Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Analysis vs. Synthesis

From a cognitive perspective, system thinking integrates analysis and synthesis. 

The terms analysis and synthesis come from classical Greek and mean literally "to loosen up" and "to put together" respectively. These terms are used within most modern scientific disciplines - from mathematics and logic to economy and psychology - to denote similar investigative procedures. In the emergent digital world with the nature of hyper-connectivity and over-complexity, we have to leave our old mechanistic view of the world behind us and look at the world through new eyes as a world of systems as a living thing. So how would you describe the difference between analysis and synthesis and why is one better than the other?

Analysis and synthesis, as scientific methods, always go hand in handIn general, analysis is defined as the procedure by which you break down an intellectual or substantial whole into parts or components (loosen, untie, set apart). Synthesis is defined as the opposite procedure to combine separate elements or components in order to form a coherent whole (put together, combine, integrate). They complement one another. Every synthesis is built upon the results of a preceding analysis, and every analysis requires a subsequent synthesis in order to verify and correct its results. In this context, to regard one method as being inherently better than the other is meaningless.

From a cognitive perspective, system thinking integrates analysis and synthesis. System thinking bridges these two approaches by using both analysis and synthesis to create knowledge and understanding and integrating a holistic perspective. Analysis answers the ‘what’ and ‘how’ questions while synthesis answers the ‘why’ and ‘what for’ questions. Synthesis merges a dichotomy or in other words, the “for” and “against” perspectives, incorporate thesis and antithesis into a higher level of understanding where you synthesize and where both perspectives are incorporated. Analyses, on the contrary, are any objective understanding of a given or implied situation.

Analysis and synthesis are different "mental muscles" which serve different purposesEach providing a different kind of understanding of the phenomenon under consideration. Where it gets a bit more complicated, is that whereas inner skills concerned with analysis help us break things down into their components; synthesis seems to involve not only putting the bits together but blending them in such a way that the emergent whole is somehow more than the sum of its parts.

Analysis is pre-phase of synthesis. synthesis is the analysis' "goal."Human science, as a response to the use of positivistic methods for studying human phenomena, has embraced more holistic approaches, studying social phenomena through qualitative means to create meaning. (1) Analysis - to understand something that already "exists" (building a model of an existing system). (2) Synthesis - building something that does not exist (building a system according to the model) (3) Analysis may not be able to answer the why questions about a system. (4) Never attempt to improve a part of the system unless it improves the whole.

Analysis and synthesis always go hand in hand systematically and scientifically. There are, however, important situations in which one method can be regarded as more suitable than the other. They are both the critical thinking methodology in framing questions and problem-solving. Only through mastering both, one can see the world in the systematic and optimal way.


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