The definition I take of questioning is:
"To cast doubt on the statements made by someone. e.g. Question the veracity of a story".

For example, if the organization named A claims that B is a fact, if you question B are you also questioning A implicitly, or are you questioning just what A said/claimed?
This question arose in me when browsing the webpage of an organization of high IQ people who claim: "intelligence is innate". When I questioned it, some people ask me why I'm questioning the organization, then I clarify that I'm just questioning the claim they made, and then they told me that by questioning the claim itself I'm implicitly and directly questioning the organization too.

Questioning a person's claim or ideology also implies you are questioning the person itself? If correct, why?
e.g. questioning a politic ideology implies questioning the people who follow that same ideology?

Is questioning what someone claims and questioning the person itself inseparable?
Couldn't I just question the claim to find out if it's in deed true, considering useless to know and question who has made it? Would I also be questioning that person without my intention?

My POV is that I should be able to question the claim B by itself, without any need of questioning A, but just what A claimed or said (the claim itself).

Is any reason why this differentiation is incorrect?

EDIT: Other observations to narrow to make my point clearer:

AFAIK, doubting about a claim someone makes is not rejecting it, is opening the chance to reject it, just because you don't have enough proof yet to be sure if it's true. When I ask about implying the questioning of an organization/person/ideology when I'm questioning one claim it has made, I'm asking if FOR ALL cases this is true(i.e. it's implicitly for every case of doubting), not if it could be true sometimes, i.e. if besides my will and how people might usually operate regarding this, I'm doing it implicitly because of logical or/and linguistic reasons.

  • Not necessarily. You may only be questioning A's sources of information. May 8, 2015 at 2:24
  • I've removed seemingly unrelated comments. If you have complaints about things you're encountering on philosophy.se, flag them or take them to meta.philosophy.se...
    – virmaior
    May 8, 2015 at 15:35
  • It's quite subjective. In my experience there are people who can't differentiate between an attack on their position and an attack on themselves, and as I see they are a problem for scientific and philosophical progress of society (unfortunately they may be the majority). But then, if a person is repeatedly proved to be wrong, to be wrong in most every opinion, then that is undoubtedly saying something about the person. May 11, 2015 at 15:39

5 Answers 5


I think what's happening here is slippage in the meaning of "questioning".

But I think the root of what you are dealing with here relates to the transitivity of the word "questioning". This could be either seen as a philosophical or linguistic issue. If you want the linguistic issue answered, try linguistics.se or english.se or ell.se depending on your level.

The philosophical issue is a mirror for a core issue in epistemology related to beliefs and the logical implications of those beliefs.

Consider the claims,

1) Smith believes P.
2) P implies Q. 

The question of whether this implies that Smith Believes Q is complex. This is called epistemic closure.

Keelan's answer points to modus tollens and the connection between negating a claim (the consequent) and negating a claim which would have inferred that claim (the antecedent). This is similarly a case of implication. So maybe we could say its a problem of "accusative closure".

I think that's mostly going to be a linguistics issue, but I think we can definitely imagine cases where the transitivity fails. For instance, someone can criticize the quality of a piece of work while simultaneously praising the author (the classic example in philosophy of language relates to loving the fictional works but hating the philosophy of Jean Paul Sartre).

My sense is that generally the accusative closure of questioning happens unless something breaks it. But I really don't think I'm resolving that at a clearly philosophical level.


I'm not sure that it could be made formal or rigorous, but intuitively a claim can be bound more or less centrally to an organization. If a doll-collecting organization makes the claim intelligence is innate, you might question the organization's accuracy, or why it's opining on intelligence in the first place, but your rejection of that claim is not necessarily a rejection of the organization.

On the other hand, when an organization oriented around intelligence makes a claim about intelligence, your rejection of that claim is in fact implicitly a rejection of the organization, because you are implying a) that they are organized around a falsehood and b) that they are inaccurate in their supposed core area of expertise. Note: The fact that they are the supposed experts does not mean their claims must be accepted as given --this feeds over into the fallacy of appeal to authority, meaning even if a group is the correct authority on an issue, it doesn't change the validity or invalidity of their arguments.

The situation is somewhat different in the case of an individual. Rejection of a claim cannot typically be construed as rejection of an individual, because a person's reason for existence is not based on their claims. However, it could be construed as rejection of that person's expertise or authority, or suitability for a position he or she holds, depending on how relevant it is. For example, the rejection of Brian Williams' claims to have been in a helicopter that came under fire ultimately led to the rejection of his suitability to serve as a journalist.

