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Development and recursion

Changes in structures and their limits are undoubtedly the primary characteristics of development. Similar to other base words such as freedom, love, purpose and death and devil, structures and boundaries cannot be structured or limited already at the outset. Linguistic terms are slowly emerging, something that children are surprisingly better at than adults.   

Today it is known that mirror neurons are nature's decisive trick with which this is achieved, but which, and this is certainly very important, are later broken down and largely, but perhaps not completely, disappear.

Children start with simple syllables and playfully learn to change them and fill them with new content. Obviously, this is also a good method for childish older philosophers to explore new territory, not only strictly human, but increasingly animal domains too. We, the elderly, learned painfully in wars that humans behave like animals and can even go beyond that. The younger contemporaries, who were fortunate enough to live in some peace, increasingly shield themselves from this awareness, deny their thoroughly animal sexuality, and distance themselves from it in a basically ridiculous way by wearing a penis symbol called a tie.

Essentially, basic definitions cannot simply be assigned to any material or spiritual or even sexual structures with sharp limits, but rather “develop”. Development is therefore generally subject to ongoing changes. We quietly hope that something better than before comes out of it, but what is conceived as better is subject to constant changes, regardless of whether we use space-time or cultural or environmental dimensions as frame of reference.

Darwin just got in touch. He is pretty unpopular with religious potentates because he doesn't honor their ideas of fixed boundaries. In the Victorian era, it was difficult to convey that strict loyalty means rigid boundaries and is not always the best for development. But to let the borders disappear completely was certainly not the right thing, because then all structures would dissolve. Dams are necessary during floods, but if their construction becomes too complex or the water rises too much, we'd probably better move on to building ships. In principle, this means recognition of nomads, who also have to live off something. This is how trade comes about. Dealers like to enter into relationships which, however, cannot necessarily be completely delimited or narrowed down. Infidelity is a product of flexible trading. This cannot be done completely, because apart from society it is also about individuals, neither of which can be locked up behind thick walls.

What to do? Humans, like animals, only have to cautiously sneak up on unknown destinations, which may be dangerous, but hardly avoidable, as we are learning again today in space travel. Such developments are also reflected in the language. Philosophers seem to feel like adult mirror neurons. Nowadays things are made even more complicated by the fact that we increasingly have a more or less vague awareness of how many possible languages ​​there are, not only in different countries but also for different computers and animals and Betelgeuse. It might become a supernova soon. I beg your pardon? Sorry if such terms are used within the bounds of “normal” understanding. But that could include development. When the content expands, it means the silent and quiet expansion of boundaries. Gorbachev has allowed the Europeans to do this, Putin is now pushing the borders a little in the other direction.

But large structures also need inner boundaries for “healthy” development. Nature shows that organs are very useful and important, but also cooperation of many similar cells with a regulated exchange between them. This may be lacking in large states. Between the US American Midwest and Googleland, between Shanghai and Uighur country, between Cairo and desert country, between Brussels and Balkan country - there is a problem everywhere. But this phenomenon does not only exist between spatial areas or languages ​​and cultures, even within individual living beings, because these consist of different body parts with differently pronounced boundaries between them. The boundaries between rationality, feelings, sexuality and activities correspond to a large extent to our four body parts - head, upper body, abdomen and extremities. They lead us to the unpleasant fact that in humans and animals these relationships are more similar than we want to admit. The primacy of rationality is thoroughly insisted on and the higher animals are given the name primates for the sake of pretense, which appears to be quite mendacious. Both animals and our own sexuality suffer from this in not necessarily very different ways. Both can be killed. However, there are nomads who report that, beyond national borders of overly rigid legality, completely different worlds are evolving. But some of them were never believed during their lives, such as Marco Polo or Galileo Galilei. Both the Chinese and the Vatican resorted without success to building walls. Does a modern explorer have no choice but to adopt an animal identity in order to escape the overwhelming power of rationality, which, however, is basically not wrong at all, but just sets up very hard boundaries of various kinds? But borders cannot be explored and shaped by institutions that operate only rationally. Learn from the ruminants that feelings and fitness, sexuality and power, as well as activity and mobility, have similar importance.

This learning can only take place recursively, i.e. by approaching an unknown goal in hardly measurable small steps. Recursion continues where logic no longer does. Development therefore inevitably means more than a logical procedure and thus includes creativity, but also such diverse phenomena as digital design or populism. Conversely, any specialization that accepts strict limitations cannot be viewed as “real” development. This also applies to all growth that is subject to contact inhibition, both in biology and ecology as well as in business and economy.

Darwin is only dangerous if he has to limit himself to logic and rationality. Then its ultimate consequence is that the one who shoots faster survives. Fortunately, beyond these borders there are more peaceful areas.

© Hans J. Unsoeld Berlin 2020


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