Tuesday 19 December 2017

We need simplicity - Why?

Because we need to be able to grasp the essence whole and instantly.

Only then can we know...

(This applies everywhere, even in science: the highest creative breakthroughs are experienced as utterly simple. The complex justifications, explications and implications are merely for those who don't really understand.)


Anonymous said...

Are "simple" and "that which we can grasp the essence of whole and instantly" different ways of saying the same thing?

If so, then perhaps all knowledge is simple, in principle. To say something is complex means that we have only grasped the essence partially.

Or do you view complex knowledge as a rare possibility?

Ben said...

All the nasty latticework and and tangled wires is probably evil, panicked, appalled, and trying to cover up the small openings in real truth we get.

Chiu ChunLing said...

Complex knowledge must inevitably depend on simple knowledge.

Take math. Math proceeds to great complexity, but it always has to proceed from a small set of simple, intuitively known, premises. To simply accept something in full, infinite complexity without reducing any of it to extremely simple basic elements is to forgo anything that could be called "knowledge". Knowledge requires boolean assertions about whether given things are true or false. To only experience reality without identifying any particulars of which one can say "true" or "false" is not to know.

In fact, it is not even to experience, since whether or not you are experiencing something is one of those simple fundamental elements.

Bruce Charlton said...

I would add that to understand the whole, it needs to be understood in the same way and sense that the parts are understood - otherwise we understand the parts but not the whole (given that - outside of maths, which is tautological/ abstract/ not-real-world-phenomenal, the whole is never merely the sum of its parts).

Chiu ChunLing said...

Simplicity does indeed exist irrespective of scale, as does complexity down to the scales we can usefully examine. To some degree we are subject to an illusion that the wholeness of an entity at a larger scale is necessarily dependent on the specifics of its smaller elements. In fact larger things are often complexes of smaller things...at least in physical terms. But the simplicity of a large thing exists regardless of the specific accidents of the small things which are physically contained within it. Take a galaxy. It seems stunningly vast and complex because when we think of billions (American sense, not British, but I'm not taking up "milliards") of stars, each with planets, imagining each planet as being as rich and diverse in some way as our own (or nearly so). But in everything essential we actually can discern about a galaxy as a whole all those star systems can be replaced with massive points that emit light. They don't need planets to function as a galaxy, they don't even need to be stars as we understand them. They only need to exert and react to gravity while emitting light.

Everything simple we can comprehend about an entire galaxy would be just as true if all the complexity that we happen to see at the lower levels were replaced with extreme simplicity. Of course, we assume the opposite because it is simpler to generalize what we can learn from local examples to the more distant insofar as we can see no express contradiction. And such simplicity is reasonable, so far as it goes.

The same thing applies to logical systems, we've discovered some truths that are about mathematical systems in general rather than about specific sets of premises. For instance, we now can prove that it's invalid to prove that a system is valid by assuming that it's valid. The ancients just had to take that for granted, or rather they intuited it as a simple truth about any set of premises, that proving the premises you'd already granted yourself proved nothing.