Solvable problems or problematic solvability?: Problem conceptualization in transdisciplinary sustainability research and a possible epistemological contribution

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Problems are a major focal point in transdisciplinary sustainability research (TSR). As a text analysis shows, the term “problem” is most commonly used in the context of analyzing research processes that are directed towards societal problem-solving. At the same time, these findings imply that TSR does not follow the idea that problems are solvable. Instead, TSR should transgress the general tension between the solution imperative and the insolvability of complex problems by rather tackling each problem as situated and specific.

Problem orientation plays a significant role in emerging transdisciplinary sustainability research (TSR), where the assumption of solvability resonates with the term “problem” yet is not questioned from a sustainability perspective. This paper questions the meaning of “problems” in and for TSR from a discourse studies perspective. The results of a collocation and concordance analysis of the term “problem(s)” in GAIA articles show that sustainability-oriented problem-solving is explicated normatively as a key research goal. In the analyzed articles, emphasis is put on how to proceed towards this goal through research process analysis. This paper begins by analyzing the meaning of “problems” before seeking to orientate TSR in terms of how knowledge could be conceptualized. This is supported by the epistemological concept of the problematic, which originates from 20th century French philosophy. It proves helpful to discuss how TSR can be epistemologically grasped, and thereby strengthened in its transformative potential.
Seiten (von - bis)34-39
Anzahl der Seiten6
PublikationsstatusErschienen - 03.2020