Complexity vs Simplicity

Ideas that are complex vs simple ideas

Since the results of the election last week, I have come to see that there is a war being waged in the world right now. This war is a war of ideas. People are looking for the necessary science or political movements to validate their views. It comes not as a surprise, then that we seek not what is true but what fits our narrative. Such is politics, unfortunately .

I have been guilty of my own brand of dogmatism, in that sense, because I genuinely hope for a society where our differences matter no more. My idea is thus complex, because it seeks to complexify and deconstruct, before reconstructing. This is a structuralist concept that would have me looking back into history, and see how past societies chose to keep specific identifications to separate the weak from the strong, the righteous from the evil.

A most recent book that I have acquired is Michel Foucault’s Madness in Civilization, which makes an historical analysis of how “madness” has been defined and interpreted, in European society (he emphasized this, in the preface of his book). Unsurprisingly, this approach will have as a result that Foucault believes that we systematically entrench one another in positions of reason vs madness. He who is wrong is automatically mad and he who is right is automatically reasoned and intellectual.

Considering that we as humans tend to seek the simplest explanation for things, we struggle with the qualifying standards for things that are “simple”. In fact, what is “simple” often turns out to be simply what we consider easier to understand. The reason being that we dislike mystery, we dislike not knowing and we dislike not understanding. When a situation occurs that was beyond our vigilance, we often become dismayed, angered and even spiteful for the fact. This reaction is due in part to not wishing ourselves to be the mad ones.

The spiteful reaction is thus one of defense, where we will claim to ourselves that we have the right mindset, simply that this is an anomaly. Something that escaped our most righteous vigilance. We may then think that our intellect has expanded as we have reacted to this new information and taken it into account, but often times, we simply change the angle form which we will attack it; rearranging our prejudices to permit us to maintain the same frame of mind.

In complex terms, I have just described simplicity. If we were to ascribe simplicity to inductivism, we could say that it is very much alike occam’s razor, where only the most likely hypothesis should be privileged before all others. While this is perfectly logical, we cannot assume that our ideas are good because they are simple. On the contrary, ideas that appear simple can very much be considered complex to another person and vice versa. The idea of a complex thought is that it requires much meditation and perhaps even a withdrawal from society, to sit down and ponder.

In 2016, not many of us can attest to wanting or even needing to sit down and ponder the things which we consider simple, whether they truly are the best solutions. As a matter of fact, it is part of our survival instinct, as human beings, to seek out simpler outcomes to questions we ask ourselves. Note that I do not say “solution”, because the “solution” is often considered to be a breaking point from the past. When we seek an outcome that is favourable to us, willingly, consciously, we favor simplicity over complexity.

Complexity, inversely, seeks to either complexify what is already simple, in order to deconstruct the meaning behind the things which make the idea simple, which will allow this idea to be both understandable in simple and complex terms. For example, we will speak of “simple truths”, things that we consider not worth discussing.

It is a simple truth, that in society, poor people end being the majority of crime statistics and prison populations.

It is a simple fact that the earth is round. 

In the book “Art of Being Right”, by Schopenhauer, the philosopher, there is a specific stratagem of argumentation that he presents as such.

Stratagem 2 – The Homonymy

I will give two examples of the homonymy.
Example 1. — A.: “You are not yet initiated into the mysteries of the
Kantian philosophy.”
B.: “Oh, if it’s mysteries you’re talking of, I’ll have nothing to do with

That is often the reaction that we have, when introduced to complex ideas that would not necessarily threaten us, but at least force us into contemplative meditation, while we begin to interrogate ourselves on it. A comforting “simple fact” is then placed in juxtaposition to this mystery, to this notion of Kantian philosophy being too complex to even bother sitting down and having a chat about it.

Argument B, in this case, is rejecting the position of A, by saying that “mysteries” are thus inherently not worth speaking of. We attach to “complexity” an inherently negative attribute, as if to say that things that are complex take too much time and are not worth discussing. Nowadays, we could say that this is “anti-intellectualism”, in order to simplify what I am saying here, ironically, but intellectual discussion notwithstanding, it is important for every person to periodically interrogate themselves on received ideas.

There is indeed much difficulty in apprehending Kantian philosophy, to keep going with this example, but if one would like to disregard it based on the fact that it is complex, then it would perhaps be best to be humble and admit that they are not. Disregarding a complex idea because it is not simple serves only to say that we have reached the limits of our intellect. We should inquire further.

Things that are complex necessarily lead to simple things, and vice-versa. It is not a worthy argument to disregard something based on the complexity or the simplicity, but one should be questioned as to why one does not accept certain ideas based on these criteria. It is quite possible that a simple idea might be the best, but to always seek out the simplest answer, instead of asking yourself the question, honestly, you think in simple formats and thus you become a simple person.

When complex things will be run by you, you will disregard them and prefer your simple ideas or the things that you have already simplified in your mind, as being the most worthy point of view to approach. It would then be wise to consider reaching out and with the help of the complex or the simple one, reach an understanding which benefits both simplicity and complexity.

Similarly, a person that prefers to think of complex things, will look at simple things in disdain and perhaps disregard that which is simple.If my earlier reasoning is true, that person has thus become simple. An intellectual is as likely to become simple-minded as the one he considers to be as such. We should be careful, in that case, never to underestimate the power of bias, and at least look at the other with interest, until they have proven to be wrong or right, but we should not presume that because an idea is simple or complex, that it has more value than one that is not.



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