ⓘ Philosophical problems


List of unsolved problems in philosophy

This is a list of some of the major unsolved problems in philosophy. Clearly, unsolved philosophical problems exist in the lay sense. However, professional philosophers generally accord serious philosophical problems specific names or questions, which indicate a particular method of attack or line of reasoning. As a result, broad and untenable topics become manageable. It would therefore be beyond the scope of this article to categorize "life" as an unsolved philosophical problem.



An aporime is a problem difficult to resolve, and which has never been resolved, though it may not be, in itself, impossible. The word is derived from the Greek ἄπορον, which signifies something very difficult and impracticable, being formed from the privative α, and πόρος, "passage". When a question was proposed to any of the ancient Greek philosophers, especially of the sect of Academists, if he could not give a solution, his answer was ἀποροῶ, q.d. "I do not conceive it; I cannot see through it; I am not able to clear it up."


Benacerraf's identification problem

In the philosophy of mathematics, Benacerrafs identification problem is a philosophical argument developed by Paul Benacerraf against set-theoretic Platonism, and published in 1965 in an article entitled "What Numbers Could Not Be". Historically, the work became a significant catalyst in motivating the development of mathematical structuralism. The identification problem argues that there exists a fundamental problem in reducing natural numbers to pure sets. Since there exists an infinite number of ways of identifying the natural numbers with pure sets, no particular set-theoretic method c ...


Bradley's regress

Bradleys Regress is a philosophical problem concerning the nature of relations. It is named after F. H. Bradley who discussed the problem in his 1893 book Appearance and Reality. It bears a close kinship to the issue of the unity of the proposition.


Competing goods

The balance of Competing goods is a philosophical problem involving the acknowledgement of multiple social values that may at times conflict with one another. The 20th-century philosopher Martha Nussbaum invokes Aristotle in her discussions of the problem, writing that "he Aristotelian agent scrutinizes each valuable alternative, seeking out its distinct nature. She is determined to acknowledge the precise sort of value or goodness present in each of competing alternatives, seeing each value, so to speak, as a separate jewel in the crown, valuable in its own right, which does not cease to ...


Demarcation problem

The demarcation problem in the philosophy of science and epistemology is about how to distinguish between science and non-science, including between science, pseudoscience, and other products of human activity, like art and literature, and beliefs. The debate continues after over two millennia of dialogue among philosophers of science and scientists in various fields, and despite a broad agreement on the basics of the scientific method.


Eternity of the world

The question of the eternity of the world was a concern for both ancient philosophers and the medieval theologians and philosophers of the 13th century. The question is whether the world has a beginning in time, or whether it has existed from eternity. The problem became a focus of a dispute in the 13th century, when some of the works of Aristotle, who believed in the eternity of the world, were rediscovered in the Latin West. This view conflicted with the view of the Catholic Church that the world had a beginning in time. The Aristotelian view was prohibited in the Condemnations of 1210–1277.


Free will in antiquity

Free will in antiquity is a philosophical and theological concept. Free will in antiquity was not discussed in the same terms as used in the modern free will debates, but historians of the problem have speculated who exactly was first to take positions as determinist, libertarian, and compatibilist in antiquity. There is wide agreement that these views were essentially fully formed over 2000 years ago. Candidates for the first thinkers to form these views, as well as the idea of a non-physical "agent-causal" libertarianism, include Democritus 460–370, Aristotle 384–322, Epicurus 341–270, C ...


Frege's puzzles

Freges puzzles are puzzles about the semantics of proper names, although related puzzles also arise in the case of indexicals. Gottlob Frege introduced the puzzle at the beginning of his article "Uber Sinn und Bedeutung" in 1892 in one of the most influential articles in analytic philosophy and philosophy of language.


Problem of future contingents

Future contingent propositions are statements about states of affairs in the future that are contingent: neither necessarily true nor necessarily false. The problem of future contingents seems to have been first discussed by Aristotle in chapter 9 of his On Interpretation De Interpretatione, using the famous sea-battle example. Roughly a generation later, Diodorus Cronus from the Megarian school of philosophy stated a version of the problem in his notorious master argument. The problem was later discussed by Leibniz. The problem can be expressed as follows. Suppose that a sea-battle will n ...


Hard problem of consciousness

The hard problem of consciousness is the problem of explaining why and how sentient organisms have qualia or phenomenal experiences - how and why it is that some internal states are subjective, felt states, such as heat or pain, rather than merely nonsubjective, unfelt states, as in a thermostat or a toaster. The philosopher David Chalmers, who introduced the term "hard problem" of consciousness, contrasts this with the "easy problems" of explaining the ability to discriminate, integrate information, report mental states, focus attention, and so forth. Easy problems are easy because all th ...


