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4.) Seek simplicity, and distrust it (Alfred North Whitehead) Is this always good advice for a knower?

The search for a simple explanation, whether behind a scientific theory, mathematical equation or historical
event, does seem a reasonable one. It would be logical to assume that something appears complex
because underneath are many different components or factors that will fundamentally affect the way the
issue will be perceived and hence trusted. It would also be logical to suppose that a simple solution or
component might be at the heart of every complex matter which is built upon forming a more complicated
structure an example being the construction of a house. A house starts at humble beginnings as a pile of
bricks and cement, but once foundations are made and built upon then a whole maze of rooms can be built
and filled. For the house to be fully appreciated in all its construction, its components have to be
acknowledged and understood. Therefore, something complex takes much understanding of inherent factors
to reach a thorough explanation. However, Whitehead seems to be suggesting that to seek a simple solution
to a problem is a reasonable objective, but the solution reached through doing this, should not be trusted as
dependable. Then through doubting what seems to be the simplest explanation, a clearer and possibly more
truthful understanding can be found. It seems to extend Occams razor of All other things being equal, the
simplest solution tends to be the best one

but approaching this principle with scientific scepticism. But as a knower, should I always follow Whiteheads
advice and respond to all knowledge I gain with a degree of scepticism? Or is distrusting knowledge more of
a hindrance to my development than a benefit? We love things to be simple. Simple things are easy to
understand. They are clearer and less confusing. So when it comes to revising for a test for example, the
simplest topics will be the easiest to learn. I find it helps me when revising to break material down into simpler
bite-size chunks, because it is easy to feel over-faced by a complicated concept. Simplifying benefits us
greatly here, but in doing so our simplifications we can quite easily oversimplify which leads to inaccuracies.
We often fall in love with our simplifications an example being idolatry, especially in religion, where a one
sided concept can dominate over millions of people. But are people wrong in setting their hearts on what
seems a fairly straight forward religious concept they believe to be true? Well, As beautiful as simplicity is, it
can become a tradition that stands in the way of exploration

and this does seem to make sense. With simple solutions being appreciated more because they are less
ambiguous and more universally comprehensible, once one is derived, who

would want to complicate things by rejecting a perfectly plausible explanation but which may not necessarily
be true. And thus our knowledge development comes to a standstill, due to a desire not to over complicate.
So, if we inhibit our development by simplification, then surely we should avoid it particularly when
investigating in science for example or at least, we should distrust the simplicity that we achieve. The
scientific method follows a fairly simple structure: an investigation begins by a large number of unbiased
observations being made on some aspect of the world. Then a theory is created which attempts to explain
the pattern of results - if it is a good one, it will explain what is happening and what is likely to happen in the
future. If the future results dont fit with the predictions though, the theory is then modified to deal with them.
This is considered the simple view of the scientific method, but despite this method being simpler and well-
founded, it fails to recognise the limitations that exist in real life the simple view assumes that we make
observations without previous knowledge and our expectations affecting them; an assumption that is very
rarely, if at all, accurate. In Science we regularly generalise by assuming our theories will work in different
areas based on our observations, and there have been quite famous occasions where the simplest answer
has been achieved, trusted by scientists, but found to be flawed later on; one huge example being atomic
theory. John Dalton in the early 19th century developed his theory that each chemical element was
composed of atoms that were the smallest and simplest components of all matter and therefore were also
unbreakable. It is unclear as to how he reached this theory but when he used it, it allowed him to explain other
new discoveries in chemistry and it seemed very logical. Although parts of his theory were altered by other
scientists as time went on, the main concept of atoms being the smallest particle of life was accepted until
1897when J.J Thompson discovered subatomic particles whilst working with cathode rays. However, even
some of Thompsons theories were disproved as scientific investigation went on. In the pursuit of knowledge
in science therefore it would seem advisable to use Whiteheads scepticism. Although when a theory is
discovered and there is enough evidence there to support it, if accepted by the scientific community we
generally count it as knowledge. So many theories over the years have been updated or disproved with
discovery of new knowledge. Dalton looked for the simplest explanation for the composition of matter, but if
he was to distrust his explanation and investigate further, he might have discovered the sub units of the atom
that Thompson did to disprove his theory. However, by Dalton not doing this, he allowed others to add the
foundations of knowledge which is probably more beneficial because we build on previous knowledge more
quickly and from fresh perspectives. And also, despite his theory later being disproved, it worked in explaining
many things what we consider knowledge now, may later be disproved too, but does that make it less
useful to us in the present day?
The biggest drawback with simplicity is when it becomes a tradition that prevents further examination and
understanding. Simplicity is often associated with beauty possibly due to all the appeal it brings its
compactness and precision can be seen to be elegance. Occams razor can be used to identify the simpler
route leading to correctness or convenience (as he avoids unnecessary over complications) but also
aesthetics, beauty and morals. This association has been around for centuries when simplicity was thought to
be linked to religion and nature. Aristotle, an ancient Greek philosopher, associated simplicity with nature and
also truth and perfection stating that; "The more perfect nature is the fewer means it requires for its operation."

This of course is his personal aesthetic beliefs and for many, simplicity, whether it leads us to truthful answers
or not, is preferred because its beauty can be admired straightforwardly. However, something aesthetically
appealing will not always bring truth and that is the problem with craving simplicity for its beauty. A
mathematician making his formulae and workings neat and arranged in an organised manner is justified in
doing so if it is for the sake of beauty or easy reading, but this does not mean the equations are right are
wrong. In the same way aesthetics is subjective, simplicity is too what is seen as being simple will differ
between each person. Therefore there is a problem in defining what simplicity actually is because perception
is affected by our different backgrounds and experiences. There is more to seeing than meets the eyeball

. When we see something, or make an observation, our knowledge and presumptions of what we will see,
will undoubtedly affect what we actually do see. For instance, if I was to open the back of my watch, all I
would see is a jumble of small pieces of metal and battery. Whereas, a watchmaker looking at the same
watch would see patterns of connections and cogs moving round and so forth. The watchmakers knowledge
in this area or background beliefs, hence affect his perception of what he sees. Often when viewing art or
listening to music, we may think it looks or sounds simple but unless we are experienced in the area, we
cannot appreciate the effort required to reach that level of expertise to make a very complex piece with
many underlying ideas appear simple, at least at surface value takes a lot of skill. Being a musician myself
and having had years of lessons to take me through my flute grades, I can appreciate when listening to
flautists a challenging piece when I hear one based on things that I myself consider to be challenging whilst
playing; for example, complicated rhythms or especially higher notes that require strange fingering patterns.
However, simplicity cannot be said to be better than complexity and vice versa. In fact they quite often coexist
in the way we can confuse them with each other -simple methods may produce the most complex results.
So perhaps seeking

simplicity isnt always the simplest route and instead if we looked for complexity, we would consequently find
simplicity simplicity does not precede complexity, but follows it

In conclusion, simplicity may be appealing, but it can also be deceptive if we are just to accept knowledge
rather than searching for better explanations which would complicate matters, we will stop progressing in our
knowledge. Also, because our perceptions of simplicity will vary, continuously searching for our own
knowledge rather than relying solely on that of others, will keep us exploring and learning. Therefore,
Whitehead is valid in his advice to distrust the simplicity achieved. Nevertheless, in doing so we must be
wary not to reject knowledge just because of its complicated nature something complicated isnt necessarily
wrong.