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The Ultimate Question

Updated: Oct 27, 2018

From the beginning of our species’ existence in time, humans have been asking questions: What’s for dinner? Did we gather enough food to last the winter? Did you remember to pick up the milk? In fact, given the concept of time is relative to our species’ experience of it, it could be argued that humans have been asking questions since time began!

A hand holding a glass jar full of lit fairy lights
Philosophy of Film | The Ultimate Question

Sadly, however, not all questions are on the subject of food and, as much as I hate to admit it, questions do manage to cover more pressing subjects: Am I safe? How do I get there? Will there be cake? (sorry).

The point is, questions usually come under one of five different ‘categories’: Who?, What?, Where? and When?*

"But that‘s only four categories!", I hear you exclaim.

I know, I know...hold on! The final one is special, but we’ll get to that.

These first four question categories are grouped because they are concerned with content: the real-world facts about something that are often answerable, after degrees of posturing, by means of personal experience, testimony or semantics:

Who is that? It’s Barack Obama.

What is that? It’s the White House.

Where is that? It’s in Washington D.C.

When is that? It’s in the year 2018.

The final of the five question categories, however, is an altogether different beast. It is the one that causes the most arguments, rarely has a definite answer and, just when you think you’ve nailed an answer to it down, new information often comes along to change it again. It is also endlessly regressive.

It is a question shapeshifter. But what is it?

It is, of course, ‘Why?’.


Think about it:

Why Barack Obama?

If we ignore the fact that even with this seemingly innocent looking sentence there’s a myriad of ways to interpret this one question, the answer to ‘why?’ is hard to pin down:

Why Barack Obama? Because that’s what his parents named him.

Okay, but why did they name him that? Because they liked the sound of it.

Okay, well why did they like the sound of it? Because their brains are wired in such a way as to make them disposed to like the sound of the name ‘Barack’ and consequently use it as the name for their son.

...and so on.

In this way, ‘why?' is unique because it’s never really done: each answer only seems to cause more possible questions, spreading the net wider and complicating matters. Hence, from a simple ‘why?’ question about Barack Obama’s name, it became possible to find ourselves thinking about the way a brain is wired.

So that is one reason – my reason – why ‘why?’ is the ultimate question.

And ultimate questions are what Philmblog is all about.

So, why don’t we begin?

#UltimateQuestion #Question #Why #Whys


* Some questions merge two or more of the question categories, so ‘Did?’ questions merge the categories of ’What’, ‘When?‘ and ‘Who?‘ to ask whether a certain person carried out a certain action within a certain past time frame.

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