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Before we start to look at philosophy in any way, I just want to put it out in the open that philosophy is complicated. If it weren’t, this search for answers to questions that people have been asking since the B.C. years wouldn’t still be going on. Someone would have found the answer to these so-called “basic” questions.
Philosophy, which looks at knowledge, truth, meaning, and existence, is one of the oldest-practiced sciences in human history. And I’m not really sure how far we’ve gotten.
As you’re asking the deep philosophical questions that we are going to go over in this article to get to know someone better or to understand yourself on a deeper level–just know that, apparently, no one’s answers are…really…right.
But, they’re also not necessarily wrong…?
However, for this purpose, the answers you’re looking for people to come up with are those that are interesting, thought-provoking, and great conversation starters.
…Even though the conversation that results from your question might not get you very far–and could potentially leave you more confused than when you started.
So why ask?
Everyone lives with their own unique set of beliefs, ideas, and realities, so you can gain a great amount of insight into someone else’s individual experiences, perceptions, and judgments by asking them philosophical questions and engaging in the resulting conversation.
How can one person’s reality be so different from someone else’s? And what are the motivations behind their thoughts, beliefs, and actions?
This is where philosophy comes in, as philosophers have been contemplating a potential reason behind human existence (among other “simple” concepts) since the beginning of time. The ideas that famous philosophers (such as Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas) have come up with are notably abstract– but you have to cut them some slack.
After all, when trying to find a connection between the nature of the universe and human existence, how can anyone ever be 100% positive? You’re trying to find a connection between two very subjective and unexplainable things, it’s not like you’re searching for the relationship between freezing temperatures and icy road conditions.
So how can you distinguish a philosophical question from a dichotomous question? Or a loaded question? …Or a rhetorical question? Let’s look at what characterizes a philosophical question.
What is a Philosophical Question?
Philosophical questions are those posed to help people gain an understanding of the universe and existence of humankind. The answers to these fundamental questions are largely based on speculation, meaning there are no universal truths. However, whatever answers that you ultimately accept as being true will predominantly determine your identity and beliefs.
If you want to understand someone better–their motivations, actions, daily routines, decision-making processes, etc.–asking them deep philosophical questions is an effective method of doing so.
People use theory of mind processes in order to improve their social cognition–that is, recognizing that people have a wide variety of experiences that shape their beliefs. We’re able to use our theory of mind processes to recognize how various social circumstances impact people’s mental states differently–and understanding people in this way helps us predict their behaviors and navigate our own actions in social situations.
The “bigger” questions that address philosophy define your unique identity and perception of reality. Your answers to these questions determines your thoughts, emotions, actions, and life experiences.
Let’s look at some examples of philosophical questions that can initiate a deep and meaningful conversation that can help you get to know and understand other people much better.
235 Deep Philosophical Questions for a Thought-Provoking Conversation
1. Is there such a thing as fate? How much free will do we actually have to make our own choices, and what is pre-determined for us as at birth?
2. How do you know when you’re being genuine or authentic to your true self? When was the last time you felt this way?
3. Because humans live according to conclusions made through inductive reasoning, is there any truth to logic, math, or scientific and everyday assumptions that we make? Can we be certain about anything?
4. Who are you?
5. Why were you born? What gives your life meaning? Alternatively, do you believe life is completely random and therefore lacks any meaning? Do you have to create your own meaning?
6. How can you distinguish “art” from something that isn’t art?
7. Would you kill one person you love to save 100 strangers? Would you kill 100 strangers to save the one you love?
8. What do our dreams mean and how do they form? Do they predict the future in some way?
9. What is the source of your self-worth? Do you believe this same source defines your purpose in life?
10. Do you believe you have just one soulmate (or any) in this world? Do you think anyone has actually met their true soulmate? How do you know when that happens?
11. Is there anything in the world that you believe everyone finds to be beautiful? Does inherent beauty exist?
12. Is nature cyclical or is the earth headed toward complete disorder? Are humans creating things as quickly as we’re destroying things?
13. What does every human in the world deserve…even murderers or those who have committed heinous crimes? Justice?
14. When did time begin? How was it created and who determined the length of one second? Does time have an end?
15. What was in space before our universe existed? What lies beyond our universe? What does “forever” (in terms of space) look like? Or is there a stopping point? Or at some point does it just circle back to the beginning?
