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A Clarification of
The Distinction of
  Form and Substance

As presented at the 6th Annual Conference of the
Conference Topic: Evolution and Semiotics
Robert M. Tufty ( rmt ) @ SensiView.com

The Form of The Distinction

Historical Imperatives and Probable Doubt
CyberSpace Imperatives and Virtual Certitude

Reconciliation and Implications



On April 11, 1998, the popular and common conception of evolution emerged
on the political stage via a Washington Post editorial entitled,
"The Evolution Fight Evolves."
The occasion for the editorial comment was the release of a sourcebook ( 1 )
by the National Academy of Sciences, on April 9, 1998, to provide:

"good science, good history, and an intellectual framework
for teachers deep enough to keep them from panicking
when a student in class declares:
'I don't have to learn about evolution; it's against my religion'." ( 2 )

The editorial respects
a discussion of "scientifically consistent 'theories',"
verses "individually observed 'facts'," by noting that:

"a sophisticated discussion of how science works
is the only approach with a chance of dissolving
the persistent and misguided notion
that evolution and religion represent contradictory and
necessarily conflicting belief systems."

This statement portends a convergence of common and scientific terminology
towards the formalized usage that is implicit in CyberSpace.

The political issue is that when a "theory" of science
carries less import than the "facts" of an individual,
science has only nominal value to the individual.
Political survival and future economic prosperity clearly depend
on a skilled labor pool of scientists and science-based technologists.

The mathematical Form of CyberSpace,
and the emerging networks of objects within CyberSpace,
allows for the direct experience of virtual realities
that span the spectrum of the senses.

Authenticity is a key issue for an autonomous object in CyberSpace,
and the distinction between realities can easily blur
as far as to become irrelevant. In such a case,
we may say that the realities Form a strong analogy with each other.

A strong analogy between actual reality and the virtual realities of CyberSpace
necessarily implies that the Form of strong analogy
extends to the terminology of these realities.

In turn, this allows a "reverse engineering" of the CyberSpace concepts
to clarify the historical and popular concepts
embodied in words that are common to both realities.
A clarification of virtual realities with respect to actual realities
can only serve to strengthen the foundation
for a scientifically literate populous.



CyberSpace may be Formally conceptualized as
a experiential reflection of the Calculus of Indications,
as expounded by G. Spencer-Brown, and commonly called the Laws of Form ( 3 ).
In CyberSpace, we may draw a distinction between
the Form of an object and the Substance of an object,
while respecting each with equal dignity.
This paper presents a clarification to reconcile
the historical and popular concepts of Form and Substance
with the mathematical Form and Substance embodied by CyberSpace objects.

The distinction of Form and Substance
is analytically defined and analogically blurred
to establish strong analogies with several common dichotomies,
including the analytical and analogical intent of the distinction itself.

This self-referential Formulation of the distinction
allows a strong analogy to be seen between
the Form of the distinction and the Form of the Calculus of Indications.
Thus, any analogy of Form and Substance
must conForm to the Laws of Form and allow
the analytic quantification of the Substance of an object.

A review of the historical and popular concepts of Form and Substance
begins with the discourses of Plato and Aristotle.
The cultural impact of the mathematical consciousness
represented by the advent of Formal logic and syllogisms is considered.
Reflections of Form and Substance are continuously seen
in everyday symbols and experiences, here and now.

The experience of clarification begins with
the distinction of an autonomous object that interacts with its reality
as embedded in CyberSpace,
and reflects some Form of its Substance
within that reality of CyberSpace.

We may empathize with the functional Substance of a distinct, autonomous object,
and we also may empathize with the ease or complexity
of transferring Substance to other objects
while we program, debug, and document the Substance of the object.
Other objects may be considered as friendly or unfriendly,
depending on the ease and utility of exchanging Substance with them.
The processing of imaginary Boolean values is discussed.

Reconciliation is achieved by recognizing
a strong conFormal analogy between the underlying Forms of Distinction
and corollaries of the clarification are discussed.


The Form of The Distinction

"The Laws of Form" ( 4 ) begins discussion of "The Form" with a definition that:

"Distinction is perfect continence."

and that the Form of Distinction is to be respected as The Canonical Form.

Regardless of the essential definition of "continence",
the analytical concepts of equality and perfection are introduced
as necessary concepts for an autonomous object to
distinguish its Form from all other Forms within its reality.

