Katsenelinboigen, Aron

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Other relevant keywords: Decision Sciences; General Systems Theory; Positional and Combinatorial Styles; Predispositioning Theory


Aron Katsenelinboigen (1927–2005)

Aron Katsenelinboigen was the founder of Predispositioning Theory (PT) and the author of twenty books and numerous articles. Born in Ukraine, he earned his Ph.D. (1957) and Doctor Habilitatus (1966) at the Moscow State Institute of Economics and spent the first decades of his academic career as a researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences. He emigrated to the U.S. in 1973, where he was professor of social systems and decision sciences in the Wharton School and later professor of operations and information management in the Department of Economics, both at the University of Pennsylvania.


The Concept of Predispositioning in Light of General Systems Theory

Katsenelinboigen’s main area of interest in the last thirty years of his life was General Systems Theory and its application for various fields, including economics, biology, ethics, aesthetics, and theology. According to General Systems Theory, “there exist models, principles, and laws that apply to generalized systems or their subclasses, irrespective of their particular kind, the nature of their component elements, and the relations or ‘forces’ between them. […] There are correspondences in the principles that govern the behavior of entities that are, intrinsically, widely different” (Von Bertalanffy 32-33). Ludwig von Bertalanffy (1901–1972), the founder of General Systems Theory, called those common structures and principles isomorphisms. Applying the concept of isomorphisms, Katsenelinboigen referred to the game of chess, showing that styles and methods used in the game of chess are isomorphic to all fields, including business, economics, medicine, and art. In his discourse on chess as a prototype of protracted systems, he stressed that “isomorphisms between chess and other systems are not limited to simple analogies” (The Concept of Indeterminism 79). He considered chess an experimental model that can supply plenty of experimental data derived from the many games played, and can be used “for experimental verification of performance-enhancing methods” (79).

The main focus of PT is the intermediate stage of systems development, the stage that Katsenelinboigen proposed calling a “predisposition.” Katsenelinboigen understands predisposition as an isomorphic structure in any disjointed system where “time is out of joint.” The formation of a predisposition is responsible for a system’s development in the unknown future. A system consists of material, positional, and relational parameters. Material parameters constitute the skeleton of the system. Positional parameters structure the spatial relations between the elements and their parts (such as left, right, close, remote, centered, etc.) Relational parameters are inherent in biological systems. They indicate relationships between entities, such as kinship, feelings (love, hate), and emotions (anger, fear). The structure of a predisposition consists of all these parameters as independent variables. This stage is distinguished by semi-complete and semi-consistent linkages between its elements.



Katsenelinboigen offers a new definition of indeterminism, defining it as the avertability or avoidability of events, thus, separating this category from “causality, predictability, freedom (including free will), and, for the most part, uncertainty” (The Concept of Indeterminism 9). He argues that the term “indeterminism” has not been developed in the scholarly literature and that, therefore, the “absence of a concept of degree of indeterminism” has been observed in works on indeterminism. Traditionally, this category has been substituted “by other philosophical categories” such as “causality, uncertainty, freedom, and predictability” (A Conceptual understanding of Beauty 51).

Based on his pioneering introduction of phases in systems development, Katsenelinboigen introduced the degree of indeterminism (a notion that has been ignored by mainstream philosophy), along with its new phase, which he proposed to call a predisposition. Katsenelinboigen elaborated phases in the spectrum of indeterminism, showing that determinism is just another stage in which all elements are linked in a complete and consistent way, while indeterminism is distinguished by a degree of completeness and consistency.

The stages of systems development are the following:

  • – Mishmash: all elements exist as a cluster; we cannot distinguish between material and positional/relational parameters.
  • – Mess: the appearance of singular elements; the relations between them are unclear.
  • – Chaos: the appearance of first relational parameters; they are limited, not sophisticated, and the degree is not elaborated; their relations are mostly local, since no global field is formed at this stage. Thus, the linkages between elements in chaos are incomplete and inconsistent.
  • – Predisposition: the formation of a global field. Here we find an increase in the number of material and relational parameters; they are sophisticated and more defined. We also find the formation of degree and of a global field; linkages are semi-complete and semi-consistent.
  • – Order: all parameters are linked in a complete and consistent way.


