Spencer Brown’s Paradox

Mike Zundel, Anders la Cour, Ghita Dragsdahl Lauritzen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review

Abstract

George Spencer Brown is best known for his book Laws of Form, which elaborates a primary algebra of distinctions and forms capable of dealing with self-referential equations reflective of paradoxes in logic. The book has received little attention in mathematics, but it has greatly influenced cybernetics, communications, and ecological theories. But Spencer Brown also published poetry and stories, often under different names, and he practiced as a psychotherapist. Our chapter elaborates the utility of Laws of Form relating to organizational paradox before considering Spencer Brown’s other works in relation to his mathematics. Invoking philosophy, psychoanalysis and art, we suggest that these indicate a further distinction that sets all forms against the “nothing”: a wholeness or unity from out of which all distinctions, all words, meaning and life – but also all silence, nonsense and death – emerge in paradoxical opposition. Reading Spencer Brown not through the prism of mathematics, but as an evocative invitation to engage with the fissures that animate art and human life, highlights the paradoxical interplay of organization and violence; and how tragedy, suffering, sympathy and love should be more prominent in organizational research.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInterdisciplinary Dialogues on Organizational Paradox : Investigating Sociual Structures and Human Expression, Part B
EditorsRebecca Bednarek, Miguel Pina e Cunha, Jonathan Schad, Wendy K. Smith
Number of pages21
Place of PublicationBingley
PublisherEmerald Group Publishing
Publication date2021
Pages139-159
ISBN (Print)9781801171878
ISBN (Electronic)978180111861, 9781801171885
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021
SeriesResearch in the Sociology of Organizations
Volume73 B
ISSN0733-558X

Keywords

  • Distinction
  • Form
  • Nietzsche
  • Jung
  • Nishida
  • Nothing
  • Violence
  • Accident
  • Birth
  • Death

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