Here is an excellent list of deep philosophical questions to get you thinking about life, the universe, and everything else in-between.Conversation Starters
But why? This question is very popular with children. Children question everything. And that’s just as well.
We should never stop being curious and questioning things. That is why we have created a list of thought-provoking philosophical questions that offer enough topics to talk about.
What are philosophical questions?
To answer what philosophical questions are, we need to know what philosophy means. Philosophy is a scientific discipline that tries to understand human existence and the world. Philosophy deals with the central issues of human existence (e.g., what is reality? What is the meaning of life? What is morality? What is love?).
Philosophy deals with questions about human existence and the world.
The German physicist, philosopher, and peace researcher Freiherr von Weizsäcker put the essence of philosophy in a nutshell with a well-known quote: “Philosophy is the science that you cannot talk about without practicing it yourself.” In this sense - choose some questions from the following list and start philosophizing.
25 Philosophical Questions to ask
Let’s start with the questions. In this list, you will find 25 interesting philosophical questions on various topics. We wish you a lot of fun, philosophizing!
1. Being a child in the 21st century - Was everything better in the past?
“Everything was better in the past.” Maybe you’ve heard this sentence from your parents or grandparents before. Our parents grew up without the Internet or smartphones. For us, this is almost imaginable, right? If you are from Generation Z, you probably grew up with things like the Internet, a TV, and cell phones. Some researchers believe that early contact with electronic media (such as smartphones, tablets, game consoles) is bad for the child’s development. Social integration, contact with peers, and the children’s self-confidence would suffer from it. What do you say about it?
2. Genes or Environment - Where does our personality come from?
Are intelligence and personality traits innate, or are they developed through environmental influences in our adolescence? Scientists agree that it is a combination of both. But which factor do you think has a more significant impact on our personality development?
3. Until death do us part - does eternal love exist?
In this day and age, weddings are becoming fewer and divorces more often. To be happy with someone for the rest of their life - Is that wishful thinking or reality?
4. Does social media make us sick?
Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter;… We all know the positive things about social media. It’s fun, you are connected to people worldwide, and you even have a chance to make a career out of it. But what are the downsides of it? Can social media be a burden too?
5. Is euthanasia morally permissible?
There are only four countries in Europe where euthanasia is allowed: Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. In the rest of Europe, “killing on demand” is a criminal offense. Opinions are divided as to whether euthanasia is morally justified.
Here is an example to think about:
An 80-year-old man gets ill with a fatal disease and wants to apply for euthanasia. Would you support him in finding a clinic that can meet his request? And what if a 40-year-old woman who has suffered from severe chronic depression for 20 years wants to be euthanized?
6. What is mankind’s greatest problem?
You can answer this question in two different ways. Either you focus on environmental conditions (e.g., climate change) that are problematic for humanity, or you focus on humans’ personality traits (e.g., hate, envy).
7. Do we live in a simulation?
Our world is just a computer simulation created by a more sophisticated civilization. So we don’t exist. We are just simulations ourselves. This is a simplified explanation of the simulation hypothesis. It is much more complex and consists of three hypotheses. But the basic message remains the same: We live in a simulation. How likely do you think this theory is?
8. Do you believe in God or a higher power in the universe?
Is God the origin of everything or just a man-made construct?
9. How do you feel about a one- or two-child policy to counteract overpopulation?
Is it ethical to tell people how many children they can have, or is controlled family planning a violation of human rights? Are there more effective strategies to counteract overpopulation?
10. Should private gun ownership be banned?
Is gun possession a fundamental right or a threat to society? Especially in the USA, there is a heated discussion about it. After all, Americans are the most armed population with around 393 million small arms (Karp, 2018, Small Army Survey: Estimating Global Civilian Held Firearms Numbers). No other country has so many deaths from firearms.
11. Is artificial intelligence a threat to humanity?
When it comes to artificial intelligence, opinions differ. Some see it as a great danger and fear that it will knock out humanity sooner or later. Shortly before his death, Stephen Hawking said that AI-research offers opportunities for mankind. Still, the risk of abuse should not be underestimated. Elon Musk also warns of the dangers of AI-research. However, there are too many possible areas of application where AI can make a positive contribution. We are still at the very beginning of developing an AI. We’ll see what the future holds. What do you think?
12. Are men and women equal yet?
If you look at the history of feminism, a lot has happened so far. But have we reached the point where we can talk about gender equality?
13. Why are people racist?
Not everyone is racist, but we all have prejudices (even if we don’t want to admit it). Often we are not even aware of our biases, as numerous studies show. If we are not aware of it, it is difficult to get rid of it. What we can do is to recognize our prejudices, to acknowledge them, and to control them. However, that does not answer the question of why people become racist? What makes people feel so much hatred against strangers? No child in the world is born with prejudices. At what point and how do we get these stereotypes and prejudices indoctrinated?
14. Pro-Life or Pro-Choice - Is abortion morally justifiable?
Pro-Life representatives believe that the abortion of an embryo (or fetus) is murder and should be forbidden. Pro-Choice emphasizes the right to self-determination. Two recurring questions on this subject are: Can a fetus (at the time of the abortion) feel pain? Does a fetus already have a sense of self or awareness? What are your arguments for or against abortion?
15. What would you like to change about the school system?
Are you satisfied with your school system, or are there things that could be improved? Different countries have different school systems. Is there perhaps a country that you think has a well-functioning school system?
16. Would you like to be immortal if you could?
Many people fear death. The idea of an unlimited life is desirable for many people. There are researchers in the world who are working on various measures to make immortality possible. Russian billionaire Dmitry Itskov believes he can make people immortal by 2045. However, according to his idea, people would no longer exist in their own bodies. He wants to transfer human consciousness to an online avatar. Assuming his project works. Would you take part in it? What would you do if you were immortal? How would your current life change?
17. Is altruism real or a myth?
Altruism is described as prosocial, selfless behavior for the benefit of others. You do something good for another person without expecting anything in return. An example of this would be volunteering in a homeless shelter. They help disadvantaged people without getting any money. But is this selfless behavior? Can’t it be that the volunteer goes about their job to gain recognition or to feel good? Can one then still speak of selflessness?
18. Is an animal life worth as much as a human life?
It is pretty apparent that human and animal life is not considered equally valuable in our society (see factory farming, trophy hunting, etc.). There is not only a difference between humans and animals but also between animals and animals. Here’s an example: Think about your pet. Most likely, you love your pet and consider them an equal. And then think of a chicken. Is the life of a chicken inferior because it is labeled as a farm animal in our society? Immanuel Kant believed that human life is more valuable than animal life. His reasoning: Animals would not have the ability to reason and morally think. Therefore, they are morally less valuable than humans. What is your opinion about it?
19. What motivates you primarily in your work? The money or the work itself?
Both factors likely play a role. After all, we cannot survive without money. If we can’t make a living from our job, it doesn’t matter how fulfilling the work is. How about if the situation is reversed? You hate your job, but you make above-average income. Which option would you choose: little money and fulfilling work, or a lot of money and a job that you hate? What is the better motivator for you - cash or personal fulfillment?
20. Is patriotism good or dangerous?
One definition of patriotism is: “(enthusiastic) love for the fatherland”. Some see patriotism positively, and some see patriotism more critically. The critics often discuss where the line between patriotism and nationalism is. Nationalism is an exaggerated national consciousness. Nationalists overrate their own nation and devalue other nations. A greatly exaggerated nationalism can have dangerous consequences (as National Socialism has shown). Is patriotism really a harbinger of nationalism or just a healthy pride in one’s homeland?
21. Everyone has the same opportunities. - Fact or nonsense?
Kevin is a six-year-old boy who lives in a wealthy family. The father is the CEO of a successful company; the mother is a surgeon. Daniel is six years old and comes from a low-income family that sometimes even struggle to buy food. The father works as a factory worker, the mother as a housekeeper. Do these two people have the same chances in life? What if two people have the same socio-economic background but are of different nationalities (e.g., Afro-American vs. Caucasian)? Do nationality, socio-economic status, gender, etc. influence our chances in life? Or is everything achievable through hard work?
22. Is it okay to lie sometimes?
What would a world look like with people who don’t lie? Your best friend has just had a child and is constantly sending you baby photos on WhatsApp. You think it looks ugly. In this case, isn’t it better to lie or tell only half the truth? If you were totally honest with her (referring to her child as ugly), then you are sure to hurt her feelings. Is it worth it? Here is another example: In an application letter, you usually present yourself better than you really are. Let’s be honest, nobody is 100% stress-resistant, and yet everyone writes it in their application. Is it legitimate to change the truth a bit to increase one’s chances of getting the job?
23. How do you feel about the universal basic income?
The idea of the universal basic income is that all citizens receive a certain amount of money from the state every month without having to do anything in return. It should secure the livelihood of all people. There are arguments for and against the unconditional basic income. Some fear that the motivation to work would decrease. Some think that it would increase the motivation to work. Existential fears would disappear. People would discover and live out their creativity. How do you feel about the unconditional basic income?
24. Why are people jealous?
Envy is a feeling of not indulging someone else and wanting to have the same thing. What makes a person feel jealous of someone? Is it dissatisfaction with one’s own life, or is it a pronounced need for justice?
25. Is there one thing in the world that everyone finds beautiful?
Is there a universal beauty? A sunset, Ryan Gosling, the ocean, music … Can you think of something that everyone in the world could find beautiful?
The 10 Best Philosophical Questions That Make You Think
Some of these philosophical questions deal with controversial issues. Others reveal useful wisdom.
1. Is there objectivity, or is everything subjective?
Objectivity is the judgment of a thing independently of the individual. An event or a state of affairs is perceived or described as it is (without subjective distortions). Subjectivity describes the assumption that our perception is influenced by our experiences, our thoughts, and feelings. An extreme philosophical standpoint is the concept of constructivism. This theory says that objectivity is impossible. Each individual would construct their own reality. Therefore there are no facts, only interpretations. What do you have to say about it?
2. Does fate exist?
Have you ever had the feeling that you were in the right place at the right time? Is it fate or coincidence? Is our life controlled by a higher power? Are there things in our lives that are predetermined that we have no control over? Or is it all just coincidence? So many questions and no universal answer. Still, everyone has an opinion about it. Do you believe in fate or in coincidences?
3. How important is money in life?
Does money make you happy? Various researchers have already dealt with this topic. There is still no general answer. However, many researchers agree that money can make you happy to a certain extent. The American economist researcher Richard Easterlin, for example, discovered that money can make you happy when people live on the subsistence level. Sounds logical. But what about the average person? Other studies suggest that money can make you happy. However, if you have exceeded a specific annual income, it has the opposite effect. Then some researchers say that a lot of money makes you happy. As you can see, there is disagreement about this in science. The next point of criticism is: correlation is not causality. So we don’t know in which direction the connection between money and happiness is going. There are two possible directions: (1) The more money we have, the happier we are. (2) The happier we are, the more money we make.
4. What do you think of religions?
Religions can be peace-loving but can also trigger conflicts. The controversy over which is the correct religion has often led to wars throughout history. This question contains innumerable other questions. You can talk about your own experiences with religion. You can question God or the Church. Are religions a man-made story or an inspiration from God? Faith is a very emotional subject. Respect the opinions of others and listen to each other.
5. What is a recipe for happiness?
Are you happy? Can you explain why you are happy? If you are not happy right now - hang in there. Anyone can learn to be happy (no matter how crappy the circumstances are). What are the characteristics or behaviors of happy people? Can you think of something?
6. Will we be able to stop global warming in time?
The Paris Agreement (2015) is the first climate protection agreement that many countries worldwide have signed up to. The big goal of this agreement is to counteract global warming. Lowering temperatures (global warming max. 2 degrees Celsius), reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and supporting developing countries are (to put it simply) the Paris Agreement’s goals. But can we achieve these goals before it’s too late? Are the previous measures effective, or do we need new measures? How do we ensure that the measures are abided by all countries?
7. Is the death penalty morally justifiable?
In 93 countries of the world, there is still a legally regulated death penalty (as of 2019). In 2019, 3.334 people were sentenced to death worldwide. Is this punishment appropriate? Should murderers and felons pay with their death? Some think yes, some think no — the opponents of the death penalty stress that a convict’s execution violates fundamental human rights. Also, there is no scientific evidence that the death penalty has a deterrent effect and reduces crimes. What do you think about that?
8. What is a recipe for unhappiness?
The question will sound familiar to you. We asked two questions earlier about the recipe for happiness. Now it is up to you to think about what makes people unhappy. Are there certain traits and behaviors that unhappy people have in common?
9. Are people naturally good, or are some people born bad?
That brings us back to the well-known fundamental question, “Nature or Nurture?” Is a person with severe antisocial personality disorder (psychopathy) born with the disease, or do environmental factors cause the illness?
10. What would the world look like if everyone had the same opinion?
Peaceful, super boring, or both? What effects would that have on human development or technological progress?
10 Deep Philosophical Questions
Do you like thought-provoking questions? Questions that you think about for so long that it starts to hurt? Then these ten deep questions are just for you.
1. Is there free will?
Do I control my brain, or does it control me? If I control my brain, who or what is this “I”? Is it my body or a little creature in my head? And if my brain controls me, do I have no choices at all? If a person murders someone, did they even have a choice if their brain controls them?
2. Who or what am I?
We are human beings. That is clear. But if you think about it for a long time, that still doesn’t answer the question. Who am I? Am I my body, my soul, or my brain?
3. What is Nothing?
Have you ever wondered what exactly Nothing is? Is there anything at all that is really Nothing? But if something is Nothing, then it can’t be Nothing. Because something can’t be Nothing. A little warning: This question can drive you crazy, so don’t think about it too long.
4. What is right, and what is wrong?
Who Says What’s Right Or Wrong? What is right for one is wrong for another. What is wrong for one is right for another. What is right for you, and what is wrong for you? What principles do you follow?
5. What is Time?
What is the past, present, and future? Does time exist, or is it a construct based on our self-perception?
