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What is the importance of "Questions" to anarchists?

+2 votes
asked Apr 2, 2010 by Saint_Schmidt (2,230 points)
edited Apr 7, 2010 by dot

2 Answers

–3 votes
why do you ask?  what else would you have us do?  if we gave you the answer, would you believe us?
answered Apr 2, 2010 by harris (240 points)
Wow, so hostile. It is not a loaded question .. paranoid?
i'm sorry you see my reply as hostile.  i certainly did not mean it to be.

to me my questions are an explanation of why anarchists ask questions.   we ask questions because questions point to open ended vastness, flexibility, and discussion, whereas answers close off discussion, point to rigidity and narrowness.  we ask rather than answer because asking is an offering to further relationship.  

to any of the questions on this site, is there only one true and correct answer?

i was going for meta rather than aggression.
i certainly didn't read harris's response as hostile. i thought it was a comment on the topic of questions and answers (truly i did, even before reading his comment above). and we all know that i find questions more interesting than most (styles of) answers.
that said, i don't agree that asking is necessarily "an offering to further relationship." i think that answers (as in, taking a position) can be very much about being in relationship, and that asking can be about refusing to commit or actually engage with the askee (which is actually perfectly reflected in SS's assumption of hostility).
and as always, the anarchist-friendly and anarchist-problematic dynamics of asking and answering can both be going on at the same time.
fun, hunh?
dot thanks for your reply.  i can see where you are coming from if answers are "taking a position".  that makes sense.  
i more meant asking as an offering in the sense of openness to the other, rather than the inaccessibility of the know-it-all.  
but i see your point; if only asking questions is like wet paper, and only having answers is like a diamond, a position in the middle is preferable.

or if having never taking a position is like mush, and having all the answers is like . . . well maybe you get my point.
i do see your point.
and agree to an extent.
but asking questions can be merely another kind of inaccessibility, it can even be a know-it-all inaccessibility--for example the socratic method is questioning with the assumption of greater information on the side of the questioner.
but yes, mush and wet paper are fun analogies.
+6 votes
imo, the benefit of questions/questioning for anarchists is a refusal to stand still; being flexible and open to what will come next, to what we don't know; rejecting the rigidity of plans and formulas.

but to the extent that questions are a distancing tactic, a pulling away in order to get perspective, they also take us outside ourselves. being outside ourselves is both important and paralyzing, i think.
answered Apr 4, 2010 by dot (51,570 points)
This was a really great answer ... thanks
I like the appeal to flexibility and mobility.  Good questions, at least, allow us to move (and sometime vice versa, as in the expression, "Walking, we ask questions").  I'd add that asking questions can be a way of establishing horizontal, communal relationships: the right question can turn a collection of people with competing already-formed opinions into a group constituted by a shared problem ("I don't know!"), shared need for knowledge, shared curiosity.

There are also, of course, bad questions -- questions that are framed in such a way as to predetermine their answer, for instance, or to limit the range of possible answers, and especially questions that have oppressive assumptions built into them.  It is also possible to ask good questions insincerely, in a spirit of bad faith.

As anarchists, we're the recipients of many bad questions, particularly the kind founded upon oppressive assumptions, sometimes asked in bad faith as well.  Sometimes even trying to answer those questions means falling into a trap.
Are answers important to anarchists?
re: "questions that are framed in such a way as to predetermine their answer"

i think all questions prefigure (hah!) or predetermine their answers - ie any question is framing an issue, and answers will have to accept that frame in order to count as answers. if they don't accept the frame, then they're not answers but... responses, perhaps, or parallel conversations maybe.
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