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Ideological Questions

Thursday Lecture Series

dateNovember 30, 2023 timeThursday, 12:15pm–2:00pm EST location The Heyman Center, Second Floor Common Room, Columbia University locationVirtual Event
  • The Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities
email address [email protected]
  • Free and open to the public
  • Registration required. See details.
line drawing of a machine (Agit-Prop Stand, 1922)

The Society of Fellows hosts the Thursday Lecture Series (TLS), which runs regularly throughout the academic year. The Fall Semester TLS, our Fellows present their own work, chaired by Columbia faculty.

Ideological Questions

Lecture by Ege Yumusak
Chaired by Thomas Dodman

Questions are rarely innocent. We might be tempted to characterize questions that a political opponent asks as ideological: "Why are some people getting rich by making everyone get vaccines?" "How will the government pay for a national healthcare plan?" "When will cities be safe for children to play on the street?" Not only do many people think these questions are ideological, but they can even name the ideology promoted by each question. It is not controversial to claim that questions don't just solicit information. Questions' informative aspect has long been recognized by linguists and philosophers who have argued that questions presuppose information. Just as the sentence "Even George could win" presupposes that George is an unlikely candidate, the question "Who left the lights on?" presupposes the truth of the proposition <The lights were left on>. But as the questions listed above show, questions carry more epistemic baggage than the presuppositions embedded in them. In his essay "On the Jewish Question," Karl Marx wrote, "The formulation of a question is its solution." Marx was most likely referring to this more insidious way in which questions mislead. It is easy for the epistemologist of ideology to account for distortions in the representation of reality due to presuppositions. Marx's claim, however, is hard to make sense of epistemically without trivializing the sense in which questions are ideological. This talk will address the problem of "ideological questions."

This event also will be recorded. By being electronically present, you consent to the SOF/Heyman using such video for promotional purposes.

Please email [email protected] to request disability accommodations. Advance notice is necessary to arrange for some accessibility needs.