Heart of the Matter LO20715

John Zavacki (jzavacki@greenapple.com)
Sat, 20 Feb 1999 15:48:18 -0500

Replying to LO20693 --

Fred writes:

> The word "problem" is used in the sentence above. I'd like
> to ask John to
> provide a definition of that word in that context.

Unfortunately, Fred, I used the notion of problem in a very limited
context, that of the industrial process with a few variables.

> I also don't agree with the assertion above. I think it is
> natural and
> productive for discussions of problems to jump around from
> statements of
> the problem to possible causes to possible solutions and back
> again. My
> term for this is "checker boarding" and I view it as far
> superior to an
> enforced linear approach.

Very little cognitive behaviour is linear, is it? I think that most
problem solving can best be approached with what you call 'checker
boarding' or what I'd call fugueing-performing variations on a theme in
structured ways-reverse engineering then reengineering or unengineering
the solution sets.

> Again, I disagree. I think we human beings are natural parallel
> processors and we think about all these aspects of a
> situation on a more
> or less simultaneous basis even if we are limited to
> articulating them in
> serial fashion. Moreover, I am not a fan of the concept of cause in
> general nor the concept of "root cause" in particular. The concept of
> cause has strangled more good solutions than I care to count. What is
> important about the notions of problem, cause, solution,
> etc., is to view
> them as pieces of the puzzle or bases to be covered, not
> trotted around in
> a 1-2-3 and then home basis. I'd also ask, "the probable
> best solution"
> according to whom?

Here, I've got to disagree. In the world of orders and schedules and
limited resources, the according to whom is the economics of the
production system. Not all life is poetry. The best solution is the one
that optimizes the use of resources, the wear and tear on people, and the
benefits to the system.

> That is clearly your position, John, but it's not mine. I'm a firm
> believer in the notion that language shapes thought and thought shapes
> behavior. The label placed on a problem, for example,
> invokes a frame of
> reference that constrains and restrains the problem solver's
> efforts to
> solve the problem. So, I guess I'm more inclined to explore the
> "linguistic constructions" of problems than you might be.

Which brings us back to the first point. I used a simple declartive
'common man/common sense' construction, Fred, to demonstrate how far from
useful some of our dialogues have come. You see, I put down my pen as a
theoretical linguist back in the '70s when I realized that language is the
tool man uses to describe the universe and that for each man or woman in
that universe, there is a separate universe. In order to completely
understand meaning, (in the way in which you and AT are trying to
understand it in this thread) we would have to first understand each of
these separate universes in terms of our own, and then, we would need to
change our own understanding because of it. We would then be in search of
knowledge for the sake of knowledge. Would wisdom ever come?

John Zavacki


"John Zavacki" <jzavacki@greenapple.com>

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