ANSWER: any response provoked by an existential interrogation

An answer is a response that is forthcoming as a consequence of any form of existential provocation. Constraining the duality of question and answer to linguistic communications is unnecessarily restrictive. Whether it is an animal sniffing its environment, a radio transmitted enquiry as to location, the first cavalry charge of a military campaign, or an hypothetical written problem in an examination... they all attempt to evoke a response by the initiative of their questioning interrogation. When a question is asked, any forthcoming response that provides a relevant reaction to its enquiry might well be supposed to be a possible answer. Any number of hand gestures are available to provide an instant response to any interrogation. The scent of a rival is one possible answer to a canine olfactory query. A call-sign acknowledgement might be the anticipated answer to a radio call attempt at establishing contact. A counter-attack could well function as an appropriate answer to an initial charge of the imperial guard. An essay is usually evaluated as a relevant answer to a written examination question. This mini-essay in particular is an answer to the metaphysical introspection as to the nature of an answer.

When a question is asked, any answer depends upon the existence, objective and resources of a response system. To begin with, if there is no-one there, there will be no answer. If a communications system is switched off or is malfunctioning, it will not provide any sort of acknowledgement-answer. If the defenders have abandoned their site, the invading hoards will experience no reaction-answer. Neither will there be an answer if the entity being questioned does not understand the question or chooses not to respond. The inquisitor does not always extract an answer from the tortured. The camouflaged try not to respond to provocation lest their answer reveals their presence. The examination candidate does not respond to a particular question if they consider they have not adequately prepared themselves. There are thus a wide variety of reasons why an answer may not be forthcoming when a question is posed. In fact there may be no possible answers at all to the formulation of some questions. Questions which appear to be incomprehensible and devoid of meaning would quite likely not initiate any response at all. A tourist asking for directions in an unknown and rare dialect may elicit nothing at all from nearby locals. The question "Is the musical note of C# heavier than the RGB color #ff00ff ?" would normally be treated as being inappropriate and therefore not having a sensible answer. Obtaining answers is sometimes not possible.

There are sometimes many perfectly valid answers to some sorts of questions. After a city has been devastated by an earthquake, the question posed by the survivors of an earthquake... "how do we rebuild our city?"... could be responded to by many architects and engineers. When an individual asks themselves the question... "what do I do with my life?"... any proposed answer is only ever a possibility amongst a multitude of others. Such 'answers' are rarely definitive and imperative, but serving more as speculative proposals that endeavour to suggest future possibilities based upon available resources. The 'correct' answer for the devastated city inhabitants would be the one that was within financial possibilities and allows for future damage risk. An 'incorrect' answer for the confused adolescent is one which encourages martyrdom and political sacrifice.

Any answer depends upon the simplification framework of the respondent. To answer the question... "Is the Emperor worthy of praise?"... various perspectives may be adopted. From the perspective of war, aggression and empire expansion, the number of individuals that have to be sacrificed to the aspirations of the emperor may be considered to be unacceptable. The socialist perspective that the emperor was a megalomaniac tyrant is not an evaluation of praise. From an administrative point of view however, the emperor may have made significant provisions for the legal rights of the citizens, and provided infrastructure for the ready production and sale of exports, so that financial and social security made individuals comfortable and happy with their day to day existence. Such achievements might evince public praise. Religious adherents may focus entirely on the emperor's lack of spiritual sincerity with respect to their own idiosyncratic beliefs, and as a consequence, not only consider them to be unpraiseworthy, but that the emperor deserved nothing less than excommunication and a condemnation to death. From the perspective of an intellectual elite, if the emperor displays commanding intellectual and social manipulation skills, as well as literary and artistic talents... grudging praise may well be forthcoming. This, and similar types of generalized inquiries... such as those concerned with 'overpopulation' or 'the origin of the universe'... will never have an answer that is satisfactory to all sectors of the population. The 'correct' answer will always be the one that conforms best to ones most treasured assumptions.

Lastly of course, every question provides the stimulus for a potentially infinite chain of subsequent questions. Every response that purports to be an 'answer' should provoke the immediate further question as to whether that answer relevant, significant and informative. This is the very essence and substance of political interviews.