“In his labyrinthine classic Steps to an Ecology of Mind, Gregory Bateson redefines hubris as the “lack of systemic wisdom,” the tragic blindness that occurs when any part of an ecological system ignores the fact that it is participating in a system larger than itself, one upon which its very existence is predicated. The extent to which Gregory Bateson’s work, like that of Bataille, Levinas, and Lacan, addresses this tragic dimension more explicitly than Korzybski and Marcuse is a subject of debate. This debate does not end by taking sides and aims to deepen, rather than qualify, the radicalism of General Semantics and Critical Theory.
Colin Campbell: Gad, I wanted to begin by talking with you about a very broad topic. I have been reading a great deal about cybernetics and what it says about the ‘noisiness’ of what is going on. I can be more precise in citing Gregory Bateson in Steps to an Ecology of Mind in the essay called “Cybernetic Explanation”:
Causal explanation is usually positive. We say that billiard ball B moved in such-and-such a direction because billiard ball A hit it at such and such an angle. In contrast to this, cybernetic explanation is always negative… In cybernetic language, the course of events is said to be subject to restraints, and it is assumed that, apart from such restraints, the pathways of change would be governed only by an equality of probability.
What I am drawn to is the notion that consciousness is something that operates in terms of restraints and constraints and elimination of background noise–in a word, of abstraction–rather than perfect mirroring or creation ex nihilo. And this necessarily indicates a limit to consciousness, to the importance or even the predominance of the unconscious. And this in turn has reminded me of our earlier discussion in CTheory about psychoanalysis and Marcuse’s hope.
Gad Horowitz: For Freud and Marcuse what is repressed in the unconscious are erotic and aggressive drives. When we spoke twelve years ago I was breathing the atmosphere of Marcuse. More recently I have been breathing the atmosphere of Bataille, of Levinas, and Lacan for whom radical alterity, rather than Eros, is the issue.” rest @ http://www.ctheory.net/articles.aspx?id=764