The act of defining an equivalence, or lack thereof,
is the desired outcome of any analytical activity or analysis.
Therefore, in order to canonically extend
this quality of Formulation to include Substance,
it is necessary to have a substantive definition of Substance

That is to say, "What is Substance?"

While it would be quite presumptuous to attempt
an all encompassing answer and definition of "What is Substance?",
what is undeniably true is
some expectation that some definition is possible.

Thus, in a limited sense, we may say that Substance is that which may be defined.
In a practical sense, any analytical definition of any known Substance
will speak of a quantified amount of a physical observable.
Thus, we take the definition of a physically observable Substance as:

"Substance is that which may be quantified."

Thus, the Formal quality of the Form is analogically extended to Substance
and the Form of analytical reasoning is taken as a substantive Form of Substance.

We may continue this process of analogical blurring in
an iterative manner and recursively apply this distinction of Form and Substance
to other common dichotomies, including
the analytical and analogical intent of The Distinction of Form and Substance itself ( see Figure 1 ).

Strong Analogies

Fig 1.

While the essence of the dichotomies is preserved in all cases,
one group addresses conceptual matters,
another addresses matters of perception, and
the third group expresses various Forms of the Initials of The Calculus of Indications.
One group of strong analogies is conceptually clear in the equivalency
of the quantitative iteration that is allowed by The Law of Calling( 5 ),
i.e., "The value of a call made again is the value of the call."

The analytical and analogical dichotomy extends into
our language expressions and perceptions as
the dichotomy of "As" verses "Is".
Amusingly, this strong analogy provides a congruent example ( Figure 2 )
of the required silliness and natural stupidity associate with blurring distinctions,
in contrast to the artificial intelligence of drawing distinctions. To wit:

To show the strong analogy of Form and Substance
between "analogy" and "analysis", on one hand,
and "As" and "Is" on the other hand,
we attempt to recall their essence.

As we iteratively recall "essence", "essence", here "essence",
we can hear it sound like "'s'-sense".
What is this silly, mysterious "s" sense?
We can analysis the Substance of an "s"-sense Form
with a string tokenizer parsing a string of symbolic tokens,
of which "S" is a delimiting token,
and consider what is left after the "S" is striped off.


Fig. 2

For "As", we are left with the Substance of the indefinite article "A",
an indecisive statement with a vague sense of identity.
Thus, we rest our case for the Form of "Analogy As".

On the other hand, for "Is",
we are left with the Substance of the first person singular pronoun, "I",
the decisive statement of autonomy in a spiritual sense.
Analogously, we rest our case for the Substance of "Analysis Is".

When Substance is measured as a physical observable,
the physically observable analytical Forms for the Substances
are given conventionally given ( 6 ) as ( Figure 3 ) :


Fig 3.

The self-referential Form of these Formulations
allows a strong analogy to be seen between
the Form of The Distinction of Form and Substance
and The Canonical Form of the Calculus of Indications.

Thus, any strong analogy of Form and Substance
must conForm to the Laws of Form
and allow the quantification of the Substance of an object.

As such, each object respects a Distinction of Form and Substance.

Any such object that respects Form and Substance with equal dignity
may be said to be autonomous and transparent.

To this point, all strong analogies have been seen either as
a physically observable or as an intellectually conceptual Form of Distinction,
and are, so to speak, real.

Beyond the interpretation of the "mark" of The Calculus of Indications
as representing real "true" and "false" Boolean values
that corresponds to the existence or the non-existence
of a specific objective states ( see Figure 4 ), the Laws of Form
also indicate the reflection of so-called imaginary Boolean values,
which are neither "true" nor "false" in a real sense.

Boolean Forms

Fig 4.

In CyberSpace, the substantive analysis of real and imaginary Boolean values
speaks to the concept of a system that is embedded within a meta-system.
The meta-system, in turn, provides Boolean instantiation
for logical assertions that are perFormed within the embedded system.

The strong analogy with
embedded systems,
bottom-up methodologies, and
exception processing
is fully developed below, under "CyberSpace Imperatives".


Historical Imperatives and Probable Doubt

From 430 to 425 BC, plague killed at least one-third the population of Athens.
In turn, the citizens of Athens lost
their fear of their Gods and Goddesses, because:

"Neither were the physicians at first of any service,
ignorant as they were of the proper way to treat it,
but they died themselves the most thickly,
as they visited the sick most often;
nor did any human art succeed any better.
Supplications in the temples, divinations, and so forth were found equally futile,
till the overwhelming nature of the disaster
at last put a stop to them altogether."( 7 )
--- Thucydides [ 428 BC ].

