8 comments

  • >Let me just get in here before anyone else does. This question had to come up sooner or later but I really hate it. It's not a real question and the only answer to it has to be "why what?" unless something else preceeded the question e.g. "I hate doing this. Why? Because …". Some people say it means "why are we here?" but it plainly doesn't. It can either be attached to another question, half a question, or an infinite question about everything i.e. "why does that happen? why is this that colour? why am I asking this question?" etc etc.So do you agree? In your opinion is this a question or just half of one?

  • >You are right; on its own it is not a question so much as a (confusing) exclamation. Taken as it is it is nonsense.I'd like to meet someone who thinks it definitively means 'why are we here?' and have them explain why (ahem) exactly it should mean that rather than 'why must I be so presumptious?' or any other 'why' question for that matter.Odd topic, I have to say: have you been drinking?

  • >Of course it applies to a whole range of utterances:Who?What?When?Where?Why?How?All of which, as you say, are essentially meaningless without either clarifying prefix or suffix ('I am here: why?' or 'Why am I here?').I suppose they are questions linguistically, but to all intents and purposes they are exclamations.

  • >Ok I may have been drinking but that's besides the point entirely, lol. It's deemed a legitimate question on Philosophy papers. In fact my father in law told me he got the question "Pourquoi?" when he was at school, and got a decent mark by simply answering "Pourquoi pas?" (yes I do believe he wrote that by the way, he would).My question is what do examiners mean when they ask this, and what are students supposed to write in answer?

  • >I have no idea what examiners mean, nor can anyone but the framers of the question possibly know, which makes it a poorly-formed and slightly ridiculous question. (In fact, as I have said, not really a question at all).Perhaps they wish us to deconstruct it along the lines of what we have done in posts 1-3?

  • >Perhaps, but then we're talking about the philosophy of language and I'm not sure that's the topic it's intended to be discussed within. The other way of addressing it would be to talk about causality and reasoning i.e. the method of answering a question triggered by 'why', rather than the answer in and of itself. That way we could discuss the importance of causality and reasoning in human development, and the reason 'why' has become such an important word in our vocabularies. To be honest though we probably need to hear from someone who actually knows, because as you say without the knowledge of what it's about it seems to me a very irresponsible question to pose, for it leaves students guessing as to what the examiner wants (and far more than usual).

  • >Perfectly true, but that of course does not explain why your father in law did well with his answer (retort) of 'why not?' This seems to indicate that the examiners were looking for answers that flagged up the linguistic absurdity of the question itself. Either way, the question itself is pompous, smart-arsed and obtuse; symptomatic of the very qualities (perceived or real) that give philosophy such a bad name.

  • >Glad we agree! I've heard of the question being asked several times and every time I thought what we've discussed so I had to find out if there was something I was missing.

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