A Group of Friends at a Coffee Shop

200+ Thoughtful Philosophical Questions to Ask

A good philosophical question is one without a black or white answer. Most of the time, a philosophical question stimulates debate, argument, and critical thinking that pushes the human mind to think about life differently. Hard philosophical questions lead one to ponder the fundamental question of life: why are we here? What is the meaning of human life, human nature, or humanity altogether?

Asking an interesting question or deep question, such as those listed below, is a great way to start a conversation and get other people thinking. Use the list below to introduce interesting topics at dinner or push the buttons of someone you’re getting to know better! However you use them, you’re in for a good discussion with some thought-provoking material on a philosophical problem or major philosophical inquiry.

A Brief History on the Creation of Western Philosophy

Pre-Socratic Philosophy:

Western Philosophy was born in 6th Century B.C. with Pre-Socratic philosophers such as Thales of Miletus. A few main findings and inquiries created the base for classic philosophical questions and theories during this time, such as metaphysics, the four classic elements, atomism, and mathematics.

Classical Philosophy:

With the continuation of philosophical thought into the 5th and 4th centuries B.C., great, classic philosophers like Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle were born. Socrates focussed mainly on ethics. Plato blended many ideas, including epistemology, which is the theory of knowledge and how we acquire it. Meanwhile, Aristotle created a more comprehensive system that blended many ideas, including science and logic.

Medieval Philosophy: 4th & 5th Century A.D.

Early Modern Philosophy: 

Modern philosophy began in the 17th Century with the “Age of Reason” and the 18th Century with the “Age of Enlightenment” alongside famous philosopher Kant.

19th Century Philosophy:

Modern philosophy continued with famous philosophers like Karl Marx, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau. Many theories such as Marxism, Romanticism, and Individualism came out of this time, along with many highly-esteemed pieces of literature.

20th Century Philosophy: Present Day Theories & Inquiries

Thoughtful Philosophical Questions on Metaphysics

  1. What does it mean to be “real”?
  2. What is real versus what appears to be real?
  3. Is existence necessary?
  4. What is the origin of the universe?
  5. What created the universe?
  6. What are the material components of the universe?
  7. Do the cosmos have a purpose?
  8. What is the goal of existence?
  9. Is there anything that has to be relatively true for everything that exists?
  10. Can some things exist that aren’t in time?
  11. Is change really possible?
  12. Can there be things that, in principle, are unobservable?
  13. Is the universe inherently random, as quantum mechanics predicts?
  14. What is time?
  15. Is time real or an illusion?
  16. Can there be time without change?
  17. Can there be aspects of reality that, in principle, are unknowable?
  18. Is space real or an illusion?
  19. What are the laws of nature?
  20. Do humans possess the power of free will?
  21. What are we?
  22. Why does the universe exist?
  23. What is consciousness?
  24. Are humans free?
  25. Do humans have immaterial souls?
  26. What are numbers?
  27. Is causation real or an illusion?
  28. Could time be cyclical?
  29. What are the laws of the universe?
  30. Is the self a bundle of experiences?
  31. Is space itself an entity, or is it reducible to spatial relations between objects and events?
  32. Why is there something rather than nothing?
  33. Could there be a person who was not in time?
  34. Is freedom compatible with determinism?

