Practical Philosophy Discussion Topics

I’m not into turgid traditional philosophy, but there are lots of very interesting practical questions and topics worth exploring philosophically, such as for a Cafe Philo. This informal paper maintains a list of the questions and topics that strike me as particularly interesting.

I’ll add to this list as new questions and topics come to my attention.

There may be some repetition in order to attempt to distinguish nuances of meaning as well as alternative phrasings which might be more evocative.

The entries are in no particular order, although they are in chronological order as they occurred to me.

  1. What is the role of protest in a democracy?
  2. When is change good?
  3. When is change bad?
  4. What is peaceful assembly?
  5. Is the media required to be objective?
  6. What is the role of media in a modern society?
  7. What is the role of media in a democracy?
  8. What is truth?
  9. Is literal truth required in politics?
  10. What do we really know?
  11. What does it mean to know something?
  12. When is confidence warranted?
  13. What is intelligence?
  14. What are all of the features of intelligence?
  15. What is emotional intelligence?
  16. What is the relationship between emotional intelligence and emotion?
  17. What is free will?
  18. What do people mean by free will?
  19. How free is free will?
  20. What is the relationship between autonomy and free will?
  21. Is free will compatible with reason?
  22. Is free will compatible with the rule of law?
  23. Can philosophy tell us whether free will exists?
  24. Can robots ever have free will?
  25. How could we tell if a robot had free will?
  26. Is it ethical for robots to be endowed with free will?
  27. Should it be legal to endow robots with free will?
  28. Is anything absolute?
  29. Are there any absolutes?
  30. How absolute is absolute?
  31. Is truth compatible with power?
  32. Is literal truth compatible with power?
  33. How compatible are reason and power?
  34. What makes you think you can handle the truth?
  35. What’s fair?
  36. Is anything ever really isolated or is everything always connected?
  37. Can we understand the nature of existence without a deep comprehension of quantum mechanics?
  38. Who can we believe?
  39. Who can we trust?
  40. If you could go back in time, what advice would you give God to create a better universe?
  41. How much of 2,500 years of philosophy is worth keeping?
  42. What are the best parts of 2,500 years of philosophy?
  43. If you could keep only 1% of 2,500 years of philosophy what 1% would that be? (or 2%, 5%, 10%, 25%, or half)
  44. What have we learned from 2,500 years of philosophy?
  45. Are we any closer to objective truth after 2,500 years of philosophy?
  46. Is responsibility a choice or an obligation?
  47. Do we have responsibility for our thoughts?
  48. Can we be held responsible for our thoughts?
  49. Is life easier today than at any time in the past (years, decades, generations, centuries, millennia)?
  50. Is life getting easier or harder?
  51. What qualities does time have?
  52. What does time mean?
  53. What qualities does space have?
  54. What is space like at and near the edge of the universe?
  55. What is time?
  56. Is time observable?
  57. Does time really exist?
  58. Does time really exist or is it simply a metaphor?
  59. Does time really exist or is it simply a metaphor, a mere bookkeeping device?
  60. What is space?
  61. Is space observable?
  62. Does space exist separate from matter, or does space exist only because of matter?
  63. What is science?
  64. How much of science does the average person need to know to lead a good life?
  65. How much of mathematics does the average person need to know to lead a good life?
  66. What do average citizens need to know about science?
  67. What do voters need to know about science?
  68. What is the role of science in a modern society?
  69. Is knowledge of science completely optional for the average person?
  70. Can science guarantee that we have the truth?
  71. Where would we be today without philosophy?
  72. Does technology have philosophical implications, or is it only social effects of technology which have philosophical implications?
  73. Do databases have philosophical implications or is it only social effects of databases which have philosophical implications?
