A.S. analytic and systemic definitions I mainly used from here, but there might be more general or specific meanings I am not aware of that is not covered in that link

(Definition: A "chunk" is a structural concept. It is in some way like a logical atom but also generalise to system entities where a concept is due to integration of many parts into the whole hence cannot be segmented. What makes "chunk" different from "non chunks" is that regardless of what scale where it is irreducible, its interaction with other concepts can be described, that is, "chunks" and their interactions can be described using relations akin to drawing a mind map or flow chart or any kind of structural reasoning approaches.

"Non chunks" are non structural. They cannot be described in terms of relations. The best we know about them is they give some outcome when they interact with something, but we cannot describe how the outcome arises and there is in general no correlation between the possible outcomes

A good way to decide whether something is a "non chunk" is whether you can make power point slides based on it and the presentation ends up looking structural. Non chunk's generally indescribable property makes this practically impossible because there is nothing you can consider as an anchor to the subject

Another way to think about "non chunks" is that their non structural nature often preclude them to have a word description. A dictionary entry of a "non chunk" probably either have vague words, or maybe just a picture with no words as its definition

Some "non chunk" examples include (romantic) love and the indescribable captivating feature of Mona Lisa as mentioned in Cort Ammon's answer, as well that exhaustive list near the end of the question)

This question had been a long curiosity to me, given that for nearly all disciplines of knowledge I have came across such as natural science, social science, arts, culture, commerce can all be learnt and understood by expressing the key ideas in a "chunky" way,

and my mind is so geared towards analytic thinking (that one of my friend said I probably have modeled continental philosophy in an analytic way by expressing the concepts as a function that depends on many parameters to take account of context), that I am having trouble learning how to think non analytically

Take for example in chemistry, you have a chemical reaction


Here you can understood this in terms of "chunks" like:

  1. Chemical elements,e.g. H, O and their properties (atomic no. ,electronics etc.)
  2. Interactions, e.g. electrostatic attractions, orbitals, energies etc.

In arts, say I want to make a sculpture, then some of the "chunks" are

  1. Ideas: What I want or intended to express
  2. Elements: Color, texture, configurations etc.
  3. Materials: Metal, acrylic, Styrofoam
  4. Method: Printing, painting, machining etc.
  5. Choice of site: Parks, shopping centre tc.
  6. Interpretations: How the meaning of the artwork is dependent on the time, audience, culture etc. it is presented

In management, you worry about "chunks" like

  1. Parties involved: E.g. leaders, the employees, the production line etc.
  2. Factors such as profit, resources, economics, culture, work atmosphere etc.

In biology, you have more complex systems, but they are still quite "chunky"

  1. Superorganisms such as slime molds (which is an aggregate of amoeba moving collectively) and ant colonies. They had to be treated as one entity at such level but otherwise its interaction with the surroundings can still be treated as if they are individual objects

  2. The ecosystem and human impacts on it, how it is "chunky" in that it is linked to things like pest, antibiotic resistance, changes in the microbiome

  3. Emergent phenomenon like dissipative systems in biological system that are not in thermodynamic equilibrium

In complex systems, while you have large graphs showing the network of two the systems joined together, you can still characterise it in a chunky way like

  1. The feedback loops
  2. The nodes and the connections etc.

In writing a story, you have a narrative, characters, settings, which in turn depends in a complex way to the culture, the background of the writer, the intentions. History, Archaeology, Paleontology etc. also have similar "chunky" elements such as the excavated object, the chemical analysis, the history, folklore etc.

And in physics, we have highly nonlocal and highly holistic "chunks" such as a quantum entangled system, and physics phenomenon can be checked with experiments, which are also chunky because it is step by step

There's also religion, philosophy itself, language, politics (though messy because you need to take account of bias) etc. that also are quite "chunky" (skipped else the post will become too long)

And finally, in recent years, there has been a growing trend of companies from different disciplines collaborating together, thus you have "chunks" of knowledge in each disciplines all interacting and mixing with each other as new ideas are generated


So just with the example, one can see the success in the combined multidiscipline approach that make use of concepts like systemics, reduction, induction, holism, deduction, emergentism, top down, bottom up approaches in educating and learning

But then, all of the above have one thing in common: They are all algorithmic ways to deal with "chunks", thus they are technically analytic, right?

But we have concepts like:

(romantic) love, life (as in living), daily chores, emotions, intuitions/gut feelings, leap of faith, etc. and most importantly, Experience (and qulia) that are not chunky because not only we cannot describe or derive them fully into or from some simpler "chunks" (so it fails the analytic approach),

even if we treat them as irreducible system level entities, we still have no way, not even a statistical pattern in how the outcomes when they interact with other concepts are governed (thus systemics also failed to satisfactory describe them), thus they seemed to be nonlocal or something more general at all scales

My question is then:

What are the widely accepted ways of thinking that is not algorithmic (completely on the opposite end of the spectrum of my usual thinking process), i.e. not any of the following:

Holism, systemics, reduction, induction, holism, deduction, emergentism, top down, bottom up approaches, multidicipline

that can give insights on the concepts I listed above such as Experience?

