Onions Brooms Questions

Posted on September 2, 2011

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You can never really know anything, but you can have knowledge which has been well-questioned.

You need questions to sort through knowledge, because you can’t rely on experience alone.  For instance, if you and I walk down the street, and I look left and you look right, whose experience of the street is the correct one?  If both experiences are correct, then what do we mean by ‘correct’?  If neither is correct, then what in fact did we experience?

Perhaps we don’t really need to ask so many questions if all we are doing is walking down the street, but life is filled with things that do matter, and filled with consequences for getting things wrong.  It’s unpleasant to put out your foot and find a step that isn’t there.

And when you begin questioning knowledge seriously, you realize that there are no simple answers to anything unless simplicity is the intent of the question.

When—as you must if you are serious about questions—you start asking questions of the questions themselves, you realize that the kind of answers you get depends on the kinds of questions you ask.  Questions can misdirect if the assumptions behind them are wrong, so the process of questioning should seek out assumptions as well.

Questions are powerful.  They can, in special cases, heighten our understanding of reality itself by allowing us a glimpse of the world outside our own private tunnels of experience.

Questions can work like peeling an onion, working through levels of analysis and abstraction to a quintessential summation—ironically achieved by the successive discarding of the very evidence under analysis.

Questions can work like straws of a broom, each straw overlapping with others but each on their own narrow path, only the totality providing a conclusion.

Questions can provide many answers but rarely a single answer.

And there is always, of course, another question to ask.

Posted in: philosophy