I got a long condescending mansplaining email from James Billingham today telling me how terrible and telling it is that I refused to answer a question that demanded a yes or no response, and how extremely simple and uncontentious it should be to answer the question with a “yes” end of story.
That claim betrays an unfamiliarity with thinking.
Thinking just doesn’t work like that. If you can answer yes or no, there’s precious little to think about. Yes or no is for simple factual questions, or practical plan-making questions. Is the light on? Did you get milk? Are you ready to go? Did you feed the cat?
Questions that are more complicated than that can pretty much never be answered with a yes or no.
You could demand of me, “Are women equal to men? Yes or no.” I would refuse to answer the question in that form.
Why? Isn’t it simple? Shouldn’t I just say yes, of course?
No, because I wouldn’t even know what was meant by “equal to” – so I couldn’t answer until I did know. Therefore I would have to refuse to answer at all, if the other party had been such an asshole as to order me to answer yes or no.