10 Great Questions of Philosophy

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by Magical Realist, Sep 21, 2013.

  1. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    What do you think are some of the great questions facing mankind? Here's a list to give you some ideas:


    Since the beginning of thought, man has sought to understand the universe and his own existence. He has sought to explain them through myths, superstitions, and religions on one hand; and through science and philosophy on the other.

    Religion proffers answers to many of these questions, but based on alleged divine revelation as interpreted by ecclesiastical “authorities”, and expressed in dogmatic —and often irrational— belief systems. Science and Philosophy eschew dogmatic belief and seek to answer them by reason and logic or through experience.

    While the whole of philosophy is extensive and complicated, it can be reduced to the search for the answers to the 10 issues below.

    What is the nature of the universe? Where does it come from? Of what is it made? How did it come to exist? What is its purpose? By what process does it change? Is it evolving or devolving? Does it function by itself or would it degenerate to chaos without some kind of intelligent control?

    Is there a Supreme Being? If so, what is His nature? Did He create the universe? Does He continue to control it personally and if so, at what level? What is his relationship with man? Does he intervene in the affairs of man? Is this Being good? If this Being is good and all-powerful, how can evil exist?

    What is the place of man in the universe? Is man the highest fruit of the universe or is he just an insignificant speck in infinite space—or something in between? Does the spirit of man descend into matter from higher spiritual realms, or has it evolved from matter? Is the universe conscious or unconscious of man? If it is aware, is it warm and friendly to him, or cold and indifferent, or even hostile?

    What is reality? What is mind; what is thought? Is thought real? Which is superior: mind or matter? Has mind created matter or has matter evolved mind? Where do ideas come from? Does thought have any importance--does it make any difference in our lives--or is it just fantasy? What is Truth? Is there a universal Truth, true for all men forever, or is Truth relative or individual?

    What determines the fate of each individual? Is man a creator and mover of his life, or does he live at the effect of forces over which he has little control? Does free will exist or are our lives determined by outside factors—and if so, what are those factors? How does life work: is there a Supreme Force that intervenes in our lives? Or is everything pre-determined from the beginning of time? Or is life just random, full of coincidence and accident? Or is there some other control mechanism we do not perceive?

    What is good and what is bad or evil? What is moral? What is ethical? Who decides good and bad, right and wrong; and by what standard? Is there an absolute standard of good and bad beyond one’s the personal opinions? Should good and bad be determined by custom, by rational law, or by the situation? What if the decisions of others (society, authorities, laws, etc) determining good and bad are contrary to one’s personal beliefs or freedoms? ¯should you obey others or follow your own conscience? Moreover, if as an answer to FIVE, we do not have free will but are ruled by outside factors, what difference does good and bad make? ¯we have no choice. If so, we have no responsibility for doing bad.

    Why are things the way they are? How should things be ideally? What is the good life —for the individual and for the many (society)? What would a Utopian society, a heaven on earth, be like? Is it even possible to create a Utopia? If so, how? Would not a Utopia assure personal freedom? What, then, should you do with those who don’t cooperate and violate the Utopian system? If you control or punish them, is there no longer a Utopia?

    What is the ideal relation between the individual and the state? Should the individual serve the state or the state serve the individual? What is the best form of government and what is the worst? When is a man justified in disobeying the dictates of the state? To what extent should the majority rule and thereby act against the freedom of the minorities? When is a man justified in rebelling against the established order and creating a new state? What are the relative merits of the different economic systems (capitalism, communism, etc.).

    He who controls education controls the future. What is education? How should the young be educated—what is important and what not? Who should control education: the parents, the student, the society or the state? Should a student be taught to think for himself or to adopt the beliefs of the society? Should man be educated to be free and live for his own interests; or to subjugate his desires to serve others or the state? ¯see Question EIGHT.

    What happens at death? Is death the end of everything or is there a soul in man that continues to exist beyond death? If so, is that soul immortal or does it too eventually cease to exist? If the soul does continue to exist after death, what is the nature of that existence? If there is an existence after death, is “good” rewarded and “bad” punished? If so, how do you reconcile this with the concept of predestination? And if there is a God of INFINITE LOVE and FORGIVENESS, how to you reconcile punishment?---http://www.selfgrowth.com/articles/Powell13.html