  74. Must God obey the laws of physics?
  75. Can God violate the laws of physics?
  76. Is God subject to quantum mechanics?
  77. Is there any level of physics which God is subject to? Time? Space? Total energy in the universe?
  78. Is it possible to ever violate the laws of physics?
  79. Does philosophy cover or include theology?
  80. What is the name for the level or levels of existence below quantum mechanics?
  81. Is time our friend or our enemy?
  82. Is time your friend or your enemy?
  83. Is time just a metaphor?
  84. Are we getting better at predicting the future?
  85. Is terrorism necessarily immoral?
  86. Should extremism be illegal?
  87. Is world government possible?
  88. What are the preconditions for a viable, vibrant, and sustainable world government?
  89. Is now the time for world government?
  90. What are the ethics of speculation about the future and the unknown?
  91. Does speculation have a place in philosophy?
  92. How ethical is wild speculation?
  93. Can speculation be irresponsible?
  94. When is speculation responsible?
  95. When is speculation irresponsible?
  96. When is speculation reasonable?
  97. When is speculation unreasonable?
  98. When is speculation warranted?
  99. Which is more important, now or the future?
  100. What are the mortal sins of philosophy?
  101. Is the future our friend or our enemy?
  102. How relevant is history to now?
  103. Why study history?
  104. What is wisdom?
  105. How should we define knowledge?
  106. What is knowledge?
  107. Is knowledge necessarily true?
  108. Can knowledge convey all meaning?
  109. What is the relationship between wisdom and knowledge?
  110. Does wisdom require calm dispassion?
  111. Does age bring wisdom?
  112. Does age guarantee wisdom?
  113. Is reason compatible with passion?
  114. Does reason require calm dispassion?
  115. Is consent to slavery possible?
  116. How much is a human life worth?
  117. How should we calculate the value of a human life?
  118. Can a human life be assigned a financial value?
  119. What is one year of a human life worth?
  120. How much is each year of a human life worth?
  121. What is each of the years of a human life worth, from conception to death?
  122. Does a human fetus have any rights?
  123. How much is a human fetus worth?
  124. What is your time worth?
  125. What is your time worth to you?
  126. What are the most valued virtues?
  127. What are the most appealing virtues?
  128. What is the single most important virtue?
  129. What is the relationship between values and virtues?
  130. What is the difference between ethics and morality?
  131. Are morality and ethics exact synonyms?
  132. Is morality based on emotion while ethics is based on reason?
  133. Is life possible without beauty?
  134. What is life?
  135. How much of news is knowledge?
  136. Is knowledge always or necessarily more powerful than belief?
  137. Which is more powerful, knowledge or belief?
  138. What is the relationship between belief and knowledge?
  139. What is the relationship between belief, knowledge, and truth?
  140. What is the relationship between belief and reason?
  141. What is a fact?
  142. Are all facts necessarily objective?
  143. Are we each entitled to our own facts?
  144. Are we each entitled to our own sources of facts?
  145. Are all facts necessarily knowledge?
  146. Is all knowledge necessarily factual?
  147. Should the law ever be used to enforce morality?
  148. Does morality have a place in the law?
  149. Is it advisable to get law involved with promotion of morality?
  150. Is it reasonable to base law on morality?
  151. When is civil disobedience justified?
  152. What criteria must be satisfied to justify civil disobedience?
  153. Is civil disobedience compatible with the rule of law?
  154. Are there limits to civil disobedience?
