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Questions Without Conclusive Answers: Are They Worth Discussing?

 
 
wandeljw
 
  2  
Reply Mon 20 Sep, 2010 05:14 am
north wrote:
meaning of existence

the proof of the existence of Universe, reality

simple really


"Proof of existence" and "meaning of existence" are two different things.
Ding an Sich
 
  1  
Reply Mon 20 Sep, 2010 06:15 am
@wandeljw,
wandeljw wrote:

The history of philosophy shows that each generation has confronted questions on the meaning of existence, how people are governed, and how we should treat each other. Conclusive answers to the questions have eluded us. Do we benefit as human beings by continuing to discuss questions that have no guarantee of a definitive answer?


Maybe they do; we really cannot determine this as of yet. We can indeed say that there is a probablility of the answers not being solved in the near future, but we cannot rule out that they will never be solved in the future.

Lets say we never ask these questions. Do we simply go from what has already been said?
0 Replies
 
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Mon 20 Sep, 2010 09:39 am
@wandeljw,
wandeljw wrote:

The history of philosophy shows that each generation has confronted questions on the meaning of existence, how people are governed, and how we should treat each other. Conclusive answers to the questions have eluded us. Do we benefit as human beings by continuing to discuss questions that have no guarantee of a definitive answer?


But even if there is no guarantee of a conclusive answer (and I don't know what such a guarantee would even look like) it does not follow that there is no conclusive answer. So how can we possible know that there is not one? In any case, at least in philosophy, we can often learn more from the question than we can from its answer (if any). For instance, by examining the question we can learn why such a question has no answer, let alone a conclusive answer. Some of the most famous questions in philosophy are just like that. And discovering why the question has no answer can teach us much about philosophy, and about language in general. So, as far as philosophy goes, the benefit of discussing question which have no answers may be greater than then benefit of discussing question which have answers.
0 Replies
 
Khethil
 
  1  
Reply Mon 20 Sep, 2010 09:59 am
@wandeljw,
wandeljw wrote:
The history of philosophy shows that each generation has confronted questions on the meaning of existence, how people are governed, and how we should treat each other. Conclusive answers to the questions have eluded us. Do we benefit as human beings by continuing to discuss questions that have no guarantee of a definitive answer?

Absolutely.

Through the discussion we learn about ourselves, our own motivations, we stretch our minds to discover what's important/what's not, we learn about others and in so doing, gain a better perspective about the actions and values of others, we come to realize just how important the core issues are and discover other correlates that likely haven't occurred to us, we become more tolerant of other ideas as we see the mental links to such questions in both ourselves and others, etc., etc... The list is practically endless.

Of course, none of this is worth a damn for those who see no potential benefit.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Mon 20 Sep, 2010 10:10 am
@Khethil,
Khethil wrote:

wandeljw wrote:
The history of philosophy shows that each generation has confronted questions on the meaning of existence, how people are governed, and how we should treat each other. Conclusive answers to the questions have eluded us. Do we benefit as human beings by continuing to discuss questions that have no guarantee of a definitive answer?

Absolutely.

Through the discussion we learn about ourselves, our own motivations, we stretch our minds to discover what's important/what's not, we learn about others and in so doing, gain a better perspective about the actions and values of others, we come to realize just how important the core issues are and discover other correlates that likely haven't occurred to us, we become more tolerant of other ideas as we see the mental links to such questions in both ourselves and others, etc., etc... The list is practically endless.

Of course, none of this is worth a damn for those who see no potential benefit.


But we also should mention the evils as well as the benefits. For example, endless discussion of a pseudo-problem, the fostering of contempt among those who already believe that philosophy is just endless discussion with no purpose; the deception involved in the implication that there is a solution in the offing when there is none. I still think that what is more beneficial than discussion for the sake of discussion is discussion of why the question in the offing is unanswerable, and understanding the reasons for that. That is philosophy without the frustration.
Khethil
 
  2  
Reply Mon 20 Sep, 2010 12:14 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy wrote:

Khethil wrote:

wandeljw wrote:
The history of philosophy shows that each generation has confronted questions on the meaning of existence, how people are governed, and how we should treat each other. Conclusive answers to the questions have eluded us. Do we benefit as human beings by continuing to discuss questions that have no guarantee of a definitive answer?

Absolutely.

Through the discussion we learn about ourselves, our own motivations, we stretch our minds to discover what's important/what's not, we learn about others and in so doing, gain a better perspective about the actions and values of others, we come to realize just how important the core issues are and discover other correlates that likely haven't occurred to us, we become more tolerant of other ideas as we see the mental links to such questions in both ourselves and others, etc., etc... The list is practically endless.

