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The Paradox Of The Question

  1. May 11, 2003 #1


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    in this link:http://www.ac.wwu.edu/~markosia/papers/PQ.pdf [Broken]

    there is a paradox, can someone please answer the question in this pdf?

    thanks in advance.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 1, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. May 11, 2003 #2


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    Good one lqg !

    Well, abviously the philosophers' perspective
    differed from that of the angel. The
    philosophers' perspective was : Given the
    fact that we've met an angel who can tell
    us any answer to the most philosophicly and
    otherwise important question - what is the
    best question and answer ?
    The angel's perspectibe was much simpler:
    The question that the philosophers asked
    was chosen by them as the best and hence
    it must be answered as was agreed (regardless
    of its stupid content :wink:).

    Basicly, the philosophers made assumptions
    and the angel did not. (This "riddle" is not
    very positive towards philosophers, is it ? )

    Live long and prosper.
  4. May 11, 2003 #3
    Re: Re: The Paradox Of The Question

    Neither the riddle, nor the answer, are correct!

    Have you noticed?

    They could only ask one question ... and: "But it quickly became obvious that they needed more time to discuss the matter, so they asked the angel if he could get back to them."

    Thus the only question was already asked.

    Starting to read I was thinking that that would be the plot ... but Ned Markosian didn't noticed his logic failure.
    Last edited: May 11, 2003
  5. May 12, 2003 #4


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    Re: Re: Re: The Paradox Of The Question

    Nope. You're confusing "local" linguistic
    definitions of the English language. In other
    languages there is a clear separation between
    the two basic meanings of this word in English -
    pose a question or make an offer.

    They could say something like this :
    It's difficult for us to formulate a question
    now so we need more time, please.

    Live long and prosper.
  6. May 12, 2003 #5
    Re: Re: Re: Re: The Paradox Of The Question

    Actually Drag it's you who is wrong. This story is fiction, therefore its words are taken as is. The author clearly said they "asked". One can ask nothing but a question. Therefore they asked a question.

    Your example is fine except it's not what the story says happened. One could demand more time, one could plead for more time. But they ASKED for more time.

    PS: I too thought that was the plot. When I saw it was not, I realized such a "paradox" written with a mistake doesn't make the author look very good!
  7. May 12, 2003 #6
    Furthermore, I don't see a paradox at all. I see nothing out of the normal with this story.
  8. May 12, 2003 #7
    There are two significant things on this angel question thing.

    First. What do we call 'the best question'? The philosophers mislead themselves there, in thinking that there would be somehow a list of 'best philosophical questions'. What came out is that what is best, is only judged on what the philosophers themselves could come up with. Any question they would ask, would in fact ask the angel would always be the best question.

    Second. The question itself is not a direct philosphical question (an issue which is unrelated to the event itself), but is a meta-question. What they got was also a meta answer.

    What should the philosophers have done?

    Well from the scene we know that this conference of philosophers were not materialist philosophers, but were a bunch of idealist philosophers. If there would have been just materialist philosophers , they would not have wasted their time for finding a question, in fact they would have just ignored the angel at all. For it is clear, angels do not exist at all, and all question we can ask ourselves, we can also answer.
  9. May 12, 2003 #8
    And what about the angel?
  10. May 12, 2003 #9
    In the story the angel appeared and spoke .... that means that the voice could be registered, ... and see: so he could be photographed. Thus it was a kind of materialized entity.

    About the logic, check: http://web.syr.edu/~trsider/papers/quest.pdf [Broken] , 4 pages of analysis.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 1, 2017
  11. May 12, 2003 #10
    The paradox and the "answer" to the paradox point out a blatant observation of "philosophy".

    Philosophy has NEVER, and will NEVER conclude with any single truth about reality.

    I have come to realize that philosophy, like politics, is simply another way to attempt to force upon others your perspective of reality!
  12. May 12, 2003 #11
    Philosophy has many branches. One of the roles of philosophy is to determine when something becomes knowledge. Hence, the scientific method is created by a philosophical exercise. As new knowledge is obtained, it is also the role of philosophy to determine the implications of that knowlegde (i.e. does it change our ability to "know", morality, etc.)

    Of course philosophy is much more than this but I single this out because I suspect you think these are good things but probably don't think of them as philosophy. Science is an offshoot of philosophy.

