Questions That Don’t Need Answers

The aim of philosophy isn’t to just provide answers to our questions. It’s also to provide a way for questioning the assumptions that give rise to our questions.

If a person were to ask “What would happen to me if I were to travel in a single direction until I fell off the Earth’s edge?”, how would you answer that question? If you were to have any success at helping the questioner attain an accurate understanding of the world, you would have to begin by pointing out the erroneous assumption they’re making. The question is based on the false assumption that the Earth is flat. Once it’s acknowledged that the Earth is spherical, the original question breaks down.

Informing the questioner about the spherical natural of the Earth doesn’t answer the question, it dissolves the question; it eliminates the need for an answer since the very need for an answer was rooted in a misinformed or inadequate perspective.

Many of our questions about life happen to be this way. We often approach happiness and success as if they are the outcome of either having answers to certain kinds of questions or solutions to particular kinds of problems. Philosophy can helps us see another possibility. Philosophy can suggest broader perspectives that force us to question our questions.

Much of what we consider to be an unanswerable question or an unsolvable problem often turns out to be nothing more than a point of view based on a false assumption. Like the person who worries about falling off the Earth’s edge, we seek comfort in answers that aren’t truly needed.

Sometimes we need answers. Sometimes we need a new way of seeing. Philosophy rarely satisfies the former, but always delivers the latter. And the latter may very well be what we need the most.

At least that’s the way I see it.


T.K  Coleman