16. Do people really change or do they just recognize and react logically to new circumstances?
17. Do animals have feelings? If so, do they also have souls? Does your dog know you love him?
18. If you value privacy, why is that so if you’re not doing anything wrong?
19. Are people born evil? Or do they end up doing evil things as a result of early childhood experiences or other external factors? Can all evil be blamed on mental health or a lack of empathy?
20. What happens when you die? Do you just cease to exist or does your soul live on in heaven or hell?
21. Is there really any completely selfless act of kindness? Or is there always a motive behind helping someone else?
22. How do you know when the tipping point happens between dating someone and being in love with them? What does love actually feel like?
23. Can you be happy in life if you don’t achieve anything throughout your lifetime? If you’re unsuccessful in all of your endeavors and never make a difference in anyone else’s life?
24. What is true friendship? Is it ever equally reciprocated?
25. Is there such a thing as an ideal government? What would it look like?
26. Could the world make any progress if technology didn’t exist?
27. Why are people often more respected when they’re dead than when they’re alive?
28. Do stricter laws lead to a better or more peaceful world or do they lead to more crime?
29. If you know that you’re going to die one day, what’s the point of putting effort toward living a successful life?
30. What should the goal of humanity be?
31. Is it possible to go through life without telling a lie?
32. How would our lives change if the average lifespan of a person was 500 years?
33. Will organized religion ever become a thing of the past?
34. When you overcome a challenge, do you come out stronger on the other side? Or does every challenge break you down just a bit?
35. How would the world change if everyone focused on what society is doing well rather than how society is messing up?
36. Does happiness exist without sadness? Can good exist without evil? Can right exist without wrong?
37. Is everyone’s life equal in value?
38. Is it more important to do the right thing or to do things right?
39. How do we know that one’s experience of consciousness is the same as everyone else’s experience of consciousness?
40. Can we ever live in a socially just society if there are still unjust people around?
41. What does it take to achieve true happiness and contentment in life? Is there one factor that’s universal for everyone?
42. How can you be sure that your perceptions are real?
43. Where are people before they’re born? At what point does your consciousness form?
44. Do you think there are any bad events that have happened in the world that have actually made us better as a society?
45. Should you live for the present moment or for your future’s potential?
46. Is it more admirable to live for a cause or to die for it?
47. How would people behave if there were no rules or laws?
48. Do you think the human race will go extinct? If so, how?
49. Are people natural born leaders or do they develop the traits over time?
50. Who started each religion?
51. Are people inherently good?
52. How do you know if something really happened if no one witnessed it?
53. Are there boundaries to creativity?
54. What if we knew nothing about history? How would the world be different?
55. What if everyone had the same opinion about everything?
56. Does anyone truly earn fame? Or is fame merely an illusion based on how others perceive the famous?
57. Should celebrities and professional athletes be responsible for giving a portion of their income to offset national debt, given the fact that the consumer is a large part of the reason for their success?
58. If you were given the opportunity to know the exact time and date of your death, would you want to know? Or would you prefer to live each day believing that you have all of the time in the world?
59. If you were offered $1 million dollars to give up one of your five senses for the rest of your life, would you? Which sense would you choose to live without? Hearing, sight, taste, smell or touch?
60. If you were lost in the wilderness for weeks and starving, with no animal or plant source to be found, could you eat another human being? A fellow traveler? What if they were your friend or family member?
61. Would you prefer death by drowning or fire?
62. If you could choose any way to die, which would it be?
63. Which would you be willing to sacrifice for a life free of debt? A person you love, the family pet or one of your limbs (leg or arm)?
64. If you were given the choice between eating whatever you want and never gaining weight, or living to be 100, which would you choose and why?
65. If atheists do not believe in God, what is their moral compass driven by? Who or what do you think they are being held accountable to? Is our ability to differentiate between right and wrong innate or learned?
66. With all of the technological advances we are making, the life expectancy has gone up. What would you be willing to sacrifice to ensure that your child lived to be over 100? Would you give up your one true love? Your health? Your life?
67. If you were able to name your price for participating in a clinical trial, attempting to breed a cross species of human and animal, would you do it? If so, is there any animal you would never consider breeding with?
68. If you could do the one job that you truly loved and have all of the necessities in life taken care of (shelter, food, clothing), but never go on a single vacation or drive a nice car, would it be worth it? Which career would you choose?
