Learning and education is about asking the right questions. A true question is one that when you ask it, you don’t know the answer. Any question that you ask where you already know the answer such as teachers do so often: When did Columbus discover America? Who was the first president of the United States? How much is 200 divided by 100? and on and on with such “questions.” These are not questions. A question is more than a sentence ending in a question mark. If I ask you these kinds of questions, they are simply tests to see if you know what I know. Real questions emerge from some kind of doubt that we have about ourselves, about others, about the world, about anything that is unknown to us. Such questions set us upon an inquiry to get an answer. Our “inquiry” is an exploration of the domain of the question using whatever resources are available to us. We stop the inquiry when we get an answer that feels satisfactory, that eases the discomfort of the doubt. That feeling of satisfaction stops the inquiry. Be wary of stopping the inquiry too soon. Often, the first sign of satisfaction is incomplete or inadequate in some way, and we need to continue the inquiry to get to the core of the issue we have raised. What are your questions?


About The Practical Philosopher

I am a retired Philosophy professor. I taught philosophy for 43 years, and I would like to share some of what I have found pursuing the fascinating journey of philosophy.
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2 Responses to Questions

  1. warren says:

    I like the notion: “be wary of stopping the inquiry too soon.” It’s something I’ve thought about all my life. When is enough enough? When are you done? How do you know when you’re done? Can you ever know whether further inquiry (effort, waiting, etc.) would have made a difference? If so, how?

    • Some thoughts on your comments . . . Often what stops the inquiry is the need to take some action. We run out of time, and have to move on. We also stop the inquiry when the consequences are what we want to happen or they stop us from inquiring further. The exciting inquiries are the ones that we can come back to over and over again pushing on to new levels and greater depths.

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