(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?