Philosopher Jaakko Hintikka: Posing questions is important for philosophers and authors

According to philosopher Jaakko Hintikka, writing is about continuously answering questions.

Jaakko Hintikka

A rare guest lecture by the highly esteemed and experienced philosopher Jaakko Hintikka on the fiction of logic attracted a full house to the Great Hall of the University of Helsinki on Wednesday. After graduating as a Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Helsinki in 1953, Hintikka has spent most of his career in the United States. Hintikka holds a professorship at Boston University but is currently taking a sabbatical year at the Helsinki Collegium of Advanced Studies Helsinki Collegium of Advanced Studies.

In his lecture, Hintikka discussed the similarities between logic researchers and fiction writers. According to Hintikka, asking questions is crucial for both.

“Philosophical genius lies in posing questions. Writing fiction is about constantly asking what happens next,” Hintikka pointed out.

There are differences, however: the laws of the real world restrict a philosopher’s thinking.

“Writers can use their imagination more freely, but the laws of reality set some limits to fictive worlds as well, at least in the genre of realism. Moreover, they can curb a writer’s imagination,” Hintikka said.

Reading is also about constantly asking questions.

“A writer should pose the same questions the reader is asking, for this makes the reader continue reading. The process is about interaction among three types of questions: those posed by the author, the reader and the book.”

Jaakko Hintikka (b. 1929) is regarded as the creator of philosophical logic epistemology and game theory semantics. In 2006, a comprehensive examination of his thought, The Philosophy of Jaakko Hintikka , appeared in the series Library of Living Philosophers, each volume of which is devoted to an internationally renowned philosopher.

An outline of Hintikka’s lecture

Text: Tiina Palomäki
Photo: Ari Aalto
23.3.2011
Translation: AAC Global
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