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Life Sciences - Evolutionary & Developmental Biology | A Legacy for Living Systems - Gregory Bateson as Precursor to Biosemiotics

A Legacy for Living Systems

Gregory Bateson as Precursor to Biosemiotics

Series: Biosemiotics, Vol. 2

Hoffmeyer, Jesper (Ed.)


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  • A key resource for scholars in the biosciences, philosophy and medicine who seek an elegant new approach to exploring highly complex systems
  • Bateson's bioanthropology plays a key role in the new field of biosemiotics
  • Offers a long-overdue reframing of central problems in modern science

Gregory Bateson’s contribution to 20th century thinking has appealed to scholars from a wide range of fields dealing in one way or another with aspects of communication and epistemology. A number of his insights were taken up and developed further in anthropology, psychology, evolutionary biology and communication theory. But the large, trans-disciplinary synthesis that, in his own mind, was his major contribution to science received little attention from the mainstream scientific communities.

This book represents a major attempt to revise this deficiency. Scholars from ecology, biochemistry, evolutionary biology, cognitive science, anthropology and philosophy discuss how Bateson's thinking might lead to a fruitful reframing of central problems in modern science. Most important perhaps, Bateson's bioanthropology is shown to play a key role in developing the set of ideas explored in the new field of biosemiotics. The idea that organismic life is indeed basically semiotic or communicative lies at the heart of the biosemiotic approach to the study of life.

The only book of its kind, this volume provides a key resource for the quickly-growing substratum of scholars in the biosciences, philosophy and medicine who are seeking an elegant new approach to exploring highly complex systems.


"What pattern connects the crab to the lobster and the orchid to the primrose and all the four of them to me? And me to you?"

- Gregory Bateson
from Mind and Nature

Content Level » Research

Keywords » Adaptation - Biosemiotics - Evolution - Gregory Bateson - Meaning - Mind - cognitive science - communication - complex system - evolutionary biology - media - medicine - protocells

Related subjects » Artificial Intelligence - Behavioral Sciences - Epistemology & Philosophy of Science - Evolutionary & Developmental Biology - Social Sciences

Table of contents 

Acknowledgement.- List of contributors.- Introduction; J. Hoffmeyer.- 1. Angels fear revisited. Gregory Bateson’s cybernetic theory of mind applied to religion-science debates. Introduction. Bateson's redefinition of mind. Bateson as a scientist. Kinds of messages. Bateson and religion. Logical types in mental process. Discussion. References; M.C. Bateson.- 2. From thing to relation. On Bateson's bioanthropology. A deep symmetry. Creatura and pleroma. Relative being. A minded nature. Notes. References; J. Hoffmeyer.- 3. What connects the map to the territory? Bateson’s large synthesis. What goes from territory to map? An unresolved ambiguity. How to resolve the ambiguity. Abstraction. The epistemic cut. Ding an sich. The hands and the mind. How does it work? Conclusion. References; T. Cashman.- 4. The pattern which connects pleroma to creatura: the autocell bridge from physics to life. Introduction. The problem with protocells. The thermodynamic universe. Thermodynamics plus shape: iased molecular interactions. From thermodynamics to morphodynamics. Autocatalysis: a morphodynamic chain reaction. Molecular self-assembly. Autocell functions. The birth of evolvable teleodynamics. Discussion. Individuality. Value, purpose, end directedness and for-ness. Adaptation, function, and aboutness. Conclusions. References; T. Deacon, J. Sherman.- 5. Bateson’s method: double description. What is it? How does it work? What do we learn?. Introduction. Double desciption. Abduction. Logical types. The pattern which connects. Conclusions. Acknowledgements. References; J. Hui et al.- 6. Gregory Bateson's relevance to current molecular biology. Was Gregory Bateson a biologist? Reductionism in biology. From genome sequence to higher hierarchical levels. An integrative concept of 'biological information'.The problem of delimiting a semiotic network. From the binding of single molecules to complex 'locks-and-keys'. Where is regulation? Global and hierarchical regulation. Conclusions. References; L. Bruni.- 7. Process ecology: creatura at large in an open universe. Occidental pathway? Barriers to the sacred. The aleatoric nature. A cybernetic world. A transactional ecology. An ecological metaphysic. Fading issues. Conclusion: new and renewed dialogs. References; R.E. Ulanowicz.- 8. Connections in action – bridging implicit and explicit domains. Introduction. Connectedness in action - the CIA-hypothesis. The interpretation of PMv actication. The question of manipulability. Effects on conceptual task solving. Discussion. Acknowledgement. References; T.S.S. Shilhab, C. Gerlach.- 9. Bateson: biology with meaning. Information and the genome. The changing story of the gene. Biology, meaning, and language. Nature and culture. Meaning, beauty, and archetypes. References; B. Goodwin.- 10. Gregory Bateson's 'uncovery' of ecological aesthetics . Introduction. The U.N. millenial ecosystem assessment report. Aesthetics and the MA report. Aesthetics and Gregory Bateson. A new interface? The National Park Issue. Some theoretical issues about aesthetics. Scanning the interface. Conclusion. Notes. References; P. Harries-Jones.- 11. Collapsing the wave function of meaning: the epistemological matrix of talk-in-interaction. Introduction: no more words. Language as Newtonian 'Natural Law'. Boiling clean the data set of languaged interaction. A cybernetic modeling of language as an 'ecology of signs'. Fundaments of system order: the contingent responsivity of turn-taking. Transiently emergent order: transition relevance points. Stepping into the immediate next: adjacency pair interaction. Place as meaning: the stigmergy and structure of sequence

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