Volume 4 · Number 3 · Pages 121–137

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Reflexivity and Eigenform: The Shape of Process

Louis H. Kauffman

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Purpose: The paper discusses the concept of a reflexive domain, an arena where the apparent objects as entities of the domain are actually processes and transformations of the domain as a whole. Human actions in the world partake of the patterns of reflexivity, and the productions of human beings, including science and mathematics, can be seen in this light. Methodology: Simple mathematical models are used to make conceptual points. Context: The paper begins with a review of the author’s previous work on eigenforms - objects as tokens for eigenbehaviors, the study of recursions and fixed points of recursions. The paper also studies eigenforms in the Boolean reflexive models of Vladimir Lefebvre. Findings: The paper gives a mathematical definition of a reflexive domain and proves that every transformation of such a domain has a fixed point. (This point of view has been taken by William Lawvere in the context of logic and category theory.) Thus eigenforms exist in reflexive domains. We discuss a related concept called a “magma.” A magma is composed entirely of its own structure-preserving transformations. Thus a magma can be regarded as a model of reflexivity and we call a magma “reflexive” if it encompasses all of its structure-preserving transformations (plus a side condition explained in the paper). We prove a fixed point theorem for reflexive magmas. We then show how magmas are related to knot theory and to an extension of set theory using knot diagrammatic topology. This work brings formalisms for self-reference into a wider arena of process algebra, combinatorics, non-standard set theory and topology. The paper then discusses how these findings are related to lambda calculus, set theory and models for self-reference. The last section of the paper is an account of a computer experiment with a variant of the Life cellular automaton of John H. Conway. In this variant, 7-Life, the recursions lead to self-sustaining processes with very long evolutionary patterns. We show how examples of novel phenomena arise in these patterns over the course of large time scales. Value: The paper provides a wider context and mathematical conceptual tools for the cybernetic study of reflexivity and circularity in systems.

Key words: reflexive, eigenform, cybernetics, Boolean algebra, knots, magma, Russell paradox, cellular automata


Kauffman L. H. (2009) Reflexivity and Eigenform: The Shape of Process. Constructivist Foundations 4(3): 121–137. Available at http://constructivist.info/4/3/121.kauffman

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