TED Conversations

This conversation is closed. Start a new conversation
or join one »

Problems of idealism; Is there such a thing as an unnecessary question?

As the old age sentiment goes, "Dear student, there is no such thing as a dumb question."

I think most of us would agree that in fact there most definitely is. Throughout the average day we might come across a few of these redundant, repetitive, or intentionally idiot,/misleading (yes, some people ask obvious questions for reasons other than actually wanting to know the answer) ramblings spouted by our coworkers, students, peers, etc. For example, there is always the individual in a meeting or classroom that, for some reason, always seems to miss the direction or content of every other sentence.

These instances aside, though, could there possibly be this sort of phenomena occurring in philosophical discourse?

The types of questions I am referring to merit the labeling of "philosophical mind games." We can look to the instances of most of our first encounters with "philosophical thinking" for examples of what I'm speaking about; "Whoa bro, what would happen if I took a picture, of a picture, of a picture?, or "What if we're all dreaming right now and when we think we're having dreams, we're having dreams within dreams?". These youthful utterances are usually followed by the phrase "That's deep."

Admittedly, the first encounters with infinite regressions spark the intellectual engines and we have ridden into more sophisticated scopes of inquiry. I must also note that the philosophical spirit of questioning is very valuable and I in no way am arguing for the lack of this or diminishment of creativity.

But I find these sorts of questions quite dangerous when used for the foundation of philosophical paradigms. Solipsism, for eg., by exploiting perceptive limitation, comes to the ridiculous conclusion that there is nothing outside of ourselves. This similarly occurs with argument for idealism.

Could we not entertain these ideas as students of philosophy and critical thinkers without taking them any more seriously than a critical thinking exercise?

+1
Share:

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Sep 7 2013: Shawn, are you looking for what kinds of questions one might classify as not fruitful in the sense of providing no practical leverage, or are you asking specifically whether questioning physicality is fruitful?
    • thumb
      Sep 7 2013: I'm more so trying to classify the questioning of physicality into the category of philosophically (in the sense that it requires a philosophical mode of thought) and rhetorically fruitful but practically meaningless.

      I'm also looking to see if this is a defensible position.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.