Finding the question is such an important part of the thought-process. The answer is worthless without it. When I read a book, I may not understand how the author attempted to answer the question. But if I come away with an understanding of the question, I judge that I have succeeded in reading the book.
The answer may eventually come after many years of letting it stew in the back of my mind. Or perhaps it will never come completely, but I’m sure I’ll get somewhere with it.
Knowing the question before someone gives you the answer ensures that you understand the answer when it comes. For example, if someone tells me that Socrates believed in reincarnation… That seems a little funny. I don’t really understand the whole of that answer.
Instead, I want to engage in the question, “How does Man Learn?” I think about it for a time. I ponder it. I no doubt come across many difficulties. (“In my experience, no one truly teaches me; I must teach myself. How can I teach myself unless I already know? Isn’t that more like remembering? But how can I not remember knowing it before?”)
When you do this, question the question, you approach it dialectically (related to the word “dialogue”). I think of dialectic questioning as a dialogue with Truth. I am not telling Truth what it is, but rather inviting Truth to enter my mind. It puts me in the habit of respecting Truth rather than myself in my inquiries.
The more I engage dialectically with a question, the more worth I find in the answer. Because Socrates’s manner of proceeding is dialectical, even if I disagree with his conclusion, I see the worth in his answer, but especially in the discussion. I will read it over and over as I engage more with the question, and I will get something better out of reading it every time.
Truly, this is the beginning of independent thought.