  155. Are negative questions ever answerable or even reasonable?
  156. What is safe?
  157. What does it mean for something to be safe?
  158. What is the relationship between correlation and causality?
  159. What is a causal link?
  160. What is money?
  161. Is money real?
  162. What are moral wages?
  163. How can injustice be cured?
  164. Can injustice ever be completely cured?
  165. How can hate be cured?
  166. Can hate ever be completely cured?
  167. Does evil exist?
  168. What is evil?
  169. Do we all have the capacity for evil?
  170. Is the capacity for evil part of human nature?
  171. Is evil a choice?
  172. Do money and morality ever mix?
  173. Can anything positive ever come from mixing money and morality?
  174. Can contemporary morality be applied to the distant past?
  175. What is law based on?
  176. What could law be based on?
  177. What should law be based on?
  178. Who is “we”?
  179. Is adherence to European-based democratic political ideology a form of “white supremacy”?
  180. Is Western-style democracy a form of white supremacy?
  181. Does Western-style democracy have its origins in white supremacy?
  182. Is Western-style democracy rooted in white supremacy?
  183. Was Western-style democracy rooted in white supremacy?
  184. Was The Enlightenment rooted in white supremacy?
  185. Was The Enlightenment based on white supremacy?
  186. Is messy democracy always superior to a stable dictatorship?
  187. Is messy democracy always superior to a stable authoritarian regime?
  188. Would you prefer a messy democracy or a stable dictatorship?
  189. Must democracy be messy?
  190. What is the relationship between democracy and capitalism?
  191. Does (Western-style) democracy require capitalism?
  192. Does socialism require central planning?
  193. How should we decide between socialism and capitalism?
  194. How much of your mind can you speak freely without getting into trouble?
  195. What is the meaning of meaning?
  196. Can you ever really set your bias aside?
  197. Is patriotism optional or an obligation, a civic duty?
  198. Can nonsense ever have meaning?
  199. Can myths ever have real meaning and be relevant to the real world?
  200. Compare and contrast emotional certainty and intellectual certainty.
  201. Who deserves what?
  202. Who is deserving?
  203. Is empathy natural or must it be learned?
  204. Can empathy be taught?
  205. What is authenticity?
  206. Is authenticity just another illusion?
  207. Is authenticity objective or subjective?
  208. Is authenticity who we want to be or who we are?
  209. Is authenticity about aspiration or acceptance?
  210. Do you prefer a captivating story or boring facts?
  211. Why do most people prefer comforting stories to cold, hard, boring facts?
  212. Can love ever be an obligation?
  213. What does it mean for love to be deserved?
  214. Can unconditional love be deserved?
  215. What is the American Dream?
  216. Who gets to define the American Dream?
  217. Can the American dream be redefined?
  218. Who gets to define shared values?
  219. What is the value of rituals?
  220. The value of rituals.
  221. The role of emotional intelligence in persuasion.
  222. Is emotional intelligence compatible with reason?
  223. What is the role of emotional intelligence in reason?
  224. Which is more compelling, nature or nurture?
  225. What is purpose?
  226. What is the nature of purpose?
  227. What is the meaning of purpose?
  228. Is a life without purpose worth living?
  229. When is suicide justified?
  230. Is suicide ever justified?
  231. When is suicide permissible?
  232. Is suicide ever permissible?
  233. What is a crisis?
  234. What constitutes a crisis?
  235. Does God play dice with the universe?
  236. How deterministic can the universe be if it is based on the probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics?
