After that the matter is left so far as message is

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frog. After that the matter is left so far as message is concerned. The gross difference immediately established at the critical moment will be sufficient guide for the remainder of the life of the frog. Each generation of cells follows in the now already existing mold. All of this, however, only brings home to us more vividly the necessary incompleteness of all description, all injunction, and all structure. Try to describe a leaf or, still better, try to define the difference between two leave of the same plant, or between the second and third walking appendages (the ―legs‖) of a single, particular crab. You will discover that that which you must specify is everywhere in the leaf or in the crab‘s leg. It will be, in fact, impossible to decide upon any general statement that will be a premise to all the details, and utterly impossible to deal with the details one by one. ―Structure‘ and ―description‖ will never cover actuality. The Ding an sich , the very thing itself, will always comprise an infinitude of details. For the crab‘s leg or the leaf, only a certain small fraction of the details will have been controlled by genetics or by the specificities of growth. But if you attempt the task proposed above with two leaves or with two legs of the crab, you will discover something about the relation between structure (or description) and actuality. It will quickly appear that there are several sorts of gaps always and necessarily left uncovered by description:
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1. There are gaps of detail between details. However fine the mesh of our net of description, smaller details will always escape description. This is not because we are careless or lazy but because in principle the machinery of description whether it be a language or a halftone block is digital and discontinuous, whereas the variables immanent in the thing to be described are analogic and continuous. If, on the other hand, the method of description is analogic, we shall encounter the circumstance that no quantity can accurately represent any other quantity always and inevitably every measurement is approximate. 2. There are gaps between kinds of description which are not necessarily present in the thing described. ―Large‖ and ―smooth‖ and ―round‖ are separate statements which never meet. The continuum of nature [[p_165]] is constantly broken down into a discontinuum of ―variables‖ in the act of description or specification. 3. A similar discontinuity appears in the hierarchy of descriptive statements. For economy‘s sake, the describer (or the DNA) must inevitably deal with details in batches. A curved outline will be summarized by its approximation to some mathematical form. The infinitesimals of some shape will be condensed with an equation. Then, having had some success in describing a given batch of details, we will inevitably take a next step in generalization, summarizing the relations between batches. In order to assert the differences between the leaves or the crab‘s legs (or, for that matter, the nucleic acids), we shall need
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  • Fall '19
  • Gregory Bateson

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