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8 Great Philosophical Questions That Well Never Solve

Posted on June 11, 2013 by Blindfold By: George Dvorsky Philosophy goes where h rd s!ien!e ! n"t, or won"t# Philosophers h ve li!ense to spe!ul te bout everything fro$ $et physi!s to $or lity, nd this $e ns they ! n shed light on so$e of the b si! %uestions of e&isten!e# 'he b d news( 'hese re %uestions th t $ y lw ys l y )ust beyond the li$its of our !o$prehension#

*ere re eight $ysteries of philosophy th t we"ll prob bly never resolve# 1. Why is there something rather than nothing?

+ur presen!e in the universe is so$ething too bi, rre for words# 'he $und neness of our d ily lives ! use us t ke our e&isten!e for gr nted - but every on!e in while we"re ! )oled out of th t !o$pl !en!y nd enter into profound st te of e&istenti l w reness, nd we sk: .hy is there ll this stuff in the universe, nd why is it governed by su!h

e&%uisitely pre!ise l ws( And why should anything exist at all? .e inh bit universe with su!h things s spir l g l &ies, the uror bore lis, nd /pongeBob /%u rep nts# 0nd s /e n 1 rroll notes, 23othing bout $odern physi!s e&pl ins why we h ve these l ws r ther th n so$e tot lly different l ws, lthough physi!ists so$eti$es t lk th t w y $ist ke they $ight be ble to void if they took philosophers $ore seriously#4 0nd s for the philosophers, the best th t they ! n !o$e up with is the nthropi! prin!iple - the notion th t our p rti!ul r universe ppe rs the w y it does by virtue of our presen!e s observers within it - suggestion th t h s n un!o$fort bly t utologi! l ring to it# 2. s our universe real?

'his the !l ssi! 1 rtesi n %uestion# 5t essenti lly sks, how do we know th t wh t we see round us is the re l de l, nd not so$e gr nd illusion perpetu ted by n unseen for!e 6who 7en8 Des! rtes referred to s the hypothesi,ed 9evil de$on":( ;ore re!ently, the %uestion h s been refr $ed s the 2br in in v t4 proble$, or the /i$ul tion 0rgu$ent# 0nd it !ould very well be th t we"re the produ!ts of n el bor te si$ul tion# 0 deeper %uestion to sk, therefore, is whether the !ivili, tion running the si$ul tion is lso in si$ul tion - kind of super!o$puter regression 6or si$ul tion!eption:# ;oreover, we $ y not be who we think we re# 0ssu$ing th t the people running the si$ul tion re lso t king p rt in it, our true identities $ y be te$por rily suppressed, to heighten the re lness of the e&perien!e# 'his philosophi! l !onundru$ lso for!es us to re<ev lu te wh t we $e n by 2re l#4 ;od l re lists rgue th t if the universe round us see$s r tion l 6 s opposed to it being dre $y, in!oherent, or l wless:, then we h ve no !hoi!e but to de!l re it s being re l nd genuine# +r $ ybe, s 1ipher s id fter e ting pie!e of 2si$ul ted4 ste k in The Matrix, 25gnor n!e is bliss#4 !. "o #e have $ree #ill?

