Talk:Gregory Bateson

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Picture for the article[edit]

I have found this webpage http://www.interculturalstudies.org/resources.html Where there are links to material (and some photos) of G. Bateson and M. Mead. I got it through the picture of the couple in the book Conway, F., and Siegelman, J., 2005. Dark Hero of the Information Age: in search of Norbert Wiener, the father of cybernetics. Basic Books, New York. 423pp. ISBN 0-7382-0368-8. In the book there is a really nice picture of the two of them. Maybe The authors can be contacted to find out how to get that picture, since, apparently the library of congress has put some of the material in public domain: http://www.interculturalstudies.org/resources.html#rights

Kakila (talk) 08:48, 25 April 2011 (UTC)

Cybernetic epistemology[edit]

Cybernetic epistemology redirects here, at the page Gregory Bateson but there is no explanation of it. I'm not knowledgeable enough to write about Cybernetic epistemology so I leave this note for someone else. Thanks! --phauly (talk) 09:23, 29 December 2009 (UTC)

Excuse me the question. did bateson smoke cigarettes?[edit]

lets say its kind of biographical question and i am _just_ curious. 2006.11.23

Bateson smoked. I have no idea for how long. One of his graduate students during his time teaching at Stanford, described to me how Bateson would get lost in thought developing some idea during seminar, and they would watch the cigarette in his hand burn his skin.

During the quarter I spent studying with him at UC Santa Cruz, his absent mindedness while lecturing or driving a car were legendary.

The article is quite short and I intend to expand it.[edit]

The article is quite short and I intend to expand it.

For example the definition of "double bind" does not explain what is not banal about this concept and overvalues its importance in the etiology of schizoprenia, while neglecting its value as na example of the way diferent levels of comunicution lead to paradox.

Time allowing I will provide more extented descripition of double bind.

I have edited some of the text explainig why Bateson still sems hard to understand. I am very tired just now and wil continue, hoping to attract more attention to this article. Georgius 22:34, 6 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Not to take anything away from Bateson Or Korby, but a search of Ari's quotes turned up an analogous statement to the map/territory thing. Thanks for the work. ~~wblakesx

Is the defintion of knowledge really by bateson?[edit]

I doubt that the definition "knowledge is a difference that makes a difference that makes a difference" is really by Bateson. I have read most of "Steps to an Ecology of Mind" and have never found it. I know that he wrote "information is a difference that makes a difference" in the article "Form, Substance and Difference" (p459 of the 6th ed. of Steps to an Ecology of Mind)and I know that it makes sense to define knowledge that way, I just am not shure that Bateson himself did it.

BTW what about this gem: "No man can go to bed with the same girl for the first time twice." (Bateson paraphrasing Heraclitus. in: The Logical Degrees of Learning and Communication. p288 of the above edition) Or would you consider this rude/off topic? --KoenigChristoph


I think you should check "mind and nature" (1979) for the difference stuff. It might be in steps as well, but in M&N it is even in the glossary. And I liked the quote about the girl even though I don't really understand the passages where occurs completely, to be honest. Pete


The particular quote is in Steps to an Ecology of Mind on pg 318 "a difference which makes a difference is an idea or unit of information". It is in the section "Epistemology of Cybernetics" in the Essay The Cybernetics of Self: A Theory of Alcoholism". Hope that helps :/

Robin Bennet —Preceding unsigned comment added by 90.215.2.6 (talk) 20:21, 10 November 2009 (UTC)

A Little Bit Of Difference[edit]

Gregory Bateson :"Mind and Nature, a necessary unity" (1979):

Part III, Multiple Versions of the World.
1) The Case of Difference :
" To produce news of difference, i.e. information, there must be two entities (real or imagined) such that the difference between them can be immanent in their mutual relationship; and the whole affair must be such that news of their difference can be represented as a difference inside some information-processing entity, such as a brain or perhaps, a computer." (my copy, Bantam New Age Books -am I giving anything away here?- April,1980 pg 76)
...on discussing a chalkmark on a blackboard ( Part IV, Criteria of Mental Processes/Criterion 2):
"Kant argued long ago that this piece of chalk contains a million potential facts (Tatsachen) but that only a very few of these become truly facts by affecting the behaviour of entities capable of responding to facts. For Kant's Tatsachen, I would substitute differences and point out that the number of potential differences in this chalk is infinite but that very few of them become effective differences (i.e., items of information) in the mental process of any larger entity. Information consists of differences that make a difference" (op.cit.pg 110)

I'm sorry to say I know ZILTZ about computers.

