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An Early Attempt at Explaining Problem Solving and Justification

by Melanie Anne Phillips

One way of understanding mental processes is to categorize them as either Problem Solving or Justification. Both of these endeavors deal with indentifying and addressing inequities. An inequity is simply an imbalance. Problem solving seeks to eliminate an inequity, Justification seeks to balance an inequity. To see how these two mental processes differ in practice, let us begin with an exploration of what drives them both: inequity.

What is an inequity and how is it created? The answer to this depends on whether we are spatial or temporal thinkers. For spatial thinkers, an inequity is most often seen as an imbalance between two things. For temporal thinkers, and inequity is most often seen as disharmony. Certainly both SBOS and TBOS thinkers can see both kinds of inequities. But spatial thinkers will problem solve an imbalance and justify disharmonies. Temporal thinkers will do just the reverse: problem solve disharmonies and justify imbalances. In this respect, we see that men and women are exactly the same in seeing both sides, but exactly opposite in how they use them. It is essential, then, that clearly identify which kind of mind we are discussing when describing any of the terms or descriptions that follow.

The SBOS Systems

For spatial thinkers, the most commonly experienced problem occurs when things are not the way we want them to be. In other words, we see the problem as being the state of things. We might assign a word to mean "any external situation which appears to be a problem." In Mental Relativity, we call this kind of problem a Universe problem.

A slightly different kind of problem can occur when it is not the state of things that is causing difficulties, but In such a case, we see between the Mind and the Universe. This kind of inequity has a different meaning depending upon whether it is an emotional or logical issue in question. Emotionally, an inquity between oneself and one's environment. Simiply put, this means that there is a conflict between the way someone wants things and the way things are. In Mental Relativity, this kind of inequityThis can be a relationship, a desire for a Since the Universe is far greater than our understanding of it, new information is constantly coming into conflict with our limited experience. We develop our picture of the way things are based on our past experience. Since there is much we have not experienced, our understanding of the Universe is limited. Therefore, we frequently need to update our knowledge and redefine our grasp of the world around us.

If we simply adapted to every bit of data that did not fit in with our current understanding, we would give our experience no weight at all, and immediately respond to the apparent change in reality. This kind of response, is non-considered and describes a mentality that is aware, but not self-aware. Self-awareness only exists when the mentality considers the weight of its past experience against the apparent conflict with reality.

Why would we not simply respond to new data? Beyond a simple acknowledgment that we have observed something, to understand that observation in terms of its relationship to or effect upon other observations requires determining a causal relationship. A temporal causal relationship determines that a certain stimulus will precipitate an event. A spatial causal relationship determines that two items are locked together in some way, and one will never be observed without the other present. In the temporal sense, one thing inexorably leads to another. In the spatial sense, one thing can only exist in the presence of the other. Both are valid views, one favoring particles or states, the other favoring waves or processes.

If every time we see one condition, another specific condition always follows, we begin to expect that when we see the initial condition, the second condition will follow. This is where we are open to misinterpretation. Perhaps the two events are not connected and only happened to occur in order through co-incidence. Or, perhaps an additional force is at work that is required as a catalyst in order for the initial condition to precipitate the second condition.

So if we make a decision to accept the value of our experience and we have misinterpreted, we might be choosing a course of action to ignore an inequity in favor of our experience and hold our initial understanding intact even in the face of conflicting observation.

Causal relationships are what allow a mentality to anticipate, but they also allow the mentality to ignore valuable data in favor of an existing view.

What are the low level results of this mechanism? Once a causal relationship has been determined, a mentality can act to create the initial condition in order to obtain a desired second condition. Or, in response to an undesired condition, the mentality can predict a more favorable condition and act to create an initial condition that will lead from the existing unfavorable condition to the more favorable one.

In each of these cases, the mind has refused to adapt to the existing environment and has chosen a course of action based on anticipation. That is the nature of Problem Solving.

The first step is to become aware that an inequity exists. This is not in the Mind or in the Universe, but between Mind and Universe. This means that the problem is not in our experience nor in the state of things, but between the two. For example, suppose John wants a new car and John does not have a new car. An inequity exists. But if John did not want a new car, not having one would create no inequity. Also, if John wanted a car and had a car, no inequity would exist. Finally, if John wanted to not have a car and he had a car, an inequity would again exist. So, as we can see, wanting or not wanting a car is not an inequity by itself, and neither is having or not having one. It requires Mind and Universe to be misalligned in order for an inequity to exist between them.

