Conference Programme
Day 2 – Friday, August 5
Registration and Coffee
09:00 - 09:30
Margaretha Hendrickx
Something happened to me that changed my understanding of George Spencer-Brown's Laws of Form. Did I just experience a gestalt switch?


My work focuses on the metaphors of meat-cleaver (Plato's butcher), the circle in the sand, and the container that George Spencer-Brown uses to draw our attention to the concept of a distinction in his Laws of Form (LoF). I do so against the backdrop of Husserl & Frege's work on logic, Stephen Pepper's work on root metaphors, and the triangles literature of the early 20th century (see McElvenny (2014) for an overview) to argue that LoF is a meditation on how to work across the distinction between the observable and the forever-unobservable and that it draws attention to models of the mind grounded in dramaturgical metaphors setting up humans as born gestalt-switchers.

Margaretha Hendrickx is an independent scholar with a background in agricultural engineering (Ir., State University of Gent, Belgium, 1987), molecular genetics (M.Sc., Purdue University, USA, 1991) and strategic management (Ph.D., Purdue University, USA, 2003). She hosts and administers the website

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09:30 - 10:00
André Oksas
Research Fellow Next Society Institute
Digital Analysis of a Form


In 1961, George Spencer-Brown, as Chief Logic Designer of the electronic component manufacturer Mullard Equipment Limited, introduced the mark "cross" in his typescript Design with the NOR as a simplified notation for the standard logic gate NOR of that time. Against this background, modern methods of circuit design can be applied to re-entry forms from Laws of Form. Using the Modulator as an example, the talk shows how such re-entry forms can be analyzed and their behavior described using methods and tools of discrete mathematics. The analysis uses the theory of finite, deterministic automata in the transformation of the structure of the Modulator given in Chapter 11 into its behavioral description by means of automata graphs. Both basal set operations and special set operations of the Boolean Differential Calculus are used to compute the re-entry forms. Finally, an animated simulation of the Modulator is presented.

André Oksas is a Research Fellow of the Next Society Institute at Kazimieras Simonavičius University in Vilnius, Lithuania, and lives in Munich, Germany. He studied electrical engineering and information technology with a focus on digital circuit design and spent more than twenty-five years in various technological and managerial positions in information technology. His current research topics are the systems theory of Niklas Luhmann and the work of George Spencer-Brown.

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10:00 - 10:30
Florian Grote
CODE University of Applied Sciences, Berlin
Dynamics and Forms of Decision-Making


George Spencer-Brown's Laws of Form unfolds from an imperative: "Draw a distinction" (Chapter 2: Construction). This leads to a peculiar situation: An imperative attempts to bypass a decision-making process in the addressee and get them to carry out the implied action without further consideration. If any indication implies distinction and both taken together can be confused with observation (as exemplified in Appendix 6 of LoF), then the imperative can be read as a call to an observer to create itself. What does this mean for the decision-making of the observer? What is the basis for the imperative of drawing a distinction? Can it (also) be a self-referential call? If any drawing of a distinction needs a decision to come into being, how can this decision be distinguished from everything it is not, i.e., how can it be observed? The paper will explore these considerations in the empirical field of decision-making in economic organizations. The focus will be on product development, with particular attention paid to the integration of sustainability goals. How are situations observed before a decision is made? How are decisions prepared with other decisions, such as who gets to decide by when, and who to consult with? How does a decision get communicated, and how does the observed situation change afterward? Can distinctions such as before and after even be drawn? How might we observe social functions and dynamics in the form of decisions?

Florian Grote is Professor of Product Management at CODE University of Applied Sciences in Berlin. He has filled design and product roles in the music technology industry, working on innovative instruments for electronic music production. His research focuses on cognitive and systemic perspectives on learning organizations with special attention to resilience and sustainability.

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10:30 - 11:00
Coffee Break
11:00 - 11:30
Walter Tydecks
Interdependent Co-Arising of Form

Can the idea of an Interdependent Co-Arising of Form be seen in Laws of Form? The "construction: draw a distinction" leaves open who is addressed. It contains four moments: the medium (the formable, distinguishable, void), in which the form is inscribed; the drawer (the distinguisher), who is spoken to with this request; the process of forming (drawing, distinguishing); the form (the sign, the difference), which as a result is produced. In the sense of Interdependent Co-Arising, the four moments are interdependent and can only arise together. Each of the moments is both active and passive. Western thought, on the other hand, sees the activity exclusively in the subject (the drawer, the distinguisher). For Western thinking, therefore, especially the idea that the medium is also active and not merely a passive material into which something is inscribed is unfamiliar. Equally uncommon is the idea that the resulting form has an activity of its own, with which it can both act back on the drawer and affect others who are attracted or repelled by that form. Even the process of drawing (distinguishing) has its own process form that can develop its own dynamics (second-order forms). - With some examples it shall be discussed which possibilities of interpretation and consequences can result from the view of the Interdependent Co-Arising of
Laws of Form.