Of course, none of this is worth a damn for those who see no potential benefit.


But we also should mention the evils as well as the benefits. For example, endless discussion of a pseudo-problem, the fostering of contempt among those who already believe that philosophy is just endless discussion with no purpose; the deception involved in the implication that there is a solution in the offing when there is none. I still think that what is more beneficial than discussion for the sake of discussion is discussion of why the question in the offing is unanswerable, and understanding the reasons for that. That is philosophy without the frustration.

I agree that there are downsides and pitfalls - as there is for just about anything.

I disagree in the characterization that addressing such issues must be either 'answerable' or 'discussion for the sake of discussion'; as if the two extremes were the only possible outcomes. For if this were the case, since absolute knowledge (read: answerables) were the only net we'd recognize as worthy, virtually every topic would constitute "discussion for the sake of discussion"; thus nullifying the setting aside of philosophical questions on this basis alone.

Thanks
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Tue 21 Sep, 2010 01:11 pm
@Khethil,
Khethil wrote:

kennethamy wrote:

Khethil wrote:

wandeljw wrote:
The history of philosophy shows that each generation has confronted questions on the meaning of existence, how people are governed, and how we should treat each other. Conclusive answers to the questions have eluded us. Do we benefit as human beings by continuing to discuss questions that have no guarantee of a definitive answer?

Absolutely.

Through the discussion we learn about ourselves, our own motivations, we stretch our minds to discover what's important/what's not, we learn about others and in so doing, gain a better perspective about the actions and values of others, we come to realize just how important the core issues are and discover other correlates that likely haven't occurred to us, we become more tolerant of other ideas as we see the mental links to such questions in both ourselves and others, etc., etc... The list is practically endless.

Of course, none of this is worth a damn for those who see no potential benefit.


But we also should mention the evils as well as the benefits. For example, endless discussion of a pseudo-problem, the fostering of contempt among those who already believe that philosophy is just endless discussion with no purpose; the deception involved in the implication that there is a solution in the offing when there is none. I still think that what is more beneficial than discussion for the sake of discussion is discussion of why the question in the offing is unanswerable, and understanding the reasons for that. That is philosophy without the frustration.

I agree that there are downsides and pitfalls - as there is for just about anything.

I disagree in the characterization that addressing such issues must be either 'answerable' or 'discussion for the sake of discussion'; as if the two extremes were the only possible outcomes. For if this were the case, since absolute knowledge (read: answerables) were the only net we'd recognize as worthy, virtually every topic would constitute "discussion for the sake of discussion"; thus nullifying the setting aside of philosophical questions on this basis alone.

Thanks


I did not mean to make it black or white. But although I don't know what you mean by "absolute knowledge" (certainty perhaps?) it is true that there are many thing we know. For instance that Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun, or that water is a compound of hydrogen and oxygen. If you just mean in philosophy, then I know that the Ontological argument is wrong, and I know why it is wrong. I know that fatalism is different from determinism, and that fatalism is false, and can be shown to be false. And various other things too.

The trouble is that the view that there is nothing in philosophy for which we can get (at least) highly plausible answers, and that philosophy consists, to quote D.H. Lawrence (not about philosophy) in "talk, talk, talk, and never a thing said" is not only unjust to philosophy since it is not true, but gives philosophy a very bad name, and makes it an object of contempt for many who think that is true.
Khethil
 
  1  
Reply Wed 22 Sep, 2010 08:34 am
@kennethamy,
Ken,

I've had some measure of difficulty trying to precisely enunciate my thoughts on this. Its subtle and can't be characterized as a "there is"/"there isn't" argument. These are points that mitigate, soften and flesh out the implications of what we're talking about. Begging your patience....

kennethamy wrote:
I did not mean to make it black or white. But although I don't know what you mean by "absolute knowledge" (certainty perhaps?) it is true that there are many thing we know.

I understand; and yes there are many things we can (at least reasonably know). This is a product of how I've arrived on these same issues - a result of my own mind's processes and how I've been presented, and subsequently worked through - them.

