A Way to Frame Questions

Robin Hanson considers that if you want to probe someone’s intellectual endeavors/pursuits, you should frame a question you ask them a certain way:

I know many folks who consider themselves intellectuals. I guess they think that in part because if you asked them “What have you been up to lately?,” they’d tell you about books, articles, blogs, or twitter feeds that they’ve been reading. Or perhaps TED talks they’ve watched. This is why I prefer the question “What have you been thinking about lately?” And I’ll usually be a bit disappointed if the answer isn’t about a question they’ve been trying to answer.

Yes perhaps if they just mention a topic, that really stands for some questions about that topic. But often people thinking about a topic are mostly trying to find more supporting evidence for things they already believe. Less often are they taking what I consider the most productive intellectual strategy: focus on an important question where you don’t know the answer.

Indeed, “Once you start to think about a question, you’ll probably soon start to break it down into supporting sub-questions.”

So, what have you been thinking about lately?


(hat tip: Ben Casnocha)

One thought on “A Way to Frame Questions

  1. Well, since I have five weeks until I have to think about my novel again, I’m going back to the same questions I’ve asked myself time and time again: how do I fit into all of this? What sort of future do my past experiences lead me to (in other words, what purpose do all of them serve)? And (for a more current question) what route should I take to publish my novel?

    There are more, of course, as I’m constantly asking myself questions, but those are the ones at the forefront.

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