Gregory Bateson

Gregory
Bateson
1904
1980

British Ethnologist, Biologist, Systems Researcher, Anthropologist, Social Scientist, Linguist, Semiotician and Cyberneticist

Author Quotes

Earlier fundamental work of Whitehead, Russell, Wittgenstein, Carnap, Whorf, etc., as well as my own attempt to use this earlier thinking as an epistemological base for psychiatric theory, led to a series of generalizations: That human verbal communication can operate and always does operate at many contrasting levels of abstraction. These range in two directions from the seemingly simple denotative level (“The cat is on the mat”). One range or set of these more abstract levels includes those explicit or implicit messages where the subject of discourse is the language. We will call these metalinguistic (for example, “The verbal sound ‘cat’ stands for any member of such and such class of objects”, or “The word, ‘cat’ has no fur and cannot scratch”). The other set of levels of abstraction we will call metacommunicative (e.g., “My telling you where to ?nd the cat was friendly”, or “This is play”). In these, the subject of discourse is the relationship between the speakers. It will be noted that the vast majority of both metalinguistic and metacommunicative messages remain implicit; and also that, especially in the psychiatric interview, there occurs a further class of implicit messages about how metacommunicative messages of friendship and hostility are to be interpreted.

It's the right idea, but not the right time.

Schizophrenia--its nature, etiology, and the kind of therapy to use for it--remains one of the most puzzling of the mental illnesses. The theory of schizophrenia presented here is based on communications analysis, and specifically on the Theory of Logical Types. From this theory and from observations of schizophrenic patients is derived a description, and the necessary conditions for, a situation called the "double bind"--a situation in which no matter what a person does, he "can't win." It is hypothesized that a person caught in the double bind may develop schizophrenic symptoms

There is a strong tendency in explanatory prose to invoke quantities of tension, energy, and whatnot to explain the genesis of pattern. I believe that all such explanations are inappropriate or wrong.

Epistemology is always and inevitably personal. The point of the probe is always in the heart of the explorer: What is my answer to the question of the nature of knowing?

Language is not only the vehicle of thought; it is a great and efficient instrument in thinking.

Science sometimes improves hypothesis and sometimes disproves them. But proof would be another matter and perhaps never occurs except in the realms of totally abstract tautology. We can sometimes say that if such and such abstract suppositions or postulates are given, then such and such abstract suppositions or postulates are given, then such and such must follow absolutely. But the truth about what can be perceived or arrived at by induction from perception is something else again.

Things have to be done fast in America, and therefore therapy has to be brief.

Every move we make in fear of the next war in fact hastens it.

Let's not pretend that mental phenomena can be mapped on to the characteristics of billiard balls.

Synaptic summation is the technical term used in neurophysiology for those instances in which some neuron C is fired only by a combination of neurons A and B.

This identity between the unit of mind and the unit of evolutionary survival is of very great importance, not only theoretical, but also ethical. It means, you see, that I now localize something which I am calling “Mind” immanent in the large biological system – the ecosystem. Or, if I draw the system boundaries at a different level, then mind is immanent in the total evolutionary structure. If this identity between mental and evolutionary units is broadly right, then we face a number of shifts in our thinking.

Human sense organs can receive only news of difference, and the differences must be coded into events in time (i.e., into changes) in order to be perceptible. Ordinary static differences that remain constant for more than a few seconds become perceptible, only by scanning. Similarly, very slow changes become perceptible only by a combination of scanning and bringing together observations from separated moments in the continuum of time.

Life and 'Mind' are systemic processes.

The change toward larger Gestalten and the necessity of this change for both humanistic and formal reasons can be illustrated by considering Sullivan's emphasis upon the phenomena of interaction. This emphasis is very clearly part of a defense of man against the older, more mechanistic thinking which saw him so heavily determined by his internal psychological structure that he could easily be manipulated by pressing the appropriate buttons — a doctrine which made the therapeutic interview into a one-way process with the patient in a relatively passive role. The Sullivanian doctrine places the therapeutic interview on a human level, defining it as a significant meeting between two human beings. The role of the therapist is no longer to be dehumanized in terms of definable purposes which he can plan, and the role of the patient is no longer dehumanized into that of an object of manipulation"

To think straight, it is advisable to expect all qualities and attributes, adjectives, and so on to refer to at least two sets of interactions in time.

I have always thought that way: that the relation between me and that book, or the book and the table, is still a microcosm of the relation between man and God, or God and the devil, or what have you. That the big relations and the small relations are all the same thing! For study’s purposes, you have to work with small ones, sometimes. And then people blame you for working with small ones. Then you start working with big ones and they blame you for being a mystic. It’s all the same business.

Members of weakly religious families get, of course, no religious training from any source outside the family.

The concept of communication includes all of those processes by which people influence one another... This definition is based on the premise that all actions and events have communicative aspects, as soon as they are perceived by a human being; it implies, futhermore, that such perception changes the information which an individual processes and therefor influences him.

We are most of us governed by epistemologies that we know to be wrong.

If a man achieves or suffers change in premises which are deeply embedded in his mind, he will surely find that the results of that change will ramify throughout his whole universe.

Multiple descriptions are better than one.

The cybernetic epistemology which I have offered you would suggest a new approach. The individual mind is immanent but not only in the body. It is immanent also in pathways and messages outside the body; and there is a larger Mind of which the individual mind is only a sub-system. This larger Mind is comparable to God and is perhaps what some people mean by “God,” but it is still immanent in the total interconnected social system and planetary ecology.

We can never be quite clear whether we are referring to the world as it is or to the world as we see it.

If it were possible adequately to present the whole of a culture, stressing every aspect exactly as appears in the culture itself, no single detail would appear bizarre or strange or arbitrary to the reader, but rather the details would all appear natural and reasonable as they do to the natives who have lived all their lives within the culture.

Author Picture
First Name
Gregory
Last Name
Bateson
Birth Date
1904
Death Date
1980
Bio

British Ethnologist, Biologist, Systems Researcher, Anthropologist, Social Scientist, Linguist, Semiotician and Cyberneticist