If the Mind simply adapted to the situation, John would not try to work for the car he does not have, he would just accept not having one. But the Mind does not simply adapt. Rather, because of his understanding of causal relationships (based on his experience) John can determine that if he puts a certain process into play (initial condition) he can alter the relationship between Mind and Universe (second condition).

So far, John is problem solving. It is not as accurate as simple observation, but it allows for anticipation, and allows John to make a decision to act now in order to create future results. By refusing to accept the Universe as is, John favors his experience and opts to allow the inequity between Mind and Universe to continue while he instigate a program to resolve that inequity in favor of the Mind's anticipated view.

How does Problem Solving become Justification? Once again, there is a temporal way and a spatial way. In the temporal sense, let us look at a waiter who comes through the swinging doors with his arms full of plates, then gets an itch on his nose. This is an inequity. If he did not mind the itch, no problem, if there was no itch, no problem. But the inequity is caused by the existence of the itch and his desire not to have it. So, rather than adapt his Mind and accept the itch, he anticipated a desired future in which the itch no longer exists. Relying on his past experience, he devises a plan to remove the itch: he will reach up to his nose and scratch it. So far, this is the same kind of problem solving that John did with his desire for a car.

But now the situation changes. The waiter reaches for his nose, but it unable to touch it because of all the plates he is carrying. He tries to rearrange the plates, but is unsuccessful. He tries to put them down, but all the table space is taken near him. He tries to go back in the door, but it only swings one way. What a lot of effort! If only he had realized that he could have rubbed his nose on his shoulder, he could have avoided the expenditure of all that energy and resolved the original inequity sooner.

The waiter's efforts have been justifications. Rather than looking at the original inequity, an itchy nose, he has focused on trying to make his original plan of action work. He never considered another approach. That is the temporal definition of Justification: rather than trying to solve the problem, the focus shifts to trying to solve the solution. The solution itself becomes another problem to be solved, and the original problem gets forgotten in the process.

Now, herein lies a difficulty. Once we have made up our mind that a certain solution is the way to go, there is no way for us to tell if difficulties with that solution still require us to stick with it, as they are obstacles that MUST be overcome, or if the same difficulties indicate that we have chosen an inappropriate or inefficient solution and should abandon it in favor of another. Only after the fact can we look back and judge with certainty. Choosing a process as a solution between two unbalanced states is a form of problem solving. Either abandoning the solution for another (give up and try again) or sticking with it in the face of increasing opposition (keeping up one's resolve) is still a Justification. We cannot tell which would be the correct approach since we cannot actually see the future, even though we can anticipate it.

What about a spatial Justification? Rather that dealing with a process to solve a process, spatial justification deals with assuming a causal relationship that does not exist. For example, imagine a child whose parents argue every time his mother serves peas at the dinner table. Years later, he gets married, his wife serves peas at dinner and he yells at her never to do it again. He may not even remember that his parents had argued, but only knows that he has a terrible aversion to peas at the dinner table.

Freudian psychology would claim that if he could remember that his parents had argued whenever peas were served at dinner, he could resolve his feelings since he knew the source of them. But that is the subjective view. What REALLY caused the arguments his parents had?

What if his father worked at a produce market. Every time the owner came with the paychecks, he also brought in fresh peas from his own garden. When the father came home with the paycheck, he also brought home the peas. The paycheck was never quite enough, but the mother did not complain because times were tough and she knew her husband was lucky to have a job at all. Yet, the worry did bother her, so there was tension between them. At dinner, they would engage in conversation and eventually an area of disagreement would appear, and all the mother's and father's anxiety at the insufficient paycheck would be channeled into the argument about whatever topic happened to come up.

The boy was too young to understand about paychecks, and did not even know that it came on that day. But, from his subjective point of view, the one thing that ALWAYS happened when his parents argued was that peas were served at dinner. So he quite naturally built up an experiential base that he held as knowledge that peas at dinner equate to an argument.

Was he stupid? No, he only made the best sense of the limited information available. And just as we illustrated in the beginning of this article, our ability to anticipate depends upon assuming causal relationships based on our limited non-conclusive view. The more we see a relationship, the less we question it.

This is the spatial justification: assuming a causal relationship and applying it to areas in which it had not actually been observed. If he had only kept an open mind at dinner with his wife, he might have discovered that particular causal relationship does not always hold true. By not allowing himself to accept new data, he has justified a particular opinion and refused to entertain arguments to the contrary.