6. Is there a soul?
Soul (or psyche) has different meanings. One definition of soul is: “The totality of what makes up a person’s feeling and thinking.” In the spiritual sense, the soul is immaterial, not bound to the body, and immortal. This philosophical question is still relevant today. How are body and mind related? Is it a unit, or is it two separate systems? Is the soul or our psyche just our brain?
7. Is everyone worth the same?
Initially, most people will answer, yes. But are people who have committed terrible crimes worth as much as people who have not committed crimes? Is the life of a mass murderer worth as much as the life of everyone else?
8. Would a world without borders be possible?
Do you think a world without borders is causing peace or chaos? The idea of a world without borders and xenophobia seems excellent. But is this notion realistic?
9. Are science and religion compatible?
Religion is about belief, and science is about facts. Are science and religion compatible at all? The theory of evolution factually refutes the theory of creation. Or does the theory of creation refute the theory of evolution? Some believers would say so. To what extent can one be a believer and, at the same time, advocate the theory of evolution?
10. Should all drugs be legalized?
What would happen if all drugs in the world were legalized? Would chaos break out, and the number of drug addicts explode? Or would it even reduce the number? Some studies suggest that criminalization creates more drug addicts. Drug Charity Release claimed that drug users would have a better chance of not falling into addiction if they weren’t “involved in the criminal justice system” (oceanrecoverycentre.com, Pros, and Cons of Legalizing Drugs). What do you say about it?
Bonus: 10 Deep Questions About Life
Here you will find 10 philosophical questions that will make you think about life.
1. What does justice mean?
The core principle of justice is that everybody gets what they deserve. Equals should be treated equally and unequals unequally. A simple definition that leaves some questions unanswered. Who decides whether two individual cases are the same or not? Shouldn’t everyone be treated equally before the law?
2. Are near-death experiences an indication of life after death or a delusion of the brain?
Are near-death experiences a glimpse into the hereafter and proof of Gods’ existence, or are they just a product of our brain? Near-death reports have a calming effect on many people. It takes away a little of the fear of death. After all, people with near-death experiences tell of a place full of love and security. Some even say they wanted to stay there. Scientists believe that there are neurobiological explanations for near-death experiences. One study found that the brain is hyperactive just before death. This extreme brain activity could lead to intense sensations and hallucinations. However, the phenomenon has not yet been clarified and still needs some research. That is why it is excellent to philosophize about this topic.
3. What is love?
It isn’t easy to put love into words. Love feels different to everyone. Everyone loves differently. We have different needs and want to be loved differently. What does love look like to you?
4. Is there a meaning in life? If so, what is it?
What is the meaning or purpose of life? Is there a universal meaning in life, or does it differ from person to person? The next question is, do we need any meaning at all? Isn’t it enough just to live?
5. Do you think there is life after death?
Heaven, Hell, the Beyond - Fantasy or Fact? We will probably only know that when we are no longer in the world. But what do you think is going to happen? After death, is it merely Nothing, or do we have a soul that goes to another place after our death?
6. What does a good life look like to you?
How would your life have to be that you feel arrived? Having a Family, dream job, or independence? How would it feel when you reached your goals? And what would your everyday life look like?
7. How does hate arise?
Hate is a passionate, extreme dislike of a person, group, or other things. Do we hate someone to protect our egos? Is it based on envy or dissatisfaction with ourselves? There can be many reasons for hatred. And maybe the reasons for it are different from person to person. Do you think that there are universal conditions that lead to hatred and excessive hostility?
8. Is there a connection between our lifestyle today and the rise in mental illness?
Various factors can contribute to the development of mental illness. These include biological, psychological, and social aspects. Around 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression. Anxiety disorders, depression, burnout, alcohol addiction, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and dementia are among the most common diseases in adulthood. Research suggests that excessive social media use may be responsible for the rise in depression (and suicides). Are our smartphones and social media platforms making us sick? Could other factors be responsible for the increase in mental health problems?
9. If you were able to erase memories from your mind, would you?
Is there an experience in your life that you would like to delete from your mind? Maybe it was something traumatic or just an embarrassing moment in your life. Would it have a positive effect on your life if you erased this memory from your mind? There is a saying: “Our experience makes us what we are.” Good and bad experiences shape our personality. So would our characters change if we erased an experience from our memory?
10. Do stricter laws lead to a more peaceful world or more crime?
Can harsher punishments solve the crime problem and make our lives safer? Or does it have the opposite effect? Is harsher punishment an effective deterrent to prevent crimes? Some studies have found that harsh sentences actually increase the recidivism rate of criminals. And what impact do harsher penalties have on the average population? Does it make you feel more secure?
Here you find a great list of questions, conversation topics, and games to break the ice and start a conversation: 👉 Conversation Starters
✍️ October 1, 2020