Outside on meta a few oddballs are asking about questions on stack exchange e.g. me hah

I think we can agree that a questioning mind can be have negative value (e.g. motivated or full to brim with ressentiment), and that a question can be expressed in a bad (negative) way- either in how it is stated or in whom it is asked of.

BUT my question is: is a question just its expression, both verbally (and performatively) and mentally, or is there another aspect to what makes it up?

FOR EXTRA POINTS: is there any additional aspect of a question that is innately valuable, whether or not that would make asking the question preferable, whether or not that is - its value is not erased?

  • In ordinary real life questions can carry strong connotations, especially because we always assume that a question is meaningful. So if I ask about whether you're drunk, say, you may think about double meanings etc to try to make sense of it. On SO questions are seldom of that kind, but often they indicate that they're really homework, often they indicate that the questioner has not even tried googling, and so on, and then they can get downvoted. However, sometimes SO questions are close-voted out of incompetence, where readers figure that what they can't see an answer to can't be valuable. May 14, 2015 at 1:11
  • Are you asking about questions here only? Because in that case, this would be better suited on Philosophy Meta.
    – user2953
    May 14, 2015 at 5:52
  • no i am asking about all questions
    – user6917
    May 14, 2015 at 5:52
  • There are things such as mood, attitude and intention - so sure. May 20, 2015 at 19:25

1 Answer 1


I assume you are familiar with the concept of an interrogative sentence, and you specifically are asking about questions, not interrogative sentences, which are characterized by their form. However, I grant that people often disregard the difference between form and function, to their detriment, I would say.

Questions, then, are characterized by their function: they are requests for specific knowledge. We can take it for granted that having knowledge is a good thing, and ignorance is a bad thing (though perhaps that fact needs separate discussion). Questions are therefore good, because they are solicitations of something good. Of course, questions are not an absolute good, that is, there are contexts where asking or answering a certain question is a distraction. Since all question-asking ultimately makes a claim on someone else's attention, there are contexts where a given question would be appropriate, and ones where it would not be (that is, the "cost" of asking the question is too high, compared to the benefit of expanding knowledge).

Returning to the matter of form vs. function, an interrogative sentence like "What the hell do you think you are doing?" cannot function as a request for knowledge. It is plainly a demand that someone justify their actions, which is something totally different. "What is this" may function as a request for knowledge, but it may also function as demand for justification, depending on whether the item is an obscure plant vs. the speaker's screw-driver (on the assumption that the speaker does know what the thing is). It can be very difficult to determine the function of an interrogative sentence.

  • Questions are therefore good, because they are [or function as] solicitations of something good [knowledge] - thanks I think that answered the question :)
    – user6917
    May 14, 2015 at 0:47

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