  • AFAIK, doubting about a claim someone makes is not rejecting it, is opening the chance to reject it, just because you don't have enough proof yet to be sure if it's true. When I ask about implying the questioning of an organization when I'm questioning one claim it has made, I'm asking if FOR ALL cases this is true, not if it could be true sometimes, i.e. if besides my will and how people might usually operate regarding this, I'm doing it implicitly because of logical or/and linguistic reasons. May 8, 2015 at 13:58
  • @rewobs You're asking a natural language question and expecting a formal answer. There isn't a rigorous answer outside of a formal context. May 8, 2015 at 14:13

The quick answer is that you can question the truth or validity of a claim without impugning the knowledge or veracity of the source. It never follows logically that if you question - even if you doubt - a claim and ask for its credentials you are assuming or implying that the claim-maker is ignorant or deliberately deceptive about the matter.

Examples :

  1. You tell me that Queen Victoria died in 1901. I seem to remember reading that it was a different year. I can question your claim, raise a doubt about its truth, without assuming that you don't know or are not telling the truth. In fact she did die in 1901 and my own memory is false. You do know and are telling the truth.

  2. You tell me that drug X is the most effective available against tooth-ache - it is the fastest-working and most powerfully analgesic. I can question this without assuming or implying that you don't really know (though you might not) or are trying to deceive me.

But in some contexts to question precisely is to impugn the knowledge or veracity of the source. A company claims that its product, Y, is safe by whatever relevant criteria. I have strong evidence that Y has non-accidentally harmed a large number of people and that the company knows this but denies it. When I question the safety of Y at a public meeting, I may use a simple interrogative, 'Is Y safe?', when I assume it is not and am implying that it is not and moreover that the company knows it is not.

So there's an element of contextuality in the answer to your question. But the basic premise is sound : absent special circumstances, to question is not necessarily to impugn the knowledge or veracity of the source.


Following a very strict scientific view, you're correct in your approach. However, something can be said as well for the other point of view. We have:

A → B
∴ ¬A

If A says that B is true, but B is not true, then A cannot be speaking the truth (whether that is intentionally or not is a different question).

This works the same way with questioning if B is true: this allows for B to be false with some probability, and in that case A is not speaking the truth with the same probability.

This of course doesn't mean that A never speaks the truth. However, it is not uncommon to think that when someone has made many false claims in the past, he will continue to do so in the present and future. Still, the past strictly doesn't give any guarantee for the future.

So, questioning something someone claims to be true, is implicitly also questioning that person in the sense that the probability other things he claims are false has increased, and have thus become "more questioned".

  • 1
    Mmm the answer is not addressing the whole point. You can't always say that the ideology of someone is false because there could be things that can't be evaluated to be true or false. My question is more aimed towards what "questioning" implies, not the truth behind that questioning. Questioning doesn't imply being in disagree, couldn't it just imply doubting or requesting proofs to support that to make that claim valid/possible? May 8, 2015 at 3:20
  • @rewobs I added aparagraph to clarify the conclusion. Could you give me an example of a situation where there is no true or false but where the word "questioning" makes sense? Questioning has everything to do with truth, falsehood and probability.
    – user2953
    May 8, 2015 at 3:25
  • That helped. Maybe the problem is that my English is not accurate, I take questioning as: "Cast doubt on the statements made by someone. e.g. Question the veracity of a story". "There's intelligent life in the universe apart from us" is something that can't be currently probed right or wrong . You could talk about probability maybe. But it's just a bare claim, I would question that claim because it doesn't explains anything. May 8, 2015 at 3:47
  • @rewobs no, I think you are correct in your understanding of "questioning". However, the example you have is a statement which is true or false, it can only not be proven which it has. When someone claims it's true, and you're questioning that, you're implicitly saying there is a chance that person is wrong.
    – user2953
    May 8, 2015 at 3:51
  • 1
    @rewobs A claims that B with probability 1: P(B|A)=1. Now if you question B, that means you think B is false with some non-negligible probability p. From Bayesian probability formulas it then follows that A is incorrect with probability p. When you question something, you're implicitly saying there is a chance it is false. When you say something can't be proven, there must be such chance as well: if there is no chance it is false, it is proven true.
    – user2953
    May 8, 2015 at 3:59

You are missing an explanatory layer. How does the person express their identity, and is the statement an expression of core parts of that which they don't accept should be questioned?

"There are nine-million bicycles in Beijing. That's a fact, It's a thing we can't deny" - Katie Mehlua.

I shouldn't think Katie would mind casting doubt on this figure, given how unlikely it is to be true despite the categorical statement. But if I then questioned whether it is a good song, Katie might have more of an issue.

The group you mention are clearly idiots so their opinions shouldn't matter to you. Though admittedly the topic of intelligence and it's causes is complex, onevthing we xan be certain of is it's not purely innate, or we wouldn't have parenting and education. David Mitchell nailed it about organisations like these https://youtu.be/qPMKqyaXtHI

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