  237. How deterministic can the world be if it is based on quantum mechanics?
  238. Is an uprising a constitutionally-protected action?
  239. Can an uprising ever be considered “peaceful”?
  240. Is uprising compatible with the rule of law?
  241. Do people have a natural right to revolt?
  242. What are natural rights?
  243. What natural rights do we have even if they are not formally recognized by the constitution, the UN, or other law?
  244. Do exceptions really prove the rule?
  245. How do exceptions prove the rule?
  246. Should government leave people feeling powerful or powerless?
  247. How do we balance ethics and the law?
  248. How do we balance our personal ethics and the law?
  249. Is pride a sin or a virtue?
  250. Should we be proud of complexity or afraid of it?
  251. Do we owe anything to authority?
  252. Do we have any obligations to authority?
  253. Is it reasonable to use words as weapons?
  254. Is it reasonable to use speech as a weapon?
  255. Is it reasonable to use truth as a weapon?
  256. Is beauty relevant in modern society?
  257. Is any right absolute?
  258. Are there limits to all rights?
  259. Is practicality missing the whole point of philosophy?
  260. Is there a future for Luddites?
  261. What are our ethical obligations to robots?
  262. What are our ethical obligations to AI systems?
  263. What are our ethical obligations to artificially-intelligent systems?
  264. What constitutes legitimate criticism?
  265. Are there limits to criticism?
  266. What is a fair inference?
  267. Can inference ever be objective or is it always subjective?
  268. Should we always defer to experts and the elite?
  269. Do we have an obligation to defer to experts and the elite?
  270. Do we have an obligation to treat the words of an expert or the elite as truth?
  271. Does expertise matter anymore?
  272. Is expertise inherently anti-democratic?
  273. Do we have an obligation to listen to others?
  274. Is it our choice whether to listen to others and to whom we will listen?
  275. Are there any limits to philosophy?
  276. Are we entitled to anything?
  277. Who is entitled to what?
  278. What scientific discipline is best-suited to study racism?
  279. What scientific discipline is best-suited to study sexism?
  280. Are the biblical parables relevant to modern society?
  281. Is the mind like an iceberg with only the tip being conscious and most of it unconscious?
  282. How much wisdom is needed to govern society?
  283. How much wisdom is needed to participate in government?
  284. How much wisdom is needed to vote?
  285. Are we obligated to believe everything that we can’t prove false?
  286. Which is more important, the forest or the trees?
  287. How dangerous can narrative be?
  288. Is narrative the intellectual equivalent of fire?
  289. Is the purpose of narrative manipulation and social control?
  290. Is narrative a reasonable substitute for raw truth?
  291. Is narrative a reasonable substitute for raw truth, raw facts, and raw, concise knowledge?
  292. Can obligation be oppression?
  293. Who is intellectually superior?
  294. What does it mean to be intellectually superior?
  295. Is anybody intellectually superior?
  296. Does intellectual superiority convey any special rights or obligations?
  297. What is a burden?
  298. Is it wrong to want to play God?
  299. Can social science tell us the truth about anything?
  300. Is science being hijacked by ideologically-motivated scientists?
  301. Is science being compromised by sociopolitically-activated scientists?
  302. Is the profit motive a vice or a virtue?
  303. Is the profit motive a bug or a feature?
  304. Is capitalism broken?
  305. Is capitalism beyond repair?
  306. How can we make capitalism great again?
  307. What makes a discussion topic impractical?
  308. What decade would you most like to do over?
  309. How can we be sure that something is true?
  310. Can we ever be sure that something is true?
  311. How can we be sure that something is not true?
  312. Can we ever be sure that something is not true?
  313. Is it more urgent to inquire about what confuses us or what we are certain about?
  314. Is it more urgent to inquire about what makes us anxious or what satisfies us?
  315. Is it more urgent to address climate change or economic inequality?
  316. Can we really set priorities without considering long-term resource requirements?
  317. Should we care how the universe originated?
  318. Should we care how the universe might end?
  319. Should we behave any differently if there is no God or afterlife?
  320. How do we know what is right?
  321. Which is more compelling, fact or fiction?
  322. Which is more appealing, reality or fantasy?
  323. Should there be limits to fantasy?
  324. What is enlightened self-interest?
  325. Do we have an obligation to answer every question posed to us?
  326. Do we have an obligation to respond to those who are insincere or disrespectful?
  327. When is civility called for?
  328. When should incivility be tolerated?
  329. Is civility required for a modern society?
  330. Does civility demand that we refrain from intentionally offending others?
  331. Do we have an obligation to treat others in a civil manner?
  332. What is joy?
  333. How much joy do we need to live a good life?
  334. Is the joy of relief real joy?
  335. How much meaning is there in music?
  336. Is there wisdom in music?
  337. What is the nature of philosophical inquiry?
  338. Can philosophy ever answer any question?
  339. Can philosophy tell us the truth about anything?
  340. Can philosophy tell us the objective truth about anything?
  341. What questions, if any, can philosophy answer?
  342. Are there any questions which philosophy can answer?
  343. Are there any questions which philosophy can answer objectively?
  344. Are there any questions which philosophy cannot help us understand?
  345. Can philosophy itself ever answer any of our questions?
  346. Does vocabulary matter?
  347. Can we communicate effectively without a shared vocabulary?
  348. Does semantics matter?
  349. What is reason?
  350. What is reasoning?
  351. What is the relationship between reasoning, logic, intuition, and judgment?
  352. Can logic and emotion ever be compatible?
  353. Is existentialism less or more relevant today?
  354. Is silence a natural right?
  355. How golden is silence?
  356. Is bias always a bad thing?
  357. Is bias generally a good thing even if excess may still be a bad thing?
  358. Is life possible without bias?
  359. Would life be bearable without bias?
  360. What are animal rights?
  361. Do all animals have equal rights?
  362. Is it possible to reason from nothing or are some beliefs or assumptions required?
  363. Must robots and AI systems be preprogrammed with some knowledge in order to do any reasoning?
  364. How do characterization and interpretation affect the meaning of a fact?
  365. How can we balance passion for open-minded inquiry and passion for particular conclusions?
  366. Is induction still a logical fallacy in modern society?
  367. Should you always be open to talking to your enemies?
  368. How effectively can we communicate if we don’t share values?
  369. Why doesn’t science inspire confidence any longer?
  370. What social contract is in effect in modern society?
  371. What was the traditional social contract?
  372. Should anyone be exempt from reason?
  373. Must we accept science?
  374. Must philosophers defer to science?
  375. Must philosophy defer to science?
  376. Must we accept the views of experts?
  377. Must philosophers defer to experts?
  378. Must philosophy defer to experts?
  379. What is the distinction between bias, prejudice, and hate?
  380. Is disinformation an existential threat to democracy or simply a fact of life which every citizen is expected to cope with?
