55 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?
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.