Philosophical Questions for School Debating Clubs

This article features a list of important philosophical and ethical questions that debating society leaders can use in schools!

3/20/20235 min read

School debating societies can focus on philosophical issues as a means of enhancing the philosophical thinking skills of their students. By engaging in philosophical debates, students are encouraged to think deeply and critically about fundamental questions related to knowledge, ethics, and reality. Debates can revolve around various philosophical concepts such as truth, morality, free will, and justice, and encourage students to analyze these concepts from different perspectives. Through such debates, students learn how to construct and evaluate arguments, question assumptions, and recognize the limitations of their own perspectives. Debating philosophical issues also encourages students to develop an appreciation for the complexity of philosophical problems and to engage in active and respectful discussion with their peers. By focusing on philosophical issues, school debating societies can help students develop valuable philosophical thinking skills that will serve them well both academically and personally.

Here are a list of philosophical questions that students might explore in your school's debate club:

  1. Can we really know anything for sure?

  2. Is there a meaning or purpose to human existence?

  3. Is the concept of time real or just an illusion?

  4. Is the mind separate from the body or are they interconnected?

  5. Can machines or robots ever be conscious beings?

  6. Is there a universal standard for beauty, or is it subjective?

  7. Does free will exist, or are our actions predetermined by genetics and environment?

  8. Is there a limit to human knowledge, and if so, what is it?

  9. Is the existence of God provable or just a matter of faith?

  10. Is it possible to have objective morality, or is it subjective to each individual?

  11. Is truth relative, or is there an absolute truth?

  12. Are humans inherently good or evil?

  13. Is there such a thing as a just war, or are all wars unjust?

  14. Can art be objectively evaluated, or is it all subjective to the viewer?

  15. Is the concept of justice a human invention, or does it exist objectively?

  16. Is life without suffering possible or desirable?

  17. Is it possible to escape our own biases and see things objectively?

  18. Is there an afterlife or is death the end?

  19. What is the nature of reality: objective, subjective or both?

  20. Is it ethical to create artificial life or intelligent machines?

  21. Is the concept of ownership of property a natural right or a social construct?

  22. Are we responsible for the actions of our ancestors?

  23. Is it possible to define consciousness, or is it a mystery beyond human comprehension?

  24. Is human progress linear or cyclical?

  25. Is the pursuit of knowledge an inherent good or can it be destructive?

  26. Is the self a product of environment and society or a unique individual entity?

  27. Is the existence of aliens probable or just a hypothetical possibility?

  28. Is there a distinction between an individual's public and private life?

  29. Is it ethical to use animals for scientific research or testing?

  30. Is it possible to create an objective standard for art, literature, or music?

A school debating society can be an excellent platform for educators to explore moral and ethical issues and help students develop a more mature understanding of these issues. Here are some ways educators can use a school debating society to achieve these goals:

  • Choose relevant topics: Educators should choose relevant and thought-provoking topics that are pertinent to students' lives and experiences. For example, topics like climate change, social justice, animal rights, privacy, and the ethics of technology can spark meaningful discussions.

  • Encourage research: Debates should not just be based on opinions. Educators should encourage students to conduct research and gather evidence to support their arguments. This can help students develop critical thinking skills and learn to assess the reliability of sources.

  • Foster respectful dialogue: In a debating society, students should be encouraged to listen respectfully to opposing views and engage in civil discourse. This can help students develop empathy and understand different perspectives, which is essential in developing a mature understanding of moral and ethical issues.

  • Provide guidance: Educators can guide students to understand the nuances of moral and ethical issues by providing them with frameworks and principles to use in their arguments. This can help students analyze and evaluate the ethical implications of different perspectives.

  • Promote reflection: After the debate, educators should encourage students to reflect on the arguments presented and consider how they might apply these principles to their own lives. This can help students develop a more nuanced understanding of moral and ethical issues and help them apply these principles in their own decision-making.

