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THE CRAFT OF INQUIRY

QUESTIONS

"All philosophy begins in wonder."
----Aristotle.

Questions are a way of inviting communications from other people. We can seek to learn more about them, how they think, and why. We may also question a text, the world, and ourselves. Basically, any constructive question opens the way to a path of inquiry; thus a potential discussion. In this way we find questions to be an essential part of human creativity. Learning how to construct questions well is key to our intellectual development.

Try this Thought Experiment:

Imagine a world in which questions could not be asked. People could make all sort of claims, state their opinions, give descriptions, arguments, explanations, and expressions of all sorts. The only verbal form lacking was the form of a question.

What would that world be like? How would the communications between people change? Would any other limitations come along with the absence of questioning? How would people go about finding out things they did not know? Would science be possible? Philosophy? Would purposeful change be possible?

Note that I follow the proposed thought experiment with a series of questions. That is just one of the functions of a thought experiement, to provide a context in which certain questions may be raised and discussed. Without the possibility of asking questions, the method of the thought experiement would be useless. I suspect we would lose a great deal of other intellectual abilities we take for granted as well. Constructive questions create openings and it is by exploring those openings that much of our intellect and knowledge develops.

CONSTRUCTIVE QUESTIONS

Here, already, I have pointed to a distinction. I specified that constructive questions have a key intellectual value. This implies a distinction from non-constructive questions. It is a main objective of The Craft of Inquiry is to make that distinction clear and provide you with some of the tools for using it. Let us lay this distinction out plainly.

CONSTRUCTIVE QUESTIONS are questions that open fresh aspects of an issue. They create a basis for sustained and constructive discussion.

NON-CONTRUCTIVE QUESTIOINS are designed to block inquiry and sustained discussion. They close (not resolve) an issue to further consideration by presenting a conceptual obstacle.

Any form of question can be constructive or non-constructive. What we need are criteria for judging the constructiveness of a question. Three such criteria are proposed in this text: The Craft of Inquiry.

Next, let's consider some of the forms of questions we may encounter and raise in philosophic discussion.


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