Book Review: Mind and Nature

Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity by Gregory Bateson 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, their interactions, and internal organization. There is no conventional way of explaining or even describing the phenomena of biological organization.4 We are ignorant about available insights and unwilling to accept the necessities that follow from a clear view.5 There is a strong tendency to invoke quantities of tension and energy to explain the genesis of pattern. Bateson believes that all such explanations are wrong.6

The whole book is based on the premise that mental function is immanent in the interaction of differentiated parts. Wholes are constituted by such combined interaction.7 Bateson believes that mental process always is a sequence of interactions between parts. He doesn’t believe that elementary particles are minds in themselves,8 but he also admits that he is not up to date in modern physics.9 Contrary to Bateson I do believe that elementary particles have proto-minds. An elementary particle, like an electron, is in David Bohm’s ontological interpretation of quantum theory a spatio-temporal entity, which has a proto-mental quality.10

Bateson is very influenced by cybernetic thought. It’s true that nature is full of circular processes, but a cybernetic system is not a living system. What if mind is immanent, not in the interaction of parts, but in nature itself? It’s a simple idea which opens up an entirely new paradigm of thought.

Notes:
1 Gregory Bateson, Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity (Hampton Press, 2002), p.16.
2 Ibid., p.7.
3 Ibid., p.12.
4 Ibid., p.19.
5 Ibid., p.20.
6 Ibid., p.49.
7 Ibid., p.87.
8 Ibid., p.86.
9 Ibid., p.93.
10 Paavo Pylkkänen, Mind, Matter and the Implicate Order (Berlin Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag, 2007), p. 204.

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