Questions in the Humanities

Much of university education is concerned with finding reliable claims (or statements that we can decide are true). The humanities, on the other hand, are concerned with asking good questions, and analyzing them. Every claim is the answer to a question. So, we have to be concerned not only with what good questions look like, but also how we analyze those questions to come to better ones.

General questions about questions:

  1. Who is asking?
  2. Who stands to benefit from a particular answer?
  3. What are the alternative ways of asking the question? Why was this one chosen?
  4. Is there a disciplinary assumption behind the question?
  5. What are the assumptions behind this question?
  6. What are the consequences of answers to this question?
  7. What does the question mean? What do the words mean in the question?
  8. Would someone from another culture or time understand this question? Why or why not?
  9. Is the question even answerable?
  10. Does the answer to the question sort people into categories? That is, do we draw conclusions about

Questions we ask in the humanities:

  1. What does it mean to be human?
  2. How does the past relate to the present?
  3. How do cultures relate to each other?
  4. What is the relationship between thought and representation?
  5. Why would someone do/think/produce a thing like X?
  6. What is beauty?
  7. What is truth? How do we arrive at it? Is it a value in our culture today?
  8. What counts as knowledge?
  9. What are myths, and how are they relevant today?
  10. Is war justifiable, and if so, under what conditions?
  11. What is freedom?
  12. What is equality?
  13. What is a just society?
  14. Who deserves to govern, and why?