A single 2-hour test stands between me and a bachelor of arts in philosophy.
Most my mental resources have been diverted towards finishing this degree—for better, for worse. But to my modest readership I’d like to continue and perhaps rekindle our virtual relationship with some brief reflections on the following query:
“What is a philosophic question?”
The question has slithered through my awareness time and again, here surfacing and supposing, here tickling the truth. So far I have only unearthed the following conditional:
If a question has an answer, then it is not a philosophic question.
For example, consider the following:
“Why is the sky blue?” Science has an answer with which it is hard to disagree or doubt; therefore, the question is not philosophic.
“Does god exist?” Well answers to that are tinged with speculation and disagreement. Seems like a tough one to answer definitively; we’d label it ‘philosophic.’
I will doubtless need a qualifier before ‘answer,’ such as true, or empirical, or verifiable. Yet each of these words concern other domains of inquiry in philosophy: epistemology, logic, and philosophy of science. Yet even these domains, containing or charged with critiquing the most useful and revered human practices admit of problems and limitations: we cannot know that we know something (scientifically or otherwise); logic (alone) is inadequate for determining, say, ethical issues.
Further, defining a philosophic question by what it lacks entails a serious inadequacy: it’s like saying an oragle is not a pickle: how the hell does knowing what something lacks reveal what it has?
As I write this, the following implication has also surfaced: if we cannot know with surety whether we have obtained the truth, i.e., an answer to a question–even in science–then all questions are philosophic!
This means we have a serious problem, or my definiendum is inaccurate. Yet if it is, then we might be forced into the position that philosophy and other domains are separated only by the subjects/objects under scrutiny: chemistry studies elemental interactions, ethics right and wrong, religion god—but at bottom, there is no difference in kind; a single element of human inquiry ties them together.