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L'Absinthe (1876) by Edgar Degas
L'Absinthe (1876) by Edgar Degas

“All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”--Blaise Pascal

  1. A difficulty that has to be resolved or dealt with.
  2. A question to be answered.
  3. A puzzling circumstance.
Vesuvius in Eruption (1817-20) by William Turner
Vesuvius in Eruption (1817-20) by William Turner
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons

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A problem is an obstacle which makes it difficult to achieve a desired goal, objective or purpose. It refers to a situation, condition, or issue that is yet unresolved. In a broad sense, a problem exists when an individual becomes aware of a significant difference between what actually is and what is desired.


  • Mathematical problem is a question about mathematical objects and structures that may require a distinct answer or explanation or proof. Examples include word problems at school level or deeper problems such as shading a map with only four colours.
  • In society, a problem can refer to particular social issues, which if solved would yield social benefits, such as increased harmony or productivity, and conversely diminished hostility and disruption.
  • In business and engineering, a problem is a difference between actual conditions and those that are required or desired. Often, the causes of a problem are not known, in which case root cause analysis is employed to find the causes and identify corrective actions.
  • In chess, a problem is a puzzle set by somebody using chess pieces on a chess board, for others to get instruction or intellectual satisfaction from determining the solution.
  • In theology, there is what is referred to as the Synoptic Problem, regarding the Gospels' relationship to each other.
  • In academic discourse a problem is a challenge to an assumption, an apparent conflict that requires synthesis and reconciliation. It is a normal part of systematic thinking, the address of which adds to or detracts from the veracity of a conclusion or idea.
  • An optimization problem is finding the best solution from all feasible solutions. A good example of this type of problem is the travelling salesperson problem which is based on calculating the most efficient route between many places
  • In computability theory a decision problem requires a simple yes-or-no answer.
  • In rock climbing a problem is a series of rocks that forces the climber to climb.
  • In reading, a problem is a combination of a series of words with the overall plotline, which the reader must attempt to decipher.
  • In walking, a mobility problem is presented. Motion is achieved via mechanical interaction of the legs and a surface.
  • Popular hip-hop/R&B artist Jay-Z claims to have 99 problems, of which he reports precisely 0 are women. (By comparison, similarly popular hip-hop/R&B artist Kid Cudi reports that, of his own 99 problems, precisely 99 of them are women.)

See also

List of unsolved problems in philosophy

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Problem" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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