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  3. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    One big question for Anglophone philosophy itself might be what significant role did that category have remaining to play, after part of it declaring itself a para-philosophical endeavor* (only having a vague connection to the tradition traced back to the Greeks), devoting itself to a narrow fixation on language errors, and becoming a satellite of philosophical naturalism and the physical sciences ( i.e., after becoming settled on a particular ontological stance and essentially handing over most if not all those questions to empirical endeavors)? I refer to this in a kind of past tense as it has since collapsed and splintered into an eclectic landscape that defies any single definition or identity (apart from that umbrella of "Anglophone", which may be questionable as well since it has somewhat bled beyond the American / British-culture sphere). Though among this writhing mess there are still lingering, half-surviving former phases that can still justify a label of "analytic philosophy" being applied to them. Fodor, below, perhaps sums up what legitimate purpose remains to those, that is not a form of "make work job" for simply keeping people employed and presenting the appearance of performing beneficial labor.

    Jerry Fodor: I think that philosophy consists mostly of criticism. What philosophers do is take more or less informal and unformulated systems of beliefs that are in use or that have been proposed, and try to make them articulate, to figure out whether they are consistent, and, in general, to help reduce the level of ambient confusion; which, in practice, is generally pretty high. (BTW, I think that doing that sort of thing is a main component of what philosophy has ALWAYS been about). On this view, philosophy is mostly a meta-level activity. Other people (typically, but by no means always, empirical scientists) try to say what's going on. Philosophers look over their shoulders and, when possible, try to figure out exactly what it is that they'e saying.

    I guess that, from time to time, philosophers have actually helped advance the discussion in one or other of the empirical sciences; most recently in linguistics, psychology and some of the wilder parts of physics. This has been partly a matter of trying to figure out what the theories currently on offer actually amount to (see above); but it's also by way of characterizing empirical investigation as such, including such topics as the nature of confirmation, explanation, observation and the like. Much the same might be said about philosophical work in areas like ethics and the philosophy of law where there are, I suppose, problems of interpretation and reconstruction not disimilar to those that arise about science: What do the things people say and believe (about--as it might be--the relation between someone's intentions and the evaluation of his actions) fit together. Are these beliefs consistent? What general principles do they illustrate? And so forth. (I should also say philosophers have often enough contributed by muddying the waters. The disasterous impact of behaviorism, operationalism and pragmatism on 20th century social science came about, in large part, because some psychologists actually believed what philosophers told them about the 'scientific method'.)
    --from interview conducted by Mark Vernon

    * - - - - - -

    Aaron Preston: "Because analytic philosophy initially saw itself as superseding traditional philosophy, its tendency throughout much of the twentieth century was to disregard the history of philosophy. It is even reported that a sign reading 'just say no to the history of ideas' once hung on a door in the Philosophy building at Princeton University (Grafton 2004, 2). Though earlier analytic philosophers would sometimes address the views of a philosopher from previous centuries, they frequently failed to combine philosophical acumen with historical care, thereby falling into faulty, anachronistic interpretations of earlier philosophers." --IEP

    Wittgenstein: "My method throughout is to point out mistakes in language. I am going to use the word 'philosophy' for the activity of pointing out such mistakes. Why do I wish to call our present activity philosophy, when we also call Plato's activity philosophy? Perhaps because of a certain analogy between them, or perhaps because of the continuous development of the subject. Or the new activity may take the place of the old because it removes mental discomforts the old was supposed to." --Lectures on Philosophy
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  5. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    If you spend too much time pondering these things you will surely drive yourself crazy!
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  7. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    For comparison, see a Buddhist scripture, the Abhidhamma, with the section on points of controversy and how it is handled there.
  8. river

    What I find missing is simplicity-complexity and complexity-simplicity or complexity-simplicity or simplicity-complexity
  9. river

    Not really

    I have pondered and dwelt on much of it all

    It never has driven me crazy
  10. Seattle Valued Senior Member

    Some of these are the "why" questions and some wonder about the purpose of man. In generally I find these lacking. "Why" is a child's question more often than not and there is no "purpose" in general. All of those presuppose a God or creator and reasons for everything.

    Most things are relative and we create our own purpose.

    There is notGod or creator or reason or purpose. We need to provide that for ourselves.
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2013
  11. river

    The child question was very interesting

    To your last two statements , how so true

    Its a matter in believing in ourselves , Humanity , which we have , but very few have , hopefully more in time will join
  12. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Any author that creates an article called "10 Great Questions of Philosophy" and then proceeds to bombard us with 72 question-marks (a number of those being for more than just one question) is not really off to a good start.
    And then the author (and MR, you really should make it more clear where your input ends and your quote from the author starts) has the audacity to say that the whole of philosophy is the search for an answer to one of these 10 questions (or the 72 that he actually poses), yet omits some such as "What is an experience?" or "What is a number?"

