# Why are we living? LO30779

From: dpdash@ximb.ac.in
Date: 11/11/03

Jan wrote about 'open' and closed' problems.

> I'm remembering suddenly that there are two
> types of problems: "closed" and "open" problems.

Jan suggested that 'closed' problems are solvable in principle,
although we may or may not have a solution at this time. Jan then
suggested that 'open' problems are unsolvable -- by definition.

There is a little operational difficulty (which was also hinted at by
Jan). Given a problem, how can one say -- a priori -- that it is
solvable or unsolvable in principle? Even if it looks pretty
unsolvable today, our perceptions (and language) may change tomorrow,
or in the next millennium.

Therefore, in the same spirit as Jan's, may I propose an operationally
simpler distinction: 'solved problems' and 'unsolved problems' (not
commenting about the 'solvability' of the 'unsolved problems'). If
this distinction is taken into account, then the task of problem
management becomes: Invent ways of converting unsolved problems into
solved problems.

Say, I need to have the answer to the question 'Why am I living?'
Currently, I do not have the answer. There are many ways I can begin
to move towards an answer. For example: Find some very old story
(fromt the East?) which has the answer. Follow an old (and popular)
book. Accept what the village elder (or the President or one who got a
lot of prize money recently) says. Invent a 'creative' answer oneself.
But I do not know which is the best approach.

Therefore, for dealing with 'unsolved problems', it is my humble
proposal that the task is one of *choosing a selection criterion* --
because, there are always plenty of alternatives (some of which may
not be acceptable to us personally).

Some time back in this list, there was a debate that stays in my mind
as the Hallmark Debate (involving our friends, Hal and Mark), which,
according to me, revolved around the choice of criterion. Hal
recognised one criterion (it is there is many old books, by the way);
Mark did not agree. Mark hinted at the social process of 'locally
constructing' a criterion (it is also there in many old and new
books); Hal did not agree. There we are! [Dear Hal and Mark, I hope I
generosity.]

There is no escape from 'criterion choice'.
There is no escape from 'criterion choice'.

DP

Dr. D. P. Dash
Bhubaneswar, India

PS: A few millennia back in this part of the world, when the notion of
bold-italic was not invented, some sentences were repeated twice to
highlight the point.

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