Walter Tydecks, b. 1952, studied mathematics, political science and philosophy (Dipl.-Math.). Professional activity as a system developer, project manager and IT manager of medium-sized companies with a global orientation, philosophical work with a focus on philosophy and mathematics, recent developments in logic, Aristotle and classical German philosophy.

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11:30 - 12:00
Till Gathmann
A Critique of the Circle. Anaxagoras and Spencer-Brown

Anaxagoras (c. 500–c. 428 BC) is the first philosopher to reveal the foundation of George Spencer-Brown's Laws of Form. In the few remaining fragments of his writings he positions nous as the overarching principle of distinction, the form, emerging from a state of everything in everything, governing all development up until the human ability to reflect itself within this process as part of it. His philosophy can be understood as a counter-model against that established in Parmenidean philosophy (what remained of it): the invention of the abstract category of being through encirclement. The latter has haunted Western ontological and idealistic philosophical traditions, from the aversion against infinity in Aristotle to the construction of Hegel's Logic and the conception of the Absolute. The Parmenidean spectre also found its way into Spencer-Brown's Laws of Form: it lurks in the example of the circle drawing a distinction in a plane space. Spencer-Brown does not only enable us to sharpen the analysis of the conflict between Anaxagoras and Parmenides, but the pre-Socratic conflict sheds light on Laws of Form as a distinctively anti-ontological conception. Apart from this historical contextualisation, the critique of the circle is also in need of being formally demonstrated by rendering it into a self-critique of the circle. The demonstration aims to transform the static notion of the circle into a dynamic model of self-distinction by mediating outside and inside, unmarked and marked, thus negating the abstractions of being and nothing for the benefit of a concept of everything becoming something.

Till Gathmann works as a typographer, book designer, and artist in Berlin. He is specialised in conceptual collaborations with artists to translate artistic works into book form. In the framework of a long-term artistic project, he is working on the reconstruction of the life of Alfred Kallir, an unknown autodidactic theoretician of the origins of writing, and attempts a critical continuation of Kallir's work with a focus on methodological questions. Key to those questions is the analysis of cosmology and theories of origin and their metaphysical and psychological implications. This research itself is embedded in practices of performance, drawing, modelling, and writing towards publication in book form.

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12:00 - 12:30
Tom Short
University of Hertfordshire, UK
Introspection and the Laws of Form

Drawing upon Eastern and Western phenomenological ideas, I investigate key approaches of introspective traditions and how the Laws of Form can help to bring clarity to their processes.
The session will be organised as a middle-way between guided meditation (injunctions for doing) and a lecture (commentary & description).
Although in the past some of these ideas have arisen in association with various religious systems, they can equally be considered outside those contexts.
We will examine ideas of awareness, intentionality, somatic considerations, emptiness (& relative emptiness) and time.

Now mainly retired, I have spent most of my professional life working in universities. Initially lecturing in physics then, via an MSc in Computer Science, becoming a Principal Lecturer in IT. Eventually I drifted into university IT management as Director of Administrative IT for two universities. Late in my career I discovered systems thinking via an OU Diploma in Systems Practice and I realised that there were other people who thought like me!
In the interstices in my career, I developed an interest in Buddhism and led a double life as a Visiting Buddhist Chaplain in UK prisons for 20+ years and then as a Visiting Buddhist Chaplain in a University for 18 years, which is ongoing. I have an MA in Buddhist Studies.
I'm still very puzzled and excited by the Universe and the possibility of finding and sharing answers.

12:30 - 13:00
Lunch Break
13:00 - 14:30
Nathaniel Hellerstein
Paradox Logic and How to Count to Two


This lecture describes "diamond logic", a multivalued logic that solves the Liar paradox, and other paradoxes, including Russell's, Cantor's, and Goedel's. This logic is represented in a variant of G. Spencer-Brown's formal calculus. This lecture then applies diamond's 'juxtaposition' operator to Spencer-Brown's modulator circuit, as described in "Laws of Form"; this turns Brown's modulator into a 'rotor' circuit, that counts to two by pushing paradoxes around a circle. The same happens with Kauffman's modulator circuit.

