The Naked Scientists Forum

coberst

• Sr. Member
• Posts: 292
Problem, Puzzle, and Paradox: What’s Missing?
« on: 20/04/2009 10:27:59 »
Problem, Puzzle, and Paradox: What’s Missing?
Within the category “problem” there are at least two subcategories: “puzzle” and “paradox”.

Quickie from wiki:
A problem is an obstacle which makes it difficult to achieve a desired goal, objective or purpose. It refers to a situation, condition, or issue that is yet unresolved. In a broad sense, a problem exists when an individual becomes aware of a significant difference between what actually is and what is desired.

Problems that are a puzzle

‘Normal science’, as described by Thomas Kuhn in his book “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”, is the science of means, controlled generally by a paradigm.  We normally use the word ‘science’, which has more than one meaning, to mean the ‘normal science’ that which Kuhn speaks of.  Science, to the laity, is a word encompassing technology and probably all that is good about the human ability to reason.  I suspect the average person often wonders why everyone cannot be scientific about developing solutions for all problems.  Why cannot we be scientific and rational in solving all our problems?

The college student of physics studies the paradigms of the science of physics to qualify for acceptance into that particular profession.  From these paradigms patterns of recognition and routines and algorithms for solutions have evolved and are memorized by all students who wish to join that particular profession.  An algorithm is a step-by-step process for solving a problem.  A simple example of an algorithm is the process we learned to accomplish long division.

Normal science involves itself only in problems definable by paradigms and algorithms.  Normal science is successful because it deals only with these monological problems.  These problems are circumscribed by the paradigm and contain many algorithms for guiding the practitioner into the proper mode for solution of the problem.

Normal scientific research is devoted to accumulating evidence that supports and expands the horizon of the accepted paradigm.  The scientific researcher anticipates the answer and organizes the research effort to verify that anticipated result.  Science does not perform experiments upon matters wherein the results are not expected.  This is the nature of puzzle solving.  The end is known in great detail and that which is in doubt is the various ways of verifying that anticipated end.  The prize winning puzzle solver is he or she with the cleverest efforts to reach the anticipated end result.  Puzzles are problems that test the ingenuity and skill in puzzle solutions.

The paradigm instructs the logic--the principles and criteria of validity of inference and demonstration--of the particular domain of knowledge encompassed by that paradigm.  The logic of the paradigm insulates the professional group from problems that are unsolvable by that paradigm.  One reason that science progresses so rapidly and with such assurance is because the logic of that paradigm allows the practitioners to work on problems that only their lack of ingenuity will keep them from solving.

The natural sciences are primarily puzzle solving operations.  The natural sciences are useful for logical thinking but the uses of scientific learning are that most judgments required in life are not puzzle like.

Quickie from wiki:
A paradox is a statement or group of statements that leads to a contradiction or a situation which defies intuition…The word paradox is often used interchangeably with contradiction.

An example of a paradox might be narcissism, which is both necessary and detrimental to human survival.

The fetus resting in the womb is in a state of absolute narcissism.  Freud says “By being born we have made the step from an absolute self-sufficient narcissism to the perception of a changing external world and the beginning of the discovery of objects.”  The absolute self-narcissism is partially dissolved and divided with objects.

The “normal” person, in maturity, has made an apportionment of narcissistic energy between the self and the other in a manner that society finds acceptable.

Originally Freud’s view of narcissism was based on his concept of sexual libido wherein this psychic narcissistic energy was directed for sexual manifestations.  This theory was later modified by Freud and was empathesized by Jung as an energy that binds the needs of the individual both internally and externally to fit the needs for survival.  Highly charged energies create forces that motivate behavior for that organisms’ survival.

The comprehension of human behavior depends upon an understanding of these narcissistically energized forces.

Primary narcissism is the label given to this force accompanying the new born; wherein the only reality is the self, its body and its accompanying sensations associated with a need for sleep, bodily contact, warmth, thirst, and hunger.

