[Question] What are questions?


(Meta: I have been par­a­lyzed with in­de­ci­sive perfec­tion­ism on this ques­tion for way too long the past day. This dy­namic is no small part of why I have never posted an ar­ti­cle or barely any com­ments on this site in eight years of read­ing it and be­ing part of its cul­ture. Every ad­di­tional word I added to this post in­creased the sur­face area of po­ten­tial er­rors, a trap where the more I cor­rected the more I saw a need for cor­rec­tion, the more I ran the farther the finish line seemed. It’s weird since I no­ticed I could have just posted the ques­tion by it­self and left it at that satis­fac­to­rily. I re­al­ized that I could get that easy­go­ing feel­ing back and just route around this mal­adap­tive men­tal pat­tern by la­bel­ing the post as “bonus con­tent” to the ques­tion! This re­laxes the de­mand­ing con­straint of feel­ing like each ad­di­tional word I write has to im­press you. That means you read this at your own risk, sucka! No promises of for­mal­ity and ar­tic­u­lacy! I am free and can feel satis­fied, yippee!) ☺️

Our quest con­sists of the sim­plest op­er­a­tions, each one wor­thy of ex­am­i­na­tion. We can­not build tow­ers of thought with­out a solid foun­da­tion. We can­not build bet­ter tools if we don’t know how our cur­rent tools op­er­ate, and it’s of­ten good to boot­strap by us­ing our tools on them­selves.

It seems silly to ask. But I have a heuris­tic that that which is laughed at should be taken se­ri­ously. It is an ac­tion at the core of our episte­mol­ogy. I wrote down at least a hun­dred ques­tions I could ask here, and this struck me as the log­i­cal first step, the node be­fore all oth­ers. What is the na­ture of the en­ter­prise, be­fore we chart a course to any par­tic­u­lar des­ti­na­tion?

So I ask: What the fuck are these ques­tion things any­way?

There’s some­thing about a con­scious rec­og­niz­ing of what is un­known—the act of ques­tion­ing be­ing the move­ment from Un­known Un­known to Known Un­known (aka un­con­scious in­com­pe­tence to con­scious in­com­pe­tence). What is the pro­cess of notic­ing ig­no­rance?

But I want to leave this open-ended. More in­for­ma­tion on what cor­re­lates with ques­tion­ing seems valuable, what­ever it is. I don’t know what I don’t know about how I come to know what I know.

Here are gen­er­a­tive sub­ques­tions to con­sider (some of them are their own can of gummy worms best left for a deeper an­swer an­other day)!

Can you Ta­boo “ques­tion”? What is hap­pen­ing in the brain when a hu­man ques­tions? How has its mean­ing and et­y­mol­ogy mor­phed over time? How do other lan­guages con­cep­tu­al­ize the act of ques­tion­ing? What metaphors are use­ful to un­der­stand­ing what ques­tion­ing is? What are un­usual fram­ings of the con­cept of ques­tions? What are the differ­ent kinds of ques­tion? When is a ques­tion not a ques­tion? Do an­i­mals ever ‘ask ques­tions’? Can ques­tions be non­ver­bal? What does it feel like to have a ques­tion and to have that ques­tion re­solved? What is the re­search on ques­tions? What are their sig­nifi­cance to hu­man his­tory? Do they ac­tu­ally ex­ist?

Can you Ta­boo “an­swers”? How does one know when one has an an­swer? What is in­for­ma­tion? What is knowl­edge? Are an­swers always ten­ta­tive? Can one pre­dict when one will re­ceive an an­swer? How do peo­ple go about seek­ing an­swers to their ques­tions?

Can you com­pose a satis­fy­ing, use­ful, com­pact, and true model of what ques­tions are?