Complexity verses simplicity.

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Elmud
 
Reply Sun 22 Feb, 2009 04:33 pm
My ole friend once use to have this saying, "think long, think wrong".

When I read a book on a certain subject, I like to see how the author took something which could be considered complex, and simplified it. Its kind of simple to take a simple thing and make it complex. Quite a different story to do the opposite.

I wonder if there are those that think that the more complex a theory it is, the more likely it is to be true. As for me, I tend to think that the more simple a theory is, the more likely it is to be true.

Why does man complicate things? Is it because simplicity is just too easy? I kind of shy away from complex things. Could be that my limited intelligence and my lack of formal education prevent me from understanding. But, I would think that an effort to make things understandable to everyone would make things less esoteric, if you will.

I wonder if it is mans nature to make things too complex. Could be an ego thing I guess. Or maybe, there just aren't anough words of simplicity to get his point across.

Whatever the reason, I just thought I'd throw that one out there for lack of something better to think of.
 
Zetetic11235
 
Reply Sun 22 Feb, 2009 06:01 pm
@Elmud,
I think that every idea is essentially simple, the complexity comes in when you want to show a detailed idea to another person without loosing information.

For instance: In higher math, the ideas are really not nearly so complicated as one might think when studying it with half understanding. The complexity of math is in the details; the objects are abstract, but seem very solid when fully understood.

I think most complex things are simple things that we have a limited understanding of, however some things seem less complex than they are because we have ignored an aspect of them, this seems especially true of social and political trends. I think complexity comes from not fully understanding something, and the reason that simple things become more complex is because we have ignored certain aspects of them, and once we fully understand all of the aspects simplicity returns.

I think there is an attraction to complicated things when someone realizes that they can create by adding to something. This is a passion of the neophyte; to take good work and add bulk to it so that it seems like they have accomplished something. Only the expert who can isolate what is really, truly important can simplify.
 
boagie
 
Reply Thu 26 Feb, 2009 02:20 pm
@Zetetic11235,
Hi Everyone,Smile

Is not simplicity and complexity more a statement of the power or limitations of the mind. One tends to think of something as complex if it is numerically greater then that considered simple. When the only distinction to be made in fact is one of quantity and/or quantity of relations. Without the limitations of the mind there would be no distinction infering difficulty, all would simple, simple in its isness.
 
Theaetetus
 
Reply Thu 26 Feb, 2009 02:30 pm
@Elmud,
Creationism is obviously a lot more simple than evolution, but that does not make it right. I think that is why so many people buy into creationism and deny evolution. It is far easier to think God created humans than to grasp the concepts of a complex theory--in this case evolution.
 
Elmud
 
Reply Thu 26 Feb, 2009 05:05 pm
@Theaetetus,
Theaetetus wrote:
Creationism is obviously a lot more simple than evolution, but that does not make it right. I think that is why so many people buy into creationism and deny evolution. It is far easier to think God created humans than to grasp the concepts of a complex theory--in this case evolution.

I don't know about that Theaetus. The apologist in his defense of creationism will expound on the second law of thermodynamics, the impossibility of an infinite number of moments. Things like that. Pretty complicated at times. One seems simple and logical, and the other not. Depends on what which side of the fence you're standing on. The creationist folks are well versed on how to make an impression with complex notions.
 
BrightNoon
 
Reply Thu 26 Feb, 2009 06:50 pm
@Elmud,
Life is simple. Complexity arises when a limited part of life is arbitrarily given priority and then used to interpret all of life, resulting in the need for a thorough sysem that essentially does nothing but obfuscate the fact that it rests on nothing but assumptions. The more inrticate the philosophical system, the more effort has been expended in accomplishing that obfuscation. Consider Platonism, in any form; a complex ideological system, which is itself a product of phenomenal experience, is turned back around against experience, as criteria by which it can be evaluated. For example, Plato's essences and all the thins like them in western philosophy are assumed to be the basis, the substance, of existing things in the apparent world, when in fact they are generalizations, abstractions of experiences in the apparent world: i.e. existance precedes essence. The explanation is not the truth, though the explanation is a part of the truth, because it is part of the totality of existance. In other word, we have a tendency to want to define the simple, visceral experiences in terms of the complex thoughts, which we fail to realize are derivative of the former. In terms of importance or 'accuracy,' experience and thought are coequal.
 
