An Early Attempt at Explaining
Problem Solving and Justification
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
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
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
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
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