Comment on Part III

In the essays collected in Part III, I speak of an action or utterance as occurring "in" a context, and this conventional way of talking suggests that the particular action is a "dependent" variable, while the context is the "independent" or determining variable. But this view of how an action is related to its context is likely to distract the reader —as it has distracted me—from perceiving the ecology of the ideas which together constitute the small subsystem which I call "context."

This heuristic error—copied like so many others from the ways of thought of the physicist and chemist — requires correction.

It is important to see the particular utterance or action as part of the ecological subsystem called context and not as the product or effect of what remains of the context after the piece which we want to explain has been cut out from it.

The mistake in question is the same formal error as that mentioned in the comment on Part II where I discuss the evolution of the horse. We should not think of this process just as a set of changes in the animal's adaptation to life on the grassy plains a constancy in the relationship between animals and environment. It is the ecology which survives and slowly evolves. In this evolution, the relata — the animals and the grass—undergo changes which are indeed adaptive from moment to moment. But if the process of adaptation were the whole story, there could be no systemic pathology. Trouble arises precisely because the "logic" of adaptation is a different "logic" from that of the survival and evolution of the ecological system.

In Warren Brodey's phrase, the "time-grain" of the adaptation is different from that of the ecology.

"Survival" means that certain descriptive statements about some living system continue to be true through some period of time; and, conversely, "evolution" refers to changes in the truth of certain descriptive statements about some living system. The trick is to define which statements about which systems remain true or undergo change.

The paradoxes (and the pathologies) of systemic process arise precisely because the constancy and survival of some larger system is maintained by changes in the constituent subsystems.

The relative constancy—the survival—of the relationship between animals and grass is maintained by changes in both relata. But any adaptive change in either of the relata, if uncorrected by some change in the other, will always jeopardize the relationship between them. These arguments propose a new conceptual frame for the "double bind" hypothesis, a new conceptual frame for thinking about "schizophrenia," and a new way of looking at context and levels of learning.

In a word, schizophrenia, deutero-learning, and the double bind cease to be matters of individual psychology and be-come part of the ecology of ideas in systems or "minds" whose boundaries no longer coincide with the skins of the participant individuals.

5 Part IV: Biology and Evolution

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