Polytely (from Greek roots poly- and -tel- meaning "many goals") comprises complex problem-solving situations characterized by the presence of multiple simultaneous goals.[1] These goals may be contradictory or otherwise conflict with one another, requiring prioritisation of desired outcomes.[1]

Polytely is a feature of complex problem-solving that adds difficulty to finding an optimum solution. Funke describes polytely as a feature "not... inherent in a system, but [referring] to certain decisions of the experimenter", especially decisions relating to what goals are to be followed in solving the problem.[2] In the complex problem of nuclear waste disposal, Flüeler cites both trust between states (as a factor in nuclear proliferation: "Some states disarm whilst others re-arm – both do it for the sake of our planet's peace"), and safe and sustainable disposal of nuclear waste as situations where considering in terms of polytely helps elaborate and then balance important but conflicting goals.[3]

See also


  1. Funke 2001, p.72.
  2. Funke 2001, p.73.
  3. Flüeler 2006, p. 138—139


  • Joachim Funke (2001). "Dynamic Systems as Tools for Analysing Human Judgement". Thinking and Reasoning. 7 (1): 69–89. doi:10.1080/13546780042000046. SSRN 1630893.
  • Robert J. Sternberg; Peter A. Frensch (1991). Complex problem solving: principles and mechanisms. Routledge. p. 186. ISBN 978-0-8058-0651-9.
  • Tijana T. Ivancevic; Bojan Jovanovic; Sasa Jovanovic; Milka Djukic; Natalia Djukic (2011). Paradigm shift for future tennis: the art of tennis physiology, biomechanics, and psychology. Cognitive systems monographs. 12. Springer Verlag. p. 310. ISBN 978-3-642-17094-2.
  • Tilmann Betsch; Susanne Haberstroh (2005). The routines of decision making. Routledge. p. 253. ISBN 978-0-8058-4613-3.
  • Thomas Flüeler (2006). Decision Making for Complex Socio-Technical Systems: Robustness from Lessons Learned in Long-Term Radioactive Waste Governance. Springer Science & Business Media. ISBN 978-1-4020-3480-0.
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