Is John black (or white)?

Yes he is black.

No he is not (black).

I don’t see how can the question be truth-apt and what use is there in assigning (or even being able to assign) a truth-value to the question besides denying the "wrong/false/inconsistent" questions a direct answer.

Is Barack Obama white? Regularly we would assign the Possitive answer a Negative Truth-Value and the Negative answer a Positive Truth-Value (it is supposed to be common knowledge that Obama is black).

What is the colour of Tuesday? can be genuinely answered with. Days are not assigned a colour or Days are not related to a colour. Sometimes in weather forecasts or in specific fields Days are in fact assigned a colour Deep Blue can mean Heavy Rain Red can mean Hot or it can be related to capital Markets Investments etc.

Why even say the question is “wrong”? What are the metaphysics of Questions’ truth-values and their (of the specific truth-values) implications in epistemology/gnosiology/philosophy of science?

People even emphasize the "premise" of the question as if it held any value in a question when a question doesn't seem to need or depend upon a premise's veracity/truth-value (there is no meaning in "premise of a question").

  • 1
    This is not metaphysics, it is semantics and pragmatics. Questions are not truth-apt, but they have propositional content, i.e. there is a proposition within the question about the truth of which one inquires ("John is black", in the OP example). If the proposition itself, or with the context used to set up the question, includes inconsistent claims then the question is "wrong". It can also be "wrong" because the inquiry is immaterial to the task at hand, or for some other pragmatic reason. As Wittgenstein pointed out, "right/wrong" often just express approval/disapproval, not truth value.
    – Conifold
    Commented Aug 31, 2022 at 17:51
  • you may be interested in erotetic logics. Here is one such resource: awisniew.home.amu.edu.pl/dydaktyka/Unilog/…
    – emesupap
    Commented Aug 31, 2022 at 18:30
  • See Questions Commented Sep 1, 2022 at 9:36
  • 3
    In formal pragmatics of language questions contain more sense and force compared to a mere descriptive proposition, and related to erotetic logic: they anticipated query languages and data base management systems... Recently, more attention is given to the way questions come from sentences or other questions, similar to entailment. Some contributions in this direction are Hintikka's interrogative model and Wiśniewski's IEL. In the interrogative model, questioning is seen as game played between two parties. One of these parties may be reality. Commented Sep 6, 2022 at 2:24
  • 1
    You may like this picture: 'Why is a measured true value “TRUE”?' philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/81655/… A lot of dissembling is done by Western Logicians about the Law of the Excluded Middle being somehow compulsory & essential to logical thought. It isn't. But consider Wolfgang Paul's even more damning category: "Not even wrong."
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Oct 1, 2022 at 14:51

2 Answers 2


There's no sensible interpretation of assigning a question a boolean truth value. But we can categorize questions into those that sensibly take a boolean answer and those that don't, which has clear utility--for one thing, it's only questions with boolean answers that can easily be translated into boolean logic. We can create a truth table for a question like "Is Paris in France?" but not for a question like "What is Paris like?"

It's worth noting that in the real world, and in the context of informal language and logic, there are often nuances that can be lost when translating into boolean terms. So there exists a boolean meta-question of whether a given question is valid or not. "Have you stopped beating your wife yet?" is apparently a boolean question, but how is it to be answered by someone who has never beaten their wife? Similarly, the question "Is Tuesday blue?" doesn't have a sensible boolean answer. Or, to use your example, "Is Barack Obama Black?" It's seemingly a boolean "yes/no" question, but why would we answer "yes" when he has one Black and one White parent? The seeming clarity of the boolean logic here conceals a wide range of sociopolitical assumptions.

The utility of being intentional about our questions is the principle of "garbage in, garbage out." It is often said that in philosophy, the questions are more important than the answers. If we are are not careful about our questions, we cannot derive useful answers.

  • 1
    +1 Let the OP note the Oxfordian perspective: "A sentence is truth apt if there is some context in which it could be uttered (with its present meaning) and express a true or false proposition. Sentences that are not apt for truth include questions and commands, and, more controversially, paradoxical sentences..."
    – J D
    Commented Jan 24 at 16:46

Whatever else truth is or can be, as an object of normal language it is used mostly in terms of the disquotational scheme:

"X is Y," is true if and only if X is Y.

Now there's nothing syntactically amiss with:

"X is Y?" is true if and only if X is Y?

... and there is some normal-language sense that might be made of such a meta-question. However, it would be to envelope something with the concept of truth via the disquotational scheme, that wasn't usually meant to be covered by the same as such.

But so another option might be to expand the notion of truth values, have the scheme go to {0, 1} but questions (and whatever their scheme might be) to some other object (modeled by a normal number or not). So True to X, False to X', say, and then {?} to Y (i.e. not defined straightaway from X as such).

Whether questions involve presuppositions by the by does also play into the matter. Note that not every question goes directly back to an assertion: "Go to the store?" might be thought to mean, "Did you say to go to the store?" and that's fair enough, but I think the bare imperative questions is askable on its own terms, too. That's just an intuition of mine, though, so who knows. At any rate, suppose at least that IF-THEN questions have presuppositions/premises: "If the cat's out of the bag, will the mice come out to play?" might presuppose the cat being out of the bag, say. More broadly, one might think that the act of asking a question of someone, "presupposes" that the person who the question is asked of, is able to provide a worthwhile answer. Now, if it possible to convert the usual logical operators into each other in various ways, or convert their own schemes anyway, perhaps most any question could be reformulated as an IF-THEN question, and its presuppositional content thereby spelled out.

  • If-Then questions aren't conditioned by themselves? "If the cat is out of the bag" Can be taken to even be counterfactual (or otherwise hypothetical, metaphysical) not just as something that is pressuposed/acknowledged/implied by the interpreted. Since (Knowing/Considering) the cat is out of the Bag or (Knowing) Cat IS (We know it) out of the Bag is a more explicit acknowledgment. Even then I don't understand what it means for a question to be truth-apt or what use is there in being truth-apt. The question can be genuinely answered with The Cat is not out of the bag if it is a pressuposition. Commented Sep 1, 2022 at 14:02
  • @GeorgeNtoulos, I would have to clarify what I take "presupposition" to mean, here. I don't think a presupposition is an actual supposition, supposedly(!) hidden in our minds before we recognize it?, but rather something that has to be true on a certain level of generality or particularity "before" some other thing can be true on a relevant level (the same or not) of generality/particularity. So sometimes it is thought that there are "loaded" questions, although I'm not convinced that there really are, not outside of pragmatics anyway. Commented Sep 1, 2022 at 21:15

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