Top Ten philosophical issues of the 21st Century

According to Standford philosophers John Perry and Ken Taylor, and guests Brian Leiter, Jenann Ismael, and Martha Nussbaum on the 200th episode of Philosopher Talk

10. Finding a new basis for common sensibilities and common values.
The world is more economically interconnected than it has ever been. But it still seethes with divisions and social fragmentation. Can we find a new basis for shared values that will bring us together rather than tear us apart?

9. Finding a new basis for social identification.
Distant and powerful forces, not answerable to local communities, shape so much of our lives. Howcan we sustain local communities, communities with which we can identify? Or is the very idea of a local community an outmoded parochial idea suited only to centuries gone by?

8. The Mind-Body problem.
Neuroscience is revealing so much about the brain. Does this new knowledge solve age-old mysteries of the mind? Or does it reduce the mind to mere dumb matter and rob us of what we once thought was so special about us?

7. Can freedom survive the onslaught of science?
Science, especially neuroscience, is revealing more and more about the true workings of the mind, threatening to explode our ancient beliefs about things like the freedom of the will. Can traditional practices that presuppose human freedom survive this scientific onslaught? If we are not really free is it really permissible to punish people, and even put them to death, for their wrongful acts?

6. Information and misinformation in the information age.
The 21st century threatens to wreak havoc on the social organization of information and knowledge. We are awash in a glut of information coming at us from all sources — some reliable, some unreliable. But the old top-down authorities that once functioned to certify some information as true and other information as false, are quickly being dismantled. How can we distinguish the good from the bad, the wheat from the chaff? We philosophers for a new century thus face epistemological problems hardly imagined by our predecessors.

5. Intellectual property, in the age of re-mix culture.
Ideas now spread like wildfire — mixing and re-mixing in the blink of an eye. Can the very idea of intellectual property survive in the age of re-mix? Are outmoded ideas of property stifling the growth of a new culture?

4. New models of collective decision making and collective rationality.
Solving the problems of the 21st Century will require coordinated rational action on a massive scale. But we really have no models of collective rationality, no idea of the institutional, social, political and economic structures that will allow us to meet these challenges. Can philosophers help build them in time to guide us in meeting the challenges of this century?

3. What is a person?
WIth the rise of cloning,designer babies, and drugs that can alter one’s personality, enhance one’s memory, or make one smarter, we may be forced to rethink the very idea of human person. What exactly is a human person, when every aspect of our biological and genetic and psychological make-up can be manipulated at will? What, if any, part of a person is fixed and unchanging?

2. Humans and the environment.
What relationship should humans have to the environment? Are we called to be stewards of the environment? Or is the environment just there for our exploitation and use? Never in the history of humankind have such questions been so pressing. But we have barely begun to think about them in a systematic philosophical way.

And the number one philosophical problem for the 21st Century:

1. Global Justice.

What new principles of justice will help us manage distinctively 21st Century problems like preserving the environment while allowing the poorer nations of the world to improve their standards of living? The philosophy of the past has given no real models for answering such questions. It is urgent that philosopher of the 21st century do so.

I got a strong view on number 10 and 7. scatted thoughts on some others.
I will write it up when i get the chance.
We dont need free willOn freedom and My world view is a snippet what i think about free will and justice. Both post are underdeveloped and needs to be rewritten though.


52 thoughts on “Top Ten philosophical issues of the 21st Century

  1. Number 5: Intellectual property is interesting for me. I didn’t aware that IP also belongs to the area of philosophy.

    • I apologize for the fact that this reply does not address the original post, but I am trying to figure out how to start a thread on this page. I can see how to post replies (hence, this message), but I can’t seem to figure out how to initiate a new thread. Thank you in advance for any technical assistance.

        • Another technical question: Is it necessary to log out when leaving this page? If so, where is the “log out” button?

  2. Challenge to my self, Ansel and all.

    Breakdown all the issues concerning with each question.

    Elaborate the implication and significant of each question.

    Find problem withe this list and its questions.

    Find a new question that is more worthy of a place in the top ten and identify the less worthy.

