The simplest form or structure we can imagine is a distinction. A distinction can be defined as the process (or its result) of discriminating between a class of phenomena and the complement of that class (i.e. all the phenomena which do not fit into the class). As such, a distinction structures the universe of all experienced phenomena in two parts. Such a part which is distinguished from its complement or background can be called an indication (Spencer-Brown, 1969). If more than one distinction is applied the structure becomes more complex, and the number of potential indications increases, depending on the number of distinctions and the way they are connected.
A distinction can be seen as an element of cognitive structuration. Indeed, any process of perception implies a classification between phenomena. This classification operation has two aspects :
The operations of distinction, and assimilation of phenomena necessarily go together. If a cognitive system would make no distinctions, only assimilations, it would be unable to perceive different phenomena, it would react to all situations in a uniform way; hence, it would be unable to adapt to a changing environment. On the other hand, a system which would make no assimilations, only distinctions, would be unable to anticipate; hence it would also be unable to adapt.
- the phenomena which are put together in a class, are considered to be equivalent with respect to the observer's goals, they are assimilated, they belong to the same equivalence class ;
- the phenomena corresponding to different classes are distinguished or discriminated, they belong to different equivalence classes.
Spencer-Brown (1969) has proposed general axioms for distinctions. With these axioms, he has shown that a set of distinctions has a Boolean algebra structure, isomorphic to the algebra of classes in set theory or to the algebra of propositions in logic (Spencer-Brown, 1969). Spencer Brown showed that distinction algebra implies propositional calculus. B. Banaschewski (1977) showed the opposite entailment in
- B. Banaschewski (1977), Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic 3:
- Spencer Brown G. (1969) : Laws of Form, (Allen & Unwin, London).
- Formal Formulations: an extensive website on distinction logics
- Laws of Form website
- From The Laws of Form.
- Miller: Laws of Form
- Forth meets the Laws of Form
- Boundary Math
- Rodrigo Jokish: Logic of Distinctions. A Protologic for a Theory of Society (book summary)
- Heylighen F. (1990): "Non-Rational
Cognitive Processes as Changes of Distinctions", Communication
& Cognition 23, No. 2-3, p. 165-181.
- Heylighen F. (1990): "Relational Closure:
a mathematical concept for distinction-making and complexity analysis",
in: Cybernetics and Systems '90, R. Trappl (ed.), (World Science, Singapore),
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Referencing this page
Nov 25, 1997 (modified)
Sep 1991 (created)