What is Radical Recursion?


Steven M. Rosen

Departments of Psychology and Philosophy (Emeritus)

College of Staten Island/City University of New York


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Recursion or self-reference is a key feature of contemporary research and writing in semiotics. The paper commences by focusing on the role of recursion in poststructuralism. It is suggested that much of what passes for recursion in this field is in fact not recursive all the way down. After the paradoxical meaning of radical recursion is adumbrated, topology is employed to provide some examples. The properties of the Moebius strip prove helpful in bringing out the dialectical nature of radical recursion. The Moebius is employed to explore the recursive interplay of terms that are classically regarded as binary opposites: identity and difference, object and subject, continuity and discontinuity, etc. To realize radical recursion in an even more concrete manner, a higher-dimensional counterpart of the Moebius strip is utilized, namely, the Klein bottle. The presentation concludes by enlisting phenomenological philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s concept of depth to interpret the Klein bottle’s extra dimension.

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