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Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity (Advances in Systems Theory, Complexity, and the Human Sciences)

4.5 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1572734340
ISBN-10: 1572734345
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Product Details

  • Series: Advances in Systems Theory, Complexity, and the Human Sciences
  • Paperback: 220 pages
  • Publisher: Hampton Press (August 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1572734345
  • ISBN-13: 978-1572734340
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #332,857 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on December 9, 2002
Format: Paperback
Gregory Bateson is difficult to "get" but incredibly rewarding once you do understand him. The number of concepts he deals with in this masterwork is amazing; the number that are still relevant more than twenty years after publication is stunning. Mind and Nature will some day be seen as one of the most important books of the Twentieth Century.
Bateson does not just tell us what he knows -- he shows us, using marvelous examples from nature that you will never forget. He gives beautifully clear -- on the sixth or seventh reading for some people -- descriptions of learning-by-the-individual and evolution-by-the-group as ***essentially similar fusions of analogic and digital (or energy and pattern) integrations.***
Learning-by-the-individual is "somatic" and benefits the survival of the individual, but ***that*** survival in turn becomes the evolutionary driving force for the group because the genes of the individual are passed on in the germ (genetic) line of the species. Mind and Nature are an essential unity. But what's more, the processes by which both mind and nature work are the SAME: Whether individual learning or group evolution, some pattern-preferencing mechanism "selects," from a set of cast-up possibilities, some qualities of some kind. The selecting mechanisms can ONLY select from those cast-up possibilities. When those qualities have survival value, they get passed on.
Far more than just a re-statement of Darwin, the essential unity of Mind and Nature described by Bateson has vast implications for our understanding of ourselves and our place in the universe. We are as one with Nature, as one with the way of the Universe.
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Format: Paperback
Sit in on a lecture by an engaging and knowledgable prof and you can expect to pick up a few tidbits. You certainly don't expect to come away knowing everything the prof knows. The subtitle of this book is about what Bateson knows, but you don't need to know any of that (or be particularly interested in it) to read this unusual book. My subtitle would be: You're Smarter Than You Think You Are."

I read this book in a Bantam mass market edition after sampling a piece of it in some science magazine (maybe Discover). Gregory Bateson was a renaissance man (which is one of the delights in reading him), the former husband of anthropologist Margaret Mead, and best known for the double bind theory of schitzophrenia, included as an essay in The Ecology of Mind. That theory may not sound well-known at all, but it's the basis of family counseling and why we talk about dysfunctional families (instead of just individuals). And we've all been in situations that are double binds, or as these no-win situations are known in everyday jargon: "damned if you do, damned if you don't".

Bateson wrote this book as metafiction, which is to say he talks about the book in the book, and he includes a handful or metalogues with his daughter, Catherine Bateson, herself now a writer for such magazines as Smithsonian, although he made them up. These metalogues reflect on ideas in the book and widen the feedback loop, as it were, to include the reader. They are relaxed and leisurely and not meant to be persuasive.

My experience reading this book was that it changed the way I saw everything.
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This is a work of an exceptional and original genius.
"Mind and Nature" is both Gregory Bateson's most accessible and most difficult book. It is a deeply personal exploration of what has come to be called cognitive science from a brilliant man and great scientist who pioneered a deep synthesis of anthropology, language and communications, and biology over the course of a remarkable life. Be advised that it is more of a progress report on a lifelong quest than a coherent whole. If you have an enduring interest in cognitive science and you haven't read Bateson, you don't know what you are missing.
Bateson's starting point is, "How is it possible for the same evolutionary forces that shaped our survival as a species failed to shape our minds?" The answer, of course, is that it is not. It ought to be self-evident that the phenomenon that we call the "mind" is shaped by natural selection. Bateson does not claim to understand all the implications of this empiricist stance, his focus instead is on how to start asking the right questions about the mind and cognition. For instance: What is learning? What is play? (Is it true that only mammals play? Why is that?) If you think about it, these are phenomenon central to the human experience and there is no one that discussed them more insightfully than Bateson does here (and in "Steps...".
I find myself returning to this book again and again over the years. Its effect on me has been profound. I am sure I will never understand more than a small part of what Bateson is trying to tell me here, but the feeble fraction that I do understand is remarkable. The wisdom that animates this book has shaped many of the foundational notions of my life. It is full of life lessons.
And that reminds me of a story about the time I incorporated one of Bateson's teaching parables from this book into a speech I had to give not too long ago....
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Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity (Advances in Systems Theory, Complexity, and the Human Sciences)
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