Philosophy is "thinking about thinking." It clarifies our thought process and refines the basic concepts that we use to understand reality. Like other sciences, it works on problems – it is driven by questions that cannot be answered easily, or that are empirically undecidable. If these questions, like the mind-body problem, cannot be answered (yet?), one may still be able to build a theory that illuminates the problem itself. Philosophy has a system-building function, and it moves between explanation and understanding. Philosophy often discusses questions that later become fields of scientific inquiry; it is not only a search for causes, but also for ultimate meaning.
I have compiled a short list of what I consider to be some of the harder philosophical problems – not just plays with definitions, or questions about imaginary concepts, such as whether God exists.
Typical Philosophical Problems:
Thinking and reality: what is the relationship?
The mind-body problem, or: what is consciousness in relation to physical reality?
The nature of mathematical objects: What are numbers, geometrical objects, sets?
Demarcation problem: how can we distinguish between empirical sciences and mathematics, logic, or metaphysics?
Is there an actual infinity?
What are values?
Signs and objects: what enables the signifying relationship?
What is a thing? What is self-identity? How does something or someone stay itself throughout change? Why Am I still the same person after 10 years of life?
What is change? The relationship between actuality, potentiality, possibility, necessity, or impossibility?