69. The government has offered you a job with a salary of $300,000 per year for the next 15 years. You can pick any place in the world you’d like to be stationed; however, the position requires that you never leave this place until your contract is up. You can’t visit anyone who doesn’t already live there or take any vacations for 15 years. Would you accept the job? If so, where would you live and why?
70. If you were only able to choose one food to eat for the rest of your life, which would it be?
71. Would you prefer to be thin or healthy for the rest of your life?
72. If you found out that you only had one week to live, what would you spend it doing? Who, if anyone, would you spend it with?
73. Do you see the Unites falling apart in your lifetime? A civil war of sorts will take place, with the country dividing itself into separately governed territories? Things like the defunding of the police will occur. The middle and lower class will go to war against the wealthy, causing the crime rate to go up. The food supply chain will also suffer, more people will lose their jobs and you may be forced to defend yourself and your home.
74. If you were forced to flee your home to keep your family safe, would you consider separating them to ensure this? Possibly winding up in different countries.
75. Would you prefer to have a President that put your mind at ease in the darkest of times, or one who was feared by others?
76. If you could have a never-ending cash supply, but had to give up sex for the rest of you life, would you?
77. If polygamy became legal, would you consider it?
78. Do parents really mean it when they say they love all of their children equally? Or do they secretly love or favor one child more than the other?
79. If you had to choose between saving the life of your spouse or a child, whom would you choose?
80. Is there any cause you would give your life for?
81. Do you side with the Big Bang theory or Evolution? Neither?
82. Can stress actually make you physically sick? Conversely, can meditation and mindfulness heal what ails you?
83. Which do you think is the most impressive of the Seven Wonders of the World?
84. Who actually built the pyramids? Was it human or alien?
85. If you were given the opportunity to genetically engineer the sex and physical traits of your child before they were born, would you?
86. Do you believe the name we are born with has an effect on our personality? Or the person that we grow up to become?
87. Would you choose immortality knowing everyone else you loved would still die?
88. Can science and God coexist?
89. If your spouse died, would you consider remarriage? If so, how long of a grieving period do you think is appropriate? Would having children together change the timeline?
90. Do you believe that humans are the most intelligent species in the universe?
91. Do you think there is intelligent life in the universe similar to ours that communicates verbally, eats, drinks, procreates and desires intimacy?
92. If proof of alien life existed, and they wanted to make contact on Earth, would you be excited or scared?
93. Do you believe the human race will last another 2,000 years? How about our planet?
94. Do you believe that Catholicism or Judaism can ever be eradicated?
95. With all of the sex scandals associated with the Catholic church, would you ever allow your son to be an altar boy?
96. If you raise your child according to your family religion, would you be upset if they wanted to convert when they got older? Which circumstances would this be ok with you? Marriage? A change in their core beliefs and convictions? Politics?
97. Is post-traumatic stress a real thing?
98. Would you be upset if your child wanted to join the armed forces if you never served?
99. Would you ever eat insects in a restaurant?
100. What is freedom? If we risk facing consequences for actions deemed illegal or inappropriate by our society, then how are we truly free? Are animals freer than us?
101. If you were to die tomorrow, what words would be written on your tombstone? What would people say about you?
102. Do you consider yourself to be a good person? Can you be a good person and still fall prey to feelings of jealousy, greed, anger and lust?
103. If you could cheat on your partner and never get caught, would you?
104. They say a life lived in fear is one never lived. Yet, in the absence of fear would we live the same life?
105. Do you believe that people like Hitler and Stalin are suffering in death?
106. Who is the worst criminal in your mind? A murdered of men or children? A rapist or a thief? Is there any crime you could never forgive if it were committed against you?
107. Are you a dog person or a cat person?
108. When do you feel the most alive?
109. Which would be worse for you? Having to live life in a wheelchair with a loving partner by your side? Or being able to walk without ever experiencing unconditional love?
110. If you were involved in an accident and told you would never walk again, do you think your partner would leave you?
111. Have you ever thought you weren’t good enough? Or undeserving of the life you have?
112. Would you give all of your possessions away to spend one more day with a loved one who died?
113. If you could have a conversation with anyone, living or dead, who would you choose?
114. If you believe in Heaven, what do you think it is like?
115. If you had a choice between spending life after death walking amongst the living as a ghost, or living in your own personal paradise, which would you pick?
116. Would you prefer to live in outer space or under the sea?
117. Having grown up watching shows and movies about the future… do you feel as if technology is meeting, exceeding, or falling short of your expectations? For instance, hoverboards and flying cars? Robot servants? Colonies on Mars?
