The Problems of The Problem.

Ludwig Wittgenstein is an Austrian-French philosopher working in the tradition of analytical philosophy. The mentionability of Wittgenstein is, he subverted the norms of thinking philosophically. According to Wittgenstein, philosophy is all about doing problems, that is, if you say you are doing philosophy, it means, you are doing a real life problem. In other words, for Wittgenstein, there is no philosophy other than the management of problems in a specific way. This insight has been adopted later by several scholars of various fields to think about language and practice. Prominent among them is Talal Asad, an anthropologist of US base, who argued that every utterance is already belonging to a particular form of life. This in a way is an extension of Wittgenstein’s idea that every utterance is already part of a problem-space. To utter means some way or the other to be part of a problem and an attempt of making sense of the same. However, apart from the philosophical repercussions of this idea, I am drawn to it in the context of our discussion in order to understand what are the conceptual consequences of ‘problem’ and ‘case’ in relation to knowledge. As I am working in Humanities discipline, the ‘problem’ appears to me quite differently from the ones who are grounded in Engineering or other similar background. So how to think ‘problem’ in the discipline of Humanities?

So, as ‘problem’ has an aspect of verifiability, that is, an idea being verified through experimenting with ‘problems’, Humanities seems to have a different sense of idea, problem and verifiability. One of the major features of the conventional ‘problem’ is that it is often triggered in the domain of the positivist knowledge, or in other words, scientific positivism. As Humanities essentially is not in tandem with the grammar of scientific positivism, and moreover, often harbors negative thinking (I am sure philosophers can understand this), the idea of ‘problem’ needs to be rethought in Humanities. I am aware that the category of problem, in our context, is made sense of as a pedagogical one. But as my priority here is conceptual thinking, I find the idea of problem in need of a serious reconsideration especially in reference to what it does in Humanities where I belong. One of the major criticisms I have about PBL is that it was largely assimilated to a monotonous instrumental reasoning, maybe mostly because it was primarily conceptualized in the domain of scientific and professional discipline. Considering the increasing diminishment of the positivist school in Humanities, ‘problem’ is often thought of outside the equation of ‘problem-solution’, ‘question-answer’ etc. Which is to say, ‘problem’ has attained a conceptual status in Humanities, not as a practical issue to be resolved through certain formulas like measurement, experiment and so on. To put in other words, while ‘problem’ is meant here as merely something that denotes the ‘practical’, in Humanities it by itself is a concept. So doing Humanities means hereon posing ‘problems’, that is, only ‘problems’, and complicating any attempt at resolving those ‘problems’. In a pedagogical sense, I would ask my students to come up with ‘problems’, not equations to solve them. Every solution is an exhaustion of problems and therefore the exhaustion of the practical.