  • 1
    By asking what is the opposite of this exhausting list of highly structured subjects, you're setting yourself up for nonsense answers. By what system can you even determine the meaning of opposite? Except by another system! – xtian Sep 2 '15 at 22:54
  • Yeah, I think this is going to bring out some really crazy answers. I think what you're trying to ask is "What exactly is a non-analytic method of thinking?" which is at least a live question to ask in philosophy. – virmaior Sep 3 '15 at 0:36
  • @virmaior That is precisely what I want to ask, but I lack terms to describe it properly. My mind is just so used to structural thinking that I seriously have problem understand how non analytic non structural people think (e.g. some writers, artists) and I suspect there are some non crazy examples out there that I can learn to boost my cognitive capabilities furthers to solve nontrivial problems. The problem is that I could have done google search, but without the names of those thinking process, I don't know how to find them since structural thinking are more common hits and you will expect – Secret Sep 3 '15 at 0:47
  • to bump to them more if you try to brute force search – Secret Sep 3 '15 at 0:51
  • If you feel you're lacking in the terminological base necessary to find what you're looking for I suggest you begin at the beginning--in classics. Trace the root of the divide between nature/civilization through art/science until you build up the semantic framework necessary to question those areas of analytic thinking which you currently enjoy some expertise. I believe you've posed the question so strongly that no single non-analytic method (your terms) seem satisfying as an answer--failing the more rudimentary confounding I mentioned above. – xtian Sep 3 '15 at 10:22

For one answer, consider that you wrote all of that without providing a definition of "chunk." How can I algorithmically process your question to generate an answer without a clear definition of "chunk?"

For a second answer, consider thoughts of love. People say "When you're in love, you'll know it." Any attempt to think about love from that mindset cannot be analytical.

For a third, and more analytical answer, some topics defy the segmentation you suggest can always be done. These things exhibit gestalt behavior: the whole is different from the sum of its parts. When the majority of the value of a thing is actually not the parts, but found in the integration of the many parts into a whole, such analytical thinking becomes harder, or even impossible.

As an example of that, consider your section on art:

In arts, say I want to make a sculpture, then some of the "chunks" are
Ideas: What I want or intended to express
Elements: Color, texture, configurations etc.
Materials: Metal, acrylic, Styrofoam
Method: Printing, painting, machining etc.
Choice of site: Parks, shopping centre tc.
Interpretations: How the meaning of the artwork is dependent on the time, audience, culture etc. it is presented

Now go find a single art critic who agrees with the implication that this is a complete decomposition of a work of art, from which one can determine its artfulness. Much of art, if not all of art, is painted between the lines, not on them. Yes we can decompose a sculpture as you suggest, but it would not be decomposed along the lines of any art critic's way of thinking. In doing so, it would lose all value.

Take the Mona Lisa. What captures people's [analytical] minds is just how hard it is to say what is captivating about it. As hard as they try, they cannot divide her into "chunks" which account for her mystery.

  • Chunk definition added to OP, but otherwise you revealed some of the sources of "non chunks" I can research further (maybe I should friend an art critic?). This is why it is hard for me to comprehend "non chunks" because I often lack the words to describe it, or in extreme cases like the mona lisa example, it probably lack a structural description to convey what exactly it looks like – Secret Sep 3 '15 at 1:47
  • I have a similar curse of loving analytical thought, so I'm familiar with how hard it is to provide wordings. One thing you might explore: while you can likely describe the mona lisa with a bit-stream describing the atoms on the canvas, from left to right, that form fails to capture the concept of beauty. I have, personally, found definitions of such beauty to be rooted in class theory, and adamantly refuses to be simplified to a set theory based definition. This drastically limits the ability to use language to describe it analytically, using formal language. – Cort Ammon Sep 3 '15 at 2:50
  • Another approach you can look at is to approach everything as analytically as you please, but recognize that what you define as "X" is not necessarily exactly the same thing as what someone else defines as "X," and there may not be an analytical way to align them. In such a case, "non-analytic-method-of-thinking" may mean different things to you and I. Under your meaning, it may be the empty set, under mine is may not be empty. It may not be possible to identify a sufficient set of axioms with which allow us to prove whose definition is "true." – Cort Ammon Sep 3 '15 at 3:05
  • Under that approach, it becomes valid to have "chunks" that indeed capture these integrated concepts, for which you have no analytical wording which can be used to reproduce that "chunk." As long as the chunk is available to you, you can use it to do analytical thought on topics such as "love." If it leaves you (as thoughts often do if you can't write them down), then you simply have to get used to not being able to do analytical thought on that topic anymore. – Cort Ammon Sep 3 '15 at 3:08
  • hmm... chunks that cannot be derived (above), art critic's worldview and the root of the nature/civillisation divide... sounds like something I can look up more to learn more about this rather unfamiliar territory of thinking.... – Secret Sep 3 '15 at 12:20

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