• Benj96
    163
    It seems ridiculous - the thought of a question assuming anything. How could a request for information that you do not know be assuming anything? Well the truth is all questions assume. They must. In order to have any meaning at all.

    Who, what, when, where, how and why all make assumptions about the universe. About causality, time, location, mode, observation etc.. they work well in questions because they are so general and dont conflict with themselves very often.

    But even they too can conflict with their own assumptions even if a sentence is grammatical correct. For example; What is nothing? When did time not exist? Where is the universe? How does energy happen? Why are there reasons? All of these are pretty senseless and vague questions which ironically makes them seemingly profound and difficult to answer.

    The best question to ask would be one that does not assume anything about existence. Perhaps the best question is the one that does not assume the need to question in the first place?
    Because to posit a question is to create a void in answers. To not question at all is to not require answers.
  • Yellow Horse
    116
    Well the truth is all questions assume. They must. In order to have any meaning at all.Benj96

    I agree. They assume language and a world for it to be about, or something along those lines.
  • Banno
    8.5k
    Doubt can only take place against a background of certainty.
  • Adam's Off Ox
    53
    The best question to ask would be one that does not assume anything about existence. Perhaps the best question is the one that does not assume the need to question in the first place?
    Because to posit a question is to create a void in answers. To not question at all is to not require answers.
    Benj96

    I don't understand what you are saying in this paragraph. What makes a question best versus worst?

    I understand what you are saying about a question contradicting its very nature. For example "Is there existence?" seems to undermine itself.

    But asking a person to explain the nature of existence, or define what constituents make up an ontology, while certainly making an assumption, does not seem limited or vacated by its own scope.

    Or for example, a question about what an individual believes makes up "truth", may not assume that "truth" somehow exists, but could rather be inviting the subject of interrogation to explain how they use the word when they include it in their speech. In that way, asking about a word, or how it gets used, does not necessarily make an assumption about the nature of what is signified by the word in question.
  • Wheatley
    1.2k
    Doubt can only take place against a background of certainty.Banno

    An important outcome is Wittgenstein's claim that all doubt is embedded in underlying beliefs and therefore the most radical forms of doubt must be rejected since they form a contradiction within the system that expressed them.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_Certainty
  • Adam's Off Ox
    53
    An important outcome is Wittgenstein's claim that all doubt is embedded in underlying beliefs and therefore the most radical forms of doubt must be rejected since they form a contradiction within the system that expressed them.Wheatley

    In your opinion, what is the demarcation between healthy doubt and the kind of most radical forms of doubt that must be rejected? Do you find my question meaningful?
  • Wheatley
    1.2k

    That's a difficult question. There's a whole philosophical tradition of unhealthy doubt from Sextus Empiricus and his Pyrrhonism, to modern philosophers such as Descartes and Hume.
  • Adam's Off Ox
    53
    What you say is interesting. Personally I find the philosophies of Pyrrho and Hume to be appealing. I even follow what Sextus Empiricus says.

    I suspect you do not believe all doubt is unhealthy. You point out a few examples of what you find to be unhealthy traditions, but I wonder what you believe makes them unhealthy. Is there some boundary, where a philosopher may remain confident that their question is in the healthy realm, without engaging in the sins of the unhealthy traditions?

    Also, what are the consequences of engaging in an unhealthy skeptical tradition?
  • Wheatley
    1.2k
    suspect you do not believe all doubt is unhealthy. You point out a few examples of what you find to be unhealthy traditions, but I wonder what you believe makes them unhealthy. Is there some boundary, where a philosopher may remain confident that their question is in the healthy realm, without engaging in the sins of the unhealthy traditions?Adam's Off Ox
    It all depends on your tolerance for anxiety. Anyone with an anxiety disorder will do well to stay away from those philosophers.
  • Wheatley
    1.2k
    Also, what are the consequences of engaging in an unhealthy skeptical tradition?Adam's Off Ox
    Most of the time it is harmless.
  • Benj96
    163
    Doubt can only take place against a background of certaintyBanno

    Mind blown
  • Banno
    8.5k
    Thank Wittgenstein. But it's there in your OP -

    ...the truth is all questions assume.Benj96
  • Welkin Rogue
    42
    Well the truth is all questions assume.Benj96

    What assumption am I making when I ask 'do trees exist?'

