It is not a very uncommon feeling in us, that of feeling the nature of the world too hard, too complex, too unattainable. Is there any philosophical reasoning in this matter or at least a name to use for Googling?

I am not even sure where this feeling is rooted although it is related to the previous description.

  • 1
    Related, but limited to math : Inexhaustibility: A Non-Exhaustive Treatment by T.Franzen. Jul 30 '18 at 6:49
  • Too hard for what? Too complex for what? Too unattainable in what regard? Voting To Close because the question is just a mess.
    – MichaelK
    Jul 31 '18 at 16:49
  • @MichaelK in regards to find an order...
    – user29573
    Jul 31 '18 at 16:51
  • it's madness, sorry i mean don't preface anything like that
    – user34105
    Jul 31 '18 at 17:15
  • @santimirandarp What do you mean "to find an order"? You are next to rambling, just throwing expressions into a pile without explaining what you mean by them. Just because an expression is clear to you in your mind does not automatically mean it is clear to everyone. Express yourself in complete statements and not just in this stream-of-consciousness style, because that is only confusing to everyone else.
    – MichaelK
    Jul 31 '18 at 17:33

I'm surprised nobody addressed the discipline that was specifically created to address complexity: the systems theory.

Not only the universe is highly complex to be understood by a single person. Perhaps all the science, technology and art behind a mobile phone or a modern car cannot be known by a single person. Don't talk about huge events or commercial organizations.

But the systems theory allows us to addressing a single, huge, enormous problem in parts, in a formal way, with a method, and a theoretical base. I act sometimes a systems engineer and that's precisely my job: bring me a complex problem and I will tell you how to address it. Probably you've heard that the pizza can be cut in slices in hundreds of ways. Every solution responds to a need. The same happens with systems. If you want to read music and don't know where to start, you can be blocked for years, until someone tells you how to split the problem in adequate parts. Big, unsolvable problems are always made of small solvable problems. Small problems can even be addressed by teams or specialists, experienced precisely on small problems.

A light version of the systems theory is this commercial current that addressed problems in this way, without the formality, without any theoretical framework, no holistic or reductionistic considerations. That is called systems thinking.

And if you feel anguish because there is a lot to learn, take a deep breath. You will not learn everything. Not even all scientists in history will be able to explain everything. But there are two ways of solving the anguish: you can be an specialist (somebody who knows everything about nothing) or a generalist (somebody who knows nothing about everything). You don't have enough time in your life? Try increasing your personal productivity, developing all abilities to be faster in everything you do. That is something few people practice. It is actually multiplying your lifetime.

  • Your first part is quite similar to Descartes' method! I am a generalist, I suppose. Thanks a lot for the post and advices.
    – user29573
    Aug 3 '18 at 19:46

Complexity and explanation

The following quotaton addresses the problem(s) I think your question is about :

The world of naive experience is complex in the highest degree; we are confronted with a crowded, constantly-changing realm of phenomena in which, even when some kind of order has been introduced by the unconscious formation of concepts, no event repeats itself and regularities are obvious only in the loosest sense. It is the business of science to find units in terms of which this welter of activity, or at least a part of it, may be rationally explained. In so doing it reduces the complexity of the world as understood by us (which is different from the world as experienced by us, and different again from the theory in terms of which we understand it). At the same time the theoretician is working on the combination of simple, not necessarily observed, elements into logically more complex calculi containing defined terms, many-placed predicates, and so on. The optimum will occur when these two processes - the increase in complexity of theory, and the decrease in complexity of the world - meet each other, and the logical complexity is of the same order as the physical complexity it is to explain. This physical complexity is, of course, relative to the units into which the world is analyzed; a forest regarded as composed of trees is a far less complex event than the same forest regarded as composed of plant cells, and the theoretical complexity of plant ecology need not therefore be as great, to deal with the forest adequately, as the theoretical complexity of cytology would have to be. In practice of course the latter would be prohibitive, so that cytologists do not deal with forests, any more than physicists deal with international relations. The question whether it would be possible in principle for the laws of social change to be "reduced" to the laws of physics, and the associated problems of emergence, holism, and gestalt theory, will not be gone into here. [It is an open question : GT.] (Peter Caws, 'Science, Computers, and the Complexity of Nature', Philosophy of Science, Vol. 30, No. 2 (Apr., 1963), pp. 158-164 : 161-2.)

Reduction of complexity

The proper response to your question appears to be that at the level of 'a crowded, constantly-changing realm of phenomena ... [where] no event repeats itself and regularities are obvious only in the loosest sense', there is zero to negligible chance of explaining the whole or even portions of it.

In contrast, if you go along with science in the twofold task of re-describing, re-conceptualising, the world in less complex terms and increasing the complexity of theory to match this re-conceptualised world, there are no apriori limits to what can be explained.


