Thinking Afresh, Thinking Clearly

Mary Catherine Bateson is the daughter of Gregory Bateson, author of Steps to an Ecology of Mind. An author in her own right, she is professor emerita of English and anthropology at Georgy Mason University. She is also the daughter of Margaret Mead; both Gregory Bateson and Margaret Mead were noted anthropologists.

Mary Catherine Bateson contributes her own thinking to social conceptualization. In this recent interview she expresses a new and interesting way to frame experience:

MCB: . . . As we think about aging, we tend to think that old people are like the grandparents we knew, and that is how we are supposed to be.

PM: Yes, that would be logical.

MCB: It is logical, but remember that our grandparents grew up in a different world, aged in a different way, had different kinds of medical care, and so, just as women had to figure out how to be women unlike their mothers, people coming up on formal retirement now have to figure out how to be older adults. They will not be like their grandparents, becausethey are likely to live on for many more active years than their grandparents (9).

What I believe is happening here is that we are viewing a mind at work; just as Gregory Bateson taught me to think, apparently he also taught Mary Catherine Bateson to think.

The contrast is with Linda R. Hirshman (previous post on this blog), also a professor emerita, whose thinking seems to have been of the argumentative sort, seeking for fresh evidence to prove her point. Bateson has thought freshly, perceived freshly, and conceptualized anew. The entire (brief) interview is worth much wider circulation.

The circumstances under which I came to read this interview were accidental. For some reason I receive the newsletter at my Department; for some unknown reason I picked it up, looked at it, opened it, and started reading.

I worry that only by pure accident do many of us have the opportunity to be exposed to people who think freshly about the world around us. Criticism is important, and critique on theoretical grounds can be informative. I just looked at a review of a book on the Politics of Aristotle that described the book as a systematic examination of the views of Aristotle about the citizen and the polis in the light of today’s concerns.


2 thoughts on “Thinking Afresh, Thinking Clearly

  1. Hi doctortwo:

    Could you mention the name of the newsletter in which Bateson’s interview appears? I tried a phrase search from the snippet you posted, but couldn’t find a link to the interview online.

    You have chosen some interesting things to blog about. I think I will visit often, also because I want to see the R,S,H classifier in action ;).


  2. Thank you for your comment. I had had a link to the Newsletter in an introduction to the quote from the interview–but that introduction got sent into outer space in the first attempt at using the “More” function. This rewritten introduction should have said: “In this recent interview” which appeared in the Summer/Fall 2006 Edition of the Newsletter of the Boston Research Council for the 21st Century. It’s at on the main page under Newletter #26 on the left hand side. The actual file is a pdf file and is not searchable outside the site. In other words, the interview could not be more obscure and still be online. I happened to get a copy in my mailbox and then for some reason opened the newsletter, and then paged through it until the interview with Mary Catherine Bateson caught my eye. Thanks for asking.

    All the best to you!

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