Bateson&learning levels&Andrew's ?s

Daniel Aronson (
Mon, 28 Nov 1994 00:57:01 +0001 (EST)

On Sat, 26 Nov 1994, Andrew Moreno wrote:
> if someone were to consciously evolve
> in a useful and appropriate direction
> by playing with the chemical cocktail inside their heads (structure
> of the brain) on a chemical or even cellular level, that would be
> learning IV?
Although that might capture some of the elements of evolution, it strikes 
me that it would not be enough.  There are elements in learning and 
paradigm formation especially that are not reducible to the individual 
level, even with the ability to alter chemical or cellular structures, 
such as the group construction of meaning and social (societal) worldview 
elements.  These are only possible for a group (and evolution
does not modify individuals but populations), and so I tend to think that 
Bateson's statement that Learning IV is not accessible to individuals 
would be true even in the case you raise, though less so than for regular 
humans.  I should have used such examples, not just biological ones, in my 
original explanation of why Learning IV is impossible for individuals, 
but I did not.  I apologize for the confusion.  Incidentally, it seems to 
me that perhaps some of the most exciting (to me) and powerful 
applications of systems thinking are those that involve using it to make 
changes in groups in a way that nothing else has.

> If there were people who could consciously evolve on a chemical or > even a cellular level, then a person who could map that process > of evolution on a chemical or even a cellular level > would be functioning at learning V. Am I right?

I'm not sure what you mean by "map"; I agree with Lew Mills' comment that learning on one level is, for Bateson, learning *about* learning on the next lower level. As pure (and tentative) speculation about Learning V, which Bateson does not mention, perhaps a process of evolution across multiple "planes of existence"/multiple "dimensions," each of which with its own internal Learning IV evolutionary processes, would qualify.

These are, naturally, only my opinions and understandings about Bateson's typology. I hope you find them useful.

Daniel Aronson <<That system which will run forever without breaking down as long as energy is allowed in is *nature*, for the simple reason (no less impressive in its simplicity) that there is no waste in nature. As Paul Hawken observes, what is waste for one organism (i.e. carbon dioxide for humans) is food for others (plants), and so nothing is waste at the systemic level.>>