    Doubt can only take place against a background of certainty.Banno

    What certainty does it require?
  • Banno
    8.5k

    • That you and I speak english, at least to the extent that we use "trees" in a sufficiently similar way for my answer to be applicable.
    • That we will recognise the structure of the text as a request
    • That your typing will produce a post on the forum
    • That the post will be read by others
    • That the keyboard will not dissolve as you hit the keys
    I could go on at length, setting out the context in which the question has meaning. For:

    24. The idealist's question would be something like: "What right have I not to doubt the existence of my hands?" (And to that the answer can't be: I know that they exist.) But someone who asks such a question is overlooking the fact that a doubt about existence only works in a language-game. Hence, that we should first have to ask: what would such a doubt be like?, and don't understand this straight off.
  • Benj96
    163
    What assumption am I making when I ask 'do trees exist?'Welkin Rogue

    All questions assume. At the very basis of a question is the assumption that it was worthy of asking in the first place/ may have an answer.

    You assume that the question is coherent and sensible. You assume the rules of the English language - grammar, syntax, pragmatics etc. You assume that I may have an answer/response or you wouldn't have asked it. You assume that the internet will work and carry the information to my screen. You assume that I speak English. You assume the extent of my vocabulary- that I know what "tree means". You assume that trees can only either exist or not exist and that there is not multiple other alternative or intermediary states that would negate the valid and sensible use of either of the first two concepts. You assume the qualities of "existence" can be reasonably define to a degree accurate enough to permit its use in a sentence regarding trees.

    I'm not saying whether these assumptions are well reasoned or not. Most if not all are. As it's clear I speak English because I'm demonstrating it. But no less they are assumptions that you must apply to construct such a question. All questions assume.
  • Benj96
    163
    24. The idealist's question would be something like: "What right have I not to doubt the existence of my hands?" (And to that the answer can't be: I know that they exist.) But someone who asks such a question is overlooking the fact that a doubt about existence only works in a language-game. Hence, that we should first have to ask: what would such a doubt be like?, and don't understand this straight off.

    Superb
  • Welkin Rogue
    42
    That you and I speak english, at least to the extent that we use "trees" in a sufficiently similar way for my answer to be applicable.
    That we will recognise the structure of the text as a request
    That your typing will produce a post on the forum
    That the post will be read by others
    That the keyboard will not dissolve as you hit the keys
    I could go on at length, setting out the context in which the question has meaning. For:
    Banno

    I'm not certain about any of that. At most, I would say that my motivation to post the question might rely, psychologically, on these assumptions. But it seems possible for an agent to raise a doubt without having certainty that there is a language called 'English', or that their question even makes sense. Why not?
  • Banno
    8.5k
    You are getting the idea. Doubt is embedded in certainty.

    We've been taught, erroneously, that we should doubt everything. It's a truism. But that's not rational possible. Just as one can ask for a justification for a belief, one can ask for a justification for doubt.

    Question-everything.jpg
  • Banno
    8.5k
    I would say that my motivation to post the question might rely, psychologically, on these assumptions.Welkin Rogue

    ...that is, you rely on not doubting them, or in other words you treat them as certain.

    Of course you might bring one or two into doubt; but in order to do so, you must hold firm to other beliefs.
  • Welkin Rogue
    42
    All questions assume. At the very basis of a question is the assumption that it was worthy of asking in the first place/ may have an answer.Benj96

    I can agree that it is impossible for a person to intentionally pose a question that they don't recognise as being sensible or coherent. This is because, in order to recognise some speech act as a question, one must be able to make some sense of it (and doing something intentionally requires a level of awareness of what it is that one is doing).


    But first, I wonder whether recognising the sense in the question entails making the assumption that it does make sense. I can recognise that a creature is a horse without assuming that it is a horse, can't I?

    Secondly, there is a distinction between the question and the questioner. A questioner can make assumptions that the question doesn't. For example, the question 'does you car have petrol in the tank?' assumes that there is a car, that it has a tank, that it is yours, and so on. But the question 'are there trees?' doesn't itself make assumptions like that. At most, the questioner putting it might make certain minimal assumptions in order to engage in the practice of asking the question.
  • Welkin Rogue
    42
    ...that is, you rely on not doubting them, or in other words to treat them as certain.

    Of course you might bring one or two into doubt; but in order to do so, you must hold firm to other beliefs.
    Banno

    Okay, interesting. So as my reply to Benj96 suggested, perhaps I am making more of the distinction between question and questioner than you are. I want to bracket out all the assumptions/certainty that is causally/psychologically required, and focus on the propositions expressed and what claims they entail.

    But if the end goal is to refute global scepticism, then this distinction isn't very important. The anti-sceptic just needs to show that the global sceptic is themselves making some assumptions, and showing that doing X requires assumption Y seems to be enough.
  • Banno
    8.5k
    Secondly, there is a distinction between the question and the questioner. A questioner can make assumptions that the question doesn't. For example, the question 'does you car have petrol in the tank?' assumes that there is a car, that it has a tank, that it is yours, and so on. But the question 'are there trees?' doesn't itself make assumptions like that. At most, the questioner putting it might make certain minimal assumptions in order to engage in the practice of asking the question.Welkin Rogue

    "Are there trees?" is closer to a metaphysical question. What is it that you are asking here... well, one interpretation would be that you are asking how we use the word "tree", and so the answer might be to take you for a walk through the garden pointing out various shrubs, flowers, rocks... and trees.

