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Why should we ask why?

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By John Pawlak

There’s an old story about a philosophy professor who presented the students with a test asking a single question ... “Why?” 

As the story goes, the only person who received an “A” was a student who submitted the answer, “Because.”  Another version of the story has the student answering, “Why not?”

The story is of course a classic academic myth, a folk legend promulgated on the premise that philosophy defines its own worth and that the value of questioning the questions is itself in question. 

Myth or not, the story does underscore a related question that merits answering, “Why ask why?”  Why should anyone seek an answer if there is no obvious value to having the answer other than simply to have it? 

Why is the sky blue and the sunset red? 

Why does a refrigerator get cold?

Why does a stick of butter float in water?  There are a lot of things in this world that people don’t know, but that’s OK.

How many people really need to know why the moon changes its shape? Is one’s day-to-day life easier when one knows why hurricanes spin counterclockwise in the northern hemisphere?

Or why you should never mix bleach and ammonia?


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