Moral hypochondria is little different from physical hypochondria manifestations.  “The narcissism underlying physical or moral hypochondriasis is the same as the narcissism of the vain person, except that it is less apparent, as such, to the untrained eye.”  K. Abraham calls this negative narcissism and it is characterized by feelings of inadequacy, unreality, and self-accusation.

How do we recognize the individual with abnormal levels of narcissism?  S/he shows all the signs of self-satisfaction, generally oblivious of others, very sensitive to criticism, little genuine interest in the outside world, and all of these characteristics are often hidden behind an attitude of modesty and humility.

Another important characteristic of some individuals is the association of certain aspects of their person that become objects of focused narcissism.  They become very sensitive to any disagreement with their ideas, their honor, their house, their car, intelligence, or physical prowess.  S/he will often seem to have fallen in love with all of their stuff.

“Speaking teleologically, we can say that nature had to endow man with a great amount of narcissism to enable him to do what is necessary for survival.  This is true especially because nature has not endowed man with well-developed instincts such as the animal has…In man the instinctive apparatus has lost most of its efficacy—hence narcissism assumes a very necessary biological function…Narcissism is a passion the intensity of which in many individuals can only be compared with sexual drive and the desire to stay alive.”

Narcissism has an important function to perform—it is important for our survival.  However, there is a serious down side.  Extreme narcissism makes us indifferent to others and incapable of giving our personal needs second place to the needs of the community.  Extreme narcissism is the opposite of empathy; it makes us asocial creatures unable to cooperate for the common good.

Another dangerous result of narcissism is that it distorts our ability to reason and to make good judgments.  “Narcissistic value-judgment is prejudiced and biased.  Usually this prejudice is rationalized in one form or another and the rationalization may be more or less deceptive according to the intelligence and sophistication of the person involved…If he were aware of the distorted nature of his narcissistic judgments, the results would not be so bad.  He would—and could—take a humorous attitude toward his narcissistic bias.  But this is rare.”

The narcissistic person reacts with great anger when criticized.  S/he tends to take all criticism as a personal attack; this can be understood when we recognize that the extremely narcissistic person is unrelated to the world; s/he feels alone and frightened and these feelings lead to compensation by self-inflation.  “When his narcissism is wounded he feels threatened in his whole existence…This fury is all the more intense because nothing can be done to diminish the threat by appropriate action; only destruction of the critic—or oneself—can save one from the threat to one’s narcissistic security.”

Depression is a means other than rage for struggling against a wounded narcissism.  The narcissistic person uses the shield of self-inflation, acquiring a feeling of omniscient and omnipotent, to overcome the arrows of the outside world.  The narcissistic person dreads the feeling associated with depression and one way to combat this alternative is to attempt to change reality in such a way as to conform to his self created image.  This is done by associating with others in a dynamic of group narcissism.

This post is getting too long; I will close by saying that group narcissism represents the most dramatic phenomenon that leads to human destructiveness.

Ideas and quotes for narcissism come from The Heart of Man Erich Fromm

The question I ask of the reader is ‘what label or labels are missing to identify those problems that are neither a puzzle nor a paradox?’

coberst

• Sr. Member
• Posts: 292
Problem, Puzzle, and Paradox: What’s Missing?
« Reply #1 on: 20/04/2009 19:56:27 »
Let’s examine some problems that are neither a puzzle nor a paradox.

I suspect most, if not all, of the problems that face President Obama everyday are such problems.  Such problems as Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, toxic assets, big banksters, global climate change, drug war in Mexico, etc. are neither puzzles nor paradoxes.

I suggest that we badly need a name, a sub-category of problem, which identifies this type of problem.

One big reason that we cannot comprehend these matters is because we have not thought about then sufficiently to have coined a word for them.  Our culture, instead of working on these problems, has taught us that these problems as puzzles.  Our schools and colleges teach us that all problems are puzzles.

