Unanswerable questions

August 9, 2009

Our conversations with our son usually follow one of a few basic patterns. Here’s one:

Phil [pointing]: What is that?
Dad: That’s a car, Phil.
Phil: Why?

Even though these “why” questions keep coming up, I can’t quite tell what he’s getting at. Why do I know it’s a car? Why do cars exist? Why do we call them cars? Why is this particular car here right now?

Phil also asks a lot of “where” questions. They’re generally easier to answer, but not always. For example, this morning I was pushing him in the baby jogger while trying to locate Mommy and her group of Sunday morning running friends….

Phil: Where’s Mommy?
Dad: I don’t know, Phil. It’s a mystery.
Phil: Mystery? Where’s the mystery?
Dad: It’s right here. We’re trying to figure it out right now.
Phil: Oh. [pause] Where’s the mystery?
Dad: It’s all around us. You’re livin’ it, kiddo!
Phil: [longer pause] Where’s the mystery?


  1. I believe Phil's asking why a car is called a "car." To answer this question, you should read Phil some stuff from linguistic philosophy on the arbitrariness of the signifier-signified relation. He'd never ask a "why" question again. 😉

  2. Hi there -I was a close friend of Scott Becker's and came across your blog entry about remembering him. I just wanted to say I really appreciate what you wrote and feel like you really captured a lot of what was so fantastic about him. The photo brought a smile to my face.Jenn

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