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


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.


So I lent my mother Anathem. After reading it she gave me this book to read.

Nick Urban

A great scientist's introduction to epistemology.


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.

Kipriadi prawira

Bateson begins with a list of basic scientific presuppositions that "every schoolboy should know", n further epistemological foundations are laid in two later chapters, one on the importance of combining different perspectives, of having "multiple versions of the world", and the other on different types of relationship. This material is used as the basis for tackling three major topics: finding explicit criteria for the existence of "mind"; examining parallels between learning n evolution as stochastic processes; n constructing a general purpose epistemological schema, a zig-zag between form and process. New perspective:)

Joe Raimondo

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


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.

Marco Apollonio

Idiozia allo stato puro!

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.


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.


Worth comparing to Godel, Escher, Bach in substance. Bateson often veers from subject to subject, but he is a rigorous and clear writer, and an excellent expositor. The point of this book is not 'Mind and Nature,' but rather certain ways of thinking about Mind and Nature. Bateson is explicit about this book being epistemology, meta-science rather than science.Bateson implicitly draws from several different thinkers and their ideas, the ones I picked up were Wiener's cybernetics, Russell's Principia Mathematica, Buddhist psychology and epistemology (most notably its antiessentialist stance, empiricism, and the idea of mind as aggregate), and logical positivism. Seeing these influences helps to see how grounded this book is intellectually.The last chapter, a dialogue between the author and his daughter, veers into obscurity, but I suppose the point Bateson is trying to make is the difficulty of thinking about how to think properly about big, vague ideas like consciousness and aesthetics. This is the worst part of the book.I found the discussion of stochastic systems in biology both excellent and inspirational--I'm interested in mutator genes, and Bateson's writing highlights the possibility for feedback between trait and process, in this case, mutation rate and evolution.I highly recommend this book for scientists and other empiricists making sense of the world. Bateson's point that logic is a poor model for the world, with reference to Epimenides' paradox "All Cretans are liars" (since Epimenides was a Cretan), is identical to the point made in a recent essay in Nature on gene networks entitled 'This title is false' by Mark Isalan and Matthew Morrison. Bateson's influence lingers.If you're interested, this is the essay I mentioned:Nature 458, 969 (23 April 2009) | doi:10.1038/458969ahttp://www.nature.com/nature/journal/...

TK Keanini

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


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.


Critical thinking


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.

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