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Asking Questions

Aim to ask at least three questions in writing during this course. A significant part of your work on this course is to formulate and pose written questions in response to the lecture materials (or, if you prefer, in response to the works cited in them).


I sometimes hear people say, ‘there’s no such thing as a silly question.’ This is obviously false. As you know, many questions arise from thoughtlessness, laziness or vanity.

Question asking is a skill. You cannot improve without practice. In asking mostly silly questions, you are attempting to improve your skill with the goal, eventually, of asking better questions.

Genuinely good questions are rare and precious. Identifying and articulating such questions is hard work.

Philosophy is done by asking questions. The questions are not merely a means to learning about philosophy: doing philosophy consists, in part, in asking questions.

As you work through each lecture, you should be attempting to identify and articulate questions. This is a core part of your work. The questions you identify should also be the foundation of your essay writing.

That’s why you will see a section headed ‘Ask a Question’ on each page of these lecture notes.

When you have a question:

  • Discuss it with your lecture buddy or buddies.
  • Post it under ‘Ask a Question’ in the relevant section of the lecture notes.
  • Ask it in your seminar.

How Many Questions Should I Ask?

Aim to ask at least three questions in writing during the course.

How to Use the ‘Ask a Question’ Feature

To use this feature, you need to sign up for a github account. You then need to hit the 'sign in with github' button below. You will be asked to allow access for something called ‘’ (this is the service that powers the comments). You are now ready to ask your first question.

Ask your questions at the bottom of the lecture notes from which it arises. That way, your lecturer can prepare to answer them in advance of a lecture. Also everyone can see and think about the questions.

Why not just raise a hand in a lecture?

You can do this if necessary but it has disadvantages:

  • your question is more likely to be silly than if you took time to think about it and write it out

  • I am more likely to give a silly answer than if I took time to think about a reply and write it out

Ask a Question

Your question will normally be answered in the question session of the next lecture.