The world is not complicated at the level of principles. Complexity is emergent and, accordingly, metaphysics is profoundly simple. I'd mostly agree with the answer given by SonofThought but would add that in the 'Eastern' or 'non-dual' view the reason the world cannot be disentangled by the (unaided) intellect is that it is too simple. It would be a Unity and as such cannot be thought. Plotinus uses the word 'Simplex'.

If we begin with this simple view then we will be armed with basic principles and all the emergent complexity can be explained by reference to them. If we do not have the principles then the complexity will overwhelm us.

If complexity evolves by a process of symmetry-breaking then it can be simplified by mending them. Eventually they are all unbroken and we achieve maximal simplicity. At this point the world is too simple for the intellect to think. One mathematician (while discussing the history of zero as a concept) likens this ur-state to an ice-wall on which the intellect can gain no purchase. It is not complexity that defeats us but simplicity.

The complexity of academic philosophy might seem to suggest otherwise but this is clearly not a consequence of an understanding of philosophy. The important question is not whether philosophy as often practiced is complicated, of course it is, but whether it would seem complicated to someone who understands it. There is a noteworthy simplicity to the metaphysical writings of those who claim a metaphysical or fundamental understanding and this suggests that complexity is superficial and is an intellectual artefact of not grasping how simple the world really is.

Is chess a complicated game? In a way it is, but in another way it could hardly be simpler.


Complexity is the province of engineering. A prime purpose of engineering is managing complexity. One of the primary tools of doing this is multiple levels of abstractions.

The level of abstraction you use is selected by the task you are attempting. This allows you to focus your attention at the level and on the information that you need to accomplish the task.

Example: Suppose you want to understand traffic patterns on a highway. It is unlikely to be useful to attempt to do it through the principles of quantum mechanics (QM) and the interactions of atoms and molecules. Yes, as PeterJ mentioned, at the level of principles, physics is simple. The rules that guide QM can be stated on a t-shirt. But that is unlikely to be the best way to understand how to design a highway interchange. This is the case even though QM is indeed the fundamental basis on which the traffic patterns are built.

However, if you attempt to understand traffic patterns based on the behavior and capability of individual cars and drivers, you are much more likely to get some kind of useful answer.

Another example: Suppose you want to understand the correct operation of the video record feature on your brand new smartphone. It is unlikely to be useful to start at a discussion of the electronics and such that go on inside the phone. It will be distracting from the task.

Another example: If you want to bake a cake, you are unlikely to be happy by starting with the theory of gravity and the motion of planets. Even though it is gravity that keeps your cooking materials resting on your kitchen table, that isn't the place to focus your attention. You are going to be a lot happier with starting with a recipe and some understanding of how to operate your oven.

And an example with a built in reference: If you want to explain how to make a really good cup of tea, it is unlikely that the best plan is to start with a history of the East India Co. It will, for most circumstances, be a huge distraction.

  • Using engineering as a prime example is arbitrary. Engineering is about technical solutions to practical problems. There are practical problems that have (only) non-technical solutions, i.e. problems of ethics, and there are theoretical problems that are part of this world. Excluding other sciences and philosophy thus seems not only arbitrary but even ignorant to me. The mode of engineering - which is basically using abstraction and sufficiently exact heuristics for the task at hand - is prominent in all human endeavour.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Aug 1 '18 at 14:43
  • @PhilipKlöcking Your understanding of engineering as being "about technical solutions" is arbitrary and ignorant.
    – user34017
    Aug 1 '18 at 15:41

Does the complexity of the world defeat explanation?

If this question is whether it is difficult to find out an explanation for the complexity? or whether it is difficult to overcome the complexity. The answer is "No".

If it is to analyze the complexity and to solve it, the answer is "Yes"...it defeats explanation.

If there is a consciousness behind everything and that consciousness itself is the thing that make you feel as you said, that must be the reason for this.

  1. You just think this way: If everybody always feels the nature of the world as lenient, simple and attainable while you (or others) are in duality, what sort of a world would it be? Wouldn't it be something boring?

  2. But every life is precious. They must 'reach the place' where they 'started from' (in the end)...or...must know their true nature. (You might have heard about some great men who had experienced the most wonderful sparks of this truth. FYI, the quest can be seen in people at varied levels; including you. That is why you asked this question.) And at the same time the secret of 'this life' must be hidden within itself.

To occur these two (1 & 2) simultaneously, the nature of the world must be felt as too hard, too complex and too attainable.

This hardness, complexity, unattainability etc is actually (termed as) 'Maya'. To answer this question clearly, one must have seen the 'thing' beyond 'Maya'.

If you google Eastern philosophy, you might get some ideas regarding this. You will not get a direct answer to this question from anywhere. You will have to create the idea by yourself. Though I didn't find this answer anywhere I am sure that you will be able to formulate an idea from Eastern philosophy.

The following links will be helpful to get a clear idea about complexity you mean in Eastern philosophy. If you go through these links first, there is a little hope...you will understand what I mentioned above. You will find the gravity of complexity in these links.




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