It’s not easy to say precisely what makes a question big; but we can at least give a few examples from the history of philosophy so that we have some idea what we’re talking about:
- What is the meaning of life?
- What is the nature of ultimate reality?
- What is Being?
- Is there a god?
- Is there some sort of cosmic justice?
- What is the self ?
- Does a person’s self (mind, soul) persist after death?
- Do we have free will?
- Why be moral?
- What is the good life for a human being?
- What are the foundations of our knowledge?
- What are the limits to what we can know?
- What is truth?
- What is the good?
- What is justice?
- What is virtue?
- What is beauty?
- What is life?
- Why is there something rather than nothing?
often comes in the form of a relevant, timely, open-ended question.
Says George Orwell:
A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus:
- What am I trying to say?
- What words will express it?
- What image or idiom will make it clearer?
- Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?
And he will probably ask himself two more:
- Could I put it more shortly
- Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?
See also: George Orwell at Encyclopedia Britannica.
At the workplace, at home, at school,
the only stupid question is the question that is not asked,
the only stupid comment is the comment that is not made, and
the only stupid idea or suggestion is the one that is not shared.
So, go ahead, by all means… be stupid!
Each communicative act should have a purpose. In interviews, in meetings or in everyday conversation, what is the purpose of the questions you ask?
Here are some questions and their corresponding purposes:
1. Are you saying…?
Identifies someone’s language patterns.
2. Are you willing to…?
Tests someone’s limits.
3. Can you give me…?
Encourages examples and specifics.
4. Can you remember…?
Taps into someone’s memory.
5. Did you ask…?
Questions someone’s questions.
6. Have you considered…?
Non-threatening proposal of options.
7. Have you given any thought to…?
Suggestive, yet doesn’t sound like advice.
8. Have you thought about…?
Forces someone to think!
9. How are you constantly…?
Promotes consistency of action.
10. How are you creating…?
Proves that someone has a choice.
11. How can you become…?
Future oriented, motivational.
12. How can you make…?
Enlists someone’s creativity.
13. How could you have…?
Focused on past performance improvement.
There are 63 questions and why they work here.