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  4. in the 18th century and before we had the discrimination of the lower class, in the 19th century we had slavery, in the 20th century we had antisemitism and religous corruption other racial discrimination, in the 21st century, what injustices will be resolved? What is wrong that we don’y know yet is wrong? Imprisonment? discrimination of the less intelligent? Lack of democracy in the employment contract? inequalities of financial gain? capitalism?

    • If it will be anything, it will be something we already know is wrong, yet have no control over it. Perhaps religious indoctrination? Religion in general? In the next 200 years we will see the death of religion.

      • See, I was wondering, what makes you absolutely sure that religion itself is wrong? Religion has flourished for so long, yet you can say that it will die in the next 200 years? Sure there are more atheists, but that doesn’t ensure that religion will die, or that it is wrong. I’m also wondering, some of the things that science has found out recently has been in religious books, namely the Qu’ran, for many centuries now. How is it that a book so old contains these modern discoveries? I’m curious about your opinions on these, please respond.

        • Religion is an adaptive behavior. When the earth’s human population was relatively scant, living in widely scattered communities, religion was functional in establishing and maintaining communities. Over the centuries, however, as the human population grew, these communities came into more direct contact, and the typical result was usually conflict and often war. Now that we have entered the age of instantaneous communication and rapid transit, it seems safe to say that the environment has altered significantly. A form of behavior (religious worship or belief) which was once adaptive has become maladaptive.

          I do not mean to imply that religion cannot survive in a diverse and multicultural world; but, if it is to survive, it must somehow transcend the “exclusivism” which treats religious systems as if they were contradictory statements which cannot be simultaneously true. The dogmatic syllogism is, “If my religion is true, all other religions are false. My religion is true. Therefore, all other religions are false.” I think it is possible to reject either premise of the dogmatic syllogism without necessarily rejecting religion altogether, However, in order for this to occur, religious thinking is going to have to undergo some adaptation of its own.

      • Death of RELIGION? I doubt that. May be only one dominant religion will survive by the end of this century. A rational man cannot deny that we are not only flesh and blood and mortal matters. There lives something within us that is not of us.

        • Why? lol.lYou can see the flesh and blood and mortal matters. Nothing else. A rational man picks the option that requires the least amount of guesswork in the answer.

    • The great silence is the extreme difference in the status of women in various cultures, from free agents in most of the West to chattel in many elsewheres. For a large proportion of human beings defined by body parts, fundamental issues of person-hood, humane treatment, and free will are academic exercises.

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  9. Let’s not forget: What is reality? Can we ever know it? This is as relevant to philosophy as it is to the hard sciences (physics etc) and the soft science (psychology and sociology), especially in the age of increasing virtualization.

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  11. Philosophy emerged in ancient times and continued during the epochs when nothing was known about how human brains and bodies work. Therefore the notions and the problems stated by the philosophers of the past don’t sound reasonable in nowadays. The questions like ‘what is a personality’, ‘what is a soul’, ‘what is reason’, ‘what is consciousness’, ‘what is ethics’ and ‘what is aesthetics’ – all these questions should be dropped and new questions need to be asked. Modern philosophers need to start from the modern scientific view of the world and in particular the humans brain and body. Two basic ideas should be used: (1) human brain is a result of evolution and (2) it is a complex machine which processes information and defines our behavior. Both these things were unknown (or not perceived/accepted) till nearly the end of the 20th century. Based on the modern knowledge, ethics and aesthetics can be seen as a result of evolution of human beings. In a society of wolfs, apes or bees, there are different ethical and aesthetic values, than in human society. Humans are only one kind of possible highly organized ‘systems’ and we need to realize that there could exist completely different reason, consciousness, ethics etc. in other ‘systems’. Ethics, aesthetics, consciousness, reason and many other human properties should be all seen as a result of work of the machine called ‘human brain’ which changed and improved for millions of years of the evolution. Aesthetics is a function of our brains, a ‘computer program’ which decides what is beautiful and what is not and this program formed during the evolution and has been used by humans for improving their chances to survive. The same is true for ethics. These things cannot be ignored nowadays.

