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Author Topic: Unanswerable questions  (Read 537 times)

PerditaPickle

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Unanswerable questions
« on: January 31, 2019, 11:36:46 am »
Are any of you familiar with this subject of unanswerable questions?

I'm sure I came across it mentioned in some thread or other, not too long ago, but I couldn't find it again using the keyword search.  I'm (almost) sure whoever mentioned it spoke about how these unanswerable questions are utilised in some religious traditions, and possibly other areas (like maybe therapy - but I can't recall exactly).  Anyway...

I speculated that maybe these questions were along the lines of ones I'd read started to be used in job interviews these days (apparently), such as "How do you fit a giraffe in a refrigerator?"

But an internet search (albeit only a brief one) came up with sites listing various trivial questions, most of which aren't strictly unanswerable at all.  Such as the following:-
1. Why does a round pizza come in a square box?
2. Why is it said that an alarm clock is going off when really it’s coming on?
3. How come people tell you not to stand in front of an emergency exit when if there was an emergency surely you would run through it?
4. Why did Sally sell seashells on the seashore when you can just pick them up anyway?
5. Why are both of Spongebob’s parents round like sea sponges while he is square like a kitchen sponge?
(Above the first 5 from a list on a site called chartcons in an item called '100 Unanswerable Questions That Will Blow Your Mind'.)

So, I'd be interested to hear from anyone who's familiar with this topic of unanswerable questions, and I'd also be interested to hear any examples anyone's got of specific unanswerable questions...

Thanks in advance!  :)
"Everything's made up of elements, right? Earth, Water, Air, Fire and... sunnink. Well-known fact. Everything's got 'em all mixed up just right."
Character Nobby Nobbs in the late, great Sir Terry Pratchett's Discworld novel The Truth

Dynes Hysbys

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Re: Unanswerable questions
« Reply #1 on: February 05, 2019, 10:48:49 am »
Are any of you familiar with this subject of unanswerable questions?

I'm sure I came across it mentioned in some thread or other, not too long ago, but I couldn't find it again using the keyword search.  I'm (almost) sure whoever mentioned it spoke about how these unanswerable questions are utilised in some religious traditions,

Some of the Cochrane derived traditions require a series of riddles to be answered - along the lines of "How many beans make 5" and "how many rungs in a ladder".  Is this the sort of thing you're thinking of?

PerditaPickle

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Re: Unanswerable questions
« Reply #2 on: February 05, 2019, 12:54:23 pm »
Some of the Cochrane derived traditions require a series of riddles to be answered - along the lines of "How many beans make 5" and "how many rungs in a ladder".  Is this the sort of thing you're thinking of?

Quite possibly yes!  I mean my answer to the former would be ... 5 beans.  And I couldn't answer the latter, not based on the info (or lack of) in the question as it stands!
"Everything's made up of elements, right? Earth, Water, Air, Fire and... sunnink. Well-known fact. Everything's got 'em all mixed up just right."
Character Nobby Nobbs in the late, great Sir Terry Pratchett's Discworld novel The Truth

Castus

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Re: Unanswerable questions
« Reply #3 on: February 05, 2019, 05:23:29 pm »
Are any of you familiar with this subject of unanswerable questions?

I'm sure I came across it mentioned in some thread or other, not too long ago, but I couldn't find it again using the keyword search.  I'm (almost) sure whoever mentioned it spoke about how these unanswerable questions are utilised in some religious traditions, and possibly other areas (like maybe therapy - but I can't recall exactly).  Anyway...

I speculated that maybe these questions were along the lines of ones I'd read started to be used in job interviews these days (apparently), such as "How do you fit a giraffe in a refrigerator?"

But an internet search (albeit only a brief one) came up with sites listing various trivial questions, most of which aren't strictly unanswerable at all.  Such as the following:-
1. Why does a round pizza come in a square box?
2. Why is it said that an alarm clock is going off when really it’s coming on?
3. How come people tell you not to stand in front of an emergency exit when if there was an emergency surely you would run through it?
4. Why did Sally sell seashells on the seashore when you can just pick them up anyway?
5. Why are both of Spongebob’s parents round like sea sponges while he is square like a kitchen sponge?
(Above the first 5 from a list on a site called chartcons in an item called '100 Unanswerable Questions That Will Blow Your Mind'.)

So, I'd be interested to hear from anyone who's familiar with this topic of unanswerable questions, and I'd also be interested to hear any examples anyone's got of specific unanswerable questions...

Thanks in advance!  :)

Koans, my dude.

PerditaPickle

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Re: Unanswerable questions
« Reply #4 on: February 05, 2019, 05:46:51 pm »
Koans, my dude.

A very good point my fellow, um, dude (that doesn't sound quite right - we'll stick with just: thank you Castus).
"Everything's made up of elements, right? Earth, Water, Air, Fire and... sunnink. Well-known fact. Everything's got 'em all mixed up just right."
Character Nobby Nobbs in the late, great Sir Terry Pratchett's Discworld novel The Truth

Sefiru

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Re: Unanswerable questions
« Reply #5 on: February 05, 2019, 07:22:57 pm »
Koans, my dude.

I would note that TvTropes (a highly reputable source, I know  ;D) makes a distinction between koans and what it calls ice-cream koans; some of the trivial questions mentioned in the OP appear to be examples of the latter. The linked pages contain numerous examples of each.

As far as traditional koans go, I quite like this one:

"A student asked the master, "Does a dog have Buddha-nature or not?" The master replied, "Wu.""

And for a more modern one, "The future ain't what it used to be." (attributed to Yogi Berra.)

Zlote Jablko

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Re: Unanswerable questions
« Reply #6 on: February 05, 2019, 09:59:30 pm »
Are any of you familiar with this subject of unanswerable questions?

I'm sure I came across it mentioned in some thread or other, not too long ago, but I couldn't find it again using the keyword search.  I'm (almost) sure whoever mentioned it spoke about how these unanswerable questions are utilised in some religious traditions, and possibly other areas (like maybe therapy - but I can't recall exactly).  Anyway...

I speculated that maybe these questions were along the lines of ones I'd read started to be used in job interviews these days (apparently), such as "How do you fit a giraffe in a refrigerator?"

But an internet search (albeit only a brief one) came up with sites listing various trivial questions, most of which aren't strictly unanswerable at all.  Such as the following:-
1. Why does a round pizza come in a square box?
2. Why is it said that an alarm clock is going off when really it’s coming on?
3. How come people tell you not to stand in front of an emergency exit when if there was an emergency surely you would run through it?
4. Why did Sally sell seashells on the seashore when you can just pick them up anyway?
5. Why are both of Spongebob’s parents round like sea sponges while he is square like a kitchen sponge?
(Above the first 5 from a list on a site called chartcons in an item called '100 Unanswerable Questions That Will Blow Your Mind'.)

So, I'd be interested to hear from anyone who's familiar with this topic of unanswerable questions, and I'd also be interested to hear any examples anyone's got of specific unanswerable questions...

Thanks in advance!  :)

Creating a round box would actually be more work than making a square one, and a square box is easier to close. Dough is malleable and easy to spread out in a disk.

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