How can a culture become sophisticated when we think that all problems are puzzles?

Chemistry4me

• Neilep Level Member
• Posts: 7709
Problem, Puzzle, and Paradox: What’s Missing?
« Reply #2 on: 21/04/2009 02:54:02 »

DeepestBlue

• Jr. Member
• Posts: 17
Problem, Puzzle, and Paradox: What’s Missing?
« Reply #3 on: 21/04/2009 13:43:24 »
Let’s examine some problems that are neither a puzzle nor a paradox.

I suspect most, if not all, of the problems that face President Obama everyday are such problems.  Such problems as Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, toxic assets, big banksters, global climate change, drug war in Mexico, etc. are neither puzzles nor paradoxes.

I suggest that we badly need a name, a sub-category of problem, which identifies this type of problem.

One big reason that we cannot comprehend these matters is because we have not thought about then sufficiently to have coined a word for them.  Our culture, instead of working on these problems, has taught us that these problems as puzzles.  Our schools and colleges teach us that all problems are puzzles.

How can a culture become sophisticated when we think that all problems are puzzles?

One could argue that because they are neither paradoxes nor puzzles. they are not problems...as mentioned above they are issues...Im sure Mexico's or Iran's "problems" are very different to those of the USA, so the label in this instance is relative....

My problem is my teacup is empty, luckily that problem comes under puzzle, and so is solvable!...(goes off to make a cup of tea)

coberst

• Sr. Member
• Posts: 292
Problem, Puzzle, and Paradox: What’s Missing?
« Reply #4 on: 21/04/2009 14:09:41 »
At least one subgroup of problems that is missing here and in our educational system is that of dialectical problems.

I think that our first step is for a significant percentage of our population to become sufficiently intellectually sophisticated as to make many citizens capable of engaging in dialogical reasoning.  To do this I think that many citizens must become self-actualizing self-learners when their school daze are over.

Under our normal cultural situation communication means to discourse, to exchange opinions with one another. It seems to me that there are opinions, considered opinions, and judgments.  Opinions are a dime-a-dozen.  Considered opinions, however, are opinions that have received a considerable degree of thought but have not received special study.  A considered opinion starts out perhaps as tacit knowledge but receives sufficient intellectual attention to have become consciously organized in some fashion.  Judgments are made within a process of study.

In dialogue, person ‘A’ may state a thesis and in return person ‘B’ does not respond with exactly the same meaning as does ‘A’.  The meanings are generally similar but not identical; thus ‘A’ listening to ‘B’ perceives a disconnect between what she said and what ‘B’ replies.  ‘A’ then has the opportunity to respond with this disconnect in mind, thereby creating a response that takes these matters into consideration; ‘A’ performs an operation known as a dialectic (a juxtaposition of opposed or contradictory ideas).  And so the dialogical process proceeds.

A dialogical process is not one wherein individuals reason together in an attempt to make common ideas that are already known to each individual.  ”Rather, it may be said that the two people are making something in common, i.e., creating something new together.”  Dialogical reasoning together is an act of creation, of mutual understanding, of meaning.

Dialogic can happen only if both individuals wish to reason together in truth, in coherence, without prejudice, and without trying to influence each other.
Each must be prepared to “drop his old ideas and intentions. And be ready to go on to something different, when this is called for…Thus, if people are to cooperate (i.e., literally to ‘work together’) they have to be able to create something in common, something that takes shape in their mutual discussions and actions, rather than something that is conveyed from one person who acts as an authority to the others, who act as passive instruments of this authority.”

“On Dialogue” written by “The late David Bohm, one of the greatest physicists and foremost thinkers this century, was Fellow of the Royal Society and Emeritus Professor of Physics at Birkbeck College, University of London.

Bohm is convinced that communication is breaking down as a result of the crude and insensitive manner in which it is transpiring.  Communication is a concept with a common meaning that does not fit well with the concepts of dialogue, dialectic, and dialogic.

