Thursday, September 1, 2011

Bateson's "Metalogues"

Steps to an Ecology of Mind's first chapter is a series of "Metalogues," ostensible conversations between "Father," the author, and "Daughter," Mary Catherine Bateson. The earliest Metalogue is from 1948, when "Daughter" would have been ten, and ending in 1969.

The conversations cover several of Bateson's interests:

The reason why things inevitably get muddled,

Non-verbal communication,

Games, play, seriousness,

Measuring knowledge,

Why things have outlines,


and Instinct, explanatory principles, hypotheses.

Bateson wrote that the conversations "should be such that not only do the participants discuss the problem, but the structure of the conversation as a whole is relevant to the subject."

Late in his life, Bateson's nine-year old daughter, Nora, asked him if she would understand Steps. He said that she might be able to read the Metalogues. The last two must have been tough for her. "Daughter's" voice matures over the years, even though the conversations are compositions. She asks tougher questions, and gets more complex or ambiguous answers. All of the Metalogues are full of good things to ponder.

Several more Metalogues appear in Angels Fear, Gregory's posthumously published collaboration with Mary Catherine, most composed by a middle-aged "Daughter."

From "Why Do Things Get in a Muddle?"

D: Daddy, you didn't finish. Why do my things get the way I say isn't tidy?

F: But I
have finished -- it's just because there are more ways which you call "untidy" than there are which you call "tidy."

D: But that isn't a reason why --

F: But yes it is. And it is the real, and only, and very important reason.

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