Comment on Part IV

The papers placed together in this part are diverse in that while each paper is a branch from the main stem of the argument of the book, these branches come off from very different locations. "The Role of Somatic Change in Evolution" is an expansion of the thought behind "Minimal Requirements for a Theory of Schizophrenia," while "Problems in Cetacean and Other Mammalian Communication" is an application of "The Logical Categories of Learning and Communication" to a particular type of animal.

"A Re-examination of Bateson's Rule" may seem to break new ground, but is related to the remainder of the book in that it ex-tends the notion of informational control to include the field of morphogenesis and, by discussing what happens in absence of needed information, brings out the importance of the context into which information is received.

Samuel Butler, with uncanny insight, once commented upon the analogy between dreams and parthenogenesis. We may say that the monstrous double legs of the beetles share in this analogy: they are the projection of the receptive context deprived of information which should have come from an external source.

Message material, or information, comes out of a context into a context, and in other parts of the book the focus has been on the context out of which information came. Here the focus is rather upon the internal state of the organism as a context into which the information must be received.

Of course, neither focus is sufficient by itself for our under-standing of either animals or men. But it is perhaps not an accident that in these papers dealing with non-human organisms the "context" which is discussed is the obverse or complement of the "context" upon which I have focussed attention in other parts of the book.

Consider the case of the unfertilized frog's egg for which the entry point of the spermatozoon defines the plane of bilateral symmetry of the future embryo.

The prick of a hair from a camel's hair brush can be substituted and still carry the same message. From this it seems that the external context out of which the message comes is relatively undefined. From the entry point alone, the egg learns but little about the external world. But the internal context into which the message comes must be exceedingly complex.

The unfertilized egg, then, embodies an immanent question to which the entry point of spermatozoon provides an answer; and this way of stating the matter is the contrary or obverse of the conventional view, which would see the external context of learning as a "question" to which the "right" behavior of the organism is an answer.

We can even begin to list some of the components of the immanent question. First there are the already existing poles of the egg and, necessarily, some polarization of the intervening protoplasm towards these poles. Without some such structural conditions for the receipt of the prick of the spermatozoon, this message could have no meaning. The message must come into an appropriate structure.

But structure alone is not enough. It seems probable that any meridian of the frog's egg can potentially become the plane of bilateral symmetry and that, in this, all meridians are alike. It follows that there is, to this extent, no structural difference between them. But every meridian must be ready for the activating message, its "readiness" being given direction but otherwise unrestricted by structure. Readiness, in fact, is precisely not-structure. If and when the spermatozoon delivers its message, new structure is generated.

In terms of the economics of flexibility, discussed in "The Role of Somatic Change in Evolution" and later in "Ecology and Flexibility in Urban Civilization" (Part VI), this "readiness" is uncommitted potentiality for change, and we note here that this uncommitted potentiality is not only always finite in quantity but must be appropriately located in a structural matrix, which also must be quantitatively finite at any given time.

These considerations lead naturally into Part V, which I have titled "Epistemology and Ecology." Perhaps "epistemology" is only another word for the study of the ecology of mind.

6 Part V: Epistemology and Ecology

Supreme Sobriety

Supreme Sobriety

How to Maintain Your Resolution to Be Sober. Get All The Support And Guidance You Need To Be A Success At Sobriety. This Book Is One Of The Most Valuable Resources In The World When It Comes To Turning Your Love For Cooking Into A Money Maker.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment