This is a topic I hope to expand, so this will be more straw man than article.
Fundamental questions are those which demand essential information. A fundamental question about a vacation, for instance is what do you want to do on your vacation. The answer, which might be “go to Disney”, “read on the beach”, “I don’t know”, “tour England”, all of these reveal a state which must be resolved before things can move forward. They give you a seed from which blooms detailed questions. Even “I don’t know” is a start, because then you can knowingly move on to the looking for ideas stage.
Fundamental questions in life pertain simply to situations which come up all the time. The most fundamental question I can think of is:
What problem are you trying to solve?
This generalizes activities. I sleep to solve the problem of feeling sleepy. I watch TV to solve the problem of being bored or wanting to escape or wanting to catch up on that fascinating story. The question also can elicit a more specific answer, which may lead to useful refocusing. Take, for instance, this example: Someone comes into the lab, and starts rooting around in the equipment drawers. You could ask “what are you looking for?”, and it’d be perfectly reasonable to do this.
“A USB cable”, they might say. Then you might help them look, or try and find one in another lab or office. After some searching you find one, and they leave you in peace, for maybe five minutes.
“Do you have one which has the same plugs on both ends?”
This is certainly a good time to ask “what problem are you trying to solve?” Their needs, and subtle ignorance tells the expert (or me, in any case) that they want to attach two computers together, a reasonable act, but one done far better with different means, usually. By asking this question, you can start down a path of solving the right problem.
So, given that very useful fundamental question, I’ll use it: What problems am I trying to solve by discovering fundamental questions?
My hope is to discover efficient means for getting to the root of various problems, and as well, to shake the foundations of my own knowledge, to ensure its stability.