The book begins with a series of metalogues, which take the form of conversations with his daughter Mary Catherine Bateson. The metalogues are mostly intriguing thought exercises with titles such as "What is an Instinct" and "How Much Do You Know." In the metalogues, the playful dialectic structure itself is closely related to the subject matter of the piece. The next section is a collection of anthropological writings, many of which were written while he was married to Margaret Mead.
Part III is devoted to the theme of "Form and Pathology in Relationships." His essay on alcoholism is a good example of his commanding intellect. He examines the alcoholic state of mind, and the methodology of Alcoholics Anonymous within the framework of the then-nascent field of cybernetics.
Part IV is a collection of writings on "Biology and Evolution."
Part V is devoted to "Epistemology and Ecology."
Part VI is entitled "Crisis in the Ecology of Mind."