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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.

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Citation

Zundel, M., Cour, A.L. and Lauritzen, G.D. (2021), "Spencer Brown’s Paradox", Bednarek, R., e Cunha, M.P., Schad, J. and Smith, W.K. (Ed.) Interdisciplinary Dialogues on Organizational Paradox: Investigating Social Structures and Human Expression, Part B (Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Vol. 73b), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 139-159. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0733-558X2021000073b010

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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