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Issues ≠ Problems

Change in linguistic usage can be motivated by a variety of factors, including a concomitant change in ideology or value system. With respect to the latter, the ubiquitous contemporary American substitution of the word issue for problem is a good case in point. The increasing tendency to avoid problem in favor of issue is a sign of an ideological change in values whereby nothing is judged to be inherently problematic or in need of correction on its face. So is the frequent recurrence in public discourse to the word challenge instead of problem. In this attitude that underlies the word usage, everything pertaining to the social or personal sphere is potentially unproblematic and automatically amenable to repair in the long run, hence one encounters only challenges rather than problems. Consequently, for instance, there are no longer any health problems, only health issues, and one has issues, not problems.

Fortunately, this delusionary forma mentis––a failure of thought––cannot intrude into the mathematical sciences, since such obfuscation is systematically rooted out as the enemy of clarity, hence of solubility and, ultimately, of truth.

MICHAEL SHAPIRO

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