I virtually shake your hand(s), (Lunarian 11:57, 16 August 2006 (UTC))

Difference in Information or Bit?[edit]

I believe Bateson was giving a definition for 'bit' rather than 'information' based on this quote from Steps to an Ecology of Mind that is repeated in [1] (emphasis mine):

what we mean by information - the elementary unit of information - is a difference which makes a difference

According to Classification and Categorization: A Difference that Makes a Difference, the original reference is Mind and nature: A necessary unity, perhaps it sheds some light on what Bateson intended? Vagary 21:14, 16 August 2006 (UTC)

I agree that he is talking about the elementary unit, and that can be understood as a "bit". But it depends on the perciever as well. Which difference "out there" triggers a change on the inside. (here he was maybe inspired both by cybernetics and maturana/varelas thoughts about autopoiesis, I think). Anyway, he seems to use this "difference that makes a difference" as a minimum definition for something to be information. So I think it is both a definiton of the elementary unit of information, and at the same time a definition of a elementary characteristic of all information. And as for refernces, I quote page 212 from the hampton press version of Mind and nature: "Information: Any difference that makes a difference." This is probably what we should quote. But he also writes, to support your case, in the defintion of Idea: "In the epistemologi offered in this book, the smallest unit of mental process is a difference or distinction or news of a difference. "
I think maybe a bit can be considered the distinction or "news of a difference" in the mind that is relased/created as a result of a difference (outside the mental process) that makes a difference (for the mental process).
What do you think?
pertn 08:47, 17 August 2006 (UTC)

Bateson's style[edit]

If it was the unconventional nature of "Bateson's style" which led to misunderstanding, I wonder whether it was his writing style (which certainly makes sense, and ought to be made explicit), his lifestyle, or some other sort of style, and what sort of confusion resulted therefrom. D021317c 10:48, 7 March 2007 (UTC)

What probably frustrates most intellectuals about Bateson was his style of circling around the edge of major ideas, developing fascinating and plausible insights, but then lacking the patience or interest to develop the conventional volume of proof common in modern science. His legacy is largely that of a series of fascinating realms and concepts worth exploring. He was just too peripatetic to stick around and do the grunt work.

Same could be said of Wittgenstein or Nietzsche couldn't it? --RichardVeryard (talk) 18:00, 14 September 2009 (UTC)

Lutterer[edit]

This was posted by NewtonSpeed: "According to Lutterer (2000:281) Bateson was condemned as a fringe New-Age-Apostle, his cybernetic communications theory and epistemology was either ignored or reinterpreted in major parts, as, for example, within the pragmatic communications theory of Watzlawick or the pseudoscientific neurolinguistic programming of Bandler and Grinder. - Lutterer (2000) Gregory Bateson. Eine Einführung in sein Denken (Taschenbuch) ISBN-10: 3896702378"

If this view is reputable then it should be available in an english source. --Comaze 16:32, 28 June 2007 (UTC)

A quick check on Amazon.de indicates that Lutterer has written two books on Bateson, and appears to be a reputable source. However, the quote is taken from page 281 of the second book, and it is unlikely that Lutterer himself shares such a negative view of Bateson - he is perhaps merely reporting some vague criticism by people unidentified in this quote. It is possible that the quote is either taken out of context or mistranslated. Criticizing Bateson for his association with New Age thinking is grossly unfair, since Bateson himself criticized New Age thinking; the German Wikipedia entry on Bateson mentions this, but doesn't cite the source. The quote and the POV it contains should not be reinstated unless we can verify the original German quote IN CONTEXT, and unless there is some verifiable substance to the criticism reported by Lutterer. --RichardVeryard 09:20, 29 June 2007 (UTC)
I think other sources will confirm that some critics may have asscosiated with New Age movements, though I agree that the inserted quote is not very good. Though GB critizised NA, he actually did have some relations with the movement in the last years. Didn't he die in a some kind of an american zen monastary, or someting, for example?
I think I have something written by himself commenting this. Some of his last speeches or something. I'll check it out. Also I think the part about him being ignored sadly is quite true, at least compared to the importance of his writing. In anthropology for instance he is barely mentioned in many summarizing historical and encyclopedical works. I think the inserted Lutterer passage may essentially have some truth in it, but it places undue weight on a not very important source referring to some vague critizism. Also: It is interesting to note that the german WP has a lot more extensive GB entry. Here it is stated that GB influenced NA, but that he was critical of the movement. (And I would like to note that this is unsurprising to anyone familiar with his work. He was in many ways a very rigorous scientist, for instance basing lot of his thought on matemathical set theory and logical types... anyway.) I'll check some sources and see if I can find a good Bateson-quote on this. pertn 19:21, 30 June 2007 (UTC)
Zen is not New Age! And Bateson was very much an agnostic of movements. Bateson died at the San Francisco Zen Center, perhaps a place where natural death was allowed to occur (this was before hospice systems were developed for end of life care). He also lived for a time before then at the Esalen Institute--see Mary Catherine Bateson's account of his death, Six days of dying under External links on the article page.Margaret9mary (talk) 01:46, 11 March 2011 (UTC)

Parts moved from the article[edit]

The following parts are removed from the article for the moment:

