Gregory Bateson

Gregory
Bateson
1904
1980

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

Author Quotes

It is of first-class importance that our answer to the Riddle of the Sphinx should be in step with how we conduct our civilization, and this should in turn be in step with the actual workings of living systems.

Perhaps the attempt to achieve grace by identification with the animals was the most sensitive thing which was tried in the whole bloody history of religion.

The processes of perception are inaccessible; only the products are conscious and, of course, it is the products that are necessary.

Women watched for the spectacular performances of the men, and there can be no reasonable doubt that the presence of an audience is a very important factor in shaping the men's behavior. In fact, it is probable that the men are more exhibitionistic because the women admire their performances. Conversely, there can be no doubt that the spectacular behavior is a stimulus which summons the audience together, promoting in the women the appropriate behavior.

As a system of philosophy it is not like the Tower of Babel, so daring its high aim as to seek a shelter against God's anger; but it is like a pyramid poised on its apex.

It is to the Riddle of the Sphinx that I have devoted fifty years of professional life as an anthropologist.

Perhaps there is no such thing as unilateral power. After all, the man "in power" depends on receiving information all the time from outside. He responds to that information just as much as he "causes" things to happen...it is an interaction, and not a lineal situation.

The source of the new is the random.

You have probably been taught that you have five fingers. That is, on the whole, incorrect. It is the way language subdivides things into things. Probably the biological truth is that in the growth of this thing – in your embryology, which you scarcely remember – what was important was not five, but four relations between pairs of fingers.

But the myth of power is, of course, a very powerful myth, and probably most people in this world more or less believe in it. It is a myth, which, if everybody believes in it, becomes to that extent self-validating. But it is still epistemological lunacy and leads inevitably to various sorts of disaster.

It is, I claim, nonsense to say that it does not matter which individual man acted as the nucleus for the change. It is precisely this that makes history unpredictable into the future. The Marxian error is a simple blunder in logical typing, a confusion of individual with class.

Prediction can never be absolutely valid and therefore science can never prove some generalization or even test a single descriptive statement and in that way arrive at final truth.

The world partly becomes — comes to be — how it is imagined.

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 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 proceeded them. The rules of such transformation must be comparatively stable (i.e., more stable than the content), but are in themselves subject to transformation. 6) The description and classification of these processes of transformation disclose a hierarchy of logical types immanent in the phenomena.

It’s easy to forget that when we find meaning in a story or enjoy the beauty of a piece of music, we are engaging in the realm of thinking that is most in sync with nature. Metaphor is the language of relationships, the language of natural systems, in which there is room to communicate in spectrums of possibility, instead of tightly defined cul-de-sacs.

Rather, for all objects and experiences there is a quantity that has an optimum value. Above that quantity, the variable becomes toxic. To fall below that value is to be deprived.

There are no monotone "values" in biology.

The major problems in the world are the result of the difference between how nature works and the way people think.

Interesting phenomena occur when two or more rhythmic patterns are combined, and these phenomena illustrate very aptly the enrichment of information that occurs when one description is combined with another.

It is impossible, in principle, to explain any pattern by invoking a single quantity.

Information is the difference which makes a difference.

Language commonly stresses only one side of any interaction. Double description is better than one.

We do not know enough about how the present will lead into the future.

Science, like art, religion, commerce, warfare, and even sleep, is based on presuppositions.

Number is different from quantity... Numbers are the product of counting. Quantities are the product of measurement. This means that numbers can conceivably be accurate because there is a discontinuity between each integer and the next.

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