order / disorder


A deterministic system is one whose future states are completely fixed by its current state and its rule of dyamical motion. Determinism has historically been linked to prediction, and the laws governing planetary motion became the paradigmatic example of determinism and predictibility. (cf. clock) Thus Pierre Simon de Laplace, following Newton, believed that " Given for one instant an intelligence which could comprehend all the forces by which nature is animated and the respective positions of the beings which compose it...nothing would be uncertain, and the future as the past would be present to its eyes." 

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Mary Douglas, in Purity and Danger describes dirt as "that which has no place." As we know it, dirt is essentially disorder. Dirt offends against order. Eliminating it is not a negative moment, but a positive effort to organise the environment. Rituals of purity and impurity create unity in experience. (Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger) (cf formless)

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A wholly new set of convergences occurred around the term of entropy when it was adopted by Claude Shannon, on the advice of John von Neumann, in the context of information. Shannon was concerned with transmitting signals down wires. He brilliantly thought of the minimal signal as a" yes" or "no" answer, hence representable as the binary 1 or 0, now called a "bit." He considered the entropy of a source sending a prospective signal as the set of possible signals that might be sent, where each message was to be weighted by the probability of actually being sent and used the same mathematics as Bolzmann. 

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"Our march towards order " (Le Corbusier)

All great philosophical and theological systems have been built around the question of order and disorder, and they have all priveleged order over disorder. 

For Claude Levi-Strauss, primitive thought is just as much based on the demand for order as is scientific thought, whose most basic postulate is that nature itself is orderly. For native thought, "all sacred things must have their place." Sacred objects contribute to the maintenance of order by occupying the places allocated to them. If they were taken out of their place, even in thought, the entire order of the universe would be destroyed. (The Savage Mind, p. 10) For Levi-Strauss, the aesthetic emotion is the result of a union "in miniature" in the work of art, between the structural order and the order of events

"Science is any attempt to bring facts into logical order". B. Bavink

The Middle Ages, with its insistence on the rationality of God, formed one long training of the intellect of western Europe in the sense of order. (an order in which reason was inseparable from revelation) Thus faith in the possibility of science is an unconscious derivative from medieval theology. -- Alfred North Whitehead. (cf the role of monasteries in establishing social order.) 

According to Kant, we make the principle of the unity of nature a regulative principle in order to judge nature to be so constructed that it corresponds to our needs for order. Thus the specific principle of Judgement is that "Nature specifies its universal laws into empirical laws in accordance with the form of a logical system on behalf of the faculty of Judgement." (see Critique of Judgement ) For Kant, form is "that which allows the manifold of appearance to be ordered in certain relations." (Critique of Pure Reason, section 1, 56) 
The idea of space is an idea of order. 

As we know it, dirt is essentially disorder. Dirt offends against order. Eliminating it is not a negative moment, but a positive effort to organise the environment. Rituals of purity and impurity create unity in experience. (Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger) 

"Order is a kind of compulsion to repeat which, when a regulation has been laid down once and for all, decides when, where and how a thing shall be done, so that in every similar circumstance one is spared hesitation and indecision. The benefits of order are incontestable. It enables men to use space and time to the best advantage, while conserving their psychical forces." (Sigmund Freud, Civilization and its Discontents, p.40) "The anal eroticism of young human beings...is changed in the course of their growth into a group of traits which are familiar to us as parsimony, a sense of order and cleanliness." (pp 43-4) 

For Kurt Goldstein, the drive to overcome anxiety by the conquest of a piece of the world is expressed in the tendency towards order, norms, continuity, and homogeneity. (Goldstein, p. 238) Nonetheless, he rejects the notion that the "ordered" world of culture is the product of anxiety or as the sublimation of repressed drives, seeing it instead as expressions of the creative power of man and of the tendency to realize his nature, as a result of a primal tendency towards actualization. It was this idea of a lawful order realizing itself in nature, not imposed upon it by an ordering mind, and the search for the lawlike (das Gesetzliche) in the phenomena, that provided a model for the Gestaltpsychologists of the 20th century. The gestalt theorists attempted to introduce an aesthetic dimension of inherent order, meaning, and simplicity into the evaluation of scientific theories, and into the fabric of experience and nature itself. (Mitchell G. Ash, Gestalt Psychology in German Culture, 1890-1967, p.1) 

It is important to distinguish between the order which is part of a project of control (what Lewis Mumford calls the 'will to order") and an " immanent," or " self-organizing" order, what Stuart Kaufman likes to call "order for free." In Chaos Bound, Katherine Hayles asserts that contemporary criticism sees order as potentially repressive and seeks to find its limits or to undermine it, whereas contemporary science is extending the concept of order to describe conditions that were previously understood as disordered (eg. chaos). In a cultural context, the concept of order has been increasingly identified with repression if not terror (eg. Foucault, Serres etc.) Yet for natural scientists the living world is characterized by overwhelming and beautiful order. To appeal to natural form is to change the valence of order, whether this is the emergent order of complex systems or the " phase beauty" of the lily-of-the-valley. Stuart Kaufman suggests that much of the order in organisms may not be the result of selection at all, but the spontaneous order of self-organized systems. "Order, vast and generative, arises naturally. ... not fought for against the entropictides, but freely available." (At Home in the Universe, p. 25) 

see philosophy / chaos for some of the ambiguities of order and . 

