You become more like a bus that a tram but you still

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You become more like a bus that a tram. But you still have the illusion that if only you could reach the next order of freedom, if only you could stand off in another dimension, you would corner or over the next crest of the landscape. Freedom is always imagined to be round the next corner or over the next crest of the mental landscape. We go on doing research and thinking about all sorts of problems, as if we could one day reach the thought that would set us free. The point of the limericks is not in either but in their juxtaposition. The naïveté of the tram, who thinks he would be free but for those constraining grooves, is demonstrated by the disillusion of the bus, who discovers the constraints and responsibilities of the next order of control. ―Freedom‖ and ―responsibility‖ are a complementary pair, such that an increase in the former will always bring with it an increase in the latter. The superficial contrast between bus and tram is the fundamental determinism that both must face combine to provide a parable of the relation between youth and age and an instance of a very widespread and basic characteristic of many interfaces between mental systems. In youth, we are more narrowly grooved, more cramped by social restraints and by limited knowledge on how to do things. As we approach old age, the grooves become wider. This might seem to give us greater freedom, but in fact it makes us more responsible for choice for our choices. [When the ―we‖ of this sentence refers to contemporary human beings in relation to the Kommentar [d60]: Was „and‟ in the original text.
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biosphere, with all the apparent control offered by technology, choice and the need for responsibility are increased.] I a m discussing not an abstract philosophical world of ―free will‖ and ―determinism‖ but a necessary component in the living natural history of every organism. This is to be a mental creature, and this paradox is an essential component of human life a component of the mental ambience whenever a certain level of complexity is reached. We see each other always with distorted eyes. To the eyes of the tram, the bus appears ―free.‖ But to the eyes of the bus, the innocence of the tram appears blessed with freedom. [[p_169]] The same contrast obtains in almost all hierarchies and pyramids of authority in which a number of subsystems combine. I was named a regent of the University of California, one of twenty-five persons who constitute the general board of that very large financial and educational concern with one hundred thousand students on nine campuses. Everybody, both inside and outside that institution, thinks that the regents are powerful creatures individually and collectively. Supposedly they can and do really determine what happens in that great university. But, in truth, they are more conscious of lack of power than are the students. I personally had more influence on the processes of education as a senior lecturer than as a regent. In those days I could influence students directly in the classroom. I could put strange ideas into
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  • Fall '19
  • Gregory Bateson

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