Generative words (Terminology)

A Glossary of terms:

Genesis

Phylogenesis

Pathogenesis

Morphogenesis

Teratogenesis

Genesis

Genesis (Greek: Γένεσις, having the meanings of “birth”, “creation”, “cause”, “beginning”, “source” and “origin”) is the first book of the Torah, the first book of the Tanakh and also the first book of the Christian Old Testament.[1]

The word genesis has been connected with the idea of a prefect and ultimate creation. Apart from any kind of metaphysical approach that relates the specific word to a concept of “creation” where idea is considered to be superior to its material representation or where the creation is regarded as the reflection of the omniscience and omnipresence of a creator, the word is absolutely related, if not tied together, with the materiality itself.

Genesis, before any other meaning, means birth. In this text the word is being approached as a singularity that carries other singularities. Therefore, Genesis is followed by the other terms presented in this text (Pathogenesis, Phylogenesis and Morphogenesis). All of them are related to the process of creating not in the sense of constructing by a strict absolute plan but in the sense of giving birth; in the sense of creating the seed for the conception leaving it to grow as a result of a process of becoming rather than making or constructing. Having this being the main common characteristic these words share, all of them consist of the term “genesis” and each of them defines a different stage of the birth giving process.

Phylogenesis refers to the origin and the evolution of it. Or to be more precise, the origin of the product of a creation and the origin of the creation process in the same time.

Pathogenesis is the reason, the cause that activates the origin and the process of the creation.

Morphogenesis is the form generating process, the interaction of phylogenesis and pathogenesis within the active materiality.

The words above are being placed in what could be conceived as chronological order (what happens first what follows etc.) but what actually happens is that the terms are embedded into each other in a way that nothing happens first or second but all together interact with each other in a formative way.

The intention here is not to create the “equation”, the “algorithm” or the “plan” of the birth process neither to find the definition of the keywords used. It’s rather about generating a topological map of them taking the stand that the processes are stochastic[2], not deterministic.

Phylogenesis

Phylogenesis (or phylogeny) is the origin and evolution of a set of organisms, usually a set of species. A major task of systematics is to determine the ancestral relationships among known species (both living and extinct).[3]

If we attempt to detach the term phylogenesis from the context of biology and to broaden it we will find its properties extended in any process of formation or “becoming”. Phylogenesis as “the origin and evolution” is the concept which helps us understand the relationships between different parts in the formation of a continuum that consists of singularities. It is about the relationships of the general and the particular, the whole and its parts or in the Deleuzian way the universal and the singular and their evolutionary mechanisms.

In essentialism there are general types or fixed categories (such as animal species) and the particular members in each of them share common properties. In the Deleuzian philosophy these fixed categories or types are being replaced by bigger spatio-temporal individuals so that a given species is as singular, as unique, as historically contingent as the organisms that belong to it. “The relation between organisms and species is not one of tokens belonging to types, but one of wholes and parts: singular individual organisms are the component working parts of a (larger) singular individual species.[4]

Here the idea of singularity is rather topological than geometric. One could regard the connection between the origin and the evolution in such a way. The way the origin participates in the evolutionary process is like a genetic algorithm which exists as topological algorithm and not as geometric. What happens is that the process of making or becoming (e.g. the growing of an embryo) of something is taking place in an energetic materiality that consists of spatio-temporal singularities, implicit forms that are rather topological than geometric[5]. Once this something is produced, no matter that the process is never finalized, its extensities and qualities will hide the process under the product and the product in turn will possess and develops a set of new capacities, for example by interacting with other individuals or the environment in creating the preconditions for the evolution.

In that case, an example outside of biology that one can draw is the map of Charles Jencks for the history of Architecture where history is not presented as a linear arrangement of historical facts but is being mapped as a flowing continuum where certain historical periods are interacting with each other are depending on each other, are being formed and deformed by each other (picture) in a process of perpetual evolution.

Pathogenesis

Pathogenesis is the mechanism by which a certain etiological factor causes disease (pathos = disease, genesis = development).[6]

The term pathogenesis (παθογένεσις), in its broader sense outside of biology, refers to the mechanism that produces the connections between a cause and an effect, the matter and the form connecting the realm of the potential with that of the real or activating the virtual, in a Deleuzian way.

