The Simple and the Complex

There is a concept in philosophy known as Occam’s Razor which holds, essentially, that if all other things are equal, the simplest explanation is likely to be the correct one. This concept helps cut through the layers of complexity that confront us when we try to understand the world around us and the role we play in it. There are benefits to this concept when it helps us avoid complexity that is simply developed by the human mind for the sake of apparent profundity, or for the purpose of baffling and misleading others.

At the same time, if we gaze with a clear vision at the world around us, we find that the “simplest” is frequently not fully able to address the reality of the universe.

Humans prefer simple explanations and thus, favor responses that are “black and white” rather than those that have subtlety and complexity of interactive and inter-related parts.

Nevertheless, the real world is not as simple as we may choose to view it. Whether we view the structure of the material universe and the action of subatomic particles, the inter-relationships of the innumerable forms of living beings in a symbiotic living web, or we view the human body with its numerous interactive organ systems and physiological functions that involve very finely tuned biochemical reactions, we find complexity everywhere. To truly understand the world and our lives, we therefore must be prepared to develop our understanding to both encompass simplicity to cut through verbal convoluted structures, and complexity when viewing the refined intelligence of the organisation of the universe.

Sri Aurobindo prefaces the new chapter with some thoughts on this issue: “But after all perhaps when we come to think more at large about the matter, we may find that Nature and Existence are not of the same mind as man in this respect, that there is here a great complexity which we must follow with patience and that those ways of thinking have most chance of a fruitful truth-yielding, which like the inspired thinking of the Upanishads take in many sides at once and reconcile many conflicting conclusions.”

As we move from a world-view that is both anthropocentric and earth-centric, to one that recognizes the much larger eco-sphere, bio-sphere and universe, we find that a global or even a universal view vastly expands our vision and understanding as we recognise and embrace more aspects of the universal creation.

Sri Aurobindo,