Natural processes always move towards an increase in disorder, which is measured by entropy. The second law of thermodynamics, which states that entropy can never decrease, is thus an argument for the irreversibility of time. From the beginning, it was thought that living organisms were a possible exemption from the Second Law. Kelvin referred to the power of the will in his 1852 essay entitled "On the Power of Animated Creatures over Matter" and suggested that "the animal body does not act as a thermo-dynamic engine."

Natural selection operating on gratuitous random mutations is the sieve that retains order and lets chaos pass into oblivion...No idea derivative from Darwin lies deeper in our minds than this." (see evolution)

For Robert Venturi, "a valid order accomodates the circumstantial contradictions of a complex reality....When circumstances defy order, order should bend or break: anomalies and uncertainties give validity to architecture." Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, pp 46-47.) 

Order is not the law of things but their exception. To speak of disorder in a rigorously disordered manner: a journey among intersections, nodes, and regionalizations. To conceive of knowledge not in terms of order and mastery, but in terms of chance and invention. 


"Ornament shapes, straightens and stabilizes the bare arid field on which it is inscribed. Not only does it exist in and of itself, but it also shapes its own environment -- to which it imparts form." (Henri Focillon, The Life of Forms in Art, p. 66) For Heinrich Wölfflin, ornament is an epression of an excessive force of form. It is "the blossoming of a force that has nothing more to achieve." (p.181) Antoine Picon echoes this association of ornament with potency. "like orderand proportion, ornament expressed the fundamental regularity of the universe, and, above all, its fecundity. Ornament, in general, gave evidence to the creativity and the beauty of the cosmic order, just as the fruits and flowers that if often imitated were the products and finery of nature." ("Architecture, Science, Technology and the Virtual Realm" in Architecture and the Sciences, p. 298.)

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pack donkey/man

"Man walks in a straight line because he has a goal and knows where he is going; he has made up his mind to reach some particular place and goes straight to it.The pack-donkey meanders along, meditates a little in his scatter-brained and distracted fashion, he zigzags in order to avoid the larger stones, or to ease the climb, or to gain a little shade; he takes the line of least resistance.

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The concept of scientific paradigms was given currency by Thomas Kuhn in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. (1962) Kuhn's concept of paradigm applies both to a body of ideas, theories, etc. -- a "worldview"-- and to the social organization of science in which it appears. There are two aspects to scientific paradigms. Paradigms are shared constellations of belief (a disciplinary matrix) and they are also models or examples. 

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philosophy / chaos

Within the Western tradition, chaos was associated with the unformed, the unthought, the unfilled, the unordered. Hesiod in the Theogony designates Chaos as that which existed before anything else, when the universe was in a completely undifferentiated state. Later in the Theogony , he uses the term chaos to signify the gap that appeared when Heaven separated from Earth. Eros appears in that gap as rain/semen. Kirk, Raven, and Schofield, in The Presocratic Philosophers, see in Hesiod's account of chaos, not disorder, "not the eternal precondition of a differentiated world, but a modification of that precondition." (p.39) 

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...the qualitative is expressed in our concepts of reality and value. The Aristotelian universe was one in which qualities were primary. They were ontologically primary and indestructible. Qualities constituted an individual material body or substance when imposed on some portion of omnipresent neutral matter. (this is the hylomorphic model -- see form / matter. ) Aristotle sought to describe change-of-quality in general -- including both the fall of a stone and the growth of a child to adulthood. 

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"Science is any attempt to bring facts into logical order". B. Bavink (see explain / describe )

"Science is concerned with the formal correlation of properties, and with the development of theoretical constructs that most parsimoniously and usefully describe all known aspects of that correlation, without exception." (Edelman, p.138)

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Self-organizing systems aquire new structure without specific interference from the outside. They exhibit qualitative macroscopic changes such as bifurcations or phase transitions. Stuart Kaufman calls this " Order for Free."Self-organization is the capacity of a field to generate patterns spontaneously, without any specific instructions. What exists in the field is a set of relationships among the components of the system such that the dynamically stable state into which it goes naturally -- what mathematicians call the generic (typical)) state of the system has spatial and temporal patterns. Fields of this type are now called excitable media. (see for example Belousov-Zhabotinsky reaction.) 

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space vs time

If Newton reduced the physical, objective, universe and Kant the metaphysical, subjective universe to the categories of space and time, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing performed the same service for the intermediate word of signs and artistic media. (Mitchell, p. 96) Lessing established a basic distinction between the spatial arts (such as painting.) and the temporal arts (such as poetry)-- the means or signs one"using forms and colors in space, the other articulate sounds in time." (Laocoön p.78) For Lessing, "These signs must indisputably bear a suitable relation to the thing signified.". Thus the true subjects of painting are bodies, i.e. objects or parts of objects that exist in space, and the true subjects of poetry are actions, that follow one another.

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In Totem and Taboo, Freud introduces the term taboo as a Polynesian word that means both sacred, consecrated and uncanny, dangerous, forbidden, unclean. The taboo seems to have a strength all its own. "Taboo restrictions have no grounds and are of unknown origins." (Standard Edtion, vol 13, p.18) nor are they subject to question.

Freud describes taboo as a magical power which is inherent in persons and spirits and can be conveyed by them through the medium of inanimate objects. He compares their dangerous charge to electricity and infection.

For Mary Douglas, taboos are reactions to events that seriously defy established lines of classification.

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