Questions concerning Gregory Batesons text Steps to an Ecology of Mind and its relation to the Big Book of AA

    -and some useful quotations from the book

Prepared by Nina Østby Sæther


1)      What is Bateson specific definition of an epistemology, and what role does it play in a human life? How can the process of an alcoholic becoming sober, by the help of the AA, be understood as a change of paradigms, according to Batesons theory?


2)      What would Bateson describe as the typical epistemology of an alcoholic that still drinks, in contrast to the epistemology of an alcoholic that has quit drinking, by following the twelve steps of AA?


3)      How can the above mentioned change of paradigms be, more specifically, said to lead to a change in the way the ”self” and the ”mind” is conceived?


4)      What is considered, by both Bateson and the AA, to constitute the main problem of the alcoholic?


5)      What role does ”God” play in the AA´s narrative of the alcoholic´s process of becoming and staying sober? How does Bateson understand this ”God”? How do you understand it?


6)      Why is it, according to the AA, important that an alcoholic has ”hit the bottom”, before he can be helped by the AA?


7)      Why does the AA emphasize anonymity as an important feature of the organization? In which way does this reflect the organizations epistemology?


8)      What is the function of the AA´s prayers and mottoposters?



Here you will find quotations from the AA Big Book which might be helpful in discussing the questions that are posed:


Question 1):


Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas, and the result was nil until we let absolutely go.




Question 4):


Selfishness, self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles.



So our troubles, we think, are basically of our own making. They arise out of ourselves, and the alcoholic is an extreme example of self-will run riot, though he usually doesn't think so.



Question 5):


First of all, we had to quit playing God. It didn't work. Next, we decided that hereafter in this drama of life, God was going to be our Director. He is the Principal; we are His agents. He is the Father, and we are His children.


In this book you read again and again that faith did for us what we could not do for ourselves.


When we sincerely took such a position, all sorts of remarkable things followed. We had a new Employer. Being all powerful, He provided what we needed, if we kept close to Him and performed His work well. Established on such a footing we became less and less interested in ourselves, our own little plans and designs. More and more we became interested in seeing what we could contribute to life. As we felt new power flow in, as we enjoyed peace of mind, as we discovered we could face life successfully, as we became conscious of His presence, we began to lose our fear of today, tomorrow or the hereafter. We were reborn.


Question 7):


Anonymity is the greatest symbol of self-sacrifice that we know (Bill W.)


Question 8):


On awakening let us think about the twenty-four hours ahead. We consider our plans for the day. Before we begin, we ask God to direct our thinking, especially asking that it be divorced from self-pity, dishonest or self-seeking motives. Under these conditions we can employ our mental faculties with assurance, for after all God gave us brains to use. Our thought- life will be placed on a much higher plane when our thinking is cleared of wrong motives.