Theaetetus
 
Reply Thu 26 Feb, 2009 09:50 pm
@Elmud,
Life is not simple. People would like the explanation to life to be simple, but the fact is that it is not. Take the human eye for example. Simple would be God created it. But there are so many intricate things that must be correct for just the eye to function properly. If life was simple, we should be able to explain it with ease without ever resorting to copping out and saying that God must have created it.

Platonism is a terrible example of a system, because Plato never intended it to be a system to begin with, and people are taking metaphorical language too literally to attempt to systematize it. Now an example of a terrible ideological philosophical system is Hegel's. Just take one simple idea that he tries to complicate--the dialectic or making connections between ideas--into a horrible mess that makes it impossible to understand. Hegel is a classic example of obfuscation. You would do well to go back an reread Plato, and realize that much of what is discussed is held up with the question in mind, what is wrong with this picture?
 
nameless
 
Reply Fri 27 Feb, 2009 03:14 am
@Elmud,
Seeing anything as 'simple', 'complex' or the entire spectrum between, is all a matter of Perspective. There are no 'reasons', no 'causes', no 'effects', no 'motion', no 'time' but by/as/to certain limited Perspectives. These 'notions' are not omniversal but very 'local'.
 
Khethil
 
Reply Fri 27 Feb, 2009 03:43 am
@nameless,
These are good questions.

I believe that most can be viewed simply; and yes, that almost any issue can be complicated into oblivion. But there are several dynamics at work here, not the least of which is the desire to dig into an issue, idea or concept. Take almost any issue - any question - and dig deep enough into it and you'll find disturbing details, mitigating factors and alternate views. Do this enough, and you'll find yourself mired in them.

I guess I'd have to say this: There's a time and a place to "keep it simple" just as there are situations where fleshing out the gory details is necessary. Generally speaking: Dive into the details and complexities and you'll purchase perspective at the expense of surety. Stick to the basics and you'll be rewarded with direction and assertiveness at the price of perhaps a more-balanced view.

I'm not sure one can say one is usually better or usually worse.

Thanks
 
Dichanthelium
 
Reply Sat 28 Feb, 2009 05:31 pm
@Elmud,
Elmud wrote:
I wonder if there are those that think that the more complex a theory it is, the more likely it is to be true. As for me, I tend to think that the more simple a theory is, the more likely it is to be true...


I agree with Khethil. I would say to some extent it depends on the topic and to some extent it depends on your willingness to investigate.

I speculate, though, that the biggest misconceptions are typically those that oversimplify the inherently complex, and those that fail to make distinctions where they are warranted.

But this kind of generic approach is just jabber unless we apply it to an actual case, isn't it?
 
Sleepy phil
 
Reply Sun 1 Mar, 2009 02:16 am
@Elmud,
Seems like an oversimplication to me. Some truths are simple; some are complex. Are there more simple truths than complex truths? Geez, I don't know, I've never lined them all up and counted them in two columns. In philosophy, to get everyone to agree on the truth of anything is virtually impossible, so if we're talking philosophical truths, we'd have a non-starter to answer a statistical question like that. Or did you mean the question as suggesting that there's more than just statistical coincidence? Like, say, Occam's Razer? Though that's really a pragmatic principle preferring the simpler explanation to complex ones everything else being equal. But everything else is rarely equal and to take a pragmatic principle like that to say something about the nature of truth... hmmm... what reason do you have for thinking there'd be any relevance?

I'd agree that simplifying things tends to make it easier to understand, but I fail to see its relationship to truth. If anything, I see people making simplistic, sweeping generalizations all the time which are almost always incorrect, e.g. "all suicide is irrational/cowardly/immoral", and they usually reflect a profound lack of thought or awareness of all the possible situations/circumstances/reasonings/perspectives that could shine light on it. So if I had to guess, I'd guess the other way.
 
BrightNoon
 
Reply Tue 3 Mar, 2009 11:43 pm
@Theaetetus,
Theaetetus wrote:
Life is not simple. People would like the explanation to life to be simple, but the fact is that it is not. Take the human eye for example. Simple would be God created it. But there are so many intricate things that must be correct for just the eye to function properly. If life was simple, we should be able to explain it with ease without ever resorting to copping out and saying that God must have created it.