  12. Just one comment in the 2nd issue: “Or is the environment just there for our exploitation and use?” the word “environment” is not only reduntant but also misleading.

    Environment descrides everything that surround the humans (us) and is, mostly, used by those supporting that humans are superior species and have the right to exploit it (see farming, animals, bugs and weeds). Humans are part of Nature and this is the right word for this matter, from an etymology and science point of view, of course.

  13. Talk about prejudging issues. The “mere dumb matter” comment on the mind-body issue leads me to presume you, or one or more of the panelists upon whom this is based, are a dualist of some sort, even if you’re not. Matter simply “is.” It’s neither dumb nor smart. Confirming a materialist basis of mind would neither elevate nor lower humans any more than did Darwin’s articulation of the theory of evolution by natural selection.

    Related to that, your worries about personhood and justice are hugely self-contradictory to your rejection of free will.

    Otherwise, a number of these issues aren’t even philosophical.

    Why John Horgan linked to this is a head scratcher.

  14. Reblogged this on PHILOSOPHY IN A TIME OF ERROR and commented:
    Here we get a Ted Talk-like version of philosophy in the 21st century. A lot missing. But as Hasana Sharp noted on FB, it’s got a great line about how philosophers must save the world from ecological collapse: ” But we really have no models of collective rationality, no idea of the institutional, social, political and economic structures that will allow us to meet these challenges. Can philosophers help build them in time to guide us in meeting the challenges of this century?” That certainly puts a lot more pressure on my next book.

  15. Reblogged this on Istina and commented:
    Ian Bogost hat mich hierauf aufmerksam gemacht – mit der schönen Formulierung, dass jetzt auch Philosophen mit Listicles arbeiten. Bei allem Boulevard, der da durchscheint, ich bin gegen sowas anfällig. Vielleicht kommen ja bald mal ein paar Gedanken dazu, als Diskussionsgrundlage finde ich es jedenfalls ziemlich gut. Viel Spaß Euch!

  16. Are the listed problems not those of philosophy rather than philosophical problems? For the purpose of distinguishing between the two, it is submitted that

    1. The problems of philosophy are of artificial origin whereas philosophical problems are not.

    2. The artificial consists solely of language whereas the natural consists of all else.

    This distinction leads to the (Wittgensteinian) understanding that the problems of philosophy relate to language whereas philosophical problems do not.

    In my view, the 10 problems listed are artificial, relate to language and will evaporate once a clear and precise knowledge is gained of what is meant by the words/sentences used to define them. A problem is that which is not clearly and precisely understood. Once such understanding is gained, a problem is no longer a problem but an opportunity. In fact, there are no philosophical problems, only problems of philosophy. In each case, the problem is the problem which is both the cause and consequence of itself.

    • i believe the wittgenstinian approach will leave the questions unanswered. It will only tag these questions as pseudo-problems and should be left alone. Not all questions can be ignored.

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  18. What about religion and religious belief? With the rise of global terrorism, the re-emergence of fundamentalism, and the phenomenon of the new atheism, is there still room at the philosopher’s plate for meaningful discussions about transcendence, pluralism, bigotry, belief, and other ethical and social implications of religion?

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  21. In order to address the some of the most glaring issues of the current world the UN has to restructured. Its current the politics dominated approach should be readdressed. Instead of political there should be more intellectual and academic involvement. It should democratized and every decision should be of majority decision not of the stronger decision. Otherwise the conflict approach will take towards more confrontation and overpowering each other.

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  23. 10. Global justice, UN today is a mere puppet of US and its allies, its lost its trust and effectiveness in managing human conflict and a dumb spectator to powerful forces weilding power over nations people and teritories. Unless UN is reconfigured and given the power to handle all trans border issues including trade disputes conflicts and justice we have no way forward. In some sense UN should become the only super power . Arms trade, tarrifs, judicial systems and human rights should be under UN span of control. Many decades ago we couldnt have imagine an administrative super power , today technology, transprency and global practices allow us to concieve this

    • Naren Narendran’s suggestion is not only illogical but unrealistis as it assumes that by rearranging the furniture politicians, who to a large extent are the cause of our self-created problems, will inexplicably and miraculously become the cure. This evidences the root cause of our problems which is stupidity, the most prevalent of human traits.

