I was reading the introduction to a general philosophy text book, and it mentioned at some point that philosophy was like science in that concrete results are established and philosophers are able to build on past results and ideas. This lead me to thinking about whether philosophical issues can be resolved for good or not.

My questions:

  • Are there any philosophical problems that are considered to have been resolved for good?

  • Is it fair to say that once a philosophical question is answered, it is no longer part of philosophy? For example some questions from metaphysics simply became part of physics once we knew the correct answer to them.

  • Are philosophical questions answerable at all or are they by definition those types of questions for which there will never be a definitive answer?
  • 1
    I wasn't your downvote but on all SE "Why the down vote?" is a discouraged practice. In the case of this question, I would guess they dislike that it seems to be asking for a list.
    – virmaior
    Commented Apr 29, 2015 at 12:21
  • 4
    In general, as philosophical questions become provable and testable, they migrate out of philosophy and into mathematics and science. That's been going on long enough that nearly every question left in philosophy is very resistant to proof. Kind of a 'selection for inscrutability' Darwinian process at work. Commented Apr 29, 2015 at 18:51

3 Answers 3


In my opinion the statement that philosophy is like science in that concrete results are established and philosophers are able to build on past results and ideas is simply wrong. The world of philosophy often reawakens debates from hundreds or even thousands of years ago, and many of the big questions in philosophy today were already being debated by the ancient Greeks and the ancient Chinese.

I would further affirm that it is fair to consider that philosophy problems with well-defined concrete answers exit the realm of philosophy and enter the realm of science. We might consider the field of logic as an example. There are topics in logic that are still matters of philosophical debate but the topic of computing, which used to be philosophical, is now a science.

As far as whether philosophical problems are intrinsically unanswerable, that itself may be an unanswerable question. It's hard to know which problems seem forever insoluble now that might be solved in the future.


Philosophical problems are not solved. They are, rather, appreciated.

What is a philosophical problem? It is some phenomenon that requires explanation. What is a solution to a philosophical problem? In the best case, it is an explanation of the target phenomenon.

But in what sense do explanations solve anything? I posit that the philosopher is not so interested in the solution---the explanation---per se, but in the way of getting to that thought, the way of obtaining a given explanation on one's own. That is why philosophy prizes argumentation to such a strong degree that many professional philosophers actually believe that philosophy just is the study of argumentation. An argument is like a set of instructions for obtaining an insight, namely, the conclusion of the argument; in a similar way as a computer code is a set of instructions for the computer to run a certain program.

The difficulty of obtaining insights in this manner, and of generating and writing arguments that successfully bring others to the insight one wishes to bring them to, just is the difficulty of philosophy. In short, the activity of philosophy is the activity of coming to appreciate philosophical problems and their utter difficulty. Explanations do not solve the problem, because in the case of philosophical problems each individual will encounter at least some of those problems as related to that individual's particular life. For most, finding an adequate explanation is enough. On the contrary, for the philosopher, a solution to the problem is not enough; the philosopher wants to teach others how to come to explanations themselves by learning how to properly appreciate the problems and the kinds of things we can do to generate new insights regarding those problems.


It is eventually forgot and then rediscovered.

The nature of space and time, for example. Greeks got it. Enlightenment natural philosophers got it. Early 20th century physicists got it.

It's been "lost" since 1959 however, due to a popular interpretation of relativity.

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