  381. Is disinformation an existential threat to modern society or simply a fact of life which every citizen is expected to cope with?
  382. Do you trust the judgment of your fellow citizens?
  383. Should you worry (about anything)?
  384. What worry, if any, is justified?
  385. Does reality ever need a good excuse?
  386. Should we ever allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good?
  387. When might the perfect not be the enemy of the good?
  388. Are appeals to authority still a logical fallacy in modern society?
  389. Must trust be earned or can it be demanded?
  390. What is the role of reason in modern society?
  391. Are we obligated to believe authority?
  392. Who gets to dictate truth?
  393. Is lust a vice or a virtue?
  394. What does it mean to take responsibility?
  395. Are you responsible if following authority?
  396. Is dogma compatible with reason?
  397. Could you ever trust a smoker to tell the truth?
  398. How many classes should there be in a modern society?
  399. Are they watching us now?
  400. What is your greatest flaw?
  401. What is your greatest strength?
  402. Do the ends ever justify the means?
  403. Under what criteria do the ends justify the means?
  404. When and where in daily life is reason appropriate?
  405. When and where in daily life is reason ever inappropriate?
  406. What are the preconditions for the use of reason?
  407. Does any problem demand an emotional response?
  408. When is an emotional response justified?
  409. Is fear ever justified (in contrast to reasoned caution)?
  410. Is reason dead?
  411. Is reason dead, dying, declining, in disfavor, unappealing, or just too much effort?
  412. Is reason more trouble than it’s worth?
  413. Why can’t reason get any respect?
  414. What is the relationship between knowledge and intelligence?
  415. Is it natural to be skeptical?
  416. Is intellect ever not superior to the passions?
  417. When is intellect not superior to the passions?
  418. Is it fair to expect others to know what you mean?
  419. Can we ever rely on intelligence to overcome bad judgment?
  420. Are disputes over culture and values necessarily racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia?
  421. Who should study philosophy?
  422. Why should anyone study philosophy?
  423. Should everyone be required to study philosophy?
  424. Is gossip ever a good thing?
  425. Does gossip have any redeeming social value?
  426. Who can be trusted with gossip?
  427. Is your dignity ever worth your life?
  428. Is belief a human right?
  429. Are any beliefs unacceptable?
  430. Are any beliefs forbidden?
  431. Do fiction and fantasy benefit or harm society?
  432. When did society become modern?
  433. Are citizens of a democracy obligated to defer to experts?
  434. Are individuals of a modern society obligated to defer to experts?
  435. What is the best way to plan for the future?
  436. Is Simulation Theory a realistic possibility?
  437. To what degree can we trust our senses?
  438. Is pessimism ever warranted?
  439. When is pessimism warranted?
  440. How can we become more optimistic?
  441. How much optimism makes sense?
  442. When is optimism warranted?
  443. When is optimism not warranted?
  444. Can you really apologize for the actions of another, such as a friend, relative, or ancestor?
  445. Can you really apologize for the actions of your community or country?
  446. How different might the world be in 10, 25, 50, or 100 years?
  447. How well do we really understand each other?
  448. Can we ever really understand each other?
  449. Is induction still a logical fallacy in modern society?
  450. Is generalization still a logical fallacy in modern society?
  451. Are we morally obligated to defer to experts?
  452. Are philosophers morally obligated to defer to experts?
  453. What’s so modern about modern society?
  454. When did modern society become modern?
  455. What are the criteria for modernity?
  456. Why shouldn’t some animals be more equal than others?
  457. Is fighting ever appropriate in modern society?
  458. Is the language of violence ever appropriate in modern society?
  459. What constitutes a plan?
  460. What is the source of moral authority?
  461. What is the relative value of generalizations vs. universals?
  462. Are universals always superior to generalizations?
  463. When are generalizations reasonable?
  464. Are we responsible for our own thoughts?
  465. Is social harmony a reasonable goal?
  466. What will it take to achieve social harmony?
  467. Should a good person ever cooperate with a bad person?
  468. Should a good person ever tolerate or accept a bad person?
  469. Does emotion have a legitimate place in discourse?
  470. Does emotion have a legitimate place in public discourse?
  471. Does emotion have a legitimate place in philosophical discourse?
  472. Are there reasonable limits to emotion in public discourse?
  473. Are smokers necessarily bad people?
  474. Is frequently smoking of marijuana a sign of a flawed character?
  475. Does stigma have a place in modern society?
  476. Do we have a right to stigmatize anything or anybody?
  477. Do we have a right to be free from stigma?
  478. Do we have an obligation to respect everyone in a modern society?
  479. How much sin should be tolerated in a modern society?
  480. Is anything pure?
  481. Are we getting more intelligent?
  482. Are we getting less intelligent?
  483. How much are we obligated to believe about the future?
  484. What are we obligated to believe about the future?
  485. Are unintended consequences necessarily a bad thing?
  486. Is there anything that should never be forgiven?
  487. Is there anybody who should never be forgiven?
  488. Is it ever acceptable to lie?
  489. What are acceptable excuses for lying?
  490. What is destiny?
  491. What is the nature of destiny?
  492. Is destiny a real thing?
  493. What is existence?
  494. Should we have empathy for the unborn (distinct from empathy for the parents)?
  495. Should we have empathy for an unborn fetus?
  496. Should we have empathy for an unborn embryo?
  497. At what stage of pregnancy should empathy to the unborn begin?
  498. What obligations do we have to the unborn?
  499. Should we have empathy for the dead?
  500. Should we have empathy for the souls of the dead?
  501. Should we have empathy for our ancestors?
  502. Should we have empathy for animals?
  503. Should we have empathy for all animals?
  504. Should we have empathy for fish, reptiles, or insects?
  505. Is virtue signaling a good thing or a bad thing?
  506. Does science (or math) have any value if you can’t understand it?
  507. Does knowledge have any value if you can’t understand it?
  508. Can you claim to know something (vs. merely believe it) if you don’t have a reasonably strong comprehension of the justification for its truth?