When the degree of incompleteness and inconsistency increases, the system falls into a stage of chaos and mess, and vice versa.


Structure of Values

Since the most vital question when dealing with semi-complete and semi-consistent stages of a system is the question of their evaluation, Katsenelinboigen links the concept of indeterminism/ determinism with “the axiological scheme, underwritten by a new concept entitled spectrum of condi­tionality of the valuations” (3). In keeping with General Systems Theory, he portrayed “values as isomorphic to a variety of systems ranging from natural to man-made systems (values are generally thought to be the prerogative of the lat­ter)” (3).

To this end, Katsenelinboigen elaborates his structure of values, using the game of chess as a model. Referring to the game of chess, he describes conditional, unconditional, and semi-conditional values. He explains that game pieces in chess are evaluated from two basic points of view: their weight with regard to a certain position on the chessboard, and their weight without regard to any particular position. The former is linked to conditional valuations while the latter is assigned to unconditional valuations. According to Katsenelinboigen’s structure of values, conditional values are formed by four basic criteria that fully describe a particular situation from the point of view of:

  • – initial position
  • – final goal
  • – a program that links the initial position with the final goal
  • – rules of interaction


Unconditional values are based solely on the rules of interaction. For instance, in the game of chess, values of the pieces (such as queen 9, rook 5, bishop 3, knight 3, and pawn 1) appear as a result of the rules of interaction of a piece with the opponent’s king. All other conditions are not taken into account. The “exact analytical procedure for computing the unconditional valuations of chess pieces was developed by Henry Taylor (1876)” (The Concept of Indeterminism 52). Distinguishing between conditional and unconditional valuations offers a better understanding of the difference between strategy and tactics. Katsenelinboigen points out that strategy is based on unconditional valuations, while tactics are based on conditional values. Strategic constraints aim to prevent one “from succumbing to the tempting gains dictated by tactical considerations” (146). Katsenelinboigen states that “strategic positional play merges strategy and tactics. The reverse is not true, meaning a good strategy can be corrupted by poor tactics but poor strategy cannot be salvaged with good tactics” (66)

According to Katsenelinboigen, fully conditional/ unconditional values represent extreme cases of valuations and, in reality, are substituted by semi-(un)conditionality. Even his definition of unconditional values is actually semi-unconditional, since it is formed by one condition. Still, he refers to it as unconditional for simplicity’s sake. The degree of unconditionality is predicated by the necessity to evaluate things under uncertainty (when the future is unknown) and when conditions cannot be specified.


Styles and Methods for Dealing with Indeterminstic Systems

The game of chess often reveals the impossibility for a player to link a current move to the final outcome in a complete and consistent way. Indeed, regardless of its relatively simple structure (fixed boundary conditions, fixed rules, and fixed operator), chess doesn’t allow the player to elaborate an operationally viable procedure for finding either all possible permutations along play (~ 10120) or an optimization algorithm for both local and global tasks. As a result, players must proceed from start to finish without knowing the consequences of a given move. Deep Blue evaluates approximately 200 million permutations per second. Even at this speed, the computer will become bogged down after the fourth move. In other words, trying to solve this problem by brute force, i.e. by checking each permutation in order to find the optimal move, proves to be a hopeless undertaking. Operationally speaking, while chess is a deterministic game, all possible permutations cannot be evaluated due to the limitations of the operator that is generating and evaluating the permutations. That is why the game has been divided into stages such as opening, middle game, and end game.

The chess model allowed Katsenelinboigen to talk about operative sub-methods of dealing with protracted indeterministic systems. He called those methods programming, predispositioning, and randomness, showing how they correspond to three stages of systems’ development:

  • – Programming is the formation of complete and consistent linkages between all the stages of a systems’ development.
  • – Predispositioning is the formation of semi-efficient linkages between those stages. In other words, predispositioning is a method responsible for the formation of a predisposition to a system’s future development.
  • – Randomness is the formation of inconsistent linkages between the stages of systems’ development.


