General Classification of Problems LO30815

From: AM de Lange (
Date: 11/27/03

Replying to LO30779 --

Dear Organlearners,

DP Dash < > wrote in
Subject: Why are we living? LO30779

>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.


>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

Greetings dear DP,

I have been interested for many years now in the classification
(taxonomy, categorisation) of problems in general. The following are
merely some of my loose thoughts on the topic.

Many classification systems have been proposed in the past. The vast
majority of them concern solvable problems and thus indirectly a
classification of the domains of the knowledge used to solve them. By
this a relationship between problem-solving and learning-knowledge is
assumed or admitted.

An interesting problem for me concerning "unsolved problems" is
whether they can be subjected to a taxonomy at all. A taxonomy of any
category of objects implies that some restricted knowledge of those
objects are needed to construct the taxonomy with. Do we now mean by
"unsolved problems" that we have too little knowledge to solve them or
do we mean that we have no knowledge at all to solve them? I think
that we have to incorporate both in the taxonomy.

You mentioned an interesting problem concerning "unsolved problems":
"Invent ways of converting unsolved problems into solved problems."
Some of these ways which i have made use of in the past are
transformations, approximations, simulations and additional generation
of information. Unfortunately, far too little research has been done
in this respect.

However, the "unsolved problems" which both you and Jan have referred
to is of much more interest to me for another reason. By these
"unsolved problems" i mean any authentic problem of which not even a
related permutation has been solved by anyone in the past. The history
of solutions to such "unsolved problems" of the past shows that these
solutions brought great strides in the advancement of knowledge. This
brings me to the most intriguing relationship between problems and

A unsolved problem may be authentic to an individual learner whereas
other learners already may have solved it in the past. This means that
the distinction between individual learning and organisational
learning has a direct bearing to the taxonomy of 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

I find it curious that both you and Jan saw in this question a
problem. The fact that i could not find a satisfactory answer to it
created a problem for me. But the question itself is no problem for me
-- it is something which simply requires an answer. However, you both
made me aware of the following problem -- is any question not also a
kind of problem itself, i.e., question-problems so as to speak of

>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.

What an observation! In this part of the world such sentences were
given some personality of their own. For example, if you think that
your house is beautiful, you will say to someone else: "My house says
that it wants you to visit it."

With care and best wishes


At de Lange <> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

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