The mental world is necessarily marked and divided by

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*** The mental world is necessarily marked and divided by many interfaces into many subsystems, and therefore to understand the workings of that mental world we can proceed step by step. The mental world is vastly bigger than we are, but we do have various ―tricks‖ that enable us to grasp something of its vastness and its detail. Of these tricks the best known are induction, generalization, and abduction. We gather information about details, we fit the pieces of information together to make [[p_175]] pictures or configurations, we summarize them in statements of structure. We then compare our configurations to show how they can be classified as galling under the same or related rules. It is this last step, for which I use the term abduction , that is the glue that holds all science (and all religion?) together. In all of this we are, of course, ourselves exemplifying necessary characteristics of the network of mind of which we are parts, whose branches are immanent in us. It is that network that this book has attempted to study. Specifically, we must bear in mind the barriers that must be maintained if the network of mind is to become richer and more complex, evolving towards something like ecological climax, a semistable system of maximum differentiation, complexity, and elegance. We look for contrasts that develop or differentiate as sophistication increases. We also look for instances of pathology a s partial clues to understanding the conditions for health of the larger network, and for interface phenomena, where the participating subsystems suffer gross reduction, such as the witch and the institutionalized schizophrenic. These are easily recognized as failures of the system and, as such, challenge the individual and the system to do better. More serious are those many cases in which, through the ages, whole long-lived subsystems like societies or ecosystems slowly deteriorate as a result of interaction and interface phenomena. These are (perhaps always) cases in which quantity displaces quality the tricks by which age, alas, escapes from understanding youth, and the city fathers can choose whether to base their whole system upon buses or upon trams without understanding either . A little economics and estimation of costs will do the trick!
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Of all imaginary organisms dragons, protomollusca, missing links, gods, demons, sea monsters, and so on economic man is the dullest . He is dull because his mental processes are all quantitative and his preferences transitive. His evolution can best be comprehended by considering the communicational problems of human cultural contact. Always at the interface between two civilizations, some degree of mutual understanding must be achieved. In the case of two strongly contrasting systems, sharing a minimum of premises, the establishment of a common ground of communication is not easy and will be the more difficult inasmuch as people, in all cultures, are prone to believe that their values and preconceptions are ―true‖ and ―natural.‖ Indeed, this preference for one‘s own cultural system is probably necessary and [[p_176]] universal. However, one
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  • Fall '19
  • Gregory Bateson

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