0lso ! lled the dile$$ of deter$inis$, we do not know if our !tions re !ontrolled by ! us l !h in of pre!eding events 6or by so$e other e&tern l influen!e:, or if we"re truly free gents $ king de!isions of our own volition# Philosophers 6 nd now so$e s!ientists: h ve been deb ting this for $illenni , nd with no pp rent end in sight# 5f our de!ision $ king is influen!ed by n endless !h in of ! us lity, then deter$inis$ is true nd we don"t h ve free will# But if the opposite is true, wh t"s ! lled indeter$inis$, then our !tions $ust be r ndo$ - wh t so$e rgue is still not free will# 1onversely, libert ri ns 6no, not politi! l libert ri ns, those re other people:, $ ke the ! se for !o$p tibilis$ the ide th t free will is logi! lly !o$p tible with deter$inisti! views of the universe# 1o$pounding the proble$ re dv n!es in neuros!ien!e showing th t our br ins $ ke de!isions before we"re even !ons!ious of the$# But if we don"t h ve free will, then why did we evolve !ons!iousness inste d of ,o$bie<$inds( =u ntu$ $e!h ni!s $ kes this proble$ even $ore !o$pli! ted by suggesting th t we live in universe of prob bility, nd th t deter$inis$ of ny sort is i$possible# 0nd s >in s ?epst s h s s id, 21ons!iousness see$s to be inti$ tely nd ines! p bly tied to the per!eption of the p ss ge of ti$e, nd indeed, the ide th t the p st is fi&ed nd perfe!tly deter$inisti!, nd th t the future is unknow ble# 'his fits well, be! use if the future were predeter$ined, then there"d be no free will, nd no point in the p rti!ip tion of the p ss ge of ti$e#4 %. "oes Go& e'ist?

/i$ply put, we ! nnot know if God e&ists or not# Both the theists nd believers re wrong in their pro!l $ tions, nd the gnosti!s re right# 'rue gnosti!s re si$ply being 1 rtesi n bout it, re!ogni,ing the episte$ologi! l issues involved nd the li$it tions of hu$ n in%uiry# .e do not know enough bout the inner workings of the universe to $ ke ny sort of gr nd !l i$ bout the n ture of re lity nd whether or not Pri$e ;over e&ists so$ewhere in the b !kground# ; ny people defer to n tur lis$ - the suggestion th t the universe runs !!ording to utono$ous pro!esses - but th t doesn"t pre!lude the e&isten!e of gr nd designer who set the whole thing in $otion 6wh t"s ! lled deis$:# 0nd s $entioned e rlier, we $ y live in si$ul tion where the h !ker gods !ontrol ll the v ri bles# +r perh ps the gnosti!s re right nd powerful beings e&ist in so$e deeper re lity th t we"re un w re of# 'hese ren"t ne!ess rily the o$nis!ient, o$nipotent gods of the 0br h $i! tr ditions - but they"re 6hypotheti! lly: powerful beings nonetheless# 0g in, these ren"t s!ientifi! %uestions per se - they"re $ore Pl toni! thought e&peri$ents th t for!e us to !onfront the li$its of hu$ n e&perien!e nd in%uiry# (. s there li$e a$ter &eath?

Before everyone gets e&!ited, this is not suggestion th t we"ll ll end up stru$$ing h rps on so$e fluffy white !loud, or find ourselves shoveling !o l in the depths of *ell for eternity# Be! use we ! nnot sk the de d if there"s nything on the other side, we"re left guessing s to wh t h ppens ne&t# ; teri lists ssu$e th t there"s no life fter de th, but it"s )ust th t - n ssu$ption th t ! nnot ne!ess rily be proven# >ooking !loser t the $ !hin tions of the universe 6or $ultiverse:, whether it be through !l ssi! l 3ewtoni n@Ainsteini n lens, or through the spooky filter of %u ntu$ $e!h ni!s, there"s no re son to believe th t we only h ve one shot t this thing ! lled life# 5t"s %uestion of $et physi!s nd the possibility th t the !os$os 6wh t 1 rl / g n des!ribed s 2 ll th t is or ever w s or ever will be4: !y!les nd per!ol tes in su!h w y th t lives re infinitely re!y!led# * ns ;or ve! put it best when, spe king in rel tion to the %u ntu$ ; ny .orlds 5nterpret tion, s id th t non<observ n!e of the universe is i$possibleB we $ust lw ys find ourselves live nd observing the universe in so$e for$ or nother# 'his is highly spe!ul tive stuff, but like the God proble$, is one th t s!ien!e ! nnot yet t !kle, le ving it to the philosophers# ). *an you really e'perience anything o+,ectively?

