What Makes a Question Stupid?

Photo by Eddy Van 3000 from in Flanders fields - B - United Tribes ov Europe.
Photo by Eddy Van 3000 from in Flanders fields – B – United Tribes ov Europe.

They say there’s no such thing as a stupid question, but I’m not so sure about that.

I have an account on a site that allows users to send each other anonymous questions. For the past few days someone has been sending many of us some odd messages. I’d call them questions, but I don’t always know for sure what is being asked.

For example:

what even is sanity or post depression? Just words cos thers no singular way of feeling and ppl react to everything diffrently! So I’m not like mad or anything i dont think so

And:

Did you know men can have babies? Theres a womb in there knees so they can carry a baby like a woman ecept it’s in there knees not there stomoach.

The grammar, spelling, and punctuation is uncorrected and original. I know I make occasional errors on this blog, but as far as I know my readers can usually figure out what I intended to say without an issue. 😉

This isn’t something I’m sharing to make fun of the person or people who wrote them. There’s no way to for me to know their identity or what they’re really trying to say. I simply find it interesting to see how people react to questions that annoy them or don’t make much sense.

It’s not that they’re silly. I’ve asked plenty of silly questions there in the past, and they’re almost always well-received.

It’s not that they’re speculative. A lot of people ask and answer those.

Is it that they’re anonymous? Or that there’s so many of them? Or maybe that they’re often incomprehensible?

In some ways it’s nice to have this distraction. I’m finally getting over a cold that started over a week ago, and the Internet has definitely lost some of its appeal to me after not having the energy to do much of anything else for so many days in a row.

What do you think?

 

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0 Responses to What Makes a Question Stupid?

  1. I’ve said many times that the only stupid question is the question you don’t ask. However, you’re right, there are stupid questions. For example repeatedly asking the same exact question, about the same exact topic soon renders it a stupid question, regardless of how intelligent the question itself originally may have been.
    However, the questions this anonymous person is posting don’t seem to be questions at all. They are more statements intended to provoke a response. The first even has a rhetorical aspect, as the asker immediately renders their opinion.
    If we’re going to ask a valid question, then shouldn’t we wait for a valid answer?
    Perhaps this person is really trying to ask for help, but just doesn’t know how. Maybe offerring a sympathetic question might draw out their true questions.

  2. I think for most people, the definition of a stupid question is one where the answer is (or should be) self-evident, e.g. “If you’re traveling at sixty miles per hour, how long would it take you to go sixty miles?” The idea that “there are no stupid questions” is, I think, a way of responding that there’s no good reason to assume that what seems self-evident to one person is equally obvious to everyone else – and, as a result, that there’s no shame in not immediately understanding something, even if everybody else seems to grasp it immediately or just take it for granted.

    There are also questions that are… not stupid, exactly, but born of mistaken assumptions, e.g. “How do atheists find meaning in life?” Those questions are problematic because the only way to give meaningful answers is to deny the validity of the question: either to answer with another question (“What makes you think they do it any differently from anyone else?”) or to explain why the question itself is problematic. (“You seem to be assuming that life can only be given meaning through religious belief. I don’t think that’s actually the case.”)

    Questions are sneaky little buggers. Half the work in finding a usable answer is figuring out a usable question.

    • You’re right.

      “If you’re traveling at sixty miles per hour, how long would it take you to go sixty miles?”

      I actually knew someone once who didn’t know the answer to this question. :O

      • Yep. There are youtube videos. Thing is, if you’ve never thought about why it’s a unit of measure or what exactly it’s measuring, then it’s actually surprisingly confusing. (It also helps if you’ve never been taught to examine the structure of a question for clues about what sort of answer it’s looking for.)

        For someone who was new to those things, it wouldn’t be a stupid question; it would be precisely the question that would begin to introduce them to those concepts and contexts.

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