  509. When is knowledge needed and when is belief good enough?
  510. In what situations is knowledge needed and when is belief good enough?
  511. Is the human mind the final frontier?
  512. Do you prefer the unexpected or the desired?
  513. What does it mean when scientists say there is no proof for something?
  514. Is absence of proof proof of absence?
  515. Does absence of proof constitute proof of absence?
  516. Which is more powerful, knowledge or judgment?
  517. Should spiritual beliefs be tolerated by modern society?
  518. Should religion, spirituality, and theology be beyond the reach of philosophy?
  519. Can we know anything with absolute certainty?
  520. What criteria must be satisfied to achieve absolute certainty?
  521. Can any philosophy question be answered with absolute certainty?
  522. How much knowledge of philosophy is needed to be a good person?
  523. Can philosophy prove the existence of anything?
  524. Can any belief about the future be true?
  525. What aspects of truth are relevant to the future?
  526. What is real?
  527. Is the past real?
  528. Is the future real?
  529. Are ideas real?
  530. Are thoughts real?
  531. Is our imagination real?
  532. Are fantasies real?
  533. Are illusions real?
  534. Are rainbows real?
  535. Is the meaning of art real?
  536. Is meaning real?
  537. Does meaning exist?
  538. Should verbal assault be legal?
  539. Should verbal assault be illegal?
  540. Should verbal assault be acceptable in modern society?
  541. What is the role of the elderly in modern society?
  542. When are second chances appropriate?
  543. What should our response be to dictatorships?
  544. What should our response be to authoritarian rule?
  545. What is beyond the pale?
  546. Should you ever have to apologize publicly for something you say in private?
  547. What are the ethics of time travel?
  548. Should history have a role in ethics?
  549. What are the ethics of writing history?
  550. What are the ethics of rewriting or reframing history?
  551. What is required to hold a belief?
  552. What are the criteria for belief?
  553. How reasonable is justified true belief as a definition of knowledge?
  554. Do beliefs ever need to be justified?
  555. Can we understand the future?
  556. Can we have any knowledge about the future?
  557. What is privacy?
  558. What are the ethics of privacy?
  559. Can philosophy tell us what’s good or bad about democracy, capitalism, or socialism?
  560. Does romance have a place in modern society?
  561. Where does knowledge come from?
  562. Is truth needed to find happiness?
  563. Will truth guarantee happiness?
  564. What is the relationship between emotion, passion, and feelings?
  565. Can eugenics be made socially and morally acceptable?
  566. What might a Eugenics 2.0 look like (new, improved, safer, fairer, more socially acceptable)?
  567. How distinct are genetic engineering, mate selection based on DNA profile, and eugenics?
  568. Which is more cruel, eugenics or Darwinian evolution?
  569. Should children be exposed to philosophy?
  570. Should children ever be exposed to philosophy?
  571. At what age should children be exposed to philosophy?
  572. What aspects of philosophy should children be exposed to?
  573. Who can be a philosopher?
  574. What are the criteria for being a philosopher?
  575. Can anyone be a philosopher?
  576. What is freedom?
  577. What are our freedoms?
  578. What are the limits of our freedoms?
  579. What are legitimate constraints on our freedoms?
  580. What is peace?
  581. What are the bounds of peace?
  582. What is peaceful?
  583. What is beyond the bounds of peaceful?
  584. What is a person?
  585. What criteria should be used to define who or what can be considered a person — whether human, primate, other sentient animals, coup, group, company, child, infant, fetus, elderly, mentally ill, comatose, sleeping, anesthetized, induced coma, robot, AI system, alien creature, disembodied mind, creative works of an individual, etc.?
  586. How much of our body, mind, personal effects, gestures, communications, creative efforts, offspring, relationships, family, community, etc. constitute our person?
  587. To what extent should government seek to preempt prohibited conduct or force required conduct, rather than simply react after the fact? (law, courts, regulations, law enforcement, regulatory enforcement)