'here"s differen!e between underst nding the world ob)e!tively 6or t le st trying to, nyw y: nd e&perien!ing it through n e&!lusively ob)e!tive fr $ework# 'his is essenti lly the proble$ of %u li - the notion th t our surroundings ! n only be observed through the filter of our senses nd the !ogit tions of our $inds# Averything you know, everything you"ve tou!hed, seen, nd s$elled, h s been filtered through ny nu$ber of physiologi! l nd !ognitive pro!esses# /ubse%uently, your sub)e!tive e&perien!e of the world is uni%ue# 5n the !l ssi! e& $ple, the sub)e!tive ppre!i tion of the !olor red $ y v ry fro$ person to person# 'he only w y you !ould possibly know is if you were to so$ehow observe the universe fro$ the 2!ons!ious lens4 of nother person in sort of Being John Malkovich kind of w y - not nything we"re likely going to be ble to !!o$plish t ny st ge of our s!ientifi! or te!hnologi! l develop$ent# 0nother w y of s ying ll this is th t the universe ! n only be observed through br in 6or potenti lly $ !hine $ind:, nd by virtue of th t, ! n only be interpreted sub)e!tively#

But given th t the universe ppe rs to be !oherent nd 6so$ewh t: know ble, should we !ontinue to ssu$e th t its true ob)e!tive %u lity ! n never be observed or known( 5t"s worth noting th t $u!h of Buddhist philosophy is predi! ted on this fund $ent l li$it tion 6wh t they ! ll e$ptiness:, nd !o$plete ntithesis to Pl to"s ide lis$# -. What is the +est moral system?

Assenti lly, we"ll never truly be ble to distinguish between 2right4 nd 2wrong4 !tions# 0t ny given ti$e in history, however, philosophers, theologi ns, nd politi!i ns will !l i$ to h ve dis!overed the best w y to ev lu te hu$ n !tions nd est blish the $ost righteous !ode of !ondu!t# But it"s never th t e sy# >ife is f r too $essy nd !o$pli! ted for there to be nything like univers l $or lity or n bsolutist ethi!s# 'he Golden 7ule is gre t 6the ide th t you should tre t others s you would like the$ to tre t you:, but it disreg rds $or l utono$y nd le ves no roo$ for the i$position of )usti!e 6su!h s ) iling !ri$in ls:, nd ! n even be used to )ustify oppression 65$$ nuel C nt w s $ong its $ost st un!hest !riti!s:# ;oreover, it"s highly si$plified rule of thu$b th t doesn"t provision for $ore !o$ple& s!en rios# Dor e& $ple, should the few be sp red to s ve the $ ny( .ho h s $ore $or l worth: hu$ n b by or full<grown gre t pe( 0nd s neuros!ientists h ve shown, $or lity is not only !ultur lly<ingr ined thing, it"s lso p rt of our psy!hologies 6the 'rolly Proble$ is the best de$onstr tion of this:# 0t best, we ! n only s y th t $or lity is nor$ tive, while !knowledging th t our sense of right nd wrong will !h nge over ti$e# 8. What are num+ers?

.e use nu$bers every d y, but t king step b !k, wh t are they, re lly - nd why do they do su!h d $n good )ob of helping us e&pl in the universe 6su!h s 3ewtoni n l ws:( ; the$ ti! l stru!tures ! n !onsist of nu$bers, sets, groups, nd points - but re they re l ob)e!ts, or do they si$ply des!ribe rel tionships th t ne!ess rily e&ist in ll stru!tures( Pl to rgued th t nu$bers were re l 6it doesn"t $ tter th t you ! n"t 2see4 the$:, but for$ lists insisted th t they were $erely for$ l syste$s 6well<defined !onstru!tions of bstr !t thought b sed on $ th:# 'his is essenti lly n ontologi! l proble$, where we"re left b ffled bout the true n ture of the universe nd whi!h spe!ts of it re hu$ n !onstru!ts nd whi!h re truly t ngible#Originally posted on: