Problem, Puzzle, and Paradox: What’s Missing?


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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.

Problems that are a paradox

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?’

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?