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What is the word for a person who thinks there is always a simple solution to any given problem?

I have heard this term used before in an intellectual debate in the past, but cannot remember what it is.

The word itself may not have been used to actually refer to a type of person, but to the belief itself (I don't remember this detail either). It also may have been a noun or an adjective (probably a noun, imo), for all I remember.

Addendum 1: in the debate, the belief (or the person holding the belief) was presented as silly, a bit irrational, unrealistic

Addendum 2: the problems the debate was focused on primarily were more down-to-earth in their nature, though global problems were not excluded per se.

  • Maybe it would help if you could share with us briefly what the debate was and what the said person claimed. – NVZ Aug 1 '16 at 9:28
  • The debate was about how the average person goes about solving a problem, there is really not much more to say about the situation. – Michael Smith Aug 1 '16 at 9:47
  • @MichaelSmith It's best to wait at least 2 days before accepting any particular answer. Once you accept one, the question will fade away from the main screen and will not attract enough users. – NVZ Aug 1 '16 at 11:44

11 Answers 11

3

A good match should be simplisticODO

adjective Treating complex issues and problems as if they were much simpler than they really are: "simplistic solutions"

  • Here, the solutions are simplistic, not the person employing them. – Lightness Races with Monica Aug 1 '16 at 17:40
  • Agreed. "simplistic thinking" would be a better match. – Shorty Aug 1 '16 at 18:01
  • Bingo! I cannot be thankful enough for your answer. – Michael Smith Aug 3 '16 at 15:31
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Naive is associated with meanings you are looking for, but is maybe more strongly asserting that the simplicity of the person is due to their ignorance:

(Of a person or action) showing a lack of experience, wisdom, or judgement

(Of a person) natural and unaffected; innocent

Of or denoting art produced in a style which deliberately rejects sophisticated artistic techniques and has a bold directness resembling a child’s work, typically in bright colours with little or no perspective.

(Oxford dict)

Naif (or naïf) is the associated noun.

  • I like the word, but it certainly wasn't the one used. I have still upvoted the answer, though. – Michael Smith Aug 1 '16 at 9:50
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    Then maybe, you should try looking for the synonyms of "naive" :) – NVZ Aug 1 '16 at 10:00
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    I had looked them up in a thesaurus even before you wrote your comment, because I am not a naif :) – Michael Smith Aug 1 '16 at 10:09
4

How about Reductionism

Particularly the second definition given:

the practice of simplifying a complex idea, issue, condition, or the like, especially to the point of minimizing, obscuring, or distorting it.

  • 1
    This could be it. :) – NVZ Aug 1 '16 at 10:06
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    The term is from the realm of philosophy (which I like to think I know a tiny bit about), so I can assure you that reductionism has absolutely nothing to do with the belief I described in my question's body. – Michael Smith Aug 1 '16 at 10:14
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    You wouldn't have to simplify the idea if you always believed it was already simple enough. – Lightness Races with Monica Aug 1 '16 at 17:42
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Facile - MW

too simple : not showing enough thought or effort

Maybe more negative/insulting than what you were looking for.

1

How about,

Unsophisticated

adjective
1. not sophisticated; simple; artless.
2. without complexity or refinements: a relatively unsophisticated mechanism.

Ref dictionary.com

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IdealismODO

noun 1. The unrealistic belief in or pursuit of perfection

"We learned about the three ‘major’ sets of political beliefs - idealism, liberalism and realism."

IdealistODO

noun 1. A person who is guided more by ideals than by practical considerations
"he came to power with the reputation of a left-wing idealist"

IdealisticVocabulary

When you're idealistic, you dream of perfection, whether in yourself or other people. For example, you might have the idealistic goal of bringing an end to childhood poverty in the world.

The adjective idealistic describes someone whose plans or goals of helping others are lofty, grand, and possibly unrealistic. Do you think world peace is within reach? You're idealistic. If your vision of the world is idealistic, you believe all problems can be solved and that all people can reach their full potential. Idealistic comes from the Greek idea, or "ideal prototype."

  • The problems the debate was focused on primarily were more down-to-earth, though global problems were not excluded per se. I will make another addendum. – Michael Smith Aug 1 '16 at 10:00
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A simplicist? simplism being "the act or an instance of oversimplifying; especially : the reduction of a problem to a false simplicity by ignoring complicating factors" Merriam Webster

0

optimistic

1.)
disposed to take a favorable view of events or conditions and to expect the most favorable outcome.
-Dictionary.com

0

In the context of a debate I might expect to hear someone use Sophomoric to describe someone who in your first addendum.

from MW:

conceited and overconfident of knowledge but poorly informed and immature

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It doesn't quite match, but "populist" might be close to what you are looking for. To call something or someone "populist" is to imply that their ideas are simplistic and calculated to appeal to many people, even though a thoughtful or detailed analysis will show that they are flawed. An example is blaming economic problems on an unpopular ethnic group, and suggesting that the solution is therefore to get rid of that group.

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Parsimonious or parsimony in philosophy is the belief that, all things equal, the simplest solution (I.e the fewest entities / physical things) is the best solution ( in-line with Occam's razor).

Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy

Ontological simplicity, or parsimony, measures the number of kinds of entities postulated by the theory.

  • That's not what it means. Parsimony is an unwillingness to expend more than is required (usually money). – Lightness Races with Monica Aug 1 '16 at 17:41
  • Not for philosophy – user188239 Aug 1 '16 at 17:42
  • Yes, even in philosophy. Having a tendency to simplify is not the same as having a belief that this will always be possible. – Lightness Races with Monica Aug 1 '16 at 17:42
  • I should add the condition that all things equal parsimony is the belief that the simplest solution is best – user188239 Aug 1 '16 at 17:46

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