December 19, 2004

Bateson rediscovered

I seem forever to be picking up books from my own past, and discovering in their pages the reasons I've harbored them for so many years. Often I'm sure I've never read the gems that I discover, but it may be that I just didn't have the wit to understand what I was reading the first time around, and that I now have the context to appreciate significances that escaped the younger reader. Case in point today: Gregory Bateson's Naven has been with me for 35 years or so (the price of the Stanford paperback was $2.95), and I just happened to open it today and find this, contrasting the 'scientific' and 'artistic' modes of exposition:

The artist is content to describe culture in such a manner that many of its premises and the inter-relations of its parts are implicit in his composition. He can leave a great many of the most fundamental aspects of culture to be picked up, not from his actual words, but from his emphasis. He can choose words whose very sound is more significant than their dictionary meaning and he can so group and stress them that the reader almost unconsciously receives information which is not explicit in the sentences and which the artist would find it hard --almost impossible-- to express in analytic terms. (pg. 1)

Since is impossible to present the whole of a culture simultaneously in a single flash, I must begin at some arbitrarily chosen point in the analysis; and since words must necessarily be arranged in lines, I must present the culture, which like other cultures is really an elaborate reticulum of interlocking cause and effect, not with a network of words but with words in linear series. The order in which such a description is arranged is necessarily arbitrary and artificial... (pg. 3)

Posted by oook at December 19, 2004 03:22 PM