Bateson was always very interested and even troubled I'd say about the fact that in analog, animal communication, a "not" signal is not available. They can't straightforwardly send a message and transform it through "not"...
e.g. they can't straightforwardly say: "I will not fight you". This is how he once put it:
"What goes on between animals is evidently characterized by, amongst other things, the absence of 'not'- the absence of a simple negative. While they can forbid each other-say "don't"-they can in general not deny a message which they themselves have emitted. They cannot negate."
One day, I cannot go into details, he asked a mathematician, G. Spencer Brown, about that, & here is what the mathematician had to say: in effect, "not" is the most difficult signal for humans, verbal mammals, to receive & implement correctly, e.g., "don't think of an elephant".
Spencer Brown's point, as I understand it, is that even a verbal being with yes/no digital signals available to them remains an analog-based mammal and some of that carries even into digital communication.
It's interesting that Bateson puts it in terms of "denial", the deep difficulty or impossibility for nonhuman mammals to "deny" or negate a message they themselves have emitted, vs. the apparent ease for verbal beings to say, e.g., "this will, or can, not be".
I keep thinking about this and the relevance of this to the question of the amazing capacity of humans for another kind of denial, the capacity for the denial of, or difficulty to implement, what comes in the form of a verbal negation...
...the difficulty to actually mean, to oneself or to others, to implement, with oneself or with others, a message that contains a "not", all the way from "this form of life will not survive 2.4° of global warming" to "I should not do that."
The quote by Spencer Brown is from Guddemi, Phillip. 2020. Gregory Bateson on Relational Communication: From Octopuses to Nations. Cham: Springer, p. 61.

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More from @sylvaindarwish

23 Nov
One wonderful thing about transhumant pastoralism is that it's a mode of animal husbandry which takes its principles of organization, most of them, from the tendencies or puissances internal to the animal themselves. "A thread." 1/n
One consequence of that is that when you try to understand how it works you find yourself jumping to another level, a larger context, from which what you thought you see appears to be in fact the opposite of what you thought you see. 2/n
"What!?", you ask. 3/n
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