16 Ways to Create Philosophical Questions

This week, a tool to quickly create questions on any philosophically interesting concept. The example attached is on “freedom”. Just do a “search and replace” to swap in your own concept, and you’ll have 16 questions to choose from either ready-to-use or needing minimal editing.

Try it now by reading these, replacing “freedom/free” with “friendship/friend” or beauty/beautiful, fairness, knowledge…

Conceptual – meaning – What is freedom?

Phenomenological – experience, perception – What is it like to be free? [… be a friend, and so on…]

Epistemological – knowledge – How do you know you are free?

Evaluative – importance, good and bad – How important is freedom?

Metaphysical – reality, identity, properties – Do societies have freedom, or only individuals?

Criterialogical – checklist for a concept – When can someone be described as free?

Hermeneutic – interpretation – What could, “Man is born freed but he is everywhere in chains,” mean? [Find a quote!]

Paradigmatic – ultimate, essence of – What is ultimate freedom? Is true freedom possible?

Counterintuitive – looking for good in the bad or vice versa – When is freedom a bad thing?

Analytic – breaking x down – What are the must-have ingredients of freedom? 

Taxonomic – kinds, categories – What different sorts of freedom are there?

Quantificational – all, some, most, none – Is freedom always good for happiness?

Implications/consequences – What would a world with no freedom be like?

Teleological – purpose, function – What is freedom for?

Aspect-teasing – distinguishing meanings – In what ways is a prisoner still free? [Find a “difficult case”]

Distributive – sharing out x between ys – How much of freedom is nobody stopping you, and how much is being able to start?  

Concept mapping – defining against neighbouring/connected concepts – How do “freedom” and “wanting” relate to each other?

I identified these “philosophical lenses” by looking at the underlying structures of the questions that work in practice. Now that I’ve done that, I find the process of creating new questions more efficient. 

Do let me know if you come up with any questions that prove to be particularly interesting.

Best wishes,


P.S. I’m taking great delight in being back in the classroom working with children and their teachers in three dimensions. To give some examples of the support available, last Monday I was at Penkridge First School which, being a small school, allowed me to start with an assembly and then work with every class in turn and with some nursery children before a twilight. The other day was a half-day training at Park Hill, Kenilworth, which doubled as a refresher for staff who had training four years ago and an introduction for new staff. Both schools are launching Sticky Questions. And then I was at Kimbolton school, working with large groups of Year 4 and Year 6 in the morning and an Argument Wrestling tournament with 109 Year 8s in the afternoon. So there are lots of possibilities and something to suit every school. Email me to discuss.

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