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RunawayGregory Bateson, the Double Bind, and the Rise of Ecological Consciousness$
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Anthony Chaney

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781469631738

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469631738.001.0001

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Signals from the Goal

Signals from the Goal

(p.104) Five Signals from the Goal

Anthony Chaney

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter places Bateson's work with dolphins within a broader 1960s "dolphin mystique"--a cultural site where anxieties over modern science’s physical models went unresolved. Most associated with scientist John C. Lilly, the dolphin mystique had futurist, utilitarian, and romantic components, also found in a similar "outer space mystique." The chapter shows how Lilly's and Bateson's research goals differed through a further substantiation of the sources of Bateson's thought: the Macy Conferences on Cybernetics (his theory of play, the concepts of positive feedback, negative feedback, servomechanisms, and the naturalization of teleology); and his father William Bateson and his career amid the ongoing conflict between Darwinist and Lamarckian theories of evolution. In Hawaii, Bateson expressed his isolation from potential peers and research frustrations in letters to old friend and Darwin granddaughter/scholar Nora Barlow. This isolation, however, allowed Bateson to articulate a justification for scientific inquiry that was neither utilitarian nor a value-neutral pursuit of truth, but an effort to establish an accurate depiction of the relationship between nature and the human self, which he called the riddle of the Sphinx.

Keywords:   dolphin mystique, John C. Lilly, Macy Conferences on Cybernetics, theory of play, feedback, servomechanism, William Bateson, Nora Barlow, riddle of the Sphinx, theory of evolution

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