OUR OWN METAPHOR by Mary Catherine Bateson


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The most amazing achievement of this difficult but extremely readable account of a conference on ""The Effects of Conscious Purpose of Human Adaptation,"" held during the summer of 1968 in a castle near Vienna, is that it manages to convey the dynamics as well as the content of the deliberations of a small group of brilliant (and intractable) anthropologists, linguists, psychologists. and philosophers. To a large extent the problem simplistically known as the Ecological Crisis is the failure of scientific thought systems -- hence much of the discussion concerns new methods of conceptualization, ones that would overcome the old mind/matter, man/nature dualisms so that man could better integrate the ""environment"" and ""himself."" There is much engrossing secondary (illustrative) data on animal behavior, primitive societies, learning techniques, and computers, but the heart of the matter is the endless maze of the self-reflexive consciousness as it tries to characterize itself -- discussions and meta-discussions and recta-recta-discussions. The author infuses the history of the conference with a kind of novelistic suspense and moral purpose that makes the reader's journey through the book a metaphor of the conference in the same way that the conference (with its interaction and diversity and tolerance) is a metaphor (model) for the kind of thinking that may help save the world from itself.

Pub Date: May 17th, 1972
Publisher: Knopf