5 Jun 2009

Bateson, The Dynamics of Death, in Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity

by Corry Shores
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The Dynamics of Death

Gregory Bateson

Mind and Nature:

A Necessary Unity

Ch. IV

Criteria of Mental Process

Criterion 4. Mental Process Requires Circular

(or More Complex) Chains of Determination

the rock’s way of staying in the game is different from the way of living things. The rock, we may say, resists change; it stays put, unchanging. The living thing escapes change either by correcting itself or changing itself to meet the change or by incorporating continual change into its own being, ‘Stability’ may be achieved either by rigidity or by continual repetition of some cycles of smaller changes, which cycle will return to a status quo ante after every disturbance. Nature avoids (temporarily) what looks like irreversible change by accepting ephemeral change. “The bamboo bends before the wind,’ in Japanese metaphor; and death itself is avoided by a quick change from individual subject to class. Nature, to personify the system, allows old man Death (also personified) to have his individual victims while she substitutes that more abstract entity, the class or taxon, to kill which Death must work faster than the reproductive systems of the creatures. Finally, if Death should have his victory over the species, Nature will say, ‘Just what I needed for my ecosystem. (114-115)

Bateson, Gregory. Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity. London: Wildwood House, 1979.

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