By way of an example, here we might look at how Darwinism emphasizes the exclusive role of chance occurrences in the system’s development, since it assigns top priority to randomness as a method. Conversely, creationism states that the system develops in a comprehensive fashion, i.e. that programming is the only method responsible for its development.


Calculus of Predisposition

On the subject of indeterministic procedure, Katsenelinboigen emphasizes the calculus of predispositions, a basic component of PT.

The key component of any indeterministic procedure is the evaluation of a position. Since it is impossible to devise a deterministic chain linking the intermediate state with the outcome of the game, the most complex component of any indeterministic method is the assessment of these intermediate stages. It is precisely the function of predispositions to assess the impact of an intermediate state upon the future course of development. (The Concept of Indeterminism 33)

Katsenelinboigen’s method derives from a probabilities-based approach but is not based on statistical frequencies. Rather, his method is predicated on structures similar to Karl Poppers’ (1954) idea of propensities. Katsenelinboigen chose to call this structure predisposition, claiming that this new term “underscores the distinc­tion between the new procedure and the entrenched notion of probabilities based on observed frequencies” (3).

According to Katsenelinboigen, the calculus of predispositions is another method for computing probability. Both methods may lead to the same results and, thus, can be interchangeable. However, it is not always possible to interchange them, since computing via frequencies requires the availability of statistics and the possibility for gathering data, as well as having knowledge of the extent to which one can interlink the system’s constituent elements. Also, no statistics can be obtained for unique events and, naturally, in such cases the calculus of predispositions becomes the only option.

The procedure for calculating predispositions is linked to two steps: the dissection of a system into its constituent elements and the integration of the analyzed parts into a new whole. The calculus of predispositions primarily deals with (1) analyzing the system’s material and positional parameters as independent variables, and (2) measuring them in unconditional valuations.

In order to quantify the evaluation of a position we need new techniques, which I have grouped under the heading of calculus of predispositions. This calculus is based on a weight function, which represents a variation on the well-known criterion of optimality for local extremum. This criterion incorporates material parameters and their conditional valuations.

The following key elements distinguish the modified weight function from the criterion of optimality: (1) First and foremost, the weight function includes not only material parameters as independent (controlling) variables, but also positional (relational) parameters. (2) The valuations of material and positional parameters comprising the weight function are, to a certain extent, unconditional; that is, they are independent of the specific conditions, but do take into account the rules of the game and statistics (experience). (The Concept of Indeterminism 35)

There are some basic differences between frequency-based and predispositions-based methods of computing probability:

  • 1. The frequency-based method is grounded in statistics and frequencies of events.
  • 2. The predispositions-based method approaches a system from the point of view of its predisposition. It is used when no statistics are available.
  • 3. The predispositions-based method is used for novel and unique situations.


The two methods of computing probability may complement each other if, for instance, they are applied to a multilevel system with increasing complexity of its composition at higher levels.


Predispositioning Theory and Ways for Overcoming Obscurity

Katsenelinboigen states that the positional and combinational styles in chess signify two different approaches to overcoming obscurity. One approach represents the system from its end, and is based on the creation of a program that links the initial step with the final goal. The other approach represents the system from its beginning, and is based on the formation of a predisposition in an unknown future. Accordingly, approaching a system from the end requires a combinational style that is based on conditional valuations of material parameters where the result is concerned. Approaching a system from the beginning requires the positional style. The positional style is linked to a formation of predisposition that is based on positional parameters as independent variables. At this point, the combinational style can be interpreted as a failed case of the positional style, for in actuality the combination is only a part of the position, whether or not it is acknowledged by the player. “In open-ended systems the neglect of a position may cause serious failure, if not disaster, because the winner may in the next minute become a loser. Napoleon’s defeat in Russia is a perfect example of this—the moment of Napoleon’s celebration at the capture of Moscow was the beginning of his end. The same is true for business, economics, social and biological systems, and the like” (Ulea 18).

