Thursday, May 05, 2011

There Is No Such Thing as a Stupid Question. Really?

The old chestnut "there is no such thing as a stupid question," is clearly designed to encourage questions from those who are insecure, but not stupid. But is it true?

When I do my "any questions: auto mechanics to quantum mechanics" schtick everyday, one of the challenges is to take questions that are clearly intended wise acre students to be stupid questions and show that they actually are deep and interesting questions when you look at them from a larger viewpoint or a perspective one generally would not occupy. In this sense, perhaps there are, indeed no stupid questions.

Some philosophers, on the other hand, have clearly held certain questions to be stupid. In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle argues that the question "What do you want all that happiness for?" is a stupid question. Frege looks at two questions (Frege's Frages) "Is the morning star the same as the evening star?" and declares it non-stupid and "Is the morning star the same as the morning star?" and declares it stupid. Maybe they are correct that these are stupid questions, or maybe they are begging the question by not allowing for perspectives from which the questions become interesting.

So, are there any stupid questions? Is that one of them? How about that one? Or that one?