How to get away from "what have you found out so far" comments but also not confusing people as to what the question is?

This question seems to be a good example of what I mean. I ask my question in the title, then repeat it, and say what I specifically want to know.

But then I added what I've found out so far, which does not quite answer the question, and this seems to have confused people as to what the question is!

How to get away from "what have you found out so far" comments but also not confusing people as to what the question is?


A few suggestions for how to write better questions:

  1. Make sure the question in the title is identical in meaning to the question asked in the body.

In your question title, you ask "how are A and B related?" In your question body, you ask "can the relationship between A and B be stated clearly?"

Quite clearly two things can be related without being related in a clear way. Moreover, the second version asks whether such clarity is possible -- not whether it was achieved.

  1. Avoid engaging in synthetic interpretive work.

First, quoting the passage you can't understand is helpful. But here you're not quoting a single coherent passage you didn't understand, you're quoting from three different passages -- none of which use either your A or B (wisdom and virtue).

Instead, you're connecting these passages (or presenting them as connected for you?) but it's not automatically clear that this makes sense to do.

To put another way, there's a whole lot of moving parts before the question in your question which are not all intuitive as interpretations of the passage. (e.g., the word "clever" used here is universally interpreted to mean something negative like being able to trick people or gibbering on and on -- see https://books.google.co.jp/books?id=SBHHBAAAQBAJ&pg=PA137&lpg=PA137&dq=clever+analects&source=bl&ots=Sk9vCX8wNs&sig=eHBywfLHx8rR1XTyANjdoIkwCvM&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiqlo2-v5zTAhWIWLwKHcn3ABUQ6AEIKjAB#v=onepage&q=clever%20analects&f=false). Similarly and more broadly, the claim that Confucius presents a type of virtue theory is not universally accepted.

Thus, I suggested if you asked "why does Confucius condemn cleverness?" then I think that's an answerable question which should reduce the number of synthetic interpretations you're making.

  1. Include references to locations.

For the Analects there are chapters and verses. For many Western philosophical works, there are page numbers and academic editions. It helps those us who work in the field to know where you are talking about if we are going to look it up to answer it.

  1. Have a single question in mind that comes from the text.

In a later revision,

According to Confucius, can non-virtue be learned ...

This is an interesting idea, but it seems like we first need to (a) know whether virtue can be learned, (b) know what Confucians would mean by non-virtue, and (c) know what they would mean by learning.

Again, start simpler and make sure you're getting the basic rights before you ask questions that hinge on many lower layers of interpretation.

  • as i have said three times now, i am not meaningfully connecting the passages, i don't understand what you mean by this? i also disagree with your reasoning about e.g. glibness (not that clever can mean glib!), but don't want to try to get into the nitty gritty with someone i am so unable to communicate with – user25714 Apr 11 '17 at 13:29
  • Well, these are my suggestions take them or leave them. If you are not trying to meaningfully connect the passages, then what are they doing in the same question? I assume you're not an army of monkeys thrashing at typewriters, so I assume you are trying to ask coherent questions which would have internally meaningful connections. – virmaior Apr 11 '17 at 13:32
  • i disagree that we need to know a) to c) to ask that question. i think that's fundamentally what it comes to down to, a disagreement about what can be asked in everyday terms? – user25714 Apr 11 '17 at 13:33
  • oh well obviously i think they may coherently bear on the question, just not claiming that they refer to each other in the text – user25714 Apr 11 '17 at 13:35

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