The Art of Asking Questions

Abstract In this paper I discuss how we should distinguish legitimate from illegitimate questions. I will argue that we should not make such distinctions prior to asking our questions; that questioning is more of an art than a science and that this art is part of the art of conversation in general. Nonetheless, the desire to limit in advance the questions that we can legitimately ask is not infrequent. In the philosophy of science this ambition manifests in response to concerns regarding the corruption of scientific knowledge and inquiry. Similarly in the quantitative social sciences researchers develop measures by isolating in advance just those questions that they believe will best illuminate the construct under investigation. In order to preserve the integrity of their data much is done to avoid and adjust for errant respondent understandings of these questions. I argue, however, that limiting our questions in these ways does not secure knowledge and inquiry from bias, but rather unduly limits what we might come to know. Drawing on Gadamer?s work in Truth and Method I argue that we can distinguish legitimate from illegitimate questions, but that we can only do so by first asking them
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DOI 10.1080/09672559.2010.540022
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