With the memory of the plague clearly in mind,
the city began to recover slowly and seek a better understanding
of how things worked: It was a matter of life and death!

Between 367 BC and 347 BC, Plato, as the teacher, and Aristotle, as the student,
Formalized and legitimized the Form and Substance of analytical reasoning
as Formal logic and syllogisms.
In doing so, they realized an essential shift of consciousness
from a chaotic, mysterious universe
to an ordered, predictable reality of cause and effect.
Prior to this time, reality had a mysterious morphogenic quality
as gods walked among mortals and sired marvels of genetic engineering.
Knowledge had limited certitude and could only be based on
an analogical or empathetic perception of reality.
An analytical clarification of cause and effect was sorely needed.

Towards this end, Plato postulated a "World of Ideas", also called the "Platonic Forms",
independent of any gods or goddesses.
At the time, such independence implied an absolute quality
that neither god nor goddess could change, then or forever.
Their realization of analytical reasoning for conclusive analysis
enabled the concept of objects that are independent of time.
This ability to syllogistically move beyond
the capriciousness of mysterious qualities and gods
provided the defining Substance for western civilization.

Aristotle discussed the various categories and attributes of Substance in the context of quantity verses quality.
The assertion that "no single Substance admits of varying degrees within itself"( 8 )
( Aristotle, 333 BC ), is the critical clarification of virtual certitude
that enabled Formal logic as an analytical tool
for interacting with physical reality.
The discourse of Plato and Aristotle represents
the first substantive clarification of the distinction of Form and Substance.

Since that time of 2331 years ago, the common usage has evolved
with language and permeate our daily discourse.
Dictionary definitions of Substance include:

"That which has mass and occupies space;
Essential nature; essence; Gist; heart;
That which is solid and practical in character;
Density; body: Air has little Substance;
Material possessions; goods; wealth: a person of Substance."( 9 )
( MicroSoft, 1992 )

Of course, there is the popular topic of "Substance Abuse" and an official list of "Controlled Substances".

While the definition of Substance may be stated
in either very generic or specific terms,
it is generally recognized to be of great,
perhaps even cosmic and mystical, import.

On the other hand, in a Formal sense,
we Formulate Forms to conForm with reForms to uniFormly inForm ourselves of what is happening.

"InFormation" is a noun related to the realization of the intent
of the verb "to inForm", which in turn,
suggests a transfer of Substance from the external reality of an object
into the object which is being "inFormed".

In deference to the political issues noted above ( 2 ), the author notes that
it is currently fashionable to speak of "Form and Style" in the popular press.
This is a crystalline example of how personal charisma and habits,
presented as "Style," is blurred with the virtual certitude of Substance
and diminishes the Substance of each individual.

To paraphrase the proposed course of action,
"a substantive scientific discussion of scientific Substance
is the only approach with a chance",
in that it respects the analytical and recursive aspects of the issue.
Any less is not conFormal and can not stand over time.

The strong analogies with the physical organs of sensing and consciousness
are clear from the instinctual questions of

"What was heard?" and "How did it look?".

The work of Bandler and Grindler in the field of NeuroLinguistic Programming( 10 ),
identify an auditory, visual and kinesthetic mode
for internally representing external inFormation.

The meaning of discrete sounds as words to be heard,
and the continuous vision of objects seen,
is inherent in our communications.
"To see what I said" is a signification confusion of these modes.
Finally, the kinesthetic sense of movement and non-movement
is the essence of an empathetic experience.


CyberSpace Imperatives and Virtual Certitude

CyberSpace technology has enabled an experiential reality, of mathematical Forms, that Forms a strong analogy to the Laws of Form, by viewing computer systems as trans Forming the substantive meaning of collections of binary digits from one Form into another Form. This allows top-down, hierarchical Forms to exists among and within distinct objects, but also requires CyberSpace to operate as an interrupt driven, bottom-up host environment which enables the transfer and execution of Substance among and within objects. With respect to an Object, the trans Formation of Substance between internal and external Forms may be visualized as ( Figure 5 ):


Fig. 5.

The trans Formation is understood as mediating Forms of distinction and depends on a strong analogy between processing Boolean Expression and the Calculus of Indications. Specifically, each programming statement within an object is an assertion that upon execution, the intent of the statement will be realized. If the Form of the intent is completed with Substance, then a true state exists and execution continues. If the Form of the intent is completed without Substance, then a false state exists and execution continues. If the Form of the intent can not be completed, then a processing exception exists and may or may allow execution to continue.