In the ancient Greek philosophy “potentiality” and “reality” belong to two separate realms. For Plato the ideas exist prior to their representations, prior to form and praxis and they derive from a superior, perfect world.

In the Aristotelian philosophy and in particular in Aristotle’s Metaphysics the idea about the relation of cause and effect is illustrated in the concept of substance (ουσία) which is conceived as a combination of both matter and form, or in other words, of potentiality (δύναμις) and actuality or entelechy. The term entelechy traces to the Ancient Greek word entelecheia (εντελέχεια), from the combination of the words enteles (εντελές = complete), telos (τέλος = end, purpose, completion) and echein (έχειν = to have). Aristotle coined the word, which could possibly be translated in English as, “having the end within itself.” To Aristotle, entelecheia referred to a certain state or sort of being, in which a thing was actively working to be itself.[7]

The Aristotelian idea of entelecheia is connected to the concept of the final cause (τελικό αίτιο). For Aristotle in the concept of the final cause the reason which gives the purpose is the end (τέλος), in the sense of a fulfillment. The end as purpose pre-exists, is being embodied in the things and is being revealed by the process of working towards that end. In order to make more clear the concept of the final cause I will give an example; in the question “why is it raining?” thinking of the natural causes would result to the answer “because water evaporates and creates clouds and they become cold and it rains”, while thinking of the final cause might lead to the answer “it rains for the flowers to grow”. Aristotle defines his philosophy in terms of essence, saying that philosophy is “the science of the universal essence of that which is actual[8].

The ideas of Gilles Deleuze about the matter and the form have as fundamental difference the fact that the purpose doesn’t preexist, is not predetermined or predominant and is not being conceptualized as an “end” or a “fulfillment”. Instead of the “purpose” there is a matter which in the process of working towards the goal is in the same time forming and being formed because of interacting with an entire energetic materiality in movement[9]. It is exactly what one could extract from what Jacques Derrida said, “My own words take me by surprise and teach me what I think” or what Marleau-Ponty remarked “The writers thought doesn’t not control his language from without[10].

Contrary to essentialism, for Deleuze the form doesn’t preexist to its material realization and the matter is not functioning as a fixed mould that is able to produce forms from the outside. In order to make it clearer I will draw an example from his essay “the society of control” where he clarifies the differences in the formative processes of today’s “social control” and the “enclosures” that were taking place in the “disciplinary societies”. As he says:

Enclosures are molds, distinct castings, but controls are a modulation, like a self-deforming cast that will continuously change from one moment to the other, or like a sieve whose mesh will transmute from point to point[11].

What is important here is the distinction between the mold and the modulation as two different processes of connecting matter and form. The mold could be conceived as analogous to essentialism’s idea for how formation acts on things while the modulation, the continuously self deforming cast, illustrates the idea of Deleuze about the same issue.

Henri Bergson said “Reality… is a perpetual becoming. It makes or remakes itself, but it is never something made.

Morphogenesis

Morphogenesis(from the Greek morphê shape and genesis creation) is one of three fundamental aspects of developmental biology along with the control of cell growth and cellular differentiation.[12]

Morphogenesis (also referred in biology as ontogenesis) refers to the process of form generation, while something takes “shape” or “becomes”. Several points that concern the issue of morphogenesis have already been referred above which is an indication that borders between the terms phylogenesis, pathogenesis and morphogenesis are not fixed points but rather degrading spaces where the terms are merging together. This gives me the step to say that morphogenesis should be regarded like that, as a process that contains and is being contained to both phylogenesis and pathogenesis. This concept is partially supported but the “recapitulation theory”:

During the late 19th century, Ernst Haeckel’s recapitulation theory, or biogenetic law, was widely accepted. This theory was often expressed as “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny“, i.e. the development of an organism exactly mirrors the evolutionary development of the species. The early version of this hypothesis has since been rejected as being oversimplified.[13]However the phenomenon of recapitulation, in which a developing organism will for a time show a similar trait or attribute to that of an ancestral species, only to have it disappear at a later stage is well documented. For example, embryos of the baleen whale still develop teeth at certain embryonic stages, only to later disappear. A more general example is the emergence of what could develop into pharyngeal gill pouches if it were in a lower vertebrate in almost all mammalian embryos at early stages of development.[14]

Morphogenesis is the result of an origin which is being activated and actualized through pathogenetic factors. What needs to be made clear again is that the relationship of origin and form is rather topological than geometrical and I will draw an example from DeLanda’s “Deleuzian ontology” to describe this concept and how it works in terms of form generation.

