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Steps to an Ecology of Mind: Collected Essays in Anthropology, Psychiatry, Evolution, and Epistemology

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  1,188 ratings  ·  81 reviews
Gregory Bateson was a philosopher, anthropologist, photographer, naturalist, and poet, as well as the husband and collaborator of Margaret Mead. With a new foreword by his daughter Mary Katherine Bateson, this classic anthology of his major work will continue to delight and inform generations of readers.

"This collection amounts to a retrospective exhibition of a working l
Paperback, 565 pages
Published April 15th 2000 by University of Chicago Press (first published 1972)
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Aussiescribbler Aussiescribbler It's not from the book. It is something he said in some footage which was used in the documentary An Ecology of Mind : A Daughter's Portrait of Gregor…moreIt's not from the book. It is something he said in some footage which was used in the documentary An Ecology of Mind : A Daughter's Portrait of Gregory Bateson. You can see that clip in the trailer for the film :

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May 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the most difficult to grasp page turner I´ve ever read. Every other page blew my mind and each essay builds off the previous ones so that by the end you have some idea of what he´s talking about. I can´t say I understood the biology aspect of his essay on reduplicated limbs in beetles and amphibians but he managed to get his point across. This book has made me really interested in cybernetics and systems theory - I think a second reading is in order to solidify the concepts though.
Ami Iida
Apr 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Psychiatry, Cultural anthropology
Shelves: psychology
the book is very, very thick.
Text incorporates the contents such as schizophrenia and double bind.

The first chapter is a memo.
This helps to think the idea of things. I like it very much.
it is the precious book for Psychiatry and Cultural anthropology.
Oct 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
Bateson covers a lot of territory in this collection, examining Mind within a considerable variety of disciplines—from anthropology to psychiatry to ecology—refusing to be blinkered by the conventions and presuppositions of any of them.. Many chapters did not interest me and/or were written for a particular audience sharing a method and jargon specific to that audience. That said, reading the entire collection is perhaps necessary as a way of following the path of Bateson's intellectual explorat ...more
Dec 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
It's one of the most unique books I've ever read; a real mind-opener. Bateson attempts to include and connect diverse fields from Cybernetics, Philosophy and Sociology. The resulting brew is a heady and thought-provoking mix of ideas that are not presented elsewhere in popular science, as far as I know.
Marts  (Thinker)
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Aussiescribbler Aussiescribbler
Gregory Bateson (1904-1980) was an anthropologist amongst many other things. His central project was the application of systems theory or cybernetics (defined by Norbert Weiner in 1948 as “the scientific study of control and communication in the animal and the machine”) to the fields of anthropology, psychology, history and ecology. This collection of academic papers and public lectures presents his thinking over the period from 1935 until 1971. The title is a description of his aim. Just as eco ...more
Apr 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Anthropologist, psychiatrist, philosopher, biologist. Just a few of the names traveled under by Gregory Bateson in this magnificent collection of essays. More than just an eclectic romp through disparate fields of knowledge however, they attest instead to Bateson's grand and unified vision of the universe, one in which art and science, logic and dreams, pathology and sociology are all threaded through with the same cosmic weave. As the man himself writes, "the would-be scientist who knows nothin ...more
Feb 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: systems-theory
Organised as a collection of relatively short essays, this has a legitimate claim to be the outstanding book of the 20th century for anyone interested in change, systems thinking, ecology, epistemology, organisations, therapy and more. Be warned - it can be very hard in places, but the effort is worth it. 'Form, Substance and Difference', 'Conscious Purpose versus Nature' and 'The Logical Categories of Learning and Communication' are absolutely central texts for anyone considering how we need to ...more
Norman Orr
Jan 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book because of the title. In the Preface to my Master's thesis in 1969, I described the investigative process I used for the thesis as an "ecology of thought," so the title caught my attention. The most interesting part of Bateson's book, for me, was the Metalogues. For years I thought about writing a metalogue, but knew I couldn't get it right. However, in 2008, during an extremely emotionally-laden experience, I realized I could write a metalogue about that experience, and I hav ...more
Marijn Meijles
Aug 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A very nice book because it not only deals with the ideas of the author on cybernetics and life in general but it also includes numerous applications of those ideas to wildly different subject areas.

This gives you a good understanding of his way of thinking, which is truly unique. He has the uncanny ability to come up with explanations and ideas which seem deceptively simple but which are totally not common or easy to come up with.

These are the best ideas. I would encourage everybody to read t
Alvaro de Menard
Sep 01, 2019 rated it did not like it
The preface ominously compares Bateson to psychedelics and religious experiences: "People did not simply agree or disagree with him; they were bewildered or intoxicated." His approach is described as "holistic" and "qualitative". Wikipedia tells us that "Bateson presents Occidental epistemology as a method of thinking that leads to a mindset in which man exerts an autocratic rule over all cybernetic systems."

Any one of the above would send my bullshit detector sirens blaring. All of them togethe
May 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shortcut: Play with the metalogues he included in Part I; don't jump it off!

