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Philosophy’s Questions

These are the kinds of question that philosophers have addressed, many of which are covered on the Open University’s philosophy curriculum.

What are the emotions (love, anger, joy, fear, boredom, etc.) for? Are they – as popular imagination would have it – at odds with our ‘rational side’? And what is rationality?
What is a well-lived life? Is it simply a matter of being as happy as possible? If not, what else matters and why? Can something matter if no one cares about it?
We are physical creatures, but we also have a mental life. What is the relation between a person’s mind and their body (including their brain)?
What are we doing when we make a free choice? Is genuinely free choice even possible? If not, does that show we aren’t genuinely responsible for anything either?
What makes it the case that the ‘you’ reading this website, the four-year-old ‘you’, and the ‘you’ of twenty-years hence, are the same individual?
What entitles us to claim that we know something? What are the different sources of knowledge?
What obligations do we have to one another?
Why obey the state and its laws? What should those laws be and why?
What is the source of beauty? Are we right to value beauty over ugliness? What makes something a valuable piece of art?

Some of these questions may have occurred to you already without you necessarily realising that philosophers have offered and defended answers to them. Reflecting on them is a part of being human and alive.

Philosophical questions can also crop up in other academic subjects, from law and psychology to political science and mathematics. Philosophy, however, addresses these topics ‘head on’ rather than in passing, and often adopts a characteristic range of techniques to complement those of other relevant disciplines.

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