Spencer-Brown: Cataphatist

George Spencer-Brown (GSB) did some wonderful work for a system of logic that has us consistently painting ourselves into a corner. That’s the problem. His work contributes to a system of reasoning that is consistent but incomplete.
What he doesn’t see (and few who I’ve encountered who understand his work) is that he is stuck within a cataphatic mode of thought. When he says “Let us take the form of distinction for the form.” he effectively merges the boundary between things with one of the spaces that boundary ‘encloses’.
So he takes ‘the mark’ as being indicative of what it encloses. This is wrong – or maybe it’s better that I say it’s ‘too eager’.

One cannot “enclose” without simultaneously “exclosing” and as such, knowing which is which is impossible. This is the same problem as the definition of boundaries in Topology – Why? Because a set must include (or exclude) the “points” which lie ‘on’ the boundary. This is like saying the fence I built must be on my property – which in turn means that my neighbour must also build a fence on his property such that our fences sit back-to-back. But what of the land between the fences? Fences do not define boundaries any more than a subset of points do. Boundaries define boundaries. They are self-describing – autopoietic if you will.
It is very economical to have the Thing be its own indication – i.e. “it speaks for itself” – and this is very much what I said too about how boundaries are self-describing or autopoietic. Except it’s nevertheless too eager to dictate which ‘side’ is ‘in’ and which is ‘out’.
But I want to give this thing a chance again – because I suspect it may instead by my own understanding of the Laws of Form that is still not developed enough yet. Please bear with me as I walk through this again.
So, the mark does effectively ‘cleave’ a space into – or ‘give rise to’ if that’s more interesting – two spaces. Keeping the ‘arbitrariness of sides’ firmly in mind, it seems nevertheless necessary that we find ourselves “inside” one side or another (a: if this initial distinction-less sameness is indeed ‘all’, then two of these is still ‘all’, and b: if “inside” makes you uncomfortable, note that there is no “outside” of ‘all’. One could say “on one side”).
But we must now keep in mind that we’re now including ourselves in this picture where before there were only two extant Things.
Unfortunately I am still unable to deny the fact that if we are indeed to remain the eternal observers of this fictionalized nascent universe, then we must represent ourselves in the equation. And if we exist, then we are by definition at the very least ‘not’ what we are monitoring. So we exist neither on one side nor on the other. But since this is “all” there is no ‘outside’ these two options. Strangely there is a ‘beside’. But it must be both “not-one” and “not-the-other”. That is to say, we must be conterminous with both, simultaneously.
But in “seeing” both ‘sides’ simultaneously, are we not “outside” them? Are we not “above” them (in the traditional 2D vs 3D sense)?
So now I must ask – because I’m quite stuck – how can one ever be “inside” a space? What happens when we fall for the illusion?
GSB is right that one must necessarily cross a boundary if one is to go from one to another. Yet we are never ‘outside’. Ultimately it is an illusion.
But there is another possibility: detachment, or non-adjacency.
And that is where GSB’s work begins. That is where the first level of existence is utterly ignored and ‘taken as given’.
So this is the idea that there is no other possibility of existence than to now be ‘made of’ one or the other. So just as the first distinction was ‘made of’ wuji and gave rise to yin and yang; now another distinction will ‘cleave’ either yin or yang into something else.

1) (yin) yang —> (yin (?) ) yang
2) (yin) yang —> (yin) yang (?)

GSB posits that for #1, “?” is yang and for #2, “?” is yin.
He says that ‘for an observer’ (where’d that guy come from?) crossing the boundary (for #2 for example) from yang–>yin–>yang–>? is indistinguishable from yang–>yin–>yang–>yin, so “?” must be yin. The same for #1, that crossing from yang–>yin–>? is indistinguishable from yang–>yin–>yang, so here “?” must be yang.
But there seems to be a confusion of ‘The Rules’ happening behind the scenes here:
– If the second ‘mark’ is indeed exactly the same kind of distinction as the First Distinction, then the two spaces that it cleaves are just as substantively different from their ‘parent space’ as their ‘parent space’ is from their ‘grandparent space’ – so-to-speak.
— I don’t yet know how or what this results in, but I do know that whatever “?” is, it is not a ‘return’ to either one of the parent space values.
To put it another way, the second mark is not simply the ‘anti-mark’ of the first. At least it shouldn’t be in GSB’s model. But that is what he’s doing in saying that
()()=()
and
(())=
What I’m saying is that either GSB is cataphatic and he respects his own rules, or he is not, and thus he must respect the apophatic condition of adjacency.

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