If a tree falls in a forest

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? is a philosophical thought experiment that raises questions regarding observation and perception.


Is–ought problem

The is–ought problem, as articulated by the Scottish philosopher and historian David Hume, states that many writers make claims about what ought to be, based on statements about what is. Hume found that there seems to be a significant difference between positive statements and prescriptive or normative statements, and that it is not obvious how one can coherently move from descriptive statements to prescriptive ones. The is–ought problem is also known as Humes law or Humes guillotine. A similar view is defended by G. E. Moores open-question argument, intended to refute any identification o ...


Molyneux's problem

Molyneuxs problem is a thought experiment in philosophy concerning immediate recovery from blindness. It was first formulated by William Molyneux, and notably referred to in John Lockes An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. The problem can be stated in brief, "if a man born blind can feel the differences between shapes such as spheres and cubes, could he, if given the ability to see, distinguish those objects by sight alone, in reference to the tactile schemata he already possessed?"


Moral luck

Moral luck describes circumstances whereby a moral agent is assigned moral blame or praise for an action or its consequences even if it is clear that said agent did not have full control over either the action or its consequences. This term, introduced by Bernard Williams, has been developed, along with its significance to a coherent moral theory, by Williams and Thomas Nagel in their respective essays on the subject.


Necessary evil

A necessary evil is an evil that someone believes must be done or accepted because it is necessary to achieve a better outcome - especially because possible alternative courses of action or inaction are expected to be worse. It is the "lesser evil" in the lesser of two evils principle, which maintains that given two bad choices, the one that is least bad is the better choice.


Ordinary language philosophy

Ordinary language philosophy is a philosophical methodology that sees traditional philosophical problems as rooted in misunderstandings philosophers develop by distorting or forgetting what words actually mean in everyday use. "Such philosophical uses of language, on this view, create the very philosophical problems they are employed to solve." Ordinary language philosophy is a branch of linguistic philosophy closely related to logical positivism. This approach typically involves eschewing philosophical "theories" in favor of close attention to the details of the use of everyday "ordinary" ...


Problem of other minds

The problem of other minds is a philosophical problem traditionally stated as the following epistemological challenge raised by the skeptic: Given that I can only observe the behavior of others, how can I know that others have minds? It is a central issue of the philosophical idea known as solipsism: the notion that for any person only ones own mind is known to exist. Solipsism maintains that no matter how sophisticated someones behavior is, behavior on its own does not guarantee the presence of mentality.



Predeterminism is that all events are determined in advance. Predeterminism is the philosophy that all events of history, past, present and future, have been already decided or are already known, including human actions. Predeterminism is closely related to determinism. The concept of predeterminism is often argued by invoking causal determinism, implying that there is an unbroken chain of prior occurrences stretching back to infinity. In the case of predeterminism, this chain of events has been pre-established, and human actions cannot interfere with the outcomes of this pre-established c ...


Problem of mental causation

The problem of mental causation is a conceptual issue in the philosophy of mind. That problem, in short, is how to account for the common-sense idea that intentional thoughts or intentional mental states are causes of intentional actions. The problem divides into several distinct sub-problems, including the problem of causal exclusion, the problem of anomalism, and the problem of externalism. However, the sub-problem which has attracted most attention in the philosophical literature is arguably the exclusion problem.


Problem of time

In theoretical physics, the problem of time is a conceptual conflict between general relativity and quantum mechanics in that quantum mechanics regards the flow of time as universal and absolute, whereas general relativity regards the flow of time as malleable and relative. This problem raises the question of what time really is in a physical sense and whether it is truly a real, distinct phenomenon. It also involves the related question of why time seems to flow in a single direction, despite the fact that no known physical laws seem to require a single direction.


Regress argument

The regress argument is the argument that any proposition requires a justification; However, any justification itself requires support. This means that any proposition whatsoever can be endlessly questioned. It is a problem in epistemology and in any general situation where a statement has to be justified. The argument is also known as diallelus Latin or diallelon, from Greek di allelon "through or by means of one another" and as the epistemic regress problem, and has similarities to the Munchhausen trilemma.


Why there is anything at all

The question Why is there anything at all? ", or, Why is there something rather than nothing? has been raised or commented on by philosophers including Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Martin Heidegger – who called it the fundamental question of metaphysics.


ⓘ Philosophical problems

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