You don’t have to be a philosopher to ponder capital T truths. Nor do you need to crack open a dusty Socrates text to begin thinking more deeply about the world around you.
It sometimes feels like our children ask us more profound questions about existence than we ask ourselves.
If you want to get in touch with your philosophical side or your inner child, we have put together an existential questions list that you can use to spark an internal conversation or an external debate with friends.
There’s no better way to get to know yourself or someone else than to ask about the meaning of life.
What is an existential question?
Within the word existential, you will find another word: exist. Existential questions are profound questions that relate to the nature of our existence.
As a human race, we have been asking ourselves these questions for as long as we've been able to think and reason.
Every religion, philosopher, scientist, and artist has delved into existential inquiry in order to better understand who we are and why we are here.
The world is a confusing panoply of beauty, misfortune, goodness, tragedy, hate, and love.
Things happen that are out of our control, and sometimes the things within our control crumble in our hands without explanation.
Existential questions challenge us to understand the unthinkable and unknowable.
Can an existential question be answered? Perhaps not, but to ask these questions is to challenge us to entertain the possibility.
To accept not knowing the answer but search for it anyway is to be human in the most beautiful way.
77 Existential Questions to Blow Your Mind
If you haven’t spent years studying philosophical or theological texts, it can be hard to know what questions to ask, let alone know how to find an answer.
What’s great about existential questions is that you don’t have to know the answers to spark a lively conversation or challenge how you think about yourself. Here is a list of the best existential questions to think about:
Deep Existential Questions
Is free will an illusion, or are we cogs in a greater machine?
How do we measure our lives when time is subjective?
Can art be defined?
What would life be like without suffering? Is suffering a necessary part of human existence?
If you didn’t know your age, how old would you be?
Are human beings inherently good? Are we built with an internal moral compass, or is morality entirely the result of socialization?
Is knowledge inherently valuable, or must it have a practical application to be considered of value?
Should humanity have a goal? If so, what should it be?
Can both destiny and free will exist simultaneously?
Is the value of a human being based on the sum of their actions, or do they have value no matter the actions they take? At what point do your actions give your life less value?
Babies and children are assumed to be innocent. When do people stop being innocent?
Is poverty inevitable, or is it just the result of corruption? Without corruption, would there be no poverty?
Is it possible to know if we are doing the right thing?
Is happiness a right or a privilege?
What is more important: the ends or the means?
What makes something beautiful?
Existential Questions about Life
Does life have a purpose?
If the answer is no, what is the purpose of living? Some say that we are given the freedom to choose our own purpose. Do you believe this to be true, or do you think our existence is the result of coincidence?
Are our lives fated? If so, can we truly have free will?
Is life made stronger by hardship? What would our lives be like without hardships?
What is one thing that every human should get to experience in their life?
Are we given enough time?
Do our lives exist entirely in reality, or are they also made up of our own constructions?
Is there a difference between living and existing?
What marks the beginning of life?
What marks the end of life? Is it death or is it when no one is left to remember us?
Can you ever have full control over your own life?
What is the location of the soul? Does it reside within you?
Do people exist before they are born?
What is more real: how you perceive yourself, or how others perceive you?
Is it scarier to think we are the most advanced form of life in the universe or that we could be among the least advanced forms of life?
Existential Crisis Questions
What events have caused me to feel uneasy in my life?
Can I locate what in my life is causing my crisis? Can those things be changed?
Is there someone in my life that I can talk through this with?
Is personal reflection and deeper thinking a bad thing?
Can this period of reflection bring me to a more positive place?
Is this crisis the result of an instigating event or extended boredom?
Are there resources that answer the questions I am having? If not, is it okay that there is not an answer?
What is an activity I have done that has made me feel the most alive?
Can I repeat that activity now or soon?
How can I change my perspective?
How can I make my existential crisis a positive experience?
How can I be more deliberate in my questioning?
Why is this moment occurring now?
What would I tell my younger self if I were experiencing this years ago?
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Funny Existential Questions
If you expect the unexpected, does that make the unexpected expected?
Is it immoral for a vegetarian to eat animal crackers?
Is a hotdog a sandwich?
Why isn't it dangerous for a walk-in restaurant to have a drive-in window?
If I hit you with a dictionary, is that verbal abuse or physical assault?
They say exercising for an hour a day adds an extra hour to your life, but are you really adding anything if you spent that extra hour exercising?
If it’s bad to be at the right place at the wrong time, is it good to be in the wrong place at the right time?
If you draw a white circle on a white piece of paper, does the circle exist?
If quitters can’t win and winners never quit, why would we tell someone to quit while they're ahead?
Before we had sliced bread, what did we consider the first best thing?
If animals have consciousness, do birds consciously choose who to poop on?
Is it possible to be standing backward on a staircase?
If everyone thinks life isn’t fair, is it fair to say that life is in fact… fair?
If you purposely fail, did you succeed?
Who let the dogs out? Who? Who, who, who?
Existential Questions to Ask Yourself
Are your successes your own, or are they the culmination of what others have given you?
Given the chance, would you want to know how your life will end and when it will happen?
How would knowing when you are going to die affect how you live your life?
Is it better to expand your knowledge or deepen it?
Can your existence be replaced?
Are there any upsetting truths that you have been ignoring?
Could you live normally having never told a lie?
Would you be a different person if you had a different name?
Which of your choices do you think will have the longest and most far-reaching impact on your life?
If you could become immortal, without the option to end your own life, would you?
If you focused solely on what was going well in your life, rather than what was going wrong, would things get better or worse?
Is it more important to advocate for yourself, to advocate for your family, for your community, or the world at large?
Are the standards to which you judge others the same standards you use to judge yourself? Should they be the same? How would you justify them being different?
What activities make you feel the most alive and in touch with your humanity?
Would you rather feel out of this world or a part of it?
After you die, how do you want to be remembered? For how long do you want to be remembered?
How to Use These Existential Questions
All of these questions can seem overwhelming at first. You may not know what to ask first or who to ask. Some are better to be pondered alone while others would be great to ask a close friend or entertain guests at a dinner party.
When used the right way, these questions can expand your mind and bring a deeper purpose to your life. Not only can they help you to become a more understanding and profound thinker, but they can bring you and your loved ones closer.
Even simply asking questions can show that you care to know someone on a deeper level, whether or not they have an answer.
There are so many occasions where thinking existentially can improve how you feel and your relationships with other people. For example:
What did you discover with these existential questions?
Asking these questions can feel strange at first. We often don’t respond well to questions we don’t know the answers to. Not knowing can make us feel small and silly.
However, there is power in admitting that you don’t know everything. Living a curious life is one of the most empowering ways to move through the world. As children, we are curious about everything. We look at the underside of every rock and stone to find what lies beneath.
At some point, our curiosity fades, and we begin to accept what we see without looking deeper. Asking existential questions not only ignites our curiosity again, but it also deepens our acceptance of the complexities of life.