What I mean by absolute knowledge, in this thread's context, is this: The OP talks about what's answerable. But what is or isn't can be murky depending. Very much like your examples (Mars & water molecular composition), these - I'd say - are quite answerable. But even these can be phrased or contextualized in such a way as to reveal them as "not quite as clear". For example: What is a planet? By whose definition (e.g., the Pluto Demotion) or perhaps questioning whether or not it is the existence of hydrogen and oxygen alone that comprises water; can't just mix 'em in a beaker, they require an atomic reaction (of sorts) to actually link properly. These are probably weak examples, but only examples of how some folks might look upon the "clearly answerable" as not. The instant we admit this - to any extent - thus enters implications of value in discussing what is or isn't answerable. Short Version: Nothing is quite so clear as it may appear; so much so, that almost nothing is conclusively "answerable". Yes this is a reach, but its a subtle implication that speaks to the validity of discussion and learning itself via recognition of the complexity of what appears simple.

kennethamy wrote:
... If you just mean in philosophy, then I know that the Ontological argument is wrong, and I know why it is wrong. I know that fatalism is different from determinism, and that fatalism is false, and can be shown to be false....

Aye, and I think I'd agree with you on most points (side note). However, if the premise of the original post's presentation is correct (that which is unanswerable has no value in discussion), then we draw upon our own perspectives to make this decision. In the above examples you give, these are knowable, quantifiable and logical to you. In other words, they've been answered. But to many, their view (or more likely context or framing of such issues) is divergent to the point that such hasn't an answer. Perhaps they require other proofs, illustrations or contexts - unknown to their current mindset - to answer. The point: Such could be answerable or not, depending on how questions are approached. Because of this, our labeling of "answerable" or "knowable" is spurious and subject to interpretation; therefore, any such declaration cannot be used - reliably - to characterize the worth of discussion. They may be to you, or to me, or not - but can't very well be generalized across the spectrum.

kennethamy wrote:
The trouble is that the view that there is nothing in philosophy for which we can get (at least) highly plausible answers, and that philosophy consists, to quote D.H. Lawrence (not about philosophy) in "talk, talk, talk, and never a thing said" is not only unjust to philosophy since it is not true, but gives philosophy a very bad name, and makes it an object of contempt for many who think that is true.

Concur completely - well put.

  • Our understanding is the foundation of any given perspective
  • Our perspective defines our reality
  • Each person's understanding and perspective is unique to him or her alone
  • Our reality frames what is answerable, knowable or not
  • Therefore what is "answerable" or "knowable" varies from person to person

Therefore whether or not its worthy of discussion can't be given "one" answer on-the-whole

Yes this sounds like a gross justification for relativism; granted. But even though I'm not much of a "reality is relative" fellow, I believe that as soon as we cross that line into knowable and answerable, such a result is sadly unavoidable.

Thanks for engaging
wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Wed 22 Sep, 2010 09:26 am
@Khethil,
I did not intend to state a premise in my original post. I was asking for opinions on whether there can be a benefit to discussing issues that have no guarantee of a decisive resolution.

(Personally, I believe there is a benefit in discussion alone.)
Khethil
 
  1  
Reply Wed 22 Sep, 2010 10:09 am
@wandeljw,
wandeljw wrote:

I did not intend to state a premise in my original post. I was asking for opinions on whether there can be a benefit to discussing issues that have no guarantee of a decisive resolution.

(Personally, I believe there is a benefit in discussion alone.)

Thanks for the clarification. And yes, I do too!
0 Replies
 
north
 
  1  
Reply Sun 26 Sep, 2010 09:12 pm
@wandeljw,
wandeljw wrote:

north wrote:
meaning of existence

the proof of the existence of Universe, reality

simple really


"Proof of existence" and "meaning of existence" are two different things.


no there not

both go hand in hand
0 Replies
 
HexHammer
 
  1  
Reply Mon 27 Sep, 2010 04:18 pm
@wandeljw,
wandeljw wrote:

The history of philosophy shows that each generation has confronted questions on the meaning of existence, how people are governed, and how we should treat each other. Conclusive answers to the questions have eluded us. Do we benefit as human beings by continuing to discuss questions that have no guarantee of a definitive answer?
Yes, absolutely as they will pave the way for curiosity and experiments. That is a good foundation for research.
reasoning logic
 
  1  
Reply Mon 27 Sep, 2010 05:14 pm
@HexHammer,
HexHammer wrote:

wandeljw wrote:

The history of philosophy shows that each generation has confronted questions on the meaning of existence, how people are governed, and how we should treat each other. Conclusive answers to the questions have eluded us. Do we benefit as human beings by continuing to discuss questions that have no guarantee of a definitive answer?
Yes, absolutely as they will pave the way for curiosity and experiments. That is a good foundation for research.


Seems like a answer coming from a wise person doesn't it!
0 Replies
 
 

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