Recursionism means a variety of things to different people. In recent years, the popularity of fractals has brought certain recursionist notions into the popular discourse. Fractal patterns are also found in physical structures and in economics and engineering.
Recursionism in art
It is the use of repeating patterns in modern art (as in the works of M.C. Escher and Salvador Dalí), as also self-similarity in rock art in the old world and on American Indian pottery. Many writers have also explored these ideas in works of fiction, most notably John Barthes and David Foster Wallace.
Recursionism in philosophy
As philosophy, it is an old idea, which can be seen in the works of many thinkers around the world. It stands for the principle that repetition of structure across space, time, and scale provides the key to understanding reality; it explains how the brain can comprehend the world. The claim is made that we are able to understand reality because of the underlying recursive regularity.
Recursion leads to variety in form when the basic structures through evolution become increasingly complex. Recursionism is the reason why the same models work in a variety of fields, and also across scale. Recursionism is not identical to Structuralism since it encompasses not only the physical but also the temporal and the abstract.
In the East, it is seen most prominently in the Upanishads and other similar writings. Amongst recent philosophers, the works of Aurobindo and Kak have stressed this thought. In the West, we see a recursionist strand in the works of Fichte, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche.
Recursionism in science
Most scientific theories model change as the rate of change of the variable is proportional to the variable. This is true, for example, in classical mechanics as well as in the Schrodinger equation of quantum mechanics. This is also true for living systems where the evolution is modeled by the Fibonacci series, for which also the derivative is the same as the series itself. All these represent recursionism at work.
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04