A Timeline Of Philosophical Questions: Content Request

In “The Intellectual Achievement of Creating Questions,” I explained why I thought it would be a good idea for the profession to have a timeline of the creation of philosophical questions.

Ultimately, the timeline should be accurate, comprehensive, searchable, zoomable, and graphically attractive, with entries linked to a variety of helpful resources elsewhere, and useful to philosophers, to those in other disciplines researching aspects of the history of philosophy, and to the non-expert public.

But the first thing we will need to get things off the ground is our data: the questions themselves, the rough dates we have of their emergence, the philosophers associated with their earliest discussion. Please supply whatever information you can in the comments. Even just identifying the questions is helpful here.

Keep in mind the varieties of ways we can understand the creation of a question. As I mentioned in the companion post to this one, here are four.

  • Reinvention – bringing attention to a forgotten or neglected question by asking it in a new way.
  • Application – reformulating a version of a known philosophical question so as to apply it to a new domain and in doing so bringing new considerations into play.
  • Specification – showing that a known philosophical question is ambiguous or incomplete by making relevant distinctions and articulating the other questions whose answers are needed in order to clarify or complete the first one.
  • Inauguration – asking a question that creates a new area of philosophical inquiry

There are probably other ways to create questions, or to map the terrain of question-creation, so suggestions on that front are welcome, too.

This is a collective endeavor that will require the input and efforts of many people in order to come to fruition. Please take some time—even just a few minutes when you have them—to contribute to it. Thank you.

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Mark Alfano
6 years ago

I’m not sure where to locate the original question (presumably Plato or earlier), but the question, “How is apriori knowledge possible?” got specified a bunch of times.

Kant (1781): Distinguish between apriori/aposteriori and analytic/synthetic, then ask: how is synthetic apriori knowledge possible?

Kripke (1980): further distinguish apriori/aposteriori, analytic/synthetic, and necessary/contingent, then ask: how is necessary aposteriori knowledge possible? And: how is contingent apriori knowledge possible?

Heath White
Heath White
6 years ago

A couple obvious ones, starting early:

* What are the fundamental constituents out of which the world is made? c. 500 BCE
* What is courage? What is piety? What is temperance? Can virtue be taught? c. 450 BCE
* Should you obey unjust laws and legal rulilngs? c. 400 BCE
* Does the soul survive death? c. 400 BCE
* How could we come to know the answers to moral questions? c. 380 BCE
* What is knowledge? c. 370 BCE
* What is predication? c. 370 BCE
* What are the methods or criteria for good inference? c. 350 BCE initially, often revisited since then.
* What is human excellence? c. 350 BCE; antecedents in the prior century in Greece; antecedents probably everywhere for a long while back.
* What is the best kind of government? c. 350 BCE; antecedents earlier
* Various questions about the parts of animals, the motion of animals, arrangements of the planetary bodies, causes of the weather, etc. which are now hived off into other disciplines, c. 350 BCE.
* what is the mind, and how does it work? c. 350 BCE, revisited often since.
* What is causation [explanation]? c. 350 BCE