Platonism is a terrible example of a system, because Plato never intended it to be a system to begin with, and people are taking metaphorical language too literally to attempt to systematize it. Now an example of a terrible ideological philosophical system is Hegel's. Just take one simple idea that he tries to complicate--the dialectic or making connections between ideas--into a horrible mess that makes it impossible to understand. Hegel is a classic example of obfuscation. You would do well to go back an reread Plato, and realize that much of what is discussed is held up with the question in mind, what is wrong with this picture?


Life is simple; explanations of life are complex. Life proceeds and is, regardless of our analysis of it; the only 'problems' are those that we create by seeking 'Truth.'
 
Theaetetus
 
Reply Wed 4 Mar, 2009 05:50 am
@BrightNoon,
BrightNoon wrote:
Life is simple; explanations of life are complex. Life proceeds and is, regardless of our analysis of it; the only 'problems' are those that we create by seeking 'Truth.'


I think to say that life is simple is to belittle or depreciate it. Life is made up of many simple things, but as these things are combined, it becomes more and more complex--independently of our analysis of it.
 
boagie
 
Reply Wed 4 Mar, 2009 12:37 pm
@Theaetetus,
Theaetetus wrote:
I think to say that life is simple is to belittle or depreciate it. Life is made up of many simple things, but as these things are combined, it becomes more and more complex--independently of out analysis of it.


Theaetetus,Smile

Complexity is created by analysis, it is more a statement of the limitations of the mind, that which exists simply is. That some things are numerically greater than others, as in the form of a greater number of relations is indeed a fact, the minds ability to cope with that which is numerically greater is the minds limitation, with no limitations all would be seen as simple in its isness/existence. So, I do not think BrightNoon's statement deminishes if it is seen in this light. The ability to understand diminishes complexity and varies with subject from individual to individual.
 
Theaetetus
 
Reply Wed 4 Mar, 2009 02:36 pm
@Elmud,
Well, I am thinking that there is a major difference between the lowest forms of life, bacteria and viruses, and the most advanced forms of life, the primates. There is obviously a degree of complexity that the latter has that the former lacks. In fact, the latter even requires the former in order to function properly. To call all life simple is to deny that life tends to evolve to form more and more complex beings that require many simple features in order to survive. There is a major difference in complexity of the brain of a fish and the brain of an orangutan. It is not my analysis that makes the orangutan's brain more complex, it is the fact that it simply is.
 
boagie
 
Reply Wed 4 Mar, 2009 02:48 pm
@Theaetetus,
Theaetetus,Smile

Yes from one organism to the next there is this numerically greater reality of relations, my point does have validity however, but so to does yours. BrightNoon's statement if not taken in the light I describe, would be a minimizing of the wonder of it all.
 
Theaetetus
 
Reply Wed 4 Mar, 2009 02:52 pm
@Elmud,
I get what you are saying boagie. It seems that the simple/complex dichotomy are being used in two very different and distinct ways. The way I am using the dichotomy is from inside the system of evolution in that higher ordered organisms have more complex systems (e.g. brain, blood circulation system, digestion system). The way that BrightNoon is using the dichotomy is from an observer's perspective in that an observer's analysis determines what is simple or complex.
 
BrightNoon
 
Reply Mon 16 Mar, 2009 08:28 am
@Theaetetus,
Theaetetus wrote:
I get what you are saying boagie. It seems that the simple/complex dichotomy are being used in two very different and distinct ways. The way I am using the dichotomy is from inside the system of evolution in that higher ordered organisms have more complex systems (e.g. brain, blood circulation system, digestion system). The way that BrightNoon is using the dichotomy is from an observer's perspective in that an observer's analysis determines what is simple or complex.


I agree T. In terms of what apparently occurs in the world (organisms live and grow, complex chemical reactions occur, etc) the world is infinitely complex. I was speaking more to our understanding of the world, specifically to the 'problems' of philosophy, which are complex because we have made them so; sans them, the world is simple. In other words, the experience, not the knowledge or mental schematization of the world, is simple. Istigkeit.

Thanks, good debate
 
hammersklavier
 
Reply Mon 16 Mar, 2009 03:20 pm
@Elmud,
Occam's Razor--The simplest possible explanation is usually the right one.
 
thing-N-ghost
 
Reply Wed 25 Mar, 2009 12:06 am
@Elmud,
Believe it or not, there was a philosopher (what was his name?) who said the more simple a theroy is, the more likely it is to be true! The idea was that an atribute of perfectness was in fact . . . simplicity.
 
 

 
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