In many traditions (eg Stoicism) philosophy is not a field of knowledge but of endeavour and spiritual exercise, or in other terms a way of life and seeing life. In that light, what value has any single answer to a given question? Should we close this website and remain silent (à la Zen)? Would it depend on the nature of the question or its field?
You may want to know why I'm asking this question. As a linguist, I'm studying occupational jargons. In many technical fields learning a specialized vocabulary gives you a good start to be able to learn about activities, ask about them, verify them and apply this knowledge.
But in Philosophy it is not always case : a random question on this website (eg "Could the cogito possibly be false") will be essentially different from a question found for instance on serverfault (eg "How to determine if a bash variable is empty?"), even though the vocabulary is as specialized in Philosophy as it is in linux server administration. You simply can't answer it so easily.
I'm wondering whether this is caused by limitations of language as a tool for shaping a meaningful answer in difficult abstract matters or by the nature of the questions involved (often open-ended). You could say I'm curious to distinguish the 'very difficult' from the plain impossible.
The discussion here showed in how many ways this problem could be seen. The very definition of the expression "philosophical question" and "answer" are problematic. Perhaps it may help if I list a few types of "answers" that were mentioned.
Something being an answer could be:
- "shoulder-of-giants" answers: somebody important in philosophy gave us his answer and we can look into it to see if it's helpful
- "there's-something-to-it" answers: they give us an insight on a deep question, without pretending to solve everything
- "way-of-life" answers: they advise us on the appropriate action in some circumstances (or in general, but it's more risky)
- "definitive" answers: they're the ones we've all been waiting for but they're somewhat elusive. They probably rely on some sort of demonstration.
- there are probably other types of answers we didn't think of yet.
Classifying questions is actually a lot more difficult. Again, I acknowledge that the expression "philosophical question" is vague and I'm sorry for that. Most of all I'm curious whether languages (both 'natural' and formal ones) can be relied on to deal with what I'd call "deep abstract questions" for lack of a better expression.