The 12 Great Questions Of Philosophy

Almost since the beginning of thought, humanity has sought to understand the universe and its own existence. From the Vedas of India in the East to the Greeks in the West, mankind has asked thousands of questions about the nature of life. However, we can group all the questions in 12 categories, the 12 Great Perennial Questions of Philosophy.  

We have sought to explain existence 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. (Definition of belief: any idea held to be true despite the absence of evidence:  see the Psycanics exposition of the nature of “Truth”.) Science and philosophy eschew belief and faith, and seek to answer these questions by reason and logic: and mysticism answers them through personal experience. The Psycanics cosmology offers answers to the vast majority of these questions.

milky way, human, lake

1.- What is the nature of the universe? Where does it come from, and how did it come to exist?  Is there a First Cause? Of what is it made? What is its purpose? What is the cause of change? What is the process of change? Is it evolving or devolving, or neither? Does it function by itself or would it degenerate into entropy and chaos without some kind of intelligent control?  

2.- Is there a Supreme Being? If so, what is Her nature? Did S/He create the universe (Creator / First Cause)? Does She continue to control it personally and if so, at what level and to what degree? Where is She? Is it possible for a human to have a relationship with the Deity, and if so, what kind? If so, why do we not have it now, and how is that relationship achieved? Does S/He intervene in the affairs of man? Is the Deity Good?  Given that that which causes or allows Bad things is Bad, and that by definition the Deity is omnipotent:  if She is Good, how can evil exist?  (See #7 on Good and Bad).

3.- What is the role of human beings in the universe?  Are humans the highest fruit of the universe or are we just insignificant specks in the vastness—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 conscious, is it warm and friendly to him, or cold and indifferent, or even hostile?  Given all the real estate in the universe (hundreds of millions of galaxies, billions of stars and planets) can humanity be alone? Would the Creator create the cosmos and populate it with only one intelligent species?

4.- What determines the life and fate of each individual? Is wo/man a creator and mover of hir life, or does s/he live at the effect of forces over which s/he has little control? Does free will exist or are our lives determined by outside factors—and if so, what are those factors? Is there a Higher Power 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? Why do bad things happen to good people, and good things to bad people?

5.- What is mind? What is thought?  Is thought real? Where do ideas come from? Are there laws that control thought? Which is superior: mind or matter? Has matter evolved mind, or has mind created matter? Can matter affect thought; can thought affect matter? Does thought have any importance–does it make any difference in our lives–or is it just fantasy?–or is life predetermined and it makes no difference what we think?

6.- What is reality? What is an illusion? What is Truth? Is there a universal Truth, true for all men forever, or is Truth relative or individual? How can we identify Truth?  What is the relationship of Truth to reality? What is the relationship of Truth to beliefs? What is Knowledge and how is it to be mined or discovered?

7.- What is good and what is bad? Does evil exist? What determines that something is evil? Why does it exist?  Is there an external agent of evil (e.g. demons), or is it part of human nature? What is moral? What is ethical?  Who decides Good<>Bad, Right<>Wrong; and by what standard?  Is there an absolute standard of Good<>Bad beyond one’s personal opinions, one that is true for all people, everywhere, all the time?  Should Good<>Bad be determined by custom, by rational law, by irrational law (religions), or by the situation (situational ethics)?  What happens if the beliefs of others (religions, society, authorities, laws, etc. determining Good<>Bad are contrary to one’s personal beliefs or freedoms?  Moreover, if we do not have free will but are ruled by outside factors or are predetermined, what difference does Good<>Bad make–we have no choice?

8.- What is happiness? What causes or produces it for the human being; what is the secret of happiness?  What causes (emotional) pain and suffering? Is there any experience or cause of happiness and unhappiness other than the emotions? What are the emotions? Where do they come from? What causes them?  If they are caused by external events, how can it be that for any given event or situation, some people suffer and others rejoice? Can we control our emotions? Is it really happiness, if a person is “up” at one moment and suffering the next? What is love? How does it work? Is it important? Why do we love it?  Is there any reason to love?

9.- What is the “good life”—for the individual and for the many (society)?  Why are things the way they are? How should things be ideally? What would a Utopian (ideal) society, a “heaven on earth”, be like? Is it even possible to create a Utopia? If so, how? Would not a Utopia respect the individual and assure personal freedom? What, then, should you do with those who don’t cooperate with the rules necessary to create a Utopia?

10.- What is the ideal relationship 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? What are the duties of the state to the individual and what are the duties of the individual to the state or society?  When is the use of force justified? How can the individual be protected against the overwhelming power of the state and its minions? When is a man justified in rebelling against the established order and creating a new state? Is violence justified to do so?

11.- Education determines the next generation and therefore the future of a society. 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 indoctrinated with the beliefs of the society? Should a man be educated to be free and live for his own interests; or to subjugate his desires to serve others or the state?  

12.- What happens at death? Is death the end of everything or is there a soul or spirit in humans that continue 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 reward/punishment with the concept of outside force control or with predestination and therefore with the absence of free will?

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