On Complexity

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., U.S. Supreme Court Justice and public intellectual, sits at his desk circa 1924. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Until lately the best thing that I was able to think of in favor of civilization, apart from blind acceptance of the order of the universe, was that it made possible the artist, the poet, the philosopher, and the man of science. But I think that is not the greatest thing. Now I believe that the greatest thing is a matter that comes directly home to us all. When it is said that we are too much occupied with the means of living to live, I answer that the chief worth of civilization is just that it makes the means of living more complex: that it calls for great and combined intellectual efforts, instead of simple, uncoordinated ones, in order that the crowd may be fed and clothed and housed and moved from place to place. Because more complex and intense intellectual efforts mean a fuller and richer life. They mean more life. Life is an end in itself, and the only question as to whether it is worth living is whether you have enough of it.

—Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., “Life as Joy, Duty, End,” Speech delivered to the Bar Association of Boston, Mar. 7, 1900 in Speeches of Oliver Wendell Holmes pp. 85–86 (1915)