Going back to the temporal justification then, it shapes up as making a decision and sticking with it. Spatial justification amounts to observing repetition and accepting it as a connection.

Let's look at the mechanism that sustains a justified view in the face of conflicting information.

In justification, we start with an inequity. An inequity can only exist because the Mind refuses to adapt to the Universe. Because the Mind holds itself steadfast, this is the first step or level of justification.

Next, the Mind determines based upon experience whether the inequity is best resolved by trying to change the Universe or trying to change the Mind. In the case of wanting a car, changing the universe may be easier than trying to stop wanting it. In the case of remembering a building on the wrong side of the street, it may be easier to change one's mind than try to move the building. Once a decision has been made to try to resolve the inequity in Mind or Universe, the inequity has subjectively ceased to be appreciated as being between the two, but is perceived as being a problem in or with only one of them. This is the second level of justification.

Having determined the location and nature of the problem, a solution is decided upon in order to solve the problem. By selecting a method to solve the problem, the Mind has closed down the process of considering alternatives. This is the third level of justification.

Finally, if obstacles are encountered as a result of the selected solution, remaining resolute in continuing with that approach constitutes the fourth level of justification.

Any of the four level can be seen as spatial or temporal, depending upon whether we look at that step in terms of mind and universe or in reference to the relationship between them. In other words, is it a situation that originally bothered us or a process. Interestingly, though, when two levels are seen one way, the other two will be seen the other. This means that the fourth level of justification could either be temporal or spatial in nature.

In order to maintain a fourth level justification, one must ignore information contrary to the course decided upon or the belief held. This requires a mechanism to handle or diffuse the contradictory information. The mechanism is different for temporal and spatial.

In a spatial justification, one holds a view that is in conflict with currently observed data. How does one justify that? It requires a refusal to re-evaluate one's beliefs. This is accomplished by assuming that causal relationships observed under certain conditions, will function under all conditions. In a sense, it is taking a causal relationship (which is a full step away from direct observation) and giving it the weight of knowledge.

Why would anyone assume that? Again, if we do not assume ANY causal relationships we cannot act on anticipation, for we have none. We can only expect what we have come to believe will happen. But why not re-evaluate? If we were to re-evaluate everything we know whenever faced with an inequity, we could never reach a decision. Induction and Deduction can only work if known causal relationships are accepted as givens. Only then can more complex and subtle relationship be appreciated. Layer upon layer causal relationships begin to appear to cause other causal relationships and a fine web of logic many times removed from observation is created. The sophistication of our understanding would be severely limited if we had to relearn everything we know each time we wanted to decide something.

So, as a survival technique, we trade off accuracy for speed, questioning only the highest level of relationship and accepting those below as knowledge. When faced with a single contradiction, it carries little weight compared to the extensive familiarity with the original determination. The errant information is seen as a fluke or anomaly.

Imagine building a causal relationship that is based on observation. Objectively, all those observations were co-incidences. Later, half the time the relationship held, and half the time it didn't. Those new experiences would cancel out, leaving the old familiarity intact. In order to dismantle an existing supposed knowledge, contradiction is not enough. Not only must the old belief be shown to be in error from time to time, but a new explanation must be offered that proves to be more accurate more of the time. Still, before that new relationship can be accepted, it will need to prove itself at least as long as the old one. That is quite a tall order, and indicates why it is so difficult to dislodge a pre-conception.

What about the mechanism that supports temporal justification? Again, temporal justification is created by selecting a particular approach as the means or process that will best resolve an inequity. Why do we not just give up on an approach when difficulties arise? Obviously, just because there are difficulties with an approach it is not certain that any other approach would be any better. Because we know that our anticipations are seldom completely accurate, we see problems in our approach more as failures to properly anticipate. As a result, we try to fix the solution we have chosen, rather than select another. The more difficulties we overcome, the more we have proven that the solution is still workable.

Another consideration is that the longer we pursue a particular solution, the more time we have invested in it. In truth, if we picked an impossible solution, no time invested could make it work. And if we picked a difficult one, perhaps even though we have invested much time in it, the time still remaining is more than another solution begun from scratch. But we cannot know this. Subjectively there is know way to tell.

So yet again, there is no stupidity involved in continuing with the wrong approach, merely the inability to see what the future holds.

Copyright Melanie Anne Phillips

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