The Question as Commitment

Class starts for me today — a class in Ancient Greek Philosophy. My reading list includes the Platonic dialogues Republic and Phaedrus, Presocratic fragments (with an emphasis on Heraclitus and Parmenides), selections from Aristotle’s Physics, De Anima, Ethics and Politics. University policy dictates that I begin with a preassessment exercise. Mine consists of a pair of questions to which I have students jot down brief impressionistic answers:

1. Socrates preferred to teach by means of questions — why do you think he may have had this preference?
2. Which is easier — to attain knowledge or self-knowledge? Why?

Clearly these questions don’t admit of tidy or even correct answers. Although I think them answerable, I do not think they are *finally* answerable. My hope is that my students (and I) can hold these questions in the background of our thinking throughout the course and beyond. I think there is great value in sustained attention to such questions, even if the answers never improve. Questions shape our subjectivity more than answers, both our attentiveness and our reflectiveness. A thinker without a question is like a body without a soul. Something in us must *commit* to particular questions if we are ever to advance as thinkers and knowers.

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