    Anyhoo - I think there are only a few key questions in philosophy... probably just 5, in my view (and by 5 I actually mean... 5. Not 42 or 112... Just 5):

    Who am I?
    Why am I?
    Where am I?
    How do I know?
    What is reality?

    I see all other questions as an attempt to delve deeper into these key ones.

    For example, "God" is an attempt at a possible answer to some of them, and from that comes the question "is there a God?"
    But I do not see "is there a god?" as being a key question as it stems from one or more of the 5 key ones.
    Now it might be that one sees God as answering a number of them and thus gains importance from that... Ie if we answer that one then we perhaps might resolve some of the others. But the question of God's existence only arises because we ask one (or more) of those 5 key questions.

    At least that's how I see it.
  13. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    Bah. I've never been a fan of the Abhidhamma before, but this thread is making me into one!
  14. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    Asking "why" often presupposes a reason for the way things are and not necessarily a purpose. "Why is the sky blue?" "Why is the moon round?" "Why do flowers smell nice?" are all questions that can be answered from science. Asking why we are here is an interesting question in that it prompts exploration into the reasons as to why we are the way we are. Evolution and history provide answers to alot of this. It ties our nature to the way the universe operates. As to why I am here, in a cosmic or existential sense? As you suggest, that is a question that can only be answered by me alone in how I choose to live my life. We can find purpose in the universe thru relationships, a fulfilling career, and even thru a spiritual interpretation of our experience. If the universe didn't have any meaning before, it certain did AFTER the emergence of our human story-telling consciousness.
  15. Seattle Valued Senior Member

    "Why" can also be never ending..."why is the sky blue?" "Rayleigh Scattering" "why?" because the particles in the sky are of a size that causes the blue spectrum to scatter" "why?" "those are the shorter wave lengths" "why"...and you're done

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    Last edited: Sep 30, 2013
  16. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    No..your second description answered the question. If I ask why something else, that is a different question with its own answer. And science pretty much has answers for most of them.
  17. Lakon Valued Senior Member

    There is but ONE question IMO, and answering that one, answers all others.

    Why is there something instead of nothing ?
  18. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    That's a really deep question. It takes alot of energy and effort to exist. Note the Big Bang. Why would a state of perfect tranquil nothingness suddenly go manic with all this business of existing in a billion different forms and properties and events. From an infinitesimal point to galaxies, planets, 57 chevies, the Beatles and Heidi Klum. You have to think there's a point to all this "stuff" bursting out of the blank infinite abyss.
  19. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    What makes it "deep"?
    Only in a localised state of entropy decrease within our universe.
    But the universe as a whole? Latest thinking by some serious theoretical physicists actually put the net energy of the universe at a big fat zero. Just look up Lawrence Krauss on the matter.
    Quantum fluctuation seems to be one theory.
    You don't have to. You can choose to think that, but you certainly don't have to.
    I, for one, do not.
  20. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    Try answering it and you'll find out.

    But then we aren't talking about "within the universe" are we? We're talking about the emergence of the universe from a prestate of nothingness. If such was even the case..

    The quantum vacuum is a something. The question was about there being something instead of nothing.

    Yes..many DO choose not to think anything at all. Thanks for confirming that..
  21. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    I am merely curious as your use of the term "deep". If you mean that it is unanswerable, then there are many questions that are "deep". Or do you perhaps mean something more than that?
    So if a universe has net zero energy it needs a lot of energy to exist?
    How do you know that it "takes alot of energy and effort to exist", whether the universe has net zero energy or not?
    Okay, so you know there was ever nothing, then? How do you know that?
    No worries; it is a sought after meditative state. Maybe you should give it a go, not least to save us from any more of your attempted witticisms.
  22. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member


    To go from having no energy, as in being nothing, to having energy, is a net gain in energy.

    Why would you think otherwise? You think nothing, in which there is not even energy, and then something, in which there IS energy, doesn't take more energy? How?

    I was answering the question, which assumed a state of nothing. Unlike you apparently, I have no problem freely speculating on hypothetical questions..

    Not thinking, if that is your forte, is probably something better done offline. So have it if that's what makes you happy...
  23. Seattle Valued Senior Member

    I'm not a theoretical physicist

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    but the short answer to your nothing to energy question lies with the positron which is anti-matter. It's the opposite of an electron. So the energy you speak of (coming from nothing) is balanced (potentially) with positrons.

    Matter being offset with anti-matter results in a net of zero.

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