E.F. Schumacher on divergent problems…
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 neediing 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, I am at a loss how to finish the sentence. There would be no more human relations but only mechanical relations; 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 provide the suplly 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 why 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.
…All divergent problems can be turned into convergent ones by a process of “reduction”. The result however is the loss of all higher forces to ennoble human life, and the degradation not only of the emotional part of our nature, but also, of our intellect and moral character.