Certainly I should not have expected an articulation of a sort of paradoxical thinking in concentrated anthropological idioms from a free thinker as broadly recognized by labels of anthropologist, social scientist, psychologist, linguist, evolutionary ecologist, semiotician and cyberneticist as Gregory Bateson! The point of a paradox is the multiple ways of reading it and the multiple forms it may turn up here and there.
Just finished rereading this text, for the fourth time. This time I was rereading it as part of an online conversation about both this book and his daughter, Nora Bateson’s wonderful book Small Arcs of Larger Circles: Framing through other patterns (see for details). The conversation lasted 20 weeks, and each 2 hour session was recorded, making for a fascinating public record of the experience. Bateson’s ideas are as important today as they were when he w ...more
Dec 19, 2019 rated it did not like it
A dense heap of loosely connected ideas, opinions and non sequuntur without logical progression written for the ultimate goal of establishing "intellectual stature". Never has my rating of a book been at such odds with the Goodreads rating for such a popular book, especially given my keen interest in at least half of the subjects listed in its title. I am baffled by a slew of positive reviews which leave me wondering if we've all been perusing the same text. I tried reading closely through the f ...more
Jul 31, 2008 rated it really liked it
Gregory Bateson connects up seemingly disparate research areas to explore cultural relationships. Although this is an academic read, it has much relevance to our daily lives and covers a wide expanse of topics and threads. Another attractive feature of this book is that it was written decades ago and has informed much philosophy and contemporary cultural theory. Reading this helps explain some of the madness of authors like Deleuze and Guattari.
Thoughtful essays on a broad-ranging set of subjects, ranging from anthropology to psychology to ecology, all of them with an underpinning theme of cybernetics. Not the easiest of reads, and at times very systems-theoretical, but consistently interesting. For fans of people like Douglas Hofstadter, Bateson is probably going to be a must-read, and for those like myself, who have only the faintest understanding of cybernetics as a discipline, it was an interesting introduction.
Jeanine Marie Swenson
Jan 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
An intellectual challenge, this autobiographical account of the different chapters (quite literally) of Dr. Gregory Bateson's life illuminates the legacy of one of the greatest systemic thinkers of the 20th century. I also liked the touching foreword by his daughter (also a great family therapist in her own right) Dr. Mary Catherine Bateson.
May 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ecophychology
This book is an intellectual challenge, I think I may have to read it a couple of times still to get everything I need from it.

Bateson is a great thinker and opens up many doors that need to be full explored.
Lucas Rehnman
Dec 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Gregory bateson is a great thinker, but not so known In my country (and in the world, i think...)

This book was my first contact with his thought. I read all the metalogues and they had a big influence on me. But I must read the essays too.
Jan 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
Playfully brilliant! I came across this book by reading Deleuze (there is a rather long footnote about the double-bind in several of his books) and this shocked me by its use of humor, something very few 'serious' scholars are supposed to do...then again, I enjoyed this book immensely.
TK Keanini
You will read this book 5 or 6 times and still get something new out of it. It is very dense and it will uncompress in your head until it is about to explode.
Mar 24, 2008 added it
My first steps were taken with Bateson- a provocative and original thinker. New ideas struggling out from under the weight of old language.
Mar 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Well written, expansive, very exciting. Highly recommended.
Oct 09, 2017 marked it as to-read
Shelves: cog, anthro-socio, systems, phil, 0
Form, Substance and Difference
A Theory of Play and Fantasy
Nov 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It's been too long since I finished this book -- three solid months, maybe more -- and its effects on my thought processes have tragically faded. I do remember the general sense of a liberated mind that came with finishing Bateson's book, and on the basis of that alone, I feel confident maxing out the stars in this review.

Not that the book gave me a complete solution to the universe. That's best left to philosophers who are more... inspirational in tone, I guess you would say. If Bateson's work
Aug 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
The interesting thing about this book is the way that it spans several disciplines, but returns to the same set of interconnected insights across them. In this sense, it's a good way into the cybernetics movement and general systems theory, even if it doesn't offer a theory of systems per se.
I found some of the essays much more difficult than others. I'm trained in sociology, so I'm afraid I struggled through the essays about biology and genetics, owing to my unfamiliarity with the terms of ref
Ania Brzozka
May 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I feel like Brian Sella has read this book. The part with the deer and the gunshot, and the idea that we all react to a source the same way, as long as the source is exactly the same for everyone and there are no differences at all, really convinced me- Bateson expands this further and further and basically says that nothing matters but it's the importance of nothing mattering that makes life livable. We strive to live only because it's natural instinct- there's no real reason to keep going othe ...more
Gabriel Eggers
Sep 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This one took me a while to dig through. Some of the subjects and concepts where easier to understand and approach, I would need to do some additional research and read through this book again to really grasp it all. But what I did get out of it was really eye opening. Bateson masterfully knits diverse subject together into some very startling conclusions and insights. Ending with a call for a fundamental shift in the way we think about and engage with the world in order to save the human race f ...more
Nov 28, 2018 rated it liked it
I only read portions. The comments at the end of each section offer useful summaries.
Sean Fitzgerald
Jun 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
brilliant, inspiring, unique, important
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Gregory Bateson (9 May 1904 – 4 July 1980) was an English anthropologist, social scientist, linguist, visual anthropologist, semiotician and cyberneticist whose work intersected that of many other fields. He had a natural ability to recognize order and pattern in the universe. In the 1940s he helped extend systems theory/cybernetics to the social/behavioral sciences, and spent the last decade of h ...more

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“We create the world that we perceive, not because there is no reality outside our heads, but because we select and edit the reality we see to conform to our beliefs about what sort of world we live in. The man who believes that the resources of the world are infinite, for example, or that if something is good for you then the more of it the better, will not be able to see his errors, because he will not look for evidence of them. For a man to change the basic beliefs that determine his perception - his epistemological premises - he must first become aware that reality is not necessarily as he believes it to be. Sometimes the dissonance between reality and false beliefs reaches a point when it becomes impossible to avoid the awareness that the world no longer makes sense. Only then is it possible for the mind to consider radically different ideas and perceptions.” 26 likes
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