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Mind and Nature

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  640 ratings  ·  43 reviews
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. ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published January 31st 2002 by Hampton Press (NJ) (first published 1979)
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Average rating 4.27  · 
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Sarah Multiverse
Aug 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Sarah by: thesis advisor
A potentially transformative book if you are interested in learning how evolutionary processes shape the mind!

As one of the first cyberneticists, Bateson shows how the mind consists of a series of relationships, and goes on to point out that any instance of these same relationships in nature (such as in a plant or animal) may also be said to exhibit mind. Although at times his ideas may seem to be on the verge of religious or New Age thought, especially with his references to Shiva and the aesth
May 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
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 Princi
Jan 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: metaphor
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 m
May 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Subject matter: how to think about thinking when thinking, or something along those lines; confusing, I know. There's so much ground covered in this book that I'm still making sense out of everything, howbeit I'm glad to finally be through with it (as in: glad to not have dropped it half-way)! This book was quite the challenge, which I think will account for why I enjoyed it as much as I did, there's a considerable amount of abstract stuff for pondering (I should've read the glossary at the end ...more
Sep 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
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 t
Roberto Reis
Jul 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is an essential reading for everyone interested in the formal study of epistemology. The work of a visionary.
Bob Nichols
Jan 27, 2021 rated it liked it
Bateson’s writing is thick and often obscure.

Bateson adopts “a Platonic view.” In the beginning was the Idea and the corporeal universe is a spinoff of this, the truly real. This in my mind is problematic. The Platonic world may or may not be true. We don’t know, but not knowing is different from an assertion that it exists. And to say that the corporeal world is its spinoff creates a non-material causal force so that the material world is subsidiary to and derived from Ideal Reality. Presumabl
Apr 14, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviews
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 ...more
Scott Holmes
Sep 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Patterns that connect. One frequently hears phrases such as everything in the world is connected to everything else but rarely do we find much in the way of discussion. Gregory Bateson was the epitome of the multidisciplinarian. He could not be pigeonholed in any particular field of study but he could recognize the most significant aspects of each and demonstrate how they all connect together.

I must admit here that he is far and away beyond my own level of comprehension. I must continually rere
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 sto ...more
I had just read Wittgenstein's Tractatus before I read this, so I thought it intriguing, the appearance of a ladder, climbing levels of logical type... definitely a thought provoking read, for thinking about thinking that is. He is still relevant on the topic of stagnant educational institutions and epistemology too. Talk it over with a friend. As Bateson says: “[...] two descriptions are better than one.” (therein lies the difference...) ...more
Karl Georg
May 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
A thought-provoking thinker, but alas a terrible writer. He tends to start out with some ambitious claim (e.g. having solved the mind/body problem), and when he would have to prove it, digresses into something else. Maddening. On the other hand, he is exploring how mind and (not in this book) consciousness might be explained as emerging from matter - which I am inclined to believe is what is actually happening myself, without of course being able to properly explain much further.
May 01, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, own
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. ...more
Oct 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
One of the seminal thinkers of systems theory (once called cybernetics) compares the process of evolution to the process of learning. I listened to recordings of Bateson's talks given at Esalen around the time he was writing this. Francisco Varela picked up where Bateson left off. ...more
Jan 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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.
Vironika Tugaleva
Mar 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
TK Keanini
Apr 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most influential books in my life.
Joe Raimondo
Feb 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Professor Bateson lays out a transformative dialogue for maeta-relfection.
Oct 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Nancy by: saw it on a bookstore shelf
To me, this book is a primer on how to think. I read it when it first was published, and believe it really changed me.
Nick Urban
Nov 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
A great scientist's introduction to epistemology. ...more
Mar 07, 2009 is currently reading it
So I lent my mother Anathem. After reading it she gave me this book to read.
Apr 16, 2018 rated it it was ok
This book is built on the opinion that we are parts of a living world.[1] Bateson offers the phrase the pattern which connects as another possible title for the book.[2] He writes that we have been trained to think of patterns as something fixed. It is easier and lazier that way, but it is all nonsense. The right way to think about the pattern which connects is to think of it as primarily a dance of interacting parts.[3]

Logic and quantity turn out to be inappropriate for describing organisms, th
Dec 17, 2020 rated it liked it
I was on the fence about this one the whole time while reading it - some fascinating stuff here and some good food for thought, but also unnecessarily dense, repetitive and it didn't feel like it came together in the end.

I thought maybe I was just too dumb, but the last chapter is structured as a (maybe hypothetical) discussion between Bateson and his daughter, with the daughter saying things like "I don't get it" and "What's the point?" and Bateson responding "THERE IS NO POINT. THERE'S NOTHIN
Sep 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Bateson is lovely, but this is not his best work. Although there are some gems here (e.g. the chapter Multiple Versions of the World has a structure that beautifully mirrors its subject matter, and the fact that it's possible to do this at all is arguably the thesis of the whole book), the ideas better expressed in Steps to an Ecology of Mind. Recommended for the Bateson completionist. ...more
Jun 24, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
Barely readable. For someone so concerned with context, Bateson fails to communicate the importance or relevance of any of his ideas. A frustrating mess of ideas like shards of broken glass, painful to connect and impossible to make sense of.

This book is a textbook reminder of why I cannot stomach formal epistemology - cognition about cognition, thoughts about thinking, like a maddening echo that devolves into nothing but a sea of irritating noise without a trace of useful signal.
Stuart Macalpine
Sep 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Cited by cognitive coaching so I read it for that reason - Mildly incomprehensible - but with a huge amount of the concerns with complexity, path dependency, ecology, stochastic systems etc that you find in writers 30 years afterwards, so despite wilful obscurity - clearly he was on to something.
“Nobody is going to buy a book by a sardonic lemming.”
Mar 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Review to follow soon.
Maxime Ferland
Dec 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
i want to read angels fear so bad
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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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“Thirty years ago, we used to ask: Can a computer simulate all processes of logic? The answer was yes, but the question was surely wrong. We should have asked: Can logic simulate all sequences of cause and effect? And the answer would have been no.” 18 likes
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