Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 17, No. 340.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
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Date: Sun, 26 Oct 2003 05:31:59 +0000
From: email@example.com (Francois Lachance)
Subject: reservations about preservation
Is not the best irony cast as ernestness?
> burned in the fire; and many similar words were added to them." But this
> serves the point I wish to make about cultural memory and its means. It
> would be better for us all, would it not, if we thought about digital
> preservation and the digital library (whatever that is) with a critical
> sense of irony. "Learning", Gregory Bateson remarked, "leads to an
> overpacked mind. By return to the unlearned and mass-produced egg, the
> ongoing species again and again clears its memory banks to be ready for the
> new." (Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity, Cresskill NJ: Hampton Press,
> 2002, p. 45.)
>From the 1980 rpt of the 1979 Bantam edition:
of differentiation. Learning leads to an overpacked <lb>
mind. By return to the unlearned and mass-produced <lb>
egg, the ongoing species again and again clears its <lb>
memory banks to be ready for the new.<lb>
Note the line breaks. The suggestiveness of lines that end with
"overpacked" and "mass-produced". And the telling error that would carry
the game of end words to read "its new". The new is not possessed. It
belongs whole to the other.
In my copy of Mind and Nature on the quotation cited by Willard appears on
page 53. I am glad that I was working from a different edition, it
allowed me to scan an essay that I have read some time ago and relocate
the passage quoted by Willard at the end of the eighth section" of the
chapter entitled "Every Schoolboy Knows..."
Nuance - clearing the memory banks is not the same as flushing them out
Nuance - the ongoing species is a collective noun which includes
individuals who are being born and those who have been born
Nuance - the return of the ongoing species is not the return of the
The clearing of memory banks and the readiness for the new does not mean
that the individual member of a species must necessarily give up learning
and the packed mind.
For Bateson, successful raids on the random allow participants in
coevolution to create context.
A packed mind can generate noise. It can become a random event generator.
A mind unpacking itself can a teacher to the other. Madness, senility, a
second childhood, are not perhaps what Bateson had in mind. Yet, he does
use a line from _Lear_ to name the eight section "NOTHING WILL COME OF
NOTHING" (the publisher perhaps supplying the capitalization, I don't know
I don't have access to the typescript).
Every schoolboy knows since the 1979 publication of Bateson's book that
feminism has help us scrutinize dichotomous schemes attentively and to be
sensitive to hidden, unacknowledged labour that reproduces the world.
Every schoolboy knows that something doesn't quite click in the
culture-nature split that is a stepping stone to Bateson's remarks on
learning and unpacking:
In contrast with epigenesis and tautology, which constitute the worlds of
replication, there is the whole realm of creativity, art, learning, and
evolution, in which the ongoing processes of change _feed on the random_.
The essence of epigenesis is predictable repetition; the essence of
learning and evolution is exploration and change.
Every schoolboy knows that Lear's line to Cordelia
"Nothing will come of nothing: speak again."
What Willard didn't mention in the recounting of Frye lecturing is that
yes, the king is gone, the palace is gone, the writing continues, but
other players keep the writing going and there are other palaces and
kings. Nothing will come of nothing ... symmetry breaking will continue to
break symmetry breaking. Loops and the limits of computation: familiar
-- Francois Lachance, Scholar-at-large http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~lachance
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