is an incomplete model of causality.

Mind is an organization characterstic, not a separate “substance.”

Criteria of Mind
1. A mind is an aggregate of interacting parts or components.
2. The interaction between parts of mind is triggered by difference, and difference is a nonsubstantial phenomenon not located in space or time; difference is related to negentropy and entropy rather than to energy.
3. Mental process requires collateral energy.
4. Mental process requires circular (or more complex) chains of determination.
5. In mental process, the effects of difference are to be regarded as transforms. (i.e., coded versions) of events which preceded them. The rules of such transformation must be comparatively stable (i.e., more stable than the content) but are themselves subject to transformation.
6. The description and classification of these processes of transformation disclose a hierarchy of Logical types immanent in the phenomena.

The exponential rise of the Industrial Revolution, the triumph of Engineering over Mind

A miracle is a materialist’s idea of how to escape from his materialism.

Mutation: a successful raid on the random

The pattern which connects: meta-pattern

The processes of perception are not conscious but … its products may be conscious.

Play? the establishment and exploration of relationship. Greeting and ritual are the affirmation of relationship.

It is not so much ‘power’ that corrupts as the myth of ‘power.’ … He who covets a mythical abstraction must always be insatiable!

The regularities or “laws” that bind ideas together — these are the “verities.” These are as close as we can get to ultimate truth.

Relationship is always a product of double description.
Similar relations between parts: never quantities, always shapes, forms, and relations.

Unify and therefore sanctify

Science can disprove theories, … science can improve theories, … science can never prove theories.

Science is a method of perception.

A man’s spirt must take a different shape if he believes that all sorting in the universe is due to an external agent.

In the ideal tautology, there is no time, no unfolding, and no argument. What is implicit is there, but, of course, not located in space.

A “switch” is Not except at the moments of its change of setting, and the concept “switch” has thus a special relation to Time. It is related to the notion “change” rather than to the notion “object.”

As teachers, are we wise?

Bateson to the California Regents

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About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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