There are a large number of different physical structures which form spontaneously as their components try to meet certain energetic requirements. These components may be constrained, for example, to seek a point of minimal free energy, like a soap bubble, which acquires its spherical form by minimizing surface tension, or a common salt crystal, which adopts the form of a cube by minimizing bonding energy. One way of describing the situation would be to say that a topological form (a singular point) guides a process which results in many different physical forms, including spheres and cubes, each one with different geometric properties. This is what Deleuze means when he says that singularities are like “implicit forms that are topological rather than geometric.”[15] This may be contrasted to the essentialist approach in which the explanation for the spherical form of soap bubbles, for instance, would be framed in terms of the essence of sphericity, that is, of geometrically characterized essences acting as ideal forms. Unlike essences (or possibilities) which resemble that which realizes them, a singularity is always divergently actualized, that is, it guides intensive processes which differentiate it, resulting in a set of individual entities which is not given in advance and which need not resemble one another.[16]

One could also draw examples from biology and the genotype – phenotype distinction. We consider the origin to be the decisive factor for the genotype of an organism, or to be more accurate, we assume that the genome of an organism is formed by its phylogeny. The genotype is in a certain degree determining the phenotype, which represents the physical characteristics of an organism such as height, weight, color etc. Similarly to the example of DeLanda with the soap bubbles, the concept of phenotypic plasticity describes the degree to which an organism’s phenotype is determined by its genotype.[17] A high level of plasticity means that environmental factors have a strong influence on the particular phenotype that develops while a low would mean that the influence was not strong. What this means, wide and large, is that a genotype has probably more than one possible phenotypes. In that sense morphogenesis should not be conceived as a closed, one way form generating process but rater as open-ended and interacting multiply with its surroundings.

Teratogenesis

Teratogenesis is a medical term from the Greek, literally meaning monster-making (τέρας= monster), which derives from teratology, the study of the frequency, causation, and development of congenital malformations-misleadingly called birth defects.[18]

Teratogenesis in the sense of deformation is an un-detachable part not only of the morphogenetic processes but of any kind of productive process; it is embedded in all the possible products of these processes. Evolution itself is a constant deformation, mutation and hybridization are actively participating in its processes creating new species and causing others to transform or even extinct.

Concluding, the result of any process, any kind of thing that could be considered as product, is always deformed therefore impossible to be absolutely predefined or predetermined. But on the other hand, also initiations are being deformed in the process of working towards the result. Maybe, even the word “result” is just a convention since everything is in a state of constant “becoming”.


[1]Source Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genesis

[2]Stochastic, from the Greek “στόχος” or “goal”, means of, relating to, or characterized by conjecture and randomness. A stochastic process is one whose behavior is non-deterministic in that the next state of the environment is partially but not fully determined by the previous state of the environment. (Source Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stochastic)

[3] Source Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phylogenesis

[4] Manuel DeLanda, ‘Deleuzian Ontology: A Sketch’. presented at New Ontologies: Transdisciplinary Objects, University of Illinois, USA, 30.03.02

[5] Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus. p. 408

[6] Source Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pathogenesis

[7] Source Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entelechy

[8] Source Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aristotle

[9] Manuel DeLanda, ‘Deleuzian Ontology: A Sketch’. presented at New Ontologies: Transdisciplinary Objects, University of Illinois, USA, 30.03.02

[10] Adrian Forty, Language and Drawing: A Vocabulary of Modern Architecture, Thames & Hudson, London, 2000 (p. 33)

[11] Gilles Deleuze, Society of control, L’autre journal, Nr. I, Mai 1990

[12] Source Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morphogenesis

[13] Source Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phylogeny

[14] Source Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recapitulation_theory

[15] Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus. p. 408

[16] Manuel DeLanda, ‘Deleuzian Ontology: A Sketch’. presented at New Ontologies: Transdisciplinary Objects, University of Illinois, USA, 30.03.02

[17] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genotype-phenotype_distinction

[18] Source Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teratogenesis

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