Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity

ISBN: 1572734345
ISBN 13: 9781572734340
By: Gregory Bateson

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About this book

A re-issue of Gregory Bateson's classic work. It summarizes Bateson's thinking on the subject of the patterns that connect living beings to each other and to their environment.

Reader's Thoughts

TK Keanini

This is one of the most influential books in my life.


I liked Bateson's premise that the world is aesthetic, and his definition of aesthetic is "responsive to the pattern which connects." Here's what I wrote in my blog about it......Bateson discusses the wider knowing which he described as "the glue holding together the starfishes and sea anemones and redwood forests and human communities." His point was that we humans notice the starfishes, but we don't notice the glue that holds the starfishes and the rest of the world together. So why does it matter whether we're aware of this background context that creates the space for the starfishes, streams and forests? Because the background is what makes them possible. Think about an empty container--it's the space within the container that makes it useful. We love our houses, but it's the space within the house that makes it a house. The Tao Teh Ching says, "While the tangible has advantages, it is the intangibles that makes it useful."According to Bateson and many other writers, thinkers, and scholars, this background or wider knowing is aesthetic. Back in the early 1800s, the German poet and philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe also claimed that the fundamental nature of the world is aesthetic. We live in the midst of a large aesthetic space, and we don't typically notice it (much less honor it for its wisdom.)Bateson describes a time when he was teaching a class of "young beatniks" at the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco. Bateson showed them a starfish and asked them, "How are you related to this creature? What pattern connects you to it?" Bateson tells us that this was an aesthetic question that he posed to the students. Bateson later writes, "Is this what Plotinus meant by an 'invisible and unchanging beauty which pervades all things?'" The ultimate unity, Bateson argues, is aesthetic.


One of the seminal thinkers of systems theory (once called cybernetics) compares the process of evolution to the process of learning. I listened to recordings of Bateson's talks given at Esalen around the time he was writing this. Francisco Varela picked up where Bateson left off.


Critical thinking


Fascinating way to view the criteria of mind to better understand processes, moires, and thought pattern. This was required reading in college in one of my very favorite classes created by a professor who won national awards for his curriculum.

Scott Holmes

Patterns that connect. One frequently hears phrases such as everything in the world is connected to everything else but rarely do we find much in the way of discussion. Gregory Bateson was the epitome of the multidisciplinarian. He could not be pigeonholed in any particular field of study but he could recognize the most significant aspects of each and demonstrate how they all connect together. I must admit here that he is far and away beyond my own level of comprehension. I must continually reread and reassess every time I read any of his works. This includes the dialogues Catherine Bateson published (my copy is currently buried in a storage shed). I have not seen the film produced by Nora Bateson, but would love to someday.


this is a very dense book on a very abstract set of concepts, but well worth reading if you're at all interested in evolutionary biology and the idea of what "mind" might be. some of bateson's creative flourishes (especially the final chapter) are a little weird, and explain why his work is also popular in decidedly less scientific arenas, but the core idea that evolution and mind can be considered as logical analogues and as stochastic processes is a good one.


I may very well have to read this again sometime soon. The scope of this book is astounding. It starts out as a primer on how to think, redefining epistemology along the way in an attempt to enable the reader to think in cybernetic circuits of calibration and feedback, form and process. Bateson seeks to tease out "the pattern that connects", a pattern of patterns, the meta-pattern that connects all living things. The pattern that connects us. It's all a bit fuzzy, but it'll definitely make you think. It'll take some brain power, too.

Nick Urban

A great scientist's introduction to epistemology.

Marco Apollonio

Idiozia allo stato puro!


Bateson was a great thinker who emphasized that logic and quantity are inappropiate devices for describing organisms, and their interactions and internal organisations. Reading Mind and Nature during the 80s I felt affirmed in my intuition that it splits us inside if we separate Mind from Nature. He showed how patterns connect, how they are not static but dance in a rhythm of repetition. He showed how information spreads inside a system and controls growth and differentiation. This is as seminal work that influenced many other fields in science and the humanities. System-therory in family therapy and Gestalt, for example, and cybernetics as a study. He always pointed to context. His ideas should be applied to how children learn about connectivity. Bateson is one of my heroes.


this book rests at the strange nexus of the writings of Merleau-Ponty and Douglas Hofstadter, and is presented to us within a framework of biology with an ultimate concern for the institution of education. just trying to parse these referents is difficult, and the book does well at keeping a handle on the far more difficult task of putting forward what can only be called a philosophy based on the necessary implications of putting all these things into a pile and looking at it from just the right angle. obsessively focused on entropy and negentropy, the theory relies on the concept of stochastic process to springboard a science discussion into the reaches of philosophy. like all texts of either discipline, it often seems needlessly repetitive, giving perhaps too many examples or applications of any new idea. still, this is a fascinating read.

Vironika Tugaleva

There's nothing like it in the world. What a gentle, thoughtful, poignant, and careful disassembly of the world around us. And an equally careful reassembly. If you are willing to apply it, there are new worlds to be experienced on every page.


Un libro un po' difficile da leggere ma assolutamente geniale, idealmente da affiancare a "G��del, Escher, Bach" per chi sia interessato a riflettere sul funzionamento della mente. Io ho trovato Bateson un po' pi�� difficile di Hofstadter, per�� pu�� dipendere dalla mia formazione scientifica - probabilmente gli umanisti avranno l'opinione opposta.

Joe Raimondo

Professor Bateson lays out a transformative dialogue for maeta-relfection.

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