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Ask some BIG questions

Ideas for philosophical questions to use in your sessions

We've shared some ideas for some BIG questions you could use in your sessions. Although they're called BIG questions, they shouldn't be daunting and you don't need to be a philosopher to discuss them. While these questions are made in partnership with The Royal Institute of Philosophy, they are not set by philosophers, but rather come from real young people.

You could use them to reflect around the campfire, when you're opening or closing your meeting, as a filler activity, or as part of a Scouts Own. You can pick any question, or choose a topic to match your activity or session.  

What would life be like without music or dancing?
  • Are we the only animals which really sing? What does this tell you about humans? 
  • Are birds' songs like our songs? How are they different?
  • Might humans have evolved without creating any musical instruments or songs? If yes, how would life be different?
  • What do animals think when they watch human beings dancing?  
  • Should the morals of a songwriter affect whether we listen to their music?
Why are campfires so captivating to look at?
  • Why does the change of weather affect our moods so much? 
  • Can nature be owned?
  • Do you think someone who is lucky enough to own a big garden, should share it with someone who hasn't got one?
  • Why do rainbows delight us so much?
  • Do you think a tree might have feelings?
  • Why are campfires so captivating to look at?
Will computers one day be able to solve all our problems?
  • Are there any problems computers can't solve? Why?
  • Should photographs only be taken with the person’s consent? What about journalists or investigators?
  • Is communicating face-to-face easier than communicating online?    



Can you learn things from looking at the stars that you can’t learn from a book about them?
  • Should the country which first puts an inhabited space station on Mars be allowed to claim it as their territory? If not why not? 
  • Should the first person to stand on Mars get to own it? Why or why not? 
  • Should scientists learn about planets and stars that are very, very far away? Or should they only learn about things that help us, like how to cure diseases or how to build things?
  • If aliens had 16 fingers, do you think their maths lessons would be different to yours?


What must it be like to be a 225 year old whale? Do you think they actually 'know' they are that old?
  • How large must a creature be to have a sense of touch?
  • Does it make sense to claim a fox is sly or cunning? What about saying a dog is friendly? Are we just projecting our feelings on to animals? 
  • Do animals have feelings? How can you tell?
  • Can you imagine being a bat?
  • What perfume would a skunk like? Are all smells possibly nice or possibly disgusting, depending on the nose? 
  • Do cats and dogs have their own language?
  • Do birds decide to migrate? Do tortoises decide to hibernate?
  • Does it make sense to say an animal is cruel? If so, which is the cruellest? 
  • Do you think you should stop a cat hurting a mouse or bird?
  • Was it wrong to use horses in warfare? What about carrier pigeons?  
  • Would it really matter if pandas went extinct? If so, why?  
Can a fictional character become 'real' if you start to dream about them?
  • Can a fictional character become 'real' if you start to dream about them or take them as seriously as some real people?
  • Why should we read stories about things that didn't happen?
  • Is there any reason to read fictional stories when history books and other factual writing reveal such an extraordinary world anyway?
  • Would it matter if you never read any books written after tomorrow? Aren't there enough great books written already to last your whole life?



Does a photograph of a person tell us more about the person or the photographer?
  • Can a painting be worth more than a human life? If not, why does the government buy paintings for galleries instead of spending it on hospitals?  
How would you describe the taste of cake to an alien from another planet?
  • How would you describe the taste of cake to an alien from another planet? Would you say something different if they don't eat? 
  • Can you really describe the pleasure of a sneeze or of scratching an itch? How would you convey it to someone who had never experienced it? 
  • What is the best smell? Why?
  • How can you tell the position of your arms and legs without looking?  
Is there a limit to the number of real friends a person can have? (If so, what is it?)
  • What would a Martian think about football and rugby, and the amount of time humans spend on sport?
  • What would it be like if you could only remember facts and not experiences?
  • Would it really matter if humans became extinct? 
  • What if, in 1000 years, there were no humans left (just like there aren't any dinosaurs left now)? Would that be bad?
  • Do you remember everything that happens to you? Why not?
  • Why do people care so much about their hair or hairstyle?  
  • How can you prove you are not dreaming NOW?