Fun Philosophical Questions

  1. If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
  2. Is water wet?
  3. Some claim money can’t buy happiness, but can happiness exist without money?
  4. Which is easier: to love or to be loved?
  5. Does the “Law of Attraction” exist?
  6. Does true love exist?
  7. Does fate exist?
  8. Is friendship necessary for happiness?
  9. Why are drugs banned but not harmful food additives and alcohol?
  10. Is it ever okay to share a secret?
  11. Why does time feel slow or fast depending on the day and the moment?
  12. Does life exist outside of our world?
  13. Does luck exist?
  14. Does artificial intelligence have the ability to take over the planet one day?
  15. Are clowns funny or scary?
  16. Why do we drive on parkways and park on driveways?
  17. Why are they called apartments if they’re so close together?
  18. Can animals think and have reason?
  19. Why does your nose “run” and your feet “smell”?
  20. Why is it called a building if it’s already been built?
  21. Can vegetables feel pain?
  22. Can a vegetarian eat animal crackers?
  23. What hair color is listed on the driver’s license of a bald man?
  24. Why aren’t cheese and meat slices made the same shape as bread?
  25. Why do women open their mouths to put on mascara?
  26. Why don’t they have seatbelts on buses, but they do on airplanes?
  27. Why are pizza boxes square when pizzas are round?
  28. At what age can you consider someone “elderly”?
  29. Do our pets have names for us?
  30. How can you tell what a room full of mirrors looks like when nobody is in it?
  31. Does expecting the unexpected make the unexpected the expected?
  32. Who put the alphabet in alphabetical order?
  33. If two mind readers read each other’s minds, whose mind are they really reading?
  34. Is there a synonym for “synonym”?
  35. If your shirt isn’t tucked into your pants, are your pants tucked into your shirt?
  36. If I try to fail but succeed, which one did I do?
  37. How do you know you are not just in a VR computer game?
  38. What came first? The chicken or the egg?
  39. If time travel is possible, would we have met time travelers already?
  40. Do animals like being kept as pets?
  41. Are you lucky? Does luck exist?
  42. If you were born with a different name, would you have a different personality?
  43. Are you dreaming right now? How do you know?
  44. Is the glass half empty or half full?
  45. Do those who love us really love us, or do they love what they think we are?
  46. If tomatoes are fruits, is ketchup a smoothie?
  47. If you punch yourself and it hurts, does that make you strong or weak?

Epistemology Inspired Philosophy Questions

  1. What is knowledge?
  2. How do we acquire knowledge?
  3. What is the structure of knowledge?
  4. Are there limits to the amount of knowledge we can acquire?
  5. What justifies a justified true belief?
  6. What are the necessary and sufficient conditions of knowledge?
  7. Can a true belief be unjustified?
  8. Is justification internal or external to one’s own mind?
  9. What do people truly know?
  10. How do we understand the justification process?
  11. What distinguishes knowledge from mere belief?
  12. What can be known with certainty?
  13. How can we know if we have knowledge?
  14. What can we know by reasoning alone?
  15. What can we know by sensory experience?

