I am looking to learn more about famous philosophical riddles/problems throughout history.

For example - problems similar to:

  • Epicurean Problem of Evil
  • Buridan's Donkey
  • Pascal's Wager
  • Trolley Problem

Can anyone please list similar famous philosophical problems in which some decision has to be made by doing a cost-benefit analysis?


  • Not necessarily a bad question in and of itself, but I'd recommend editing it so that you include what you know about the four listed problems, and why you think they're linked in terms of cost-benefit decision theory. Then change the tags to "reference request," maybe. Mar 19, 2022 at 2:48
  • E.g., by analogy, if you were asking about the relationship between paradoxes and self-reference, you might list a few self-referential paradoxes you're familiar with, a gloss on how those paradoxes are "connected" by self-reference, and then a request for references to other self-referential paradoxes, or examples of paradoxes that (putatively) aren't self-referential (e.g. Yablo's). Mar 19, 2022 at 2:49
  • So do something like that with this question and you've a better chance of more focused replies, here. Personally, if you could illustrate a fairly deep connection between Pascals' wager and trolley problems, that'd be pretty interesting. Mar 19, 2022 at 2:52
  • As demonstrated in my answer here, a list may be continued using a language transformer. The key is giving a good prompt to set the context. Multiple initial list items can be given to set the trend.
    – Michael
    Mar 19, 2022 at 3:22
  • St. Petersburg paradox.
    – Johannes
    Mar 29, 2022 at 11:18

1 Answer 1


My intention is not to attempt directly to answer your question, but to open it up further and suggest how an answer could be. I suppose that you have in mind something like Mark Sainsbury's Paradoxes (the contents of which are below) or David Hilbert's well-known Mathematical Problems.

Basically, the course of philosophy is, to use a visual metaphor, helical: From one vantage point, it turns back on itself over again to the same point, while, from another vantage point, it redefines problems, improves views and introduces novel arguments, thus progresses to a higher level.

Sure, there is a periodisation of philosophy during which several problems and responses gain prominence, but these periods are more akin to Foucault's conception of episteme than Kuhn's conception of paradigm and both the periods and their contents are hard to individualise without controversies.

To put briefly, philosophy hardly produces concrete results. Its theories are too general to offer meaningfully testable hypotheses that we are familiar with in science and too liberal in argumentation in contrast to mathematics.

In the meantime, some arguments and outlooks take on a prototypical or well-defined character and are handed down to later investigations (see, for instance, the New Evil Demon Problem). However, by the nature of philosophy, these are not so many, if what one seeks is something ready at hand.

No doubt, one can embark upon identifying and perspicuously defining such problems and associated arguments by oneself. Probably, a considerable part of them would not have the enjoyment of riddles or puzzles, but it is a good idea.

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