The positional style was introduced at the end of nineteenth century by Paul Morphy and further elaborated by William Steinitz, a chess writer, theoretician, and the first undisputed world chess champion from 1886 to 1894, who established a theoretical foundation for the style that would revolutionize the game of chess. The style was invented as an antidote for uncertainty; it was focused on making step-by-step improvements to a current position in order to achieve small advantages. The accumulation of those advantages was important for preparing a better predisposition for survival and development in the unknown future.

At first, this new style was ridiculed and criticized because of its “inert” and “cowardly” nature, which deprived the game of the sparkling attacks and spectacular collisions inherent to the prevailing combinational style.

The combinational style features a clearly formulated limited objective, namely the capture of material (the main constituent element of a chess position). The objective is implemented via a well defined and in some cases unique sequence of moves aimed at reaching a set goal. As a rule, this sequence leaves no options for the opponent. Defining a combinational objective allows the player to focus all his energies on efficient execution, that is, the player’s analysis may be limited to the pieces directly partaking in the combination. This approach is the crux of the combination and the combinational style of play. (The Concept of Indeterminism 57)

The combinational thinker is not concerned with the creation of a predisposition. He is seized with the goal, which is a material objective. In the process, everything that is not linked to the capturing of material is not considered. In business, a “combinational-style manager is one who can be entrusted to implement specific practical tasks invested with a well-defined material goal and a program of execution” (84). Therefore, a combinational-style manager is mostly tactical, while a positional-style manager is more strategic. A strategically thinking manager does not limit his task to profit, but takes into consideration strategic (positional) factors, as well. Some of these strategic approaches may require sacrificing profit like, for instance, market share. But because it is unclear whether the loss would be compensated, the positional sacrifice in chess is not recommended for ordinary chess players.

Steinitz’s method clearly demonstrated the advantages of the positional style, which offers the player the opportunity to develop a position until it becomes pregnant with a combination. Katsenelinboigen writes: “The positional style of chess does not eliminate the combinational one with its attempt to see the entire program of action in advance. The positional style merely prepares the transformation to a combination when the latter becomes feasible” (Selected Topics 21).



Findings in the game of chess can be extrapolated to other fields that deal with decision-making, such as the military, business, economics, art and science, and the like. Life is an endless process of change, and therefore it becomes necessary to set one’s focus on a position with an ingrained combination. The same task of forming a perpetual continuity is inherent to literary works; in this way, the outcome in a literary work is not the point of destination, but rather a point of departure. Decisions made by characters shed light not only on the question of their momentary success or failure, but can also reveal their predisposition for future development. Types of goals, evaluations, methods, and styles can tell us a great deal about characters’ views of the world and their psychology, including their motives and urges.

Applying his concept of values to social systems, Katsenelinboigen illustrates how the degree of unconditionality forms morality and law. According to him, the moral values represented in the Torah as the Ten Commandments are analogous to the semi-unconditional values in a chess game and other fields, for they are based exclusively on the rules of interactions. For example, the commandment “don’t kill” corresponds to the prohibition to remove one’s own pieces from the chessboard, even though it may seem beneficial. Also, a chess player is not allowed to use pieces captured from his opponent. Another essential rule is the rule of promotion: in a situation where a pawn reaches the last rank, it can be converted to any other piece except a king.

Elaborating upon his statement on conditional and unconditional evaluations, Katsenelinboigen writes:

The difference between these two approaches is clearly manifested in the various translations of the Torah. For instance, The Holy Scriptures (1955), a new translation based on the masoretic text (a vast body of the textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible), translates the commandment as “Thou shalt not commit murder.” In The Holy Bible, commonly known as the authorized (King James) version (The Gideons International, 1983), this commandment is trans­lated as “Thou shalt not kill.” […]

