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Laws of Form Paperback – January 1, 1994

ISBN-13: 978-0963989901 ISBN-10: 0963989901 Edition: Pck

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 147 pages
  • Publisher: Cognizer Co; Pck edition (January 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0963989901
  • ISBN-13: 978-0963989901
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,896,345 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 39 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 9, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book is indeed not much more than a very elegant re-exposition of Boolean algebra and the propositional calculus.
Furthermore, the essence of Brown's mathematical innovations were discovered by C S Peirce as early as 1885 (but published only after LoF was published). Nevertheless, LoF is no mean feat.
It radically simplifies sentential logic, switching circuit calculations, syllogisms. I use this book to solve logic problems arising in the computer programs I write.
Outside of electrical engineering, only a few mathematicians and logicians work with logic and Boolean algebra, which should be as commonly known as calculus and linear algebra.
I purchased this book in 1974, and have read many times since. EMail me at econ159@it.canterbury.ac.nz if you want a copy of my academic paper explaining the value of Spencer Brown's achievement.
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40 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Howard Hoover on January 23, 2003
Format: Paperback
In a way, George Spencer-Brown's "Laws of Form" is an elaborate math puzzle. The author has given you the bare minimum of information to figure out what the heck he is talking about; your assignment ( should you choose to accept it ) is to investigate the fields of logic, symbolic logic, Boolean logic, and set theory, to attempt to reconstruct the mathematics behind the so-called Calculus of Indications presented in the book. In my own case, it took almost seven years of occasional attention to come up with the essential idea behind the math, namely the symmetry between AND-spaces and OR-spaces. It may not take you that long.
Contrary to what some other reviewers have written, Bertrand Russell did not praise this book--he seems to have been just as baffled by it as anyone else. He did praise the ideas presented in the book, but only after Spencer-Brown met with him and explained it to him.
It seems likely that the sections of the book were developed as lecture notes to be handed out in class. Presumably the professor would tell you what he was talking about, and the handouts would be supplemental reading. Unfortunately, all that we get in the book is the supplemental reading.
When you are looking for a tool, you don't want, or need, a math puzzle. This is why the notation and concepts presented in the book have never caught on with philosophers, mathematicians and engineers in spite of their clear superiority over the techniques of syllogism logic, symbolic logic, Boolean logic and set theory.
I have had a lot of fun with this book, but you shouldn't think you're going to get a lot out of it in your first reading.
...
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32 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Louis H. Kauffman on December 30, 2004
Format: Paperback
I take the key sentences in Spencer-Brown's Laws of Form to
be the first two sentences at the beginning of Chapter 1:

"We take as given the idea of distinction and the idea of
indication, and that one cannot make an indication without
drawing a distinction. We take therefore the form of distinction for the form."

This book is a carefully crafted and beautifully written
account of how the act of imagining a
distinction gives rise to worlds of multiplicity
from a unity where no distinction is actually possible.

The first mathematics that so arises is remarkably close to
the boolean mathematics with which all logicians, engineers and
philosphers are familiar. Once discovered it is easy to exhibit. Let < > stand for a typographical distinction between
outside < inside > outside. Note that in imagining distinctions using linear typography, one must make extra
cuts between right and left. Drawing circles in the plane is
easier (and C. S. Peirce did this long before Spencer-Brown).
Spencer-Brown uses a planar notation that is simple to write
and less easy to type. In any case, we make a mathematics from
the distinction < >. Think of < > as an "elementary particle" that can interact with itself in two ways.
1. It can interact with itself and produce itself, or it can
produce two copies of itself from itself.
< > ----- < > < >
Read the dotted line in either direction.
2. It can interact with itself to cancel to nothing, or a pair of two copies of the particle can emerge from nothing.
< < > > -----
Yes that's nothing on the right hand side, but maybe you would like a symbol for nothing. Ok. Let # stand for nothing.
Read more ›
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By thersities on September 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book is indeed mainly a new (but better) notation for Boolean algebra, a review of how Boolean algebra can be used to represent formal logic, all with New Age trappings derived from Wittgenstein, R D Laing, and from dubious etymology. To top it all off, Spencer Brown's claim that his formalism would be needed to prove the Four Color Theorem and Fermat's Last Theorem has been emphatically falsified.
Nevertheless, this is an astounding book. Boolean algebra is the formalism upon which all of information technology rests. Formal logic deserves a far greater place in educational practice than has been the case in recent decades. A number of Brown's more basic ideas should be incorporated into the junior high curriculum. Finally, some of Brown's advanced ideas such as the imaginary truth value, that memory precedes time, and so forth, deserve more academic attention than they have gotten to date. I emphatically believe that there is a lot here from which the professional mathematician and logician could benefit.
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