118. Are any of thoughts, opinions or perceptions truly objective? Or are they always subjective? Are our minds capable of not imposing judgment or bringing emotions into our decision making?
119. Is there any such thing as luck? Or chance? Or are our fates predestined?
120. What is faith?
121. If you had to abandon one of your deepest convictions in order to save the rest, which one would you choose?
122. Do you think wild animals feel guilt? How about domesticated pets?
123. Do you believe the theory that animals can see dead spirits?
124. Have you ever had a recurring dream? Some people believe this may be indicative of a past life. What are your thoughts?
125. If you were gifted with one superpower, which would you choose and why?
126. How would your life be different if you changed one major decision that you have made?
127. What would your life look like if you were born a century before your birthday?
128. If you could cure COVID-19 or instantly become a billionaire, which would you choose?
129. If you could undo or redo anything from the past year, what would it be and why?
130. Should history be told with more emphasis placed upon common people than on leaders?
131. Is there a universal impetus for change? What is it?
132. Can you only feel an emotion if you have felt the opposite emotion in the past? Which one do you feel first?
133. Is happiness based on positive circumstances and luck? Or is it based on attitude?
134. Is morality subjective or objective? Who determines what positive morals are? How do you know if something is immoral?
135. Should it be legal for doctors to help those who are terminally ill pass away peacefully if that is what they want?
136. Are your rights as a human the same as the things that you’re entitled to? Is freedom a human right? What about personal autonomy?
137. What defines fair governance? How is corruption defined and who defines it?
138. Is there a limit on science? Where does matter begin?
139. Are there any limits on knowledge? Is it possible to know absolutely everyone about a subject?
140. Can order ever come from chaos? Is there such a thing as organized chaos?
141. Is pain real or is it a perception? If we were taught from childhood that pain feels ‘good’, would we experience it differently?
142. If a main component to happiness is human connection, is the presence of so much technology affecting our happiness?
143. Is it more important to be liked or respected? What is the difference between the two? Can you have one without the other?
144. Is ignorance bliss? Are more intelligent people less happy in life than people who are of average intelligence?
145. Are there any animals that are actually smarter than humans?
146. Is it possible for artificial intelligence to be creative in a way that humans can’t be?
147. Do social norms cease to exist when communicating with other people virtually? Does this create a more genuine connection? How were social norms created in the first place?
148. Can memories ever be completely erased?
149. Does technology control our everyday decisions or do our decisions control technology?
150. Do people change if they gain power? Why?
151. Are faith and belief the same thing? Can someone believe in God without having faith in God?
152. If depression is so common, why do we think of it as the exception instead of the rule? Is there something that could be done for all people to reduce the rates of depression?
153. If a good person does an evil thing, are they considered to be evil for the rest of their lives? Or could they ever be considered “good” again?
154. If God exists and he were to reveal himself, would people who believe in God accept him as God?
155. Where do dreams come from? Do they predict the future or reference the past?
156. Can people who are born blind see in their dreams?
157. What are the principal social values (such as equality, justice, freedom) and how can we structure humanity to maximize them?
158. Does absolute morality exist? What does it look like?
159. Do people have souls on a biological level?
160. If no one sees you, is it okay if you do something “wrong”?
161. Which is more powerful, mind or matter?
162. How do your observations impact the course of your life?
163. If you could solve any unsolved mysteries, what would you choose and why?
164. What is more influential, power or money? Are they one in the same?
165. Are knowledge and understanding the same thing?
166. Should people follow their beliefs blindly? What does it take to change one’s beliefs? If they’re able to be changed, were the beliefs ever genuine in the first place?
167. Is perfection achievable?
168. Who determined logical reasoning in the first place?
169. Is it smart to follow your intuition? Can you really trust an instinctive feeling over any conscious reasoning?
170. Are animals conscious of life?
171. Where do ideas come from?
172. Can you trust your senses?
173. Is it ok for the government to put legal limits on the number of children people can have to regulate the world’s population? Should people have to go through any type of legal process before being able to reproduce to demonstrate they’re capable of taking care of their children?
