Thinking About Concept Systems

Feb 1, 2010 – 2:23 am – draft – really rough – lots of as-yet un-integrated and un-resequenced bits, pieces, notes, and tangential comments – the usual fair warning – 😉

Thinking about how we evaluate concepts, concept systems, solutions, and decision alternatives.  The concept of “Ockham’s Razor” — as a meta-concept for evaluating and choosing among other concepts, alternatives, solutions, plans, etc. — arose again and gave rise to an interesting interchange first about what the principle says and then about where and how to apply it and how it might relate to other similar ideas.

After months of not noticing it, I finally noticed recently that a twitter friend had an interesting  username.  It reminded me about the “Ockham’s Razor” idea I’d heard invoked once or twice in recent years.  It took me back to some favorite old lines of thinking about how to decide among competing concepts or concept systems in any area of life and how to decide among and use criteria and processes for reaching various types of decisions within various areas of life.

[hmm … maybe the two are not different … have to think about it … like i said, this is a draft … skip this part unless you like this kind of stuff … 🙂 … issue is, on the one hand, concepts like, ‘earth flat’ vs. ‘earth round’ and ‘earth around sun’ vs. ‘sun around earth’ and ‘spiritual/religious/experience/faith systems’ choice of *concept systems* that are more along the lines of how we view reality compared to, on the other hand, concepts, concept systems, and processes like “return on investment” and “what career to choose” and “what spouse to choose” and “what car to buy” and “what style to have” and other *decisions/alternatives/solutions* within a given shared or personal reality system/worldview … as i was first writing that sentence, i was pretty sure they were different processes, even when both are done consciously, but, the thought arrived that, if i take the time to think them through, they might be the same overall, only different in emphasis … hey, i said this was a draft! … what happened is i thought i was stating something i knew and this “tangential” line of thinking turned out to contain part of the deeper heart of the issue … an old friend (eg or LS) would say, at this point, “bothering ude’s”, which is related to what any good scientist (like rac) would think of as seemingly small exceptions or objections to the main line of argument or current understanding or science that are the clues to next deeper level of comprehensive breakthrough solution/concept … great … now the tangential argument coming from the tangential argument is becoming an interesting central part of the argument … 🙂 … not unusual in this verbalizing intuition game … that’s a whole discussion too …  ]


notes.  bits and pieces to work with later maybe.


Validity, Correctness, Truth – what’s the difference? – science vs. religion, good science vs. better science — “the truth” vs. “a concept with greater or lesser explanatory and/or predictive power.”

Utility, Efficiency, Effectiveness – what’s the difference? – John Stuart Mill, Peter Drucker — “Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things” – Drucker

Validity vs.  truth – science, Eli Goldratt TOC

Minimum number of simplest concepts that provide the maximum explanatory and predictive power – my phrasing of some science and toc basics.


range of validity, range of circumstances over which a concept, word, word meaning, or solution is valid – my verbalization and application of some toc basics

priorities, scale of importance, range of circumstances over which an importance scale is valid – my verbalization of some toc basics


business system – simplest solution that gives best relationship of prioritized results to be achieved and resources to be used


Ptolemy and Copernicus.  Sun and the earth.  Who orbits whom?  Simplicity as a measure of a concept’s utility, effectiveness, validity?, correctness?, truth?


“simplest solution is usually the most correct” – a smart friend’s verbalization of “ockham’s razor”.

“a simpler solution is to be preferred over a more complex solution unless the more complex solution provides sufficient additional benefits” – dr. richard paul hamilton’s verbalization of “ockham’s razor”.

wonder what the original source is for “ockham’s razor”?  who was ockham?  real/fictional? anything written on it?

ok, there’s a wikipedia article’s_razor


other decision stuff – ben franklin’s decision method, value of perfect information, decision trees with percentages, mit systems analysis, peter senge, the corporate method in the 70’s and 80’s with two last names lastname-lastname … no, not myers-briggs, that was something different, that was personality typology and compatibility predicting … the one i’m trying to remember was specifically a decision method … a flawed decision method, but dominant at the time … had a system of giving numerical priorities to issues and then percentage weightings and then calling for the people on the project/decision team to vote at each step and then add everything up for the decision … that’s ok if just getting to any decision that’s accepted by everybody is good enough … but when getting to the RIGHT decision for the present and anticipated circumstances is needed, strong cause and effect *thinking* in needed, not just listing pros and cons and adding up numbers like this was … can’t remember the name/names … moving on, covey was good at what it tried to do … toc still better on analysis, planning, and decision … cybernetics graham allison et al had some good aspects … what else?  been a while … btw, toc is still the best if you’re only going to learn one … and still the best if you’re going to learn two … toc will keep the other one on point and on course within its range of validity and take over smoothly anyplace else the correct thinking needs to go … toc’s also still the best if you’re going to learn 10 … same role … keep the team/teams using tools correctly, on the right problems, and within their validity ranges, and take over and fill in the gaps where the others leave off … and, once again, if you’re only going to learn one, it’s the one that’ll serve you well even if you don’t have to or don’t want to learn and use others … the reason i’m biased is, well, it’s just plain true … ethan  hunt knows … detective columbo knows … s&b know … papacolata sez yep … no? yes? … hey, how about those red sox! … 😉 …


maybe come back to this …

22 Mar 2010 – kepner-tregoe was the name I couldn’t remember.  frank: agree!

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