Spencer Brown’s Paradox

Mike Zundel, Anders la Cour, Ghita Dragsdahl Lauritzen

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


    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
    ISBN (Print)9781801171878
    ISBN (Electronic)978180111861, 9781801171885
    Publication statusPublished - 2021
    SeriesResearch in the Sociology of Organizations
    Volume73 B


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

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