174. What are the downsides to having human rights?
175. Do you have to be happy to live a fulfilling life?
176. How do you justify the process of justification?
177. What is the difference between belief and knowledge?
178. How can you tell the difference between abstract art and scribble?
179. Does every effect have a cause?
180. If you see someone commit suicide and you don’t try to intervene, does that make you responsible for their death?
181. What are all of the elements that go into creating one’s self-esteem?
182. Are truth and reality the same thing? Are they both relative?
183. If every cell in your body gets replaced every 7 years, could you potentially live forever?
184. Will religion ever be obsolete?
185. Which is most important: helping yourself, helping your family, helping your society, or helping the world?
186. How can we judge ourselves by our intentions, but judge other people by their actions?
187. Is there anything we could genetically change about humans to benefit our species?
188. Is happiness more than chemicals flowing through your brain?
189. Has social media given society a net positive or net negative result?
190. Do you have a right to privacy when it comes to illegal things?
191. Are humans better at creating or destroying?
192. Think about what you think gives life its meaning. Can you define every life in the universe by this scale? If so, is all life equally meaningful?
193. Is it an innate human desire to enjoy beauty?
194. There is some strong evidence that space and time fabric violently burst into existence almost 14 billion years ago, so what were things like 15 billion years ago?
195. Do animals experience time the same way that humans do?
196. Do any animals do creative things on a regular basis?
197. Does art benefit society? Can art hurt society?
198. Can someone live a fulfilling life without ever feeling a true connection with another person?
199. Is it ever acceptable to lie? What if you’re lying to spare someone’s feelings?
200. Is happiness more than a chemical reaction in the brain?
201. Should actions be judged solely on their outcome?
202. How would you spend your time if you were the only person in the world who was immortal? Would you tell people about your immortality?
203. If every ending is the start of a new beginning, what is death the beginning of?
204. What is the worst advice you’ve ever received? How has it impacted your life?
205. Does love at first sight exist?
206. What could you do today to change your life tomorrow?
207. Is innocence ignorance?
208. How can someone be positive they’re living their purpose in life?
209. Does the cosmos have a purpose?
210. Are unobservable things real?
211. Is the universe intrinsically random, like quantum mechanics posits?
212. Is there anything that has to be true in order for everything that exists to be real?
213. Is time an illusion?
214. Can freedom and determinism coexist?
215. Can happiness exist without money?
216. Why does time go by slowly or quickly depending on what you’re doing?
217. Does luck exist?
218. Do animals enjoy being pets or would they rather be free?
219. Are any beliefs unjustifiable?
220. How is knowledge structured?
221. If you were given a different name at birth, would anything else be different about your life?
222. Is time travel possible? Have we met people who are able to travel through time? If so, why did they choose to be where they were?
223. Does mind reading exist?
224. Is time cyclical?
225. Are there any aspects of reality that are actually unknowable?
226. Do you believe in past lives?
227. Is there a harsh truth about yourself that you ignore? What is it?
228. Should people prolong life at all costs for strangers? Would it make a difference what that stranger’s background or circumstance was?
229. What is hope? How are our hopes influenced? Is hope a futile endeavor?
230. Is it possible to feel happy and sad at the same time?
231. Should we respect traditions just because they are traditions? Why?
232. Is there anything that the most creative person in the world couldn’t come up with?
233. If you won the lottery tomorrow, where would you be in three years?
234. Do you believe your opinions are only yours? Or are they impacted by your surroundings?
235. If the world were to end tomorrow and you had to choose two people to spend the rest of today with, who would you choose?
Final Thoughts on Philosophical Questions
Our desire for knowledge and meaning in our lives inspires us to learn, get ahead, and become better people. What if we all really are fighting for a limited number of spaces in heaven? That’s why asking philosophical questions is so important to do, as it acts as a great motivating factor to learn about yourself, humankind, and the universe.
Talking about the deep philosophical questions on this list can help you do some reflection to consider your own beliefs and allow you to understand other people better. Trying to find the possible answers to these questions requires you to look at the world around you to search for a meaning of our existence.
Of course, these questions have no set answers–and, in fact, often raise more unanswerable questions themselves. The key is to have an open mind by thinking critically, systemically, and comprehensively. Answering philosophical questions helps us gain a better understanding of ourselves and the world we live in.
If you want to test how well you know other people, check out our collection of how well do you know me questions.
Finally, if you want to ask better questions, then watch this short, 20-minute course to learn how to have a great conversation with virtually anyone.
Connie Mathers is a professional editor and freelance writer. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Marketing and a Master’s Degree in Social Work. When she is not writing, Connie is either spending time with her daughter and two dogs, running, or working at her full-time job as a social worker in Richmond, VA.