Vol 28 No 1 (2012)

Gregory Bateson’s Contribution to Understanding the Linguistic Roots of the Ecological Crisis

Published May 14, 2012


The five core ideas of Gregory Bateson discussed here challenge a widely held orthodoxy taken for granted by many academics, including western philosophers. Namely, that language functions as a neutral conduit in a sender receiver process of communication. This assumption sustains the idea of a culture-free rational process, and objective information and data. It also hides the linguistic colonization of the present by the past, which is critical to understanding why we continue to rely upon the same mind-set that is contributing to the ecological crisis to fix it. Bateson’s five key ideas––the recursive nature of our guiding epistemologies, the disconnect between our conceptual maps (metaphorical interpretative frameworks constituted in the distant past) and today’s cultural/ecological realities, how the difference which make difference is the most basic source of information circulating through both cultural and natural ecologies, the nature of double bind thinking, and the need to move to Level III learning––provide a conceptual framework for understanding the difference between ecological and individual intelligence, and why so little attention is given by environmentalists and philosophers to the linguistic roots of the ecological crisis.