In literature, condemnation of murder goes far beyond the disapproval of selfish motives. In The Queen of Spades, Alexander Pushkin condemns Hermann, the leading protagonist, for murdering an old woman whose secret he wanted to use to ennoble his family. Impressed with Pushkin’s concept, Dostoevsky develops it further in Crime and Punishment. Dostoevsky de­nounces the idea of murdering a dirty old woman who is a pawnbroker for the sake of giving her money to hundreds of widows with starving children. The Brothers Karamazov takes this idea even further. It condemns the possibility of sacrificing a newborn child, that its body might be used as the foundation of a crystal palace whose inhabitants would be happy for all eternity. Still, Dostoevsky believed it was necessary to help Serbs kill Turkish soldiers in the Slavs’ struggle for independence from the Muslims. It seems that the argument between Dostoevsky and Tolstoy is largely over the interpretation of the com­mandment in question. Tolstoy was opposed to killing of any kind. It is not by chance that he was close to Gandhi and they even carried on a correspondence. It would be hard to imagine Dostoevsky in the same role!

The difference between unconditional and semi-unconditional evaluations will become more prominent if we use the same example of “Thou shalt not kill” and “Thou shalt not murder” to illustrate the conduct of man in accordance with his precepts. (The Concept of Indeterminism 135–36)

Last but not least, he applies his concept to biology and cancer. Katsenelinboigen was a great proponent of the idea of the internal mechanism of change, and in his book, Evolutionary Change: Toward a Systemic Theory of Development and Maldevelopment (1997), he “explores in greater detail the modern-day discoveries in molecular biology that make the existence of an internal mechanism of change quite plausible” (Evolutionary Change 12). Katsenelinboigen writes:

By focusing on the less explored mechanisms of biological dynamics, the theory proposed here might help future research into the mechanisms of evolution, both under normal and pathological conditions. I hope to further the understanding of the somatic mechanism of change in the norm by focusing on its pathological manifestations. My basic hypothesis is that cancer represents a pathological attempt to reconstruct an organism via the mechanism of somatic change. The omnipresence of cancer – from plants to various cells in complex creatures – seems to corroborate the one condition necessary to make the above claim, namely that a pathological systems-oriented dysfunction in the mechanism of change is universal to all life.

Furthermore, cancer cells might turn out to be innovator cells of the radical variety which flourish under a weakened immune system. Although there are obvious external sources of cancer, I believe the main causes of this pathology are rooted in, or at least linked to, the internal mechanism of change.” (13)


The Concept of Subjectivity

Katsenelinboigen suggested that subjectivity is an important factor in evaluating a predisposition. The roots of one’s subjective evaluation lie in the fact that the executor cannot be separated from the person who evaluates the system in accordance with his own particular ability to develop it. The structure of values plays an essential part in the calculus of predisposition. Katsenelinboigen defines subjectivity as an inability to separate one who evaluates a system from one who will elaborate it. “Chess styles are not only individualized, but also resist formalization, all of which call forth the player’s intuition. Advances in chess theory have not replaced human intuition with formalized procedures, but actually enhanced the players’ intuition with new tools and concepts, including the key notion of a positional style incorporating a new kind of a weight function. The concept of positional play shaped a new decision-making frame-work” (The Concept of Indeterminism 79). Therefore “the effective approach to the strategic decision-making, as demonstrated in the game of chess, presupposes that each player has a unique, individual vision of his strategic position. To make it more systematic, one should not substitute the player’s intuition with some objective laws that relate essential and positional parameters, but rather complement the intuition with the statistical analysis” (164).

Katsenelinboigen argued that the subjectivity of managerial decisions is inevitable. He explains:

The original subjective evaluation of the situation by the decision-maker is critical in the creative strategic management. Subjectivity of the managerial decisions is inevitable due to the intrinsically indeterministic nature of the strategic management, meaning that the subjectivity arises not just because of the lack of scientific foundation in business management. The effective approach to the strategic decision-making, as demonstrated in the game of chess, presupposes that each player has a unique, individual vision of his strategic position. To make it more systematic, one should not substitute the player’s intuition with some objective laws that relate essential and positional parameters, but rather complement the intuition with the statistical analysis. (The Concept of Indeterminism 164)


The Concept of Beauty

In A Conceptual Understanding of Beauty (2003), Katsenelinboigen defines beauty as a predisposition to development. As Mikhail Epstein writes in the introduction to the book, the approach is “quite distinct from the one that is current in the philosophical community” since Katsenelinboigen’s method “is based on the systems’ view, which is rarely used in esthetics” (A Conceptual Understanding i). He emphasizes that the originality of Katsenelinboigen’s method lies in combining analysis with synthesis, avoiding “the temptation of directly tackling the category of beauty in art because beauty involves so many features that it is difficult to synthesize them” (A Conceptual Understanding i).

