Mary Catherine Bateson on the sustainability of ideas

February 3, 2013 0 Comments

“It might be useful to ask about the sustainability of ideas, just as we have begun to ask about human activities, for sustainability carries with it the notions of resilience and variation over time…

[We need] to know more about what it takes to get a new idea integrated into an existing system of ideas or values and how this process differs from the prior step of bringing it into conversations; it is this quality of integration that really gives an idea staying power. Environmentalists in the past, for example, have tried to add environmental values, without asking how they fit in. It would perhaps be safer always to speak of value systems. As in mathematics, it is possible to memorize rules, but thinking mathematically requires an integrated understanding.

People accept new ideas when they feel a sense of recognition of the new as a translation of or extrapolation from or analogy to something familiar…

If values once learned are to be kept flexible and adaptable, there is a need to learn to modify, question, and reintegrate existing values, not simply to discard them.”

—Mary Catherine Bateson, Willing to Learn


Leave a Reply