125 Deep Philosophical Questions for A Thought-Provoking Conversation
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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 You Will Learn
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.
55 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?
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.
Connie Stemmle is a professional editor, freelance writer and ghostwriter. She holds a BS in Marketing and a Master’s Degree in Social Work. When she is not writing, Connie is either spending time with her 4-year-old daughter, running, or making efforts in her community to promote social justice.