My question concerns whether or not questions should be taken into consideration

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My question concerns whether or not questions should be taken into consideration in understanding the answers to those questions. Let's take the following question and answer as an example: Q: What time are you leaving for your lecture today? A: I'm leaving at 2:00. The answer could be interpreted to mean that the the answerer is leaving for the lecture at 2:00 today. Yet the answer could also be interpreted to mean that the answerer is leaving at 2:00 on some day (not necessarily today) to go somewhere (not necessarily the lecture). Another example follows and it is this one upon which I ask your opinion. Given the following question and answer, which of the two possible interpretations of the answer would you choose if you were required to select only one without being able to provide an explanation of any kind. This is not a hypothetical question as I, along with other people, faced the exact same situation recently. Q: Is anybody in all of Athens wiser than Socrates? A: No. No one is wiser than Socrates. Intepretation #1: No one in all of Athens is wiser than Socrates. Interpretaton #2: No one in all of Athens or anywhere else is wiser than Socrates. Whether or not the question or answer is similar to or different than actual questions or answers appearing in history or literature is irrelevant and should not be taken into consideration in reaching your decision.

Very interesting! A philosopher who worked hard on this very matter was Paul Grice. He studied what he called conversational implicature, a fancy term for the ways in which the meaning of what we say can be shaped by a variety of conditions. For example, if you asked me to pass you some water and I replied saying that I am glad to hand you a glass of water which, as it happens --and then I go on to tell you all the properties of water, how much water is there on earth, and so on. Most people would (I think) conclude that I am trying to be funny or I am insane or simply a bore. I can imagine this exchange between two philosophers. George: "Good to see you. Based on seeing you, I now think it more likely that all ravens are black.' Ringo: "So, you are still trying to solve the Raven Paradox! Give it a rest!" An "outsider" would not get this, but for students of induction and reason they would also (probably) infer that the only reason someone would say what George did is if he was thinking about the Raven Paradox. So, I think context is important, both to pick up on clues about what a question is about, as well as to disambiguate remarks. Someone might yell out a question "Prune?" and it is not clear she is referring to a fruit or the act of pruning as in pruning a bush.

On your two questions: I think most of us would adopt the first interpretation, and if the speaker meant he was leaving on some other day this was misleading. On the second, I am inclined to the first interpretation, and suggest that if #2 was intended, this would be carrying on to extend beyond the scope of the question. But you are right, so many such interpretations may need confirming and vagueness, ambiguity, and misdirection can spoil a conversation. Though it can also be used in stressful situations to get out of trouble. I was late for an important meeting at the Humphrey Institute due to having a longer than expected lunch with friends. The Dean said: "You are late." I replied "The traffic is terrible. Sorry." On the one hand, I could defend my reply because the traffic that day was jammed. But clearly I was implying that the reason I was late was because of the traffic. I'm afraid I lied or was at least deceptive. If that Dean reads this email: I am sorry, sir. Next time we meet, I will buy you some flowers and a coffee or the drink of your choice, and I will be there on time even if the traffic is terrible.

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