  588. Are there things in life that you just shouldn’t question?
  589. Are there no coincidences in life?
  590. Who is entitled to define what constitutes fake news?
  591. Who is entitled to define anything?
  592. How inclusive does inclusiveness have to be in a purportedly inclusive society? E.g., tolerance of intolerance?
  593. What qualities and aspects of life does art enable?
  594. What qualities and aspects of life depend on beauty?
  595. Must obligation be involuntary?
  596. Is obligation more meaningful if it is voluntary?
  597. Must a deity have a purpose or meaning?
  598. Can a little fascism be a good thing?
  599. Is fascism a broad spectrum or an all or nothing proposition?
  600. Are cycles in life and nature significant or irrelevant?
  601. Can truth be abused?
  602. Should philosophers defer to the media?
  603. Should anyone defer to the media?
  604. How much privacy can you retain if you voluntarily enter the public arena?
  605. How much privacy can you expect if you voluntarily enter the public arena?
  606. Is art inherently liberating or just another manipulative trap?
  607. Is democracy inherently liberating or just another manipulative trap?
  608. What is politics?
  609. What is the relationship between politics and government?
  610. Does gender matter?
  611. Does gender identity matter?
  612. What is the role of gender in a modern society?
  613. What is the role of gender identity in a modern society?
  614. What can you do to dissuade people from lying to you?
  615. Where does hate come from?
  616. What drives hate?
  617. Can good ever come from hate?
  618. Is science real?
  619. Is science a human creation?
  620. Is this question philosophical?
  621. Question everything. Why?
  622. Is it ever okay to compromise your principles?
  623. When is it okay to compromise your principles?
  624. What are the branches of philosophy?
  625. Are any of the branches of philosophy more important than the others?
  626. What are the more important concepts of philosophy?
  627. Does morality apply to metaphysics and epistemology?
  628. Is ethical diversity a good thing or a bad thing?
  629. When is ethical diversity a good thing?
  630. When is ethical diversity a bad thing?
  631. What’s your favorite wisdom?
  632. Does wisdom have to be comforting?
  633. What is the relationship between discourse and inquiry?
  634. How certain do you need to be to claim that you know the truth?
  635. Is there anything wrong with using facts and truth as weapons?
  636. Is it okay to use facts and truth as weapons?
  637. When is it okay to use facts and truth as weapons?
  638. When is it not okay to use facts and truth as weapons?
  639. How much of government is politics?
  640. Which aspects of government are politics?
  641. Is anyone morally obligated to defer to experts?
  642. What is the heart?
  643. What does it mean to be human?
  644. What is humanity?
  645. Is tribalism compatible with humanity?
  646. Is tribalism necessarily bad?
  647. Is there anything that you are 100% certain about?
  648. Is there anything that you are absolutely sure of?
  649. Is secular morality an oxymoron?
  650. Are there any facts in philosophy?
  651. Do you tell the truth because you should or because you want to?
  652. Are you a better person if you tell the truth because you want to rather than because you should?
  653. What do you believe must be true but can’t prove it?
  654. What do you believe is likely to be true but can’t prove it?
  655. How much of human intelligence is actually just animal intelligence?
  656. Can philosophy tell us which art is good?
  657. Is causality overrated?
  658. Is our search for causality a lost and hopeless cause?
  659. What is morality, really (metaphysically)?
  660. What is the ultimate source of morality?
  661. How can we justify beliefs which we can’t prove?
  662. When is regimentation a good thing?
  663. Does wisdom have value in the modern world?
  664. What value does wisdom have in the modern world?
  665. How binding is a promise?
  666. Are there things we shouldn’t promise?
  667. Are there promises we shouldn’t make?
  668. What can we promise?
  669. Is race an easy or hard problem to solve, and why?
  670. What is the relationship between race, ethnicity, culture, and values?
  671. What is a symbol?
