Erasmus Syllogisms in Cognition and Facilitation of Organizational Innovation

  • Rolf Johan Bye SINTEF Digital
  • Stein Erik Johansen Norwegian University of Technology and Science


By use of an empirical example from a planned organizational change program within an international company, we examine how specific characteristics of objects (forms) used to represent ideas –  in interaction with “hard-wired” aspects of human cognition –  may contribute to explain outcomes of translation processes and the extent of alteration of the design of the future organization.  We argue that a type of syllogism judged as invalid by criteria of formal logics – denoted as Erasmus syllogism – could be rather common in reasoning, and that these logically invalid interferences may contribute to significant innovations. Situations where syllogisms are not recognized as invalid by the involved actors seem to be more prevalent when e.g. the actors are unfamiliar with the semantic content (as e.g. abstract symbols). We argue that understanding of semiotic conditions for occurrence of formal logically invalid syllogism, as well as of the neglect of their invalidity by involved actors in ongoing discourses and reasoning, may contribute to a better understanding of how ideas and objects are translated, within organizations as well as in general. The discussion is a contribution to better understanding of why and how ideas are altered as part of ongoing sense making processes within organizations.

Author Biographies

Rolf Johan Bye, SINTEF Digital
Rolf Johan Bye is senior researcher at SINTEF Digital, Norway and associated with Department of social anthropology at Norwegian University of Technology and Science. He holds a PhD in sociology and a PhD (Norwegian ‘magistergrad’) in social anthropology. His main areas of research are processes of organizational change, organizational learning, work practices, organizational safety, and related applications of management theories. He has been involved in several research project within organizations in various industries (including oil and gas, aviation, shipping, and chemical industry) and various countries (including Norway, UK, Hungary, Oman, and China). Corresponding author:
Stein Erik Johansen , Norwegian University of Technology and Science
Stein Erik Johansen is full professor in social anthropology at Norwegian University of Technology and Science, and adjunct professor at Division of Physics, Institute for Basic Research, Florida, USA. He holds a D.Sc. (classical Norwegian dr. philos.) in economics (1991) and a PhD (Norwegian ‘magistergrad’) in philosophy (1985). He has received the Santilli-Galilei Award (Gold Medal and Prize 2008) from Santilli-Galilei Academy ” in honour of contributions to natural philosophy”, and the SIPS Scientific Award (2016) to scientists having “achieved notable contribution in mathematical sciences” – “for unprecedented advances in the Fibonacci numbers”. His main areas of research have been within economic theory and anthropology, number theory, complexity and system theory, epistemology/ontology, and cognitive anthropology.


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