Problematizing Via Method
dr. bonnie lenore kyburz
So, you’ve been asked to “problematize” a particular concern. What does thismean? First, it means to think carefully about the assumptions, opinions, andbeliefs you bring to thinking about a problem. Some useful questions include:1.)Do I have a very strong bias (a one-sided position) about this problem?Might this bias foreclose the possibility of thinking expansively aboutit?2.)Do I have strong, emotional responses to thinking about this problemthat might occlude my ability to think openly about it?3.)Do I use very strong or absolute terms to frame up my sense of thisproblem? (i.e., “always,” “never,” “terrible,” “right,” “wrong,” . . .words that shut down inquiry)?4.)Can I actually imagine another position than the one that seems to beinforming my emotional thoughts about this problem?5.)Can I rethink my position in ways that are in opposition to my originalinstincts? Will it be possible for me to “change sides”?6.)Can I explore this problem beyond a “pro” and “con” (dualistic) way of thinking?
Can I both “believe”
“doubt” my original thoughts on thisproblem? (ala Peter Elbow’s “Believing and Doubting Game”?Below are a few more general
for problematizing. These first twoare especially useful for “beginning problematizers.” Let’s say that you’veworked through some personal concern to discover that your
is, say, “Is physical pain valuable?”
Maybe you want to look at possible
of a problem. Askquestions about its origins, history, the events and contexts thatgenerated it. Ask why it still exists?
Or you will look at potential
of the problem. Whatwill it mean if it continues? If we don’t do anything to change/stop/alterit?
Other useful methods (for later, not this assignment) include:
of how pain is valuable (you have recurring headaches, soyou go to the doctor, get a scan, and discover a tumor that needsserious medical attention; you burn your hand on the stove, so youknow to remove it in order to avoid further damage to your skin). Or,