Quotable (#82)

This is simply superb:

“Logic is a very elegant tool,” [Bateson] said, “and we’ve got a lot of mileage out of it for two thousand years or so. The trouble is, you know, when you apply it to crabs and porpoises, and butterflies and habit formation” – his voice trailed off, and he added after a pause, looking out over the ocean – “you know, to all those pretty things” – and now, looking straight at me [Capra] – “logic won’t quite do.”
“it won’t quite do,” he continued animatedly, “because that whole fabric of living things is not put together by logic. you see, when you get circular trains of causation, as you always do in the living world, the use of logic will make you walk into paradoxes. Just take the thermostat, a simple sense organ, yes?”
He looked at me, questioning whether I followed and, seeing that I did, he continued.
“If it’s on, it’s off; if it’s off, it’s on. If yes, then no; if no, then yes.”
With that he stopped to let me puzzle about what he had said. His last sentence reminded me of the classical paradoxes of Aristotelian logic, which was, of course, intended. So I risked a jump.
“You mean, do thermostats lie?”
Bateson’s eyes lit up: “Yes-no-yes-no-yes-no. You see, the cybernetic equivalent of logic is oscillation.”

[Minor spelling amendment made.]

6 thoughts on “Quotable (#82)

  1. Bateson is always worth reading even when he is wrong, FC the dancing wu li master not so much, keep waiting for someone to bootleg Bateson’s daughter new doc on him.

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