Katsenelinboigen stresses that while beauty is a predisposition to development, truth is a fixed statement. He therefore concludes that the categories of beauty and truth are opposites. Moreover, Katsenelinboigen considers beauty to be a phenomenon within protracted disjointed systems. His main emphasis is on the elaboration of degrees of beauty. Katsenelinboigen points out that, from an aesthetic point of view, an object or a phenomenon can be called more or less beautiful, depending on the evaluator’s subjective view of it. The degree of beauty is expressed by adverbs and adjectives that indicate the extent of beauty, such as “exquisitely beautiful,” “very beautiful,” “beautiful,” “not very beautiful,” and “not beautiful.” By means of the aesthetic method, the degree of beauty measures the observer’s perception of the observed from the point of view of its predisposition to development.

Katsenelinboigen discusses classical definition of beauty in Plato, Aristotle, and Kant, emphasizing the descriptiveness of definitions lacking “the essence of this category” (A Conceptual Understanding 41). He argues that Kant’s definition “is not sufficient, at least because it doesn’t bring ideas as to how to move directly to a constructive (operational) definition of a degree of beauty” (41). This leads to a lack of comprehensiveness of beauty as a category. Referring to Kant’s definition of beauty as “purposiveness without purpose,” he argues that “it emphasizes the lack of any means to allow a pragmatic assessment (without purpose)” (306). Katsenelinboigen ascribes more specificity to the abstract notion of “purposiveness without purpose,” connecting it with the notion of predisposition. “In its ma­ture form, the category of predisposition is analogous to beauty, or, in Immanual Kant’s words, it is ‘purposiveness without purpose.’” (The Concept of Indeterminism 40). He also proposes “a way of calculating the degree of beauty through structuralization” of material and relational parameters “as independent variables and their unconditional evaluation” (306).

… to measure the degree of beauty as a unique and holistic entity we have to challenge the assumption that beauty cannot be dissected. The answer requires sophisticated analytical methods that allow for the dissection of the wholeness and for its reassembly of it in such a way as to preserve as much of the influence of the whole on the system as possible. (A Conceptual Understanding 54)

Katsenelinboigen analyzes various approaches to beauty, including those of Francis Hutchenson, George Birkhoff, Edgar Siger, Jr. and others, showing the necessity to approach beauty in systems framework. To this end, he proposes a multidimensional approach to beauty that would allow us to outline the specifics of this category. He defines beauty from structural, operational, operatorial, and genetic (genesis) points of view. The structural approach deals with material, relational, and positional parameters of beauty and their valuations. The operational aspect concerns with the ways the procedure of creating a predisposition to development is performed. The operatorial approach focuses on the type of operator. Genesis “is related to the role of the past” in the formation beauty (A Conceptual Understanding 81). “Because beauty contains only some features of the past, it is unique from the point of view of genesis” (81).

The multidimensional approach became a foundation of Katsenelinboigen’s aesthetic method. Thus, the structural aspect of the method is formed by a two-stage approach that “links the analysis (decomposition) of the object of the aesthetic measure with its subsequent synthesis” (A Conceptual Understanding 307). The aspect of rationalization comprises three types of methods: programming, predispositioning, and spontaneity. Each method is distinguished “by a different degree of completeness” (309). The operator’s approach is based on the concept of subjectivity inherent in the process of evaluation and realization. Evaluation of a predisposition, including the artistic one, “is made subjectively, for it cannot be separated from the operator” (312). Finally, genesis “reveals the history of consecutive and parallel appearances of logical, topological, and artistic means” that are utilized by an object (313).