    To me this story isn't making any statements about philosophers or idealists or anything like that. My guess is that it's a lesson in logic and nothing more. The flaw that people are pointing out is a bit picky to me. This would be the type of hook you might expect from a child's tale but in this exercise it is simple filler to get to the main point. This story is obviously not looking for a quick out with a cheap moral lesson like childrens stories do. It looks to be trying to make a point about logic and self referential statements.
    Last edited: May 12, 2003
  13. May 12, 2003 #12
    I favor the story being a lesson in logic also. It does end with an open question, however, and the answer to that question might bring up any number of thoughts.

    If someone can figure out what they should have asked, I’d like to hear what it is!
  14. May 12, 2003 #13
    Try this one...

    "What the hell is going on here?"
  15. May 12, 2003 #14
    That is in fact precisely what I would like to know more than anything else. I'm just thinking that no matter how it is worded the Angel would give a trick answer and leave everyone hanging.
  16. May 12, 2003 #15


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    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The Paradox Of The Question

    Greetings !
    I'd like to ask you to pass over the brown
    sugar, please.
    Really ? Is that true ? :wink:

    Live long and prosper.
  17. May 16, 2003 #16
    But isn't that what Philosophy is all about, asking questions? Isn't that also what Science is all about, asking questions?
    In that light the story is a perfectly valid philisophical and logical story. Both Science and Philosophy have first to ask themselves what question are we going to ask. If we don't know or understand the question how could we possible know or understand whatever answer we might get. If we don't know what answer we are looking for then how can we form a valid question that will give us a valid answer?
    In this light, the philosophers asked the most important question possible, ie "What is the most important question that we could ask?". The angel answered truthfully and fully by say that the most important question that they could ask is, "What is the most important question that we could ask?"
    It illustrates a very important and valid tenet, rule, of Philosopy, Science and Logic. The first step in any new endevore is to decide what question are we going to ask in order to find out what we want to know. That is not a paradox, but a simply truth.
  18. May 16, 2003 #17
    Royce - science is about answering questions.

    Philosophy is just about saying your way of thought is how the world should think. Philosophy may ask a question here and there, but the answer is always ones own, which they promptly attempt to cause the world to agree with.
  19. May 16, 2003 #18
    Philosophy and science are not the practice of asking endless meaningless questions. Philosophy is the pursuit of wisdom and science is the pursuit of understanding. To ask, what color my shirt is not a philosophical or scientific pursuit. Asking what is the most important question we can ask can either be the philosophical pursuit of wisdom or the foolish pursuit of chasing our own tails.

    The angel might just as meaningfully answered as a Zen master might by hitting the student over the head with a stick or saying, "Why do I ask this question?" :0)
  20. May 16, 2003 #19
    But what question is it answering? We must have a question before we can go looking for answers. Without knowing the question, the answer is meaningless. That was one of the things that the story pointed out.
    Most philosophy is about answering questions though the question may be implied, ie. the meaning of life, what is reality, what is knowlege. what is existance. what exists on and on. Just look at the philosophy forum. It is full of questions and answeres.

    Yes wuli, the first impression of the story that I had was that it was very Zen. It may seem circular but it isn't. The very first question a scientist must ask himself and answer before designing or performing an experiement is "What am I trying to find out?" or in the terms orf the story "What question am I asking?" The next question he must ask himself and answer is; "What do I expect or suspect the answer to be? or "How can I recognize the result of the experiement and will it prove or disprove the hypothasis I am testing?"
    Philosophy and Logic must go through the same steps. The question must contain, be correlated to, the answer; and, the answer must contain, be correlated to, the question. This is very basic to reasoning. So basic that it is often not realized and overlooked or taken for granted without thinking about it. That is exactly why it is so important.
  21. May 16, 2003 #20
    It is basic to reasoning, but not to life. When I stub my toe I don't ask myself if I stubbed my toe. I shout and dance around a little, then maybe ask myself what it was I stubbed my toe on if I feel so compelled. I'm reminded of a two month old baby I watched once. Lying on its back, the baby saw a fly land on its hand. Naturally, being a baby, it started to bring its hand up to its mouth. The fly, of course, flew away before the baby could eat it. The baby then grew so excited it sqweeled, shook all over, and smacked itself in the face and then started crying.

    Calming down within a minute or so the baby once again relaxed and enjoyed staring at the tree branches and sky overhead. At which point the fly once again promptly landed on its hand and the whole sequence repeated because, of course, both fly and baby had very limited memories. Likewise, for the rest of us the pursuit of wisdom and understanding need not involve questions even though they often do. All that is required is an accepting attitude, which can be cultivated, from which observation and experience can then be descerned.
    Last edited: May 16, 2003
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