The above example presents conceptual numeric values and operations as the Substance that is trans Formed. When this Form of trans Formation is applied to the Laws of Form, we have an instance that while the real Internal and External Forms of the Substance of the Form of Distinction are indistinguishable and may be analytically represented, the imaginary Forms are distinct and can not be analytically represented, but rather must be analogically experienced in a non-conceptual, or empathetic, manner, as the reality of the meta-system. The processing of exceptions Forms a strong analogy to the imaginary Booleans as may be seen in two examples:

Algol Logic

Fig. 6.

Figure 6 provides the Form of assertion processing for an input ( read ) statement in ALGOL for a Burroughs B5000 and in SPL for a Hewlett-Packard HP-3000 computer, while Figure 7 provides the same Form of logical Substance in Java for a Java Virtual Machine.

Java Logic

Fig. 7.

Well Formed program source code will visually clarify and reflect the iterative and recursive Forms of the logical Substance which the program per Forms. A guiding principle for the design of viable CyberSpace Objects is that the Form of Objects tends to clarify the Substance of Objects when the Form and the Substance are respected with equal dignity. By respecting the Substance, we gain virtual certitude beyond time of the substantive function of the Object. By respecting the Internal Form of the Object, i.e., the source code, and External Form of the Object, i.e., the Graphic User Interface ( GUI ), we gain ease of maintenance and user-friendly interaction. More generally, the CyberSpace principles of Autonomy, Extendibility, Scalability, and Adaptability provide the following strong analogies ( Figure 8 ).


Fig. 8.


Reconciliation and Implications

The experience of clarification begins with the distinction of an autonomous object which is conscious of its reality as alternately conceptual and experiential. The conceptual reality allows analytical distinctions of Substance to be drawn, and then blurred by an analogical confusion of Forms without respect for Substance. Alternatively, the experiential reality allows the symbolic conceptualization of analytical distinctions and an empathetic experience of the distinctions. In CyberSpace, analytical distinction allow the Form of objects to be instantiated with Substance, while analogical blurring allows an abstraction of Form to arise from distinct objects of Substance. In turn, the abstraction of Form allows an autonomous object to reflect itself into its reality and thereby interact with other objects that share the reality and respect such reflections: the Netiquette of CyberSpace.

Reconciliation is achieved by recognizing that strong con Formal analogies of Form implies a convergence of popular language and CyberSpace terminology, and that the convergence will be enhanced by the direct experience of familiar, popular terms within a more precise mathematical reality. As the ancient Greek discussions of Form and Substance marked a quantum jump in clarity of mathematical consciousness, prior to the advent of CyberSpace, the next most significant jump was the introduction of Arabic Digits to replace Roman Numerals.

Both Roman Numerals and Arabic Digits convey the Substance of Iteration as enumeration. However, Roman Numerals enjoy neither an Autonomous nor an Extendible quality in their external Form. When the Substance of enumeration, in the Form of Arabic Digits, is extended with the recursive Formulation of the Fundamental Theorem of Arithmetic, namely:

N = ( m * B ) + r,

where 0 <= r < B and all are integers;

the external analytical Form becomes both Autonomous and Extendible. This was a profound clarification of Substance and enabled the abstraction of algebraic operators and operands. Modern technology is impossible without this clarification.



  1. The National Academy of Sciences(1998), http://www.nap.edu/readingroom/books/evolution98/ : Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science, National Academy Press.
  2. The Washington Post ( 1998 ), Editorial "The Evolution Fight Evolves", April 11, 1998.
  3. Spencer-Brown, G. ( 1969 ), The Laws of Form. George, Allen, and Unwin Ltd, London.
  4. Ibid. p 1.
  5. Ibid. p 1.
  6. Fraden, Jacob ( 1996 ). Handbook of Modern Sensors: Physics, Designs, and Applications; 2nd edition. API Press, Springer. P 142.
  7. Thucydides, ( 428 BC ). The Peloponnesian War. London, J. M. Dent; New York, E. P. Dutton, 1910. Book 2:47.4.
  8. Aristotle, ( 333 BC ). The Works of Aristotle. Oxford University Press, 1952. Organon Categoriae 5.13.
  9. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 1992, released on Microsoft "Bookshelf 95" CD-ROM.
  10. Grindler, J. and Bandler, R ( 1981 ). Trance-formations: Neuro-Linguistic Programming and the Structure of Hypnosis, Real People Press.


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