I claim that if we citizens do not learn to dialogue we cannot learn to live together in harmony sufficient to save the species.

DeepestBlue

• Jr. Member
• Posts: 17
Problem, Puzzle, and Paradox: What’s Missing?
« Reply #5 on: 21/04/2009 14:20:23 »
I was thinking...there is a third type of problem, and it relates directly to a dilectic argument.  When a question is asked, it is usally assumed that there is two answers...either yes or no.

In this analogue:-

"yes" equates to "yes there is a solution" and therefore relates to "puzzle"
"No" equates to "no there is no solution" and therefore relates to "paradox"

But there is a third option..."undecided" and often appears in dialectic arguments when somone is presented with two options, both of which lead to a dead end

so I suppose the third category would be "Inconclusive"......

coberst

• Sr. Member
• Posts: 292
Problem, Puzzle, and Paradox: What’s Missing?
« Reply #6 on: 21/04/2009 19:28:28 »
I was thinking...there is a third type of problem, and it relates directly to a dilectic argument.  When a question is asked, it is usally assumed that there is two answers...either yes or no.

In this analogue:-

"yes" equates to "yes there is a solution" and therefore relates to "puzzle"
"No" equates to "no there is no solution" and therefore relates to "paradox"

But there is a third option..."undecided" and often appears in dialectic arguments when somone is presented with two options, both of which lead to a dead end

so I suppose the third category would be "Inconclusive"......

Good idea.  I think that sociology calls it communicative action.

Sociology makes an essential distinction between a rational action that is orientated towards the successful fulfillment of an end and a rational action that aims at reaching a level of understanding regarding an acceptable end between reflective agents.  The non-social or objective world, which comprises objects, events, intentions etc., is that aspect of reality from which puzzles are generated.  Communicative rationality is utilized for developing understanding as to proper ends when reflective agents interact to develop ends rather than means.

Instrumental rationality is a systematic process for reflecting upon the best action to take to reach an established end.  The obvious question becomes ‘what mode of rationality do we turn to in determining ends?’  Instrumental rationality appears to be of no use in determining such matters as “good” and “right”.

Since reason seems to offer no help in determining ends psychology has accepted the position that ends are a matter determined by belief and desire.  To accept belief and desire as avenues for establishing ends one must assume that the agent comes equipped with these beliefs and desires through some mystical means.

Because we have a well developed and effective instrumental rationality we often find that all problems, insofar as possible, are modified to appear as puzzles.  If the only tool a man has is a hammer then the inclination is to accept all problems to be nails.  We have used instrumental rationality to minimize the problems that might at first include a need to agree upon an end by establishing an end and then molding the facts to fit the means test.

Political economy is the study of social relations.  It is the study of culture.  Political economy focuses upon the problem of how to regulate industrialization within the context of a healthy society; it worries about the problems of labor within a context of the laborer as an end and not a means to a more distant end.

Economics, in its modern form, has replaced political economics.  Economics has removed the pesky concern about labor as being humans and has replaced labor as being an object.  Modern economics is now the study of scarcity, prices, and resource allocation.  Economics has legislated that labor as an end is no longer a legitimate domain of knowledge.  In doing so, over time, society has become ignorant of such concerns.  Our culture has replaced concern about humans as ends with humans as means to some other end.

Economics might properly be labeled as commodity-capitalism, a social form of economy in which the relations among people are not regulated directly, but through things. Economic theory is a science that deals with production relations that take on strictly materialistic forms; such a theory has eliminated the pesky problems inherent in the consideration of human relations as that which deals with humans as an end, as a subject.  In such a society production relations are reified.

We have not focused our attention upon developing the rationality required for us to live together while we constantly improve our ability to kill one another and to destroy our planet.

The Naked Scientists Forum

Problem, Puzzle, and Paradox: What’s Missing?
« Reply #6 on: 21/04/2009 19:28:28 »