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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-U031-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved March 01, 2021, from

Article Summary

Some theorists hold that a question is an interrogative sentence; others that a question is what is meant or expressed by an interrogative sentence. Most theorists hold that each question has two or more answers, and that the point of asking a question is to have the respondent reply with one of the answers. Most hold that each question has an assertive core or presupposition that is implied by each of the answers; if it is false, then no answer is true, so we say that the question commits the fallacy of many questions and we regard the negation of the presupposition as a corrective reply to the question (it corrects the question).

For example, consider the question ‘Has Adam stopped sinning?’ Its answers are ‘Adam has stopped sinning’ and ‘Adam has not stopped sinning’. It presupposes ‘Adam has sinned’; thus ‘Adam has not sinned’ is a corrective reply. The ‘safe’ way to ask this question is via the conditional ‘If Adam has sinned, then has Adam stopped sinning?’

We can construct formal systems for asking whether and which questions in an effective way. Other types of question (for example, who and why) are still problematic. It can be proved that some questions are reducible to others, some questions raise others, and some systems for the logic of questions can never be complete in certain ways.

Citing this article:
Harrah, David. Questions, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-U031-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2021 Routledge.

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