Musings on Mormonism

Simple principles in a complex world

This is not going to be some didactic blurb, as my posts often are. Rather, I’d like to pose an idea and get other people’s thoughts on the matter. So, I have learned from my studies of history, psychology, philosophy, and my general observations of people and society that we live in a world of complexity. However, my studies and observations have also taught me, in conjunction with my spiritual experiences and earnest applications of religious teachings, that there exist relatively simple principles to make sense of the world and forge a path forward through the jungles of complexity. This paradox of complexity and simplicity has been a continual source of wonder and interest for me, and has led me to form a maxim which I hope you, the reader, can take the time to evaluate and comment on:

“One of life’s greatest intellectual challenges is to discover and appropriately and effectively apply general, seemingly simple principles to a varied and complex world.”

What are your thoughts, people?


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  1. * hydralisk says:

    Zugman, good to see your blog active!

    My thought would be that application of simple principles is straightforward enough, it’s choosing (or even remembering) the appropriate one for the occasion that’s tricky. Since we are determined to avoid complexity as much as we can!

    | Reply Posted 10 years, 9 months ago
  2. Well said. Our failure is that we labor at searching for specific, complex principles to solve simple issues that plague the world.

    | Reply Posted 10 years, 9 months ago
  3. * zugman says:

    Thanks for the comments!

    Hydralisk, I agree that the choice of which principles to apply is typically the hardest part of important decisions (e.g. Iraq: should we minimze loss of American lives by pulling out or should we pay the price to support a strategic ally?). However, I’m not sure whether we should necessarily avoid complexity as much as possible. True, complexity does make decision-making confusing and even physically, mentally, and emotionally draining, but I think the importance of a decision can justify wading through the muck, so to speak. I imagine you would probably agree with this analysis.

    Herman, that’s an interesting take on my original statement! I guess what you’re saying is that we often make our decisions unnecessarily complicated in addressing what are actually uncomplicated issues. That’s a little bit different from what I was saying, but I believe it is very often true, at least in our personal lives. It could also be argued that the “issues plaguing the world” are indeed just the sum of the problems of individual people, and thus that simple solutions are really what the world needs. I’m definitely sympathetic to such a stance. However, I do think the complexity of an issue is a function of how many people are involved (e.g. planning a family trip for a large family is more complex than planning for just a couple). Then again, as a Latter-day Saint, I do believe that problems in the world arise from our personal departures from God-given principles. So are problems in the world simple or are they complex? Hmmm…

    | Reply Posted 10 years, 9 months ago

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