Everytime we ask 'what is' questions we hit the road to philosophy? Why?? are there another ways to start phılosophıcal debate? Why Whatness questions are about the conceptual things only? Why philosophy does not question the concrete objects?

Singular(object that are seen)-particular(some objects that derived from the original object ,semi conceptual object) -universal -conceptual things ,unchanged and unseen things the real things)

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    Your post seems to have only why questions, not what questions. Isn't it the other way to start a philosophical inquiry? And questions about concrete objects can be what questions just as well. "What am I" is about a concrete object, yourself.
    – Conifold
    Commented Nov 13, 2020 at 9:45
  • I am concrete object, yes you are right but self is not concrete. we are talking about the selfs ,whatness. When you ask ''Who am I?'' you talk about your 'self' which is conceptual thing. Commented Nov 13, 2020 at 9:51
  • No, I am not, "self" is your own addition, and the concept is a dubious one. The question certainly makes no reference to any such concept, it is open-ended as to what the concrete I might be. Perhaps you should wonder why you and other people tend to bring up such concepts when questions are asked, not why they are asked about them.
    – Conifold
    Commented Nov 13, 2020 at 10:05
  • if my question certainly makes no reference any such concept, then also the all phılosophıcal questıons makes no reference too Commented Nov 13, 2020 at 10:15
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    Not necessarily... Maybe it is "about asking ... questions". Commented Nov 13, 2020 at 11:02

3 Answers 3


The question may rest on a questionable assumption according to which " what" questions are heterogeneous to " why" questions.

It can be argued that, for ancient philosophers, such as Plato or Aristotle, the cause of a state of affairs lies in the " what-ness" of the objects involved in it.

(1) Philosophy is the search for wisdom

(2) Wisdom is the knowledge of causes or reasons ( more precisely, of highest causes, or first principles). ( Cf. Aristotle, Metaphysics, Bk 1).

(3) Causes or reasons lie in the essence of things.

(4) Hence, philosophy has to be an investigation of the " what-ness" or essence of things.

Example : Why is Socrates mortal? Because " being a man" is a part of what it it to be Soctates; humanity, as a part of Socrates' essence, is the cause or reason that explains why Socrates is not immortal.


Welcome, Ferkan Zeki

'What?' questions are a feature of Plato's Socratic dialogues. 'What is holiness or piety?' (Euthyphro), 'what is virtue?' (Meno), 'what is justice?' (Republic). The search here was for the essence, the essential nature, of holiness, virtue, justice.

But not all philosophical inquiry fits this pattern. For instance, 'Can we know other minds - i.e. can we know that others have minds and are not zombies or automata?', 'Are free will and determinism compatible?', 'Is the mind identical with the brain?', 'Can I know that I am not dreaming now?''Is morality dependent on religion and if so in what sense?'

These are standard philosophical inquiries and do not fall within the 'what?' question form. It might appear possible to reformulate them in 'What?' terms. Then 'Are free will and determinism compatible?' might become 'What is the relation of free will to determinism?' but that is a totally general question which fails to focus on the specific issue of compatibility, which was the particular question raised. Also 'Is the mind identical with the brain?' might become, 'What is the relation of the mind to the brain?' but the issue raised is not so general as this; it is the specific issue of identity that is up for an answer. Equally, 'Is morality dependent on religion and if so in what sense?' might be reformulated as 'What is the relation of morality to religion?' but then again, only a totally general question is raised in this way and not the specific issue of dependency.

In a word: 'What?' questions have a place in philosophy but not not cover the full ground of philosophical inquiry.


It is traditional to make the division as between science asking what & philosophy asking why - between physics, and metaphysics. 'What' questions assume framing assumptions, whereas 'why' questions keep stepping outwards to ask how the framing assumptions can be integrated into the whole of what is known, and to compare to metaphors and sources of inference & a multiplicity of other methods.

I look to 'why' questions in relation to strange loops, which are characterised by tangled hierarchies - where previous systems become elements in a new wider zoomed-out system, elements become subsystems, and feedback loops are introduced - like a shifting self-concept altering a projected future, feeding back into how to be (changing the self-concept or resolution about how to be). These different layers of explanation can use very different explanatory methods, like between physics, chemistry, and biology, which use different narrative groupings. David Deutsch in The Fabric Of Reality gives an example of trying to reduce such a model to the minimum number of explanatory layers or framing methodologies.

This strange loop idea gets away from a foundationalist approach to knowledge which inevitably faces Munchausen's trilemma, and can avoid the limitations imposed by Godel Incompleteness, of being able to make consistent true statements using the element of a system which cannot be proven within the system: because there is no isolated system, they are all tangled (in human subjectivity), and procede not from founding assumptions but backwards and forwards from wherever we are, and include being able to reflect on the whole structure not purely logically but in regards to achieving our intentions and needs. See Donald Hoffman's great work on why we can't rely on evolution to reveal reality to us, and I'd point beyond his examples of our self-serving cognitive biases, to how time seems to be a product of our subjectivity rather than fundamental, it may not be 'out there' but exist as a way for us to make sense of our experiences (we might exist in 4D, with a little pool of light we call awareness moving over the structure, tinkering).

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