    Dissolving metaphysics into language use is a powerful philosophical tool.
  • Banno
    8.5k
    Yep.

    Global scepticism is self-refuting.

    The philosophical method becomes just keeping an eye on what is being held certain in order to acheive doubt.

    One sort of certainty is institutional; it is assumed in what we are doing. So that the bishop moves diagonally is an institutional certainty. Doubt it, and you cease to be playing chess.

    That there are trees relies partially on the institutions of English and how they set out the use of "tree", but also on there being trees, as shown in our walk around the garden.
  • Welkin Rogue
    42


    I'm still confused, Banno.

    I don't know how much I need to assume in order to pose a question. Here's my attempt to reconstruct the argument. I think I'm not entirely getting the point.

    If I were to say that when I ask 'are there trees?' I'm not even assuming that my question is meaningful, then I am not really asking a question at all. Suppose I just like the sound of my own voice, or enjoy the look of the markings that I can make appear by typing. I am not really asking a question. I am doing something else - something aesthetic, perhaps. Questioning is a social practice. In order to pose a question, I must also make the assumption that my speech act will be effective in various ways. (I was going to say that it has meaning... but that seems to theoretical. Can't you doubt that there are meanings and yet ask questions? I'd hope so, for the sake of meaning sceptics). This assumption seems to entail the further assumption that there is a world in which my question can be effective - that there are listeners with a capacity for understanding and responding etc. (even if that's just me, or some collection of thoughts existing in the future).
  • Banno
    8.5k
    Looks to be on track.
  • tim wood
    4.7k
    Pretty close. Every question involves a presupposition - usually a constellation of them. But you're right - in other terminology, if a question seems to involve a presupposition that is not in fact being made, then it is not really a question but an invitation to nonsense.

    Figuring out just what the presuppositions are can be not-so-simple. If in the kitchen I think to myself, "That's a can opener," that's because in my mind was the question, "What's that, what is that for"? The constellation of presuppositions includes can openers, bottle openers, and so forth. But the central presupposition, on seeing the object, is that it's for something, some purpose. If I did not presuppose that the object was something for some purpose, I would never have formulated the question.
  • Welkin Rogue
    42
    Figuring out just what the presuppositions are can be not-so-simple. If in the kitchen I think to myself, "That's a can opener," that's because in my mind was the question, "What's that, what is that for"? The constellation of presuppositions includes can openers, bottle openers, and so forth. But the central presupposition, on seeing the object, is that it's for something, some purpose. If I did not presuppose that the object was something for some purpose, I would never have formulated the question.tim wood

    I wouldn't say that I presuppose that it has a purpose. It remains open, for instance, that it could be a bit of useless shrapnel.

    All I know is what it would be for something to have a purpose. That does seem required for asking the question (reasonably).

    But what presupposition I am making in knowing what it would be for something to have a purpose? (All I need to have is a certain concept. Does having that concept require a presupposition about the world?)
  • tim wood
    4.7k
    But what presupposition I am making in knowingWelkin Rogue
    Presupposing presupposes. It doesn't claim to know or be true. Best not to confuse the two.
  • Welkin Rogue
    42
    Presupposing presupposes. It doesn't claim to know or be true. Best not to confuse the two.tim wood

    Yep. So I am not presupposing anything. Right? My claim was that in asking the question "What's that, what is that for?" I am not presupposing that X has a purpose.
  • Isaac
    2.5k
    you rely on not doubting them, or in other words you treat them as certain.

    Of course you might bring one or two into doubt; but in order to do so, you must hold firm to other beliefs.
    Banno

    I don't know how you achieve this exhaustive binomialism without defining doubt away. How can one doubt something? It's not saying X is not the case, nor saying that X is the case.

    So to say that speaking requires that one holds the mutuality of the language to be 'certain' denies the possibility of one simply holding it 'more likely than not'. If you then go on to say "well, the belief that it's 'more likely than not' is that which you hold to be certain", then, as per above, you've removed the definition of doubt.
  • tim wood
    4.7k
    Yep. So I am not presupposing anything. Right? My claim was that in asking the question "What's that, what is that for?" I am not presupposing that X has a purpose.Welkin Rogue

    The idea is that if you ask, you're presupposing. If you're not presupposing, then it's a statement in the form of question, but not really a question, therefore nonsense. And not really a question because you're not really presupposing anything; i.e., the question is not about anything.
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