monological (one-dimensional) problems
Problems that can be solved by reasoning exclusively within one point of view or frame of reference. For example, consider the following problems:
- Ten full crates of walnuts weigh 410 pounds, whereas an empty crate weighs 10 pounds. How much do the walnuts alone weigh?;
- In how many days of the week does the third letter of the day’s name immediately follow the first letter of the day’s name in the alphabet?
These problems, and the means by which they are solved, are called “monological.” They are settled within one frame of reference with a definite set of logical moves. When the right set of moves is performed, the problem is settled. The answer or solution proposed can be shown by standards implicit in the frame of reference to be the “right” answer or solution.
Most important human problems are multilogical rather than monological — nonatomic problems inextricably joined to other problems — with some conceptual messiness to them and very often with important values lurking in the background. When the problems have an empirical dimension, that dimension tends to have a controversial scope. In multilogical problems, it is often arguable how some facts should be considered and interpreted, and how their significance should be determined. When they have a conceptual dimension, there tend to be arguably different ways to pin the concepts down.
Though life presents us with predominantly multilogical problems, schooling today over-emphasizes monological problems. Worse, and more frequently, present instructional practices treat multilogical problems as though they were monological. The posing of multilogical problems, and their consideration from multiple points of view, play an important role in the cultivation of critical thinking and higher order learning.« Back to Glossary Index