  • In academic circles he is something of a cult figure whose appeal includes his obscurity, eccentricity and diversity of accomplishment. (Fact) Still, the rise of interest in holism, systems, and cybernetics have naturally led educators and students to Bateson's published work. (Fact|date=July 2007)
  • Bateson worked with Margreth Mead
  • Mead readily acknowledged that she had been devastated when Bateson left her and that she remained in love with him to her life's end, keeping his photograph by her bedside wherever she traveled.(fact)
  • By his own admission Bateson is widely misunderstood, and the unconventionality of his style might be largely at fault. Bateson did not have much respect for contemporary academic scientific standards of writing (Fact|date=July 2007), his works have often the form of an essay rather than a scientific paper, he used a lot of metaphors and his choice of sources tended to be unusual (for example citing old poets and ignoring recent scientific sources).(Fact|date=July 2007) At the same time, he wrote on a very abstract level. However, many scholars consider his works to contain a great deal of original thought and to reward careful reading.(Fact|date=July 2007) He has been a very important inspiration in the field of family therapy, and Neuro Linguistic Programming, having served as a mentor to both Richard Bandler and John Grinder and introducing them to medical hypnotist Milton Erickson, and a strong influence on Bradford Keeney.(Fact|date=February 2007)

When references are available, these remarks can be placed back. - Mdd 22:57, 12 August 2007 (UTC)

Template Content: Notable ideas versus Influenced[edit]

A number of items were added into the template under "Notable Ideas", including NLP and Brief therapy. I think this is a little misleading. These are essentially practical applications of Bateson's ideas by other people - Bandler and Grinder in the case of NLP, Haley and others in the case of brief therapy. I have therefore moved these items into the "Influenced" section, and put in a couple of Bateson's own ideas into the "Notable Ideas" section, namely double-loop/deutero learning (there ought to be an article on this - it is widely used by later writers such as Chris Argyris) and Schismogenesis. --RichardVeryard 09:28, 16 August 2007 (UTC)

Ok, thanks for this explanation. - Mdd 17:34, 16 August 2007 (UTC)

WikiProject class rating[edit]

This article was automatically assessed because at least one WikiProject had rated the article as start, and the rating on other projects was brought up to start class. BetacommandBot 04:04, 10 November 2007 (UTC)

The map[edit]

"# The map is not the territory, and the name is not the thing named. Coined by Alfred Korzybski." purloined from AristotleWblakesxwblakesx —Preceding comment was added at 02:26, 11 November 2007 (UTC)

Nothing about Bateson's anthropological work[edit]

I can't believe that this entry so utterly scants Bateson's time in New Guinea and Bali, which must have been crucial to his intellectual development. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Purslane (talkcontribs) 18:16, 15 January 2009 (UTC)

Agreed. A couple factual errors in this section detract from the importance. The Baining, and the Sulka were and are groups residing in East New Britain, a district of the Territory of New Guinea, the Sulka were not far from the town of Rabaul. The Iatmul were certainly living in the Sepik River Region, on the north coast of the main island of New Guinea. After the relative 'failure' or at least the disappointments of East New Britain, Bateson traveled to the Sepik to pursue his questions, which were focused critically against Radcliffe Brown's structural functionalist theory that the expressive features of social life enabled the integration of society. The themes of Bateson's work in New Guinea are, of course, continuous with his thoughts on both the twentieth century and cybernetics. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Jabezclegg (talkcontribs) 07:56, 8 March 2013 (UTC)

Moved Epigrams section[edit]

I have moved the Epigrams section to a new wikiquote article, see here -- Marcel Douwe Dekker (talk) 21:33, 17 August 2009 (UTC)

Great. The section was much too large and needed to go to wikiquote. --Gwern (contribs) 13:46 14 September 2009 (GMT)

Criticism[edit]

Don't this subject deserve a section about the criticisms voiced against his theories? Marius 193.75.62.253 (talk) 14:06, 9 October 2009 (UTC)

A neutral, well-sourced section on the public reception of Bateson's ideas would be appropriate. — goethean 15:08, 9 October 2009 (UTC)


Double bind[edit]

No citation for this statement "The perceived symptoms and confusing statements of schizophrenics were therefore an expression of this distress, and should be valued as a cathartic and transformative experience." Suspect author slipped in catharsis and transformative from a non-Bateson transpersonal psychological framework for understanding schizophrenia. Suggest this be deleted. Wiltonhall (talk) 04:35, 9 April 2012 (UTC)

See WP article Double bind under the History heading quoting Bateson on the complexity of communication.Margaret9mary (talk) 03:12, 25 February 2011 (UTC) WP has an article titled ''The Way of All Flesh''. Why doesn't it go through as an internal link? — Preceding unsigned comment added by Margaret9mary (talkcontribs) 03:48, 25 February 2011 (UTC)Margaret9mary (talk) 03:50, 25 February 2011 (UTC)

'Philosophy' section[edit]

Hi all. Just created a section on "Philosophy" that I hope can grow into a clear overview of Bateson's outlook. The article could use a description of Batesons patterns of thought, treated separately from the chronology of his work. At first I wanted to call the section "A philosophy of relationships", but I decided this was limiting and discouraged expansion. I invite people to come up with better/different names, and to contribute to an overview of Bateson's thinking. love, groupuscule (talk) 09:16, 15 August 2012 (UTC)

In Pop Culture[edit]

Hiroki Kikuta was heavily inspired by Bateson's work (specifically Mind and Nature) and named several of the tracks on the Seiken Densetsu soundtrack after his ideas. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 12.201.242.106 (talk) 22:44, 26 January 2017 (UTC)

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