Introduction: In his book Mind and Nature, Gregory Bateson presents a method of analysis that he believes is critical to sorting out some of the fundamental questions of biology. He argues that this method is largely unrecognized and underutilized, and yet it is essential for investigations within the realm of creatura, i.e. the living world in which information processes, not just material-energetic processes, are relevant. He describes his method as “double description”. More than mere comparison, double description includes elements of both Charles Sanders Peirce’s abduction and Bertrand Russell’s logical types, although neither term is used in their original senses. The historical origins of this concept and its relationship to other analytical concepts such as these will not be explored here. The purpose of this paper is to examine what Bateson means by double description, how it works as an analytic tool in Bateson’s hands, and what Bateson believes can be achieved by its careful application (where possible to determine). In particular, we hope to critically develop the logic of this analysis to the point where we can reconsider an exemplary challenge that Bateson poses at the beginning of Mind and Nature (which involves multiple levels of double description) in light of more recent developments in evolutionary and developmental biology. He asks: What pattern connects the crab to the lobster and the orchid to the primrose and all the four of them to me? And me to you? And all the six of us to the amoeba in one direction and to the back-ward schizophrenic in another? (Bateson, 1979: 8)

PDF: Bateson_MS2_DoubleDescrpt