Convergent thinking, divergent thinking

G.N.M. Tyrell has put forward the terms “divergent” and “convergent" to distinguish problems which cannot be solved by logical reasoning from those that can. Life is being kept going by divergent problems which have to be “lived" and are solved only in death. Convergent problems on the other hand are man’s most useful invention; they do not, as such, exist in reality, but are created by a process of abstraction. When they have been solved, the solution can be written down and passed on to others, who can apply it without needing to reproduce the mental effort necessary to find it. If this were the case with human relations—in family life, economics, politics, education, and so forth—well, l am at a loss how to finish the sentence. There would be no more human relations but only mechanical reactions; life would be a living death. Divergent problems, as it were, force man to strain himself to a level above himself; they demand, and thus provoke the supply of, forces from a higher level, thus bringing love, beauty, goodness, and truth into our lives. It is only with the help of these higher forces that the opposites can be reconciled in the living situation.

The physical sciences and mathematics are concerned exclusively with convergent problems. That is why they can progress cumulatively, and each new generation can begin just where their forbears left off. The price, however, is a heavy one. Dealing exclusively with convergent problems does not lead into life but away from it.


This impoverishment, so movingly described by Darwin, will overwhelm our entire civilisation if we permit the current tendencies to continue which Gilson calls "the extension of positive science to social facts." All divergent problems can be turned into convergent problems by a process of “reduction." The result, however, is the loss of all higher forces to ennoble human life, and h e degradation not only of the emotional part of our nature, but also, as Darwin sensed, of our intellect and moral character. The signs are everywhere visible today.

small-is-beautifulp. 75–6

cf U(nitary) vs R(eduction) procedures in emperors-new-mind.

Look up G.N.M. Tyrell, Gilson(?).

Life - divergent / death - convergent.

Like most conversations and most chess games, we all start off the same and we all end the same, with a brief moment of difference in between. Fertilization to fertilizer. Ashes to ashes. And we spark across the gap.

Brian Christian [(most-human-human)]


emperors-new-mind Penrose, Roger. 1999. The Emperor's New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds, and the Laws of Physics. Oxford University Press. ↩︎ 1

small-is-beautiful Schumacher, Ernst Friedrich. 2001. Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics as If People Mattered. Random House. ↩︎ 1

most-human-human Christian, Brian. 2011. The Most Human Human: What Talking with Computers Teaches Us About What It Means to Be Alive. Doubleday. ↩︎ 1 2 3 4