Ecology of Mind and Nature

"Ecology of mind and nature" refers to the way in which mind and nature work. A number of people and cultures have used this idea, but the primary focus of my use of the idea comes from Gregory Bateson. Although this idea of ecology of mind and nature is quite complex, a simplify notion is to think of how multiple systems interact in nature to keep everything in balance and working. This is the ecology of nature. The ecology of mind is similar. And, Gregory Bateson, as well as some aboriginal cultures, felt that survival was dependent upon the ecologies of mind and nature working in sync with one another.

In my work with education, I am interested in looking at how we can use this idea of "ecology of mind and nature" to extend to ecologies of classrooms, schools, and communities, and to enhance children's learning and thinking. The other topics on this site are all part of the greater context of ecologies.

Some of the key ideas that comprise this notion of a Batesonian "ecology" include:

  • Cybernetics & Systems
    • Feedback Loops — both positive and negative
  • Relationships — Bateson "we live in a world of relationships;" everything is in relationship to other things
    • Symmetrical, Complementary, Reciprocal
  • Double Binds — sort of like "catch-22's
  • Contexts
  • Patterns or "Metapatterns"
    • Patterns that appear and connect across differences
    • Patterns of function and meaning
  • Changeability & Change
  • Difference — all perception and knowing is based on difference
  • Epistemology — as individual and social ways of knowing and understanding
  • Alfred Korzybski's "the map is not the territory" — the abstraction is not the thing itself
  • Beauty & Aesthetics
  • Logical types & typing — clarifying levels of abstraction
  • Emergence
  • Stochastic Processes in learning, thinking, ecology, and evolution (processes that contain random elements and divergent processes)
  • Recursion, Recursive Processes
  • Entropy
  • Sacredness (not in the religious sense)

Learning and thinking are not limited to human beings either. If we consider learning and thinking as a generic process that includes the genetic and molecular levels, then these processes include a much broader range of phenomena. The following are some characteristics of Batesonian thinking and learning:

  • Abduction (using and testing ideas or hypotheses across contexts, disciplines, etc.)
  • Multiple Description or Double Description
  • Multiple Perspectives—Loop Processes
  • Deutero-Learning (Bateson's Learning 0, I, II, III — loosely corresponds to levels thinking up to learning to learn)
  • Creative thought must be Stochastic (contain a random component and divergent processes)
  • Alternating between form and process or classification and process


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©2015 Jeffrey W. Bloom

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