Born in Boston on November 20, 1957; Princeton University BA in Mathematics, 1978; University of California at Berkeley PhD in Logic and Foundations, 1984; lives in San Francisco; teaches at the City College of San Francisco and at the College of San Mateo.

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14:30 - 15:00
Louis H Kauffman
University of Illinois at Chicago
Mathematics and Laws of Form

This talk is devoted to looking at mathematics through the lens of Laws of Form. This means that we wish to develop, create and describe mathematics with respect to the idea of distinction. Mathematics becomes the study of what a distinction would be if there could be a distinction. We begin by discussion of the Spencer-Brown calculus of indications as it emanates from a sign ( the mark < >) that itself stands for a distinction and can be regarded as the exemplar of a distinction. From this starting place we further construct or allow the emergence of logic, arithmetic, number, algebra, sets, categories, imaginary and hypercomplex numbers, computation, transfinite number, aspects of geometry and topology, recursion and self-similarity, fractals, knots, the beginnings of quantum theory, and a sense of the growth and explosion of mathematical structure from the simplest place. A big bang from no thing.
There is much to discuss, and we will choose specific aspects and enlarge upon them in relation to our feelings at the time and in relation to the interests of those who listen and participate in the talk.

Louis H Kauffman is Professor of Mathematics Emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is a graduate of MIT (undergraduate) and Princeton University (PhD in Mathematics). Kauffman works in knot theory and its relationships to other fields, including combinatorics, algebra, low dimensional manifolds, physics and natural science. He has long been interested and working with extensions and variations of Laws of Form and working with the principle that mathematics is about what a distinction could be if there would be a distinction. Kauffman is a fellow of the American Mathematical Society and a recipient of the Warren McCulloch and Norbert Wiener awards of the American Society for Cybernetics.

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15:00 - 16:00
Divyamaan Sahoo
Art Institute of Chicago
Primes Between Squares


This talk covers ongoing research of J. M. Flagg, Louis H. Kauffman, and Divyamaan Sahoo on Appendix 8 of Laws of Form (Bohmeier Verlag) including G. Spencer-Brown's corrected typescripts, handwritten notes, and private communication

Divyamaan Sahoo from Kolkata, India, is a mathematician, puppeteer, and sound artist, deeply influenced by anima, the soul or essence of living things, in the alchemy of puppets and instruments.
16:00 - 16:30
Extended Coffee Break
16:30 - 17:30
Diego Lucio Rapoport
National University of Quilmes
The Primal Distinction, Geometrical-Topological Phases, Resonance and a Supradual Logophysics for the Neurosciences


Continuing with our contribution to LoF50, we relate the Primal Distinction to the geometrical-topological phases of Pancharatnam-Berry as an alternative introduction to nonorientability and torsion geometries, pervasive to perception, cognition, the neurosciences, the human body plan, pattern formation and recognition, basic to resonance as the metaform for connection, electromagnetic pressure and acoustic waves, fluids, in the supradual setting of the Klein Bottle logophysics. In particular we apply this to a novel paradigm of neuronal action potentials.

Bio to follow

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17:30 – 18:00
Stephen Wolfram
Founder and CEO, Wolfram Research


Content based on current research.

Stephen Wolfram is the Founder & CEO of Wolfram Research; Creator of Mathematica, Wolfram|Alpha & the Wolfram Language; Author of A New Kind of Science and other books; and the Originator of the Wolfram Physics Project.

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18:00 - 18:40
Divyamaan Sahoo
Art Institute of Chicago
Flatland. Part II: OTHER WORLDS


The Inhabitants of SPACE IN GENERAL
This Work is Dedicated
By a Humble Native of Flatland
In the Hope that
Even as he was Initiated into the Mysteries
Of THREE Dimensions
Having been previously conversant
So the Citizens of that Celestial Region
May aspire yet higher and higher
To the Secrets of FOUR FIVE or EVEN Six Dimensions
Thereby contributing
To the Enlargement of THE IMAGINATION
And the possible Development
Of that most rare and excellent Gift of MODESTY
Among the Superior Races
Of Solid Humanity

Divyamaan Sahoo from Kolkata, India, is a mathematician, puppeteer, and sound artist, deeply influenced by anima, the soul or essence of living things, in the alchemy of puppets and instruments.
18:45 - 19:45
(Advance booking required)
The Pen Factory

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