Here is a list of moral and ethical debate questions that you can use in your school debating society:

  1. Should animals have the same rights as humans?

  2. Is it ethical to use genetically modified organisms in agriculture?

  3. Should people have the right to choose assisted suicide?

  4. Is it ethical for companies to use personal data to target advertising?

  5. Should advertising be allowed in schools?

  6. Is it moral to use drones for targeted killings in warfare?

  7. Should businesses be held accountable for the environmental impact of their actions?

  8. Is it ethical for governments to regulate free speech on social media?

  9. Should people have the right to own firearms?

  10. Is it ethical for parents to use genetic engineering to select their child's traits?

  11. Should the death penalty be abolished?

  12. Is it moral to use animals for scientific experiments?

  13. Should governments provide universal healthcare?

  14. Is it ethical to eat meat?

  15. Should people have the right to die with dignity?

  16. Is it moral to use prisoners for labor?

  17. Should affirmative action be implemented in hiring and college admissions?

  18. Is it ethical for companies to outsource jobs to other countries?

  19. Should governments regulate the use of plastic?

  20. Is it moral to use animals for entertainment?

  21. Should the minimum wage be increased?

  22. Is it ethical to use embryonic stem cells for medical research?

  23. Should parents be allowed to choose the sex of their child?

  24. Is it moral to use performance-enhancing drugs in sports?

  25. Should schools teach comprehensive sex education?

  26. Is it ethical to use artificial intelligence in decision-making?

  27. Should governments limit immigration?

  28. Is it moral to use child labor in developing countries?

  29. Should governments provide universal basic income?

  30. Is it ethical to use drones for domestic surveillance?

School debate clubs can be an ideal way to explore political debates and central issues in political philosophy. Debating political issues in a structured and respectful manner can help students develop their critical thinking and analytical skills, and deepen their understanding of political philosophy. By debating political topics, students can explore different ideological perspectives, such as liberalism, conservatism, socialism, and libertarianism, and learn to appreciate the nuances and complexities of political thought. Students can also learn to articulate their own political beliefs and values, and develop the ability to listen to and consider different perspectives.

Here is a list of questions for your school debate club that will trigger excellent discussions in relation to politics, governance, and political philosophy:

  1. Is democracy the best form of government?

  2. Should the government be responsible for ensuring equal opportunities for all citizens?

  3. Is socialism a better economic system than capitalism?

  4. Should individuals have the right to own guns?

  5. Is universal healthcare a human right?

  6. Should affirmative action be implemented in college admissions?

  7. Is it ethical for governments to use torture to obtain information from suspected terrorists?

  8. Should the government be responsible for providing basic income to all citizens?

  9. Should the death penalty be abolished?

  10. Is it ethical for governments to use drone strikes to target terrorists?

  11. Should political parties be banned in favor of nonpartisan elections?

  12. Is a one-world government an inherently bad idea?

  13. Should government surveillance of citizens be allowed for national security reasons?

  14. Should the government have the right to censor media content?

  15. Should voting be mandatory in democratic elections?

  16. Is the war on drugs a failure?

  17. Is a one-child policy a justifiable measure in protecting the environment?

  18. Should our government prioritize reducing the national debt over social programs?

  19. Should the government regulate the prices of pharmaceutical drugs?

  20. Is climate change a human-made problem that requires government intervention?

  21. Should our country adopt a stricter immigration policy?

  22. Should taxes be raised on the wealthiest citizens to fund social programs?

  23. Should our country intervene in foreign conflicts to protect human rights?

  24. Is the minimum wage a fair wage for workers?

  25. Should the government be responsible for providing free college education to all citizens?

  26. Should the government regulate the tech industry to prevent monopolies?

  27. Is nationalism a dangerous ideology?

  28. Should the our government prioritize domestic issues over foreign policy?

  29. Should the our government increase military spending?

  30. Is capitalism inherently exploitative?

We hope this article inspires you to explore philosophical, ethical, and political issues with your students in your school's debate club or debating society!