Gregory Bateson: Biography of this anthropologist and linguist

Gregory Bateson was an anthropologist, linguist, social scientist and cyberneticist, The work touched on subjects belonging to clinical psychology, social, psycholinguistics, biology and ethnography, among other disciplines.

As well as being a very versatile person in academia, he was also quite particular, showing his rejection of how scientific rigidity was squared in the social sciences. Let’s see his special life through this biography of Gregory Bateson, In which you will know his life and his intellectual trajectory.

    Summary Biography of Gregory Bateson

    Gregory Bateson’s life has been characterized by, despite being a professor at several universities, having quite different views on how things should be done in research, moving away from the rigid way of seeing and to research the social sciences.

    Early years and training

    Gregory Bateson was born in Grantchester, UK on May 9, 1904, into a family of aristocratic scientists. In reality, his father was William Bateson, a researcher in genetic evolution, Who had delved into the ideas of Gregor Mendel.

    Between 1917 and 1921 Bateson studied zoology at Charterhouse School in London and later began studying biology at St. John’s College, Cambridge.

    He would later do fieldwork in New Guinea and Bali with his wife Margaret Mead., With whom he will publish Balinese Character: A Photographic Analysis in 1942. In this book, he underlines the importance for the anthropologist of the use of physical media, that is to say photographs and recordings, to be able to describe, in an analytical and objective manner, the reality of other cultures, whether Western or not.

    academic life

    In 1939 he moved to the United States, where he would live for the rest of his life, deciding to nationalize in 1956 as a US citizen. In 1949 he would work at the Langley-Porter Clinic in St. Francis, doing research in both psychiatry and communications. In 1951, he published with Jurgen Ruesch the book Communication: The Social Matrix of Psychiatry, “Communication: The Social Matrix of Psychiatry”.

    Later, as a professor at Stanford University, deepened the processes of animal communication between species, Study molluscs and cetaceans, among other animals. This allowed him to develop new theories about learning.

      last years

      In 1964, he moved to Hawaii, where he was appointed head of the biology department at the Waimanalo Institute of Oceania. after, between 1972 and 1978 he was professor of anthropology and ethnography at the University of California. He died on July 8, 1980 as a professor at the Esalen Institute in California.

      Reflection and contributions

      Gregory Bateson is known for his development of the double bond theory of schizophrenia, with Paul Watzlawick, who worked at the Mental Research Institute (MRI) in Palo Alto. Although Bateson was never associated with this institution, he always maintained a good relationship, which would influence Batesonian notions about the work of MRI. It should be noted that, in part, Bateson’s contributions were reputed to be Margaret Mead’s husband, Considered one of the great anthropologists of the last century.

      It is interesting to mention Bateson’s opinion, who is screaming a bit about the paths that science has traveled at the moment. While social disciplines in his day opted for more scientific and objective criteria, both in style and in research, Bateson did not show much respect for the standards of academic and scientific writing of the time. In his works he used to resort to metaphors, and even to quote ancient poets or ignore recent scientific sources. His work looked more like essays than scientific dissertations.

      Another peculiarity of his work was that he wrote at a very abstract level, Which is quite in the opposite direction to that of scientific articles. Despite this, the figure of Bateson is not ignored at all, and few academics regard his work as a great contribution of originality in an era which, squared, so to speak, had acquired too much importance. Of course, reading it should be careful, because understanding it is not an easy task.

      Gregory Bateson has carried out interdisciplinary work in collaboration with sociologists, psychologists, psychiatrists, biologists, linguists and other academics, researching communication. If the most rigid circles did not grant him recognition, he came to exercise a great influence on American thought.

      According to Bateson, the spirit, the spirit, the thought and the communication are combined with the external reality of the individual, which serves to him to construct his own individual reality. The body, the material part of everyone, manages to transcend this material dimensionality through housing these psychological aspects.

      Another very interesting aspect of his thinking was the way he analyzed society, from an evolutionary perspective, but not without resorting to social Darwinism. He studied the changes that a society can manifest from human behavior and behaviors. Confront the passionate and intuitive dimensions of the human being with the struggle of opposites. For example, order vs. conflict, stability vs. change, the concept of good vs. that of evil. Communication is a fundamental phenomenon for the evolution of society.

