Asking ‘why’ and ‘why not’

Dani asked:

In your opinion, which is the more logical question to ask when seeking information: ‘Why’ or ‘why not’?

Answer by Eric George

Why? Why anything at all? Such a profound opening question has kept the Philosophical juices in the minds of Philosophers flowing for centuries, millenia even, if Philosophy could be viewed as a building — a skyscraper for example, surely it could be said that one of the foundation stones of such a building could be two phrases (one could argue two ideas): Why, and why not.

Why there is something instead of nothing, why does mankind often seek to find truth, or some sense of it, it seems to me that in terms of seeking information the posit of ‘why’ seems a superior basis for inquiring after information whether in the pursuit of truth or not. The very word ‘why’ within the context of Philosophy, although not tied indefinitely to such definitions, has come to mean mainly two things; firstly, an implication of an argument i.e. a premise in support of a contention such as for what purpose or reasoning. Secondly, the word itself could be wielded as a consequential bridge between two events, a causality of sorts.

Therefore, for seeking information I would say that the use of ‘why’ by nature, seems a better choice rather than ‘why not’. However, for obtaining information, that is — after one has found a resource of information to keep acquiring more information from such a deposit therein, the use of ‘why not’ seems more appropriate.

If for example to take such words and place them in a correlation to Drama and its implications, ‘why’ would be deemed as an element of monologue or soliloquy, whereas ‘why not’ would imply an exercise in dialogue. The difference being that a soliloquy is the Thespian speaking thoughts aloud in order to offer the audience a common ground relation to himself/ herself. Whereas a dialogue takes place between two or more people.

Therefore the same could be said concerning the proper usage of ‘why’ and ‘why not’. Both are useful as Philosophical mechanisms for inquiring and gathering information on a continuing level. However, understanding how and when to use such mechanisms will in turn be of determining importance in the effectiveness of how your approach to first inquiring and then gathering information turns out.

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