  672. Do symbols exist in the natural world?
  673. Do symbols have meaning?
  674. What is the meaning of symbols?
  675. Who determines the meaning of symbols?
  676. Do symbols have power?
  677. What grants symbols power?
  678. Can the meaning of a symbol be changed?
  679. Can the meanings of symbols evolve?
  680. How can the meanings of symbols evolve?
  681. Is hope rational or irrational?
  682. How do we balance equality and equity in a just, fair, and free society?
  683. What questions would you want to ask an extraterrestrial being?
  684. Who needs religion and why?
  685. What can philosophy tell us about natural rights?
  686. What is the role of religion in modern society?
  687. What is philosophy?
  688. Is noisy rhetoric compatible with reason?
  689. Are narrative and noisy rhetoric compatible with reason?
  690. Are appeals to emotion compatible with reason?
  691. When can appeals to emotion be an acceptable alternative to reason?
  692. When is revolution appropriate?
  693. What obligations do we have (and to whom) during a revolution?
  694. Do we need metaphysics now that we have modern science?
  695. Why do we need metaphysics now that we have modern science?
  696. In what ways can metaphysics add value to modern science?
  697. In what ways can the metaphysics of philosophers add value to modern science?
  698. Does metaphysics offer anything beyond what modern science can offer?
  699. Does the metaphysics of philosophers offer anything beyond what modern science can offer?
  700. Does the philosophical conception of Good exceed the reach of science?

To be continued…

Impractical topics

Some topics that may have some superficial appeal are decidedly impractical for a satisfying philosophy discussion for a number of reasons:

  • No agreed upon, common, shared vocabulary of terms.
  • Merely a matter of semantic interpretation of the words.
  • No solid facts that can be agreed on to form a foundation for discussion.
  • No practical way to confirm assumptions.
  • No agreement on assumptions.
  • No practical utility to any answer that comes from the discussion.
  • No practical way to confirm conclusions, even in theory, for us mere mortals.
  • Idle speculation with no sound basis in fact or reason.
  • More of a religious or theological topic, far beyond the realm of the merely practical, earthly, or worldly.

To be clear, my posture is that any question on any topic is fair game for a philosophy discussion, but while most topics can easily be discussed by any group, questions or topics that fall into the categories listed above can be very problematic and call for a very deep commitment on the part of discussion participants to be able to set aside their values and beliefs and use strict critical thinking to examine all beliefs, values, dogma, assumptions, biases, and articles of faith. That can be done, but for impractical topics it can be very difficult and very problematic and requires a very carefully vetted group of discussion participants.

Some of the impractical topics are merely impractical not because we can’t talk about them but because they are too speculative, fanciful, or frivolous to arrive at conclusions which might conceivably be useful in our daily lives.

For example:

  1. Does God exist?
  2. What is the meaning of life?
  3. Why is there something rather than nothing?
  4. How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?
  5. If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
  6. What was the origin of the universe?
  7. How will the universe end?
  8. Is there intelligent life elsewhere in the universe?
  9. Does the multiverse exist?
  10. Is time travel possible?
  11. Are we living in The Matrix?
  12. Are we living in a simulation?
  13. What do extraterrestrial women want?
  14. Did God know in advance what the universe would look like?
  15. Is the universe exactly as God expected it would be?
  16. Is the universe exactly as God intended it to be?
  17. Did God indeed roll the dice with the universe?
  18. Does an omniscient entity/deity necessarily know the future, or can omniscience be limited to the present and past?
  19. Does the soul exist?
  20. Would the universe be better off with a God or without a God?
  21. Is there a single God or a pantheon of Gods?

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