Recursion, or the capacity of ‘self-reference’, has played a central role within mathematical approaches to understanding the nature of computation, from the general recursive functions of Alonzo Church to the partial recursive functions of Stephen C. Kleene and the production systems of Emil Post. Recursion has also played a significant role in the analysis and running of certain computational processes within computer science (viz., those with self-calls and deferred operations). Yet the relationship between the mathematical and computer versions of recursion is subtle and intricate. A recursively specified algorithm, for example, may well proceed iteratively if time and space constraints permit; but the nature of specific data structures—viz., recursive data structures—will also return a recursive solution as the most optimal process. In other words, the correspondence between recursive structures and recursive processes is not automatic; it needs to be demonstrated on a case-by-case basis.
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