Morphology in the 21st Century:
Word origin attributed to Goethe - i.e. in The Metamorphosis of Plants (1790). It was the German writer who first crossed the boundaries between art, poetry and scientific study with organic human understanding in the idea of Morphology. Today 'morphology' is not primarily or only a biological metaphor, but relevant for several other natural and social sciences and even in music and the arts; morphology is also used in linguistics and evolutionary philosophy.
The German philosopher Edmund Husserl recognized the incompleteness of mathematical descriptions of nature from the perspective of philosophy, and thus distinguished between the geometer and the morphologist who constructs proto-geometrical types in terms of natural language. The question of who may best define such things as human nature, natural language and nature's laws, or which academic spheres best write or speak on these topics, however, remains one of the great (post)-modern debates.
Chemical theories of morphogenesis and the self-organizing systems of Turing (1936 & 1952) and Hodges (1983) changed the way we view human life in its mechanistic orientation. But they did not speak comprehensively about the origin(s) of life; and neither is the Miller Urey experiment still dominant as a coherent theory of morphogenesis. Likewise, morphology today may study the 'changes in things' (over time) or the 'nature' of things, but it does not necessarily study the originations of things (in time) naturally, mechanically or even spiritually.
An alternative side to 'morphology' is its use in less scientific places, e.g. to analyze the similarities and differences between fact, fantasy and fiction, myth-making, story-telling and logical analysis, which contribute to and in some cases decide the paths we take in understanding the meaning of science and human nature.
The idea of morphology should not frighten or deter impressionable minds in the 21st century from more deeply understanding their views of origin(s) and meaning(s) through change(s), and the place a theory of Evolution should have in them. So then, a brief, interdisciplinary, mosaic approach to the concept of 'morphology' is set forth herein.
1. Derived from the Greek 'morphae,' morpho-logical: The study of shapes, forms or structures of an organism or mechanism
2. The shapes, forms and structures of an organism or mechanism, e.g. the verb 'morph' meant to describe visual effects made on computers
3. Includes scientific studies of shapes, forms and structures, and also of changes (e.g. processes of change) in shapes, forms or structures
4. Relevant Concepts for ISCID Encyclopaedia of Science and Philosophy: Morphological, Metamorphosis, Morphogenesis...
Fields of Application:
Biol. - Morphology without reference to function (e.g. morphology of a cell, vertebrates, the central nervous system); a key hidden component of organic units, but not synonymous with or dependent upon (though theoretically almost completely dominated by) the (post)-modern 'evolutionary synthesis'
Ecol. - Living Nature (Goethe), morphological population studies, phylogeny and ontogeny, The Nature of Things (David Suzuki)
Ling. - Morphology with reference to language, grammar, syntax (e.g. inflection and the formation of compounds, semantics, phonology, comparative linguistic systems)
Ø 'Morphemes' - the smallest units of grammar: roots, prefixes, and suffixes
Ø Linguistic relativity - Noam Chomsky
Ø Distributed Morphology - an architectural theory of grammar proposed in the early 1990s at MIT
Hist. - Morphology as 'universal symbolism' (cf. historical evolution-ism); temporal and spatial formulations, motives and directions of human development, of static and dynamic memory reporting, cyclical-cultural generations and re-generations, declines and inclines in human technology
Soci. - Morphology as basic 'change through time,' demonstrates dynamic formal effects of individual, structural, institutional and broader social-psychological changes
Myth. - Greek, Ovid - Metamorphoses, 'Morpheus': God of Dreams, son of Somnus, god of sleep
Other fields: Topology, Embryology, Systematics, Anthropology, Cognitive and Cultural Studies and studies in Complexity, Anatomy, Cytology, Economics, Filmmaking, Paleontology, Philosophy of Technology, Information and Communication theory.
Uniform and non-uniform motion, constancy and indeterminacy; to 'grasp the morphology' (Fanon), i.e. to find the place of language in human nature, culture and behaviour; transformation (morpho-dynamic models), process thought, continuous action, shape shifting; cyclical or stage theory; knowledge from shape or configuration, as in a known face or facial features, physiognomy; morphological principles of pattern recognition and perception, replication and duplication; pattern laws (cf. 'patterns that connect' - Bateson) applied to networks of human (and non-human) social phenomena (cf. Latour), Aristotelian hylo-morphism...there are over 100 uses for the root word 'morph' in the English language!
(Random) mutation, variation, change (over short or long periods of time), adaptation, growth, process, emergence, development, Natural Selection ('struggle for life', 'survival of the fittest'), etc.
Additions, amplifications, comments and objections are welcome!
Web Resources On Morphology
Lexeme-Morpheme Base Morphology
Book Resources On Morphology
Morphology by Francis Katamba
Shapes of Philosophical History by Frank E. Manuel
The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis by Alan Turing
Editor(s): Gregory Arago