      Bateson designed a new experimental model, combining neurolinguistics and psycholinguistics, And in search of a common goal: to formulate a systems theory of communication and to be able to use it to create a systemic clinic. People, through language, are able to create meaningful realities, through interactions, assigned meanings, behaviors and beliefs. These realities can mean well-being or, if not, discomfort for everyone, depending on how these same elements interact.

      For Gregory Bateson, the concept of communication should include all the processes by which a person succeeds in exerting influence on others. For him, communication was what made human relationships possible. A clear example to understand this is how the media become a determining factor in the social configuration, because through their message they exert an influence on the minds of millions of people. These means must be analyzed if we want to know and understand the structure of a given society.

      It must also be said that it is the media that see the double moral standard. The same television channel can proclaim, in one program, a moral value, such as the search for knowledge and the criticism of the information received, while in another, it can proclaim inculturation, gossip or get carried away by the former. impressions. A typical example would be choral programs, which often precede those with increasing vocabulary or knowledge of various historical and thematic milestones.

        Batesonian terms

        Gregory Bateson’s genius is that of a versatile person, who has helped reinvent words in the academic context. Below we will see a few that have been modified or reinterpreted by him.

        1. Removal

        Really, the word “kidnapping” comes from the vocabulary of Charles Sanders Peirce, but Bateson uses it to refer to a third scientific methodology. If, traditionally, we have had induction and deduction, Bateson suggests the third: rapture.

        The abductive method is the method of comparing relationship patterns and their symmetry or asymmetry, particularly useful for the study of complex organ systems, such as comparative anatomy.

        2. Creature and pleroma

        These two terms are taken from the Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung, Excerpts from the play Septem Sermones ad Mortuos (“The Seven Sermons for Death”).

        Pleroma refers to the non-living world which is undifferentiated by subjectivity, while the creature is the living world, subject to perceptual difference, distinction and information.

        3. Double link of schizophrenia

        Bateson, although not a clinical psychologist, proposed a theory of schizophrenia. According to him, this mental disorder occurs against the background of dysfunctional relationship models. and adversarial communication, through which the subject is exercised, and is particularly linked to disorders.

        Anyone who is a victim of the double bond receives conflicting orders or emotional messages at different levels of communication. To better understand this, the person receives contradictory signals in two or more ways, which lead him, so to speak, to a “short circuit”.

        For example, a child who is supposed to be loved by his parents receives love expressed in words, but his parents show continued rejection of him through non-verbal behaviors, which deeply affect the little one. Growing up, brought up in an environment that tells them to do one thing that contradicts another, the person lives in constant mental distress.

        For this double bond to occur, in addition to the existence of two or more conflicting communication channels, metacommunication must prove to be an impossible exercise. In other words, it is impossible for the person to know which of the two communication channels is true, and he cannot understand why he is being given information which, in theory, is the opposite of the other.

        In addition, to generate more tension, the person cannot fail to comply with conflicting orders. In other words, whether he does one thing or another, he is punished, for example, by taking his love away from him.

        4. Metal logo

        Given Bateson’s somewhat eccentric figure, at least in academic terms, it is not surprising that he knows the work of Miguel de Unamuno, Which also had its rarities.

        The term metal is taken from the work of the Spanish writer, but applying it in educational texts. Refers to a dialogue on a problematic subject, In which not only this particular problem is discussed, but the whole structure of the dialogue is given according to the problem.

        Bibliographical references:

        • Bateson, Gregory (1936). Naven. Stanford University Press.
        • Bateson, G., Mead, M. (1942). Balinese character: a photographic analysis. New York Academy of Sciences. ISBN 0-89072-780-5.
        • Bateson, Gregory; Ruesch, Jurgen (1951). Communication: the social matrix of psychiatry. Norton and company.
        • Bateson, Gregory (1972). Steps towards an ecology of the mind: collection of essays in anthropology, psychiatry, evolution and epistemology. Ballantine books.

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