An Indeterministic God

Katsenelinboigen’s concept of indeterminism and PT inspired his observations that God in the Torah is an indeterministic, developing Creator. Importantly, these assumptions are not the result of his theosophical or religious views. Rather, they appeared as the result of the application of his theory to God’s decision making as shown in the Old Testament. Katsenelinboigen approaches biblical stories as a literary text, written by man for man, using the biblical text as source material for his research. His main goal is to reveal the mentality of those who presented God’s decision making in the Old Testament. He concludes that the authors of the Old Testament possessed a strong indeterministic view of the relationship between man and God.

The authors of the Torah drew a concept of man as created in God’s image and after God’s likeness. God Himself is presented not as a frozen omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent force, but as an evolving entity. Man, endowed with creative powers and free will, augments God’s power. It is by the people and through the people that God carries out the development of the universe following its creation. In fact, the role of man is so great that God stands on par with some chosen people and enters into a covenant with them. According to the covenant, God promises to multiply the nation from Abraham and make Abraham the father of many people; in return a Jew agrees to obey God’s commandment, which compels all Jewish men to be circumcised.

A sufficient condition for a genuine contract between man and God is that God acknowledge His own imperfection and recognize the greatness of man, recognize man as an independent force and man’s indispensability. Moreover, the contract becomes more credible if some kind of equality, both physical and intellectual, is established between the two parties. (The Concept of Indeterminsm, 116)

According to Katsenelinboigen, God is described in the Torah as combining feelings and rationality; as asexual; and as creating the world from the beginning, i.e. without having complete and consistent knowledge of the outcome. To this end, God creates a semi-ordered system, masterfully forming a predisposition for development.

In his book, 18 Questions and Answers Concerning the Torah, Katsenelinboigen poses questions on these topics and then answers them. Some questions are related to the way God creates the universe. For example, he questions God’s complete knowledge about the world He was about to create, claiming that otherwise God wouldn’t have needed to split the whole process into six days, but would have instead created everything at once. Also, the fact that God did not declare His final goal from the beginning leads Katsenelinboigen to speculate about a lack of closure in God’s creation. He describes this as a typically indeterministic situation, where one can have only a general sense of the direction of a process. Katsenelinboigen writes:

General indeterminism in the Torah does not rule out a deterministic perspective with respect to certain isolated events. The legitimacy of such a view has been confirmed to me by several scholars who approach the Torah from a deterministic classical perspective. I have a strong suspicion that the basic epistemology of the authors of the Torah, those people who collected the legends and the stories about events and social institutions and put them into this holy book, was rooted in an intuitive indeterministic vision of the development of the universe. (18 Questions)

Published posthumously in 2016, this book completes Katsenelinboigen’s applications of PT to various fields of knowledge.

Predispositioning theory offers a pioneering view of indeterminism and proposes a novel technique for understanding and managing situations under conditions of uncertainty. Katsenelinboigen’s approach marks a new contribution to systems development, one that highlights the role of predisposition as an important factor in the calculus of novel situations, and which has applications for a range of fields, including economics, biology, ethics, aesthetics, and theology.

Vera Zubareva, September 2021



Bertalanffy, Ludwig. General System Theory: Foundations, Development, Applications. George Braziller: New York, 1968.

Katsenelinboigen, Aron. 18 Questions and Answers Concerning the Torah. CreateSpace Independent, 2016. Available online at http://www.ulita.net/Book_Torah/Intro_V_Ulea.htm

—. A Conceptual Understanding of Beauty. Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2003.

—. Selected Topics in Indeterministic Systems, Seaside, CA: Intersystems Publications, 1989.

—. The Concept of Indeterminism and Its Applications; Economics, Social Systems, Ethics, Artificial Intelligence and Aesthetics. Westport: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1997.

Ulea, V. (Vera Zubareva). The Concept of Dramatic Genre and The Comedy of a New Type. Chess, Literature, and Film. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 2002.

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