THE CRAFT OF INQUIRY
"All philosophy begins
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.
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
QUESTIONS are questions that open fresh aspects of an issue. They
create a basis for sustained and constructive discussion.
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.