Deep Philosophical Questions

  1. How can you distinguish art from something that isn’t art?
  2. Would you kill 1 person you love to save 100 strangers? Would you kill 100 strangers to save 1 person you love?
  3. Is it better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all?
  4. If you were to die tomorrow, what would you do today?
  5. Are emotions rational or irrational?
  6. Is there such a thing as an ideal government?
  7. Is there a cause for every event?
  8. Is love different from lust?
  9. Does democracy function well for every country?
  10. How much freedom should people be permitted to have?
  11. If someone commits suicide while you watch and don’t interfere, are you responsible for that death?
  12. Is torture ever justified?
  13. Is murder ever justified?
  14. Which is more important: justice or mercy?
  15. Will time travel ever be possible?
  16. Is it ever okay to break the law? When?
  17. What is a dream, and why do we have them?
  18. What is self-esteem, and how is it constructed?
  19. What is the right age for marriage?
  20. Do animals have universal rights?
  21. Does a higher power exist?
  22. Does absolute morality exist?
  23. What shapes a person, nature, or nurture?
  24. Can we know about happiness without knowing about sadness?
  25. Can we know good without the existence of evil?
  26. What is the truth, and is it the same as reality?
  27. Is truth relative?
  28. Does an afterlife exist?
  29. Do animals have souls?
  30. Is it ever okay to lie?
  31. Do numbers exist, or were they created by man?
  32. Are we living in a simulation?
  33. If God is “good,” why does evil exist in the world?
  34. When will the world reach its end?
  35. What are thoughts?
  36. Where do thoughts come from?
  37. Does a soul exist before life and continue after?
  38. Do parallel universes exist?
  39. Why are people told to respect the dead?
  40. Is everyone’s life of equal value?
  41. Are religion and science compatible?
  42. Is happiness the main purpose of life?
  43. Which is more real: mind or matter?
  44. Do the needs of many outweigh the needs of a few?
  45. Does time have a beginning or an end?
  46. Do universal human rights exist?
  47. Are human beings inherently good or evil?
  48. Is beauty truly in the eye of the beholder?
  49. Are we morally obligated to help others?
  50. What is emotion, and why do we experience it?
  51. What is love?
  52. If the only thing I know is that I know nothing, do I know something?
  53. If I go back in time and kill my grandfather before he conceives my father, I have prevented my own conception. So, therefore, can I even travel back in time?
  54. If every cell in my body gets replaced in 7 years, will I still be me in 7 years?
  55. What makes you, you?
  56. Are there limitations to free speech?
  57. Is death a new beginning?
  58. Do guns protect people or kill people?
  59. Would the world be a better place if caste and religion ceased to exist?
  60. What’s more important: doing things right or doing the right thing?
  61. Is world peace achievable?
  62. Can memories be erased?
  63. Intelligence or wisdom, which is more important?
  64. Would ending all wars make a better world?
  65. Do thoughts have a pattern?
  66. If we live in a civilized world, why are there so many distinctions between the rich and the poor?
  67. Can you love someone without loving yourself first?
  68. Do you think “wild” animals should be kept as pets? When and why?
  69. Would you break the law to save someone you love?
  70. Is it more important to be a leader or a follower?
  71. Do people really change, or do they recognize and react logically to new circumstances?
  72. Is there really any completely selfless act of kindness? Or is there always a motive behind helping someone else?
  73. Should terminally ill people be allowed or encouraged to commit suicide?
  74. Which is more important, to be respected or liked?
  75. Can a person be “educated” without a formal education?
  76. Are people natural-born leaders, or do they develop the traits over time?
  77. What harsh truths do you prefer to ignore?
  78. What should be the goal of humanity?
  79. How will humans as a species go extinct?
  80. Is the meaning of life the same for animals and humans?
  81. What actions in your life will have the longest reaching consequences? How long will those effects be felt?
  82. If a child somehow survived and grew up in the wilderness without any human contact, how “human” would they be without the influence of society and culture?
  83. Is suffering a necessary part of the human condition?
  84. Will religion ever become obsolete?
  85. What benefits does art provide society? Does art hurt society in any way?
  86.  What is the best way for a person to attain happiness?
  87. Is it more important to help yourself, help your family, help your society, or help the world?
  88. Why don’t we, as a species, take advantage of the fact that we have almost infinite knowledge available to us?
  89. Why do we judge ourselves by our intentions but judge others by their actions?
  90. What would you genetically change about humans to make them a better species?
  91. Does jealousy have value in driving humans to improve themselves, or is it a purely negative emotion?
  92. Is happiness just chemicals flowing through your brain or something more?
  93. How would you define genius?
  94. How much does language affect our thinking?
  95. Why are humans so confident in beliefs that can’t be proven?
  96. Are there limits to human creativity?
  97. Are intelligence and happiness tied together in any way? If you are brilliant, is it more likely that you’ll be more or less happy?
  98. Can animals have morals?
  99. What’s the difference between justice and revenge?
  100. Are people ethically obligated to improve themselves?
  101.  Is privacy a right?
  102. If you could press a button and receive a million dollars, but one stranger would die, would you press the button?
  103. Does anonymity encourage people to misbehave, or does it reveal how people would choose to act all the time if they could?
  104. Has social media been a net positive or a net negative for our society? Why?
  105. Should full access to the internet be a fundamental human right?
  106. Does the study of philosophy ever lead to answers or simply more questions?
About the author
Katee’s passion for writing and fascination for language has forever guided her path in life. Follow Katee on Instagram or read more articles from Katee on Thought Catalog.

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