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  25. These 10 philosophical questions of the 21st Century above, I believe, are the results of the basic three questions of philosophy ignored during the progression of civilization. Why are we here? How ought we live? What is life?
    We call ourselves intelligent, yet we use our biological and physical capabilities to the same relative ability, to increase our perception of our surroundings, as organisms that are more simple than mankind. We have made giant leaps forward in the sciences and mathematics but these are quantitative and extrinsic interactions with the universe. Our goal should be to stop perceiving mankind’s illusion of separation. In this moment we should put effort towards the people that we less fortunate than some of us. This is not only providing help to those in need, but the intrinsic values gained individually will reconnect us back to the universe to allow our natural tendencies to flourish; which is not to use our energy to work and buy materials that fill our disconnection to the universe with extrinsic values.

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  27. The largest issue for the 21st century is the improper definition and placement of existence in the modern mind. As a mental parameter and because of its infinite nature it gets corrupted . Take for example the theory of relativity which uses two or more objects and direct line of sight: two occurrences, no existence, and half a being (conscious). Science does not want bias and removes subjectivity. So the most important issue for philosophy is the nature of being. A psychologist with a PHD once asked me, “What do you mean by subject?” ….Really? And a Psychiatrist upon asking me about subjectivity said that he medicates people for that. In removing bias but having no room for subject, subjectivity, and subjective interpretation, we have lost touch with our symbols and subjective life: it is viewed as a disease. Existence was defined by Plato as having a soul. Jung called this Soul=Body+Spirit. Because we only want objective truths the mind of modern man has become Body=Soul-Spirit where spirit is being dumped as biased. We could wait for god to restore this crucifixion with another savior, I believe it is up to modern philosophy to restore the soul and show the psychologist as Janet did that the unconscious is invaluable. In relativity the parameters are object A over here . Reality places relativity, and all objects over here calling it occurrence (finite). By not giving enough definition to existence modern man is faced with marginalized groups such as addicts and terrorists who are actually in a different mindset which includes an existence much broader than the average modern man. An addict is a sign of abuse, a substance is a symbol of abuse. If psychologists have forgotten this type of thinking the philosopher must remind them. The addict uses street substances to push existence away from occurrence so it can become the second parameter through which the mind can navigate. Modern man uses prescription substances to keep the rest of its subjects from having such subjectivity and continues to use two or more objects. Then we try to rehabilitate the addict who is a sign of abuse: how do you rehabilitate a sign from a symbol especially where the drug is a symbol meant to be interpreted by the society which abused them, not the addict themselves? The greatest issues? Go back to Plato and get existence and soul. Check out Aristotle who termed it infinite. Go forward to the 4th century and get hold of occurrence which was defined as finite. Place both concepts into the mind and shove existence so far away that it only allows for the abstract. Assimilate knowledge.

    • In uploading a part of my thesis was corrupted. It should read: In relativity the parameters are object A over her and object B over there with a marginalized view of infinity (existence). Then following “Reality places relativity, and all objects over here calling it occurrence (finite)” it should read “and stretches existence way off out of sight as the second parameter thus creating no marginalized groupings.

  28. Please am asking a question.
    What are the relevants philosophy of logic and critical thinking?

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  31. 1. I would reverse that as I think socially and value-wise we are all already deeply connected, each related through our intimate connections with specific histories and lands, but such connections are stretched very thin by a very narrowly funneling economic system which is supported by strongly divisive soft and hard forces. Social, cultural, and military institutions pull people apart in order to maintain the very economic system here assumed to be the connector. Current main trades cannot survive without going global and networking but such connections are very different from the pre-existing, real, and intimate human connections they often utilize to spread (and sometimes might facilitate them too, but more commonly hijack them!).

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