Sometimes we want a little bit more from our conversations with people.
Although there are plenty of ways to get to know a person, sometimes asking deep existential questions can spark more of a connection between the two of you.
Existential questions can release you from the mundane and help to understand your perspective on life and theirs better. These thought-provoking existential questions can be great conversation starters and a way to spice up an existing conversation.
What is an existential question?
Within the word, existential is the word “exist.” Existential questions often search for the meaning of life. They are often thought provoking questions.
Although it may seem like these are questions for philosophers or those that are highly religious to ponder, they are something that every human thinks about at some point.
Existential questions challenge us to think about what we don’t know and often, can’t know, the answer to. They cause us to think hard about what we believe when we attempt to answer them.
The fun is in pondering the endless possibilities of existential questions, it’s okay to not arrive at a concrete answer. The real takeaway is the conversation that it can spark within yourself or with others.
How do you ask existential questions or thought provoking questions?
When you are in relationship with a person, close enough to ask questions outside of the norm, it’s okay to pose existential questions. Test the waters with a few easy ones, if the mood is right, which means not jumping straight into the “What happens when we die?” questions!
You can keep it light or use comedy to break the ice. Try asking funny existential questions like, “If we are always working to save time, then when do we get it back?” or “Can you still daydream at night?”
Funny existential questions can be a light way of leading the conversation into a series of existential questions that won’t put someone on the spot for a deep, thoughtful answer immediately.
Then, as the conversation gets warmer or takes a more serious turn, you can ask a deeper question that will help you get to know someone better.
It’s also a good idea to have thought about the existential questions on your own before you ask them to someone else. You can have a general sense of your answer, and it’s always great to see how opinions from others might change that opinion once the conversation is over.
A list of great existential questions
If you are looking to spice up your interactions can get into deeper conversations, try asking some of the existential questions below.
Existential questions about life
Thought provoking existential questions about life can help us discover what we think about being humans in the world around us. They can also question the existence of the universe and life and what it all means.
1. What is our purpose in life?
We often wonder what we were put on Earth to do. Is there a meaning to the existence of the human race? Why are we here?
It’s an excellent, broad question that certainly has no definite answer.
This question can also stem from, or merge into, another:
2. Is there a God?
Likewise, if we were put on Earth for a reason, who created us and put us here?
Often you will find out who in your group leans more toward the scientific or the religious answer here. Some may point to the Big Bang theory or Creationism to back up their side of the argument.
Most have opposing views in this area, but it can still be an interesting question to ask to understand both sides of the debate better.
3. What happens when we die?
This is one of the most well-known deep existential questions to ask someone. Is there an afterlife? What about the existence of heaven or hell? Do human beings simply cease to exist or is there eternal life? It can be scary not to know the answer, but truthfully, no one does.
This may not be the best question to start out with when trying to have a deeper conversation, as it can lead to some anxiety in those that begin to ponder it.
4. Are we alone in this universe?
This question can open to a great discussion about life on other planets. Although we’ve all read an article or two about lights in the sky, crop circles, and other extraterrestrial activity, it can be interesting to think further into this topic.
What would that mean for human beings on Earth if human life did exist somewhere else? Would we view them immediately as a threat or try to make them our ally? What if they were underdeveloped or technologically advanced? Would that change how we view them?
5. What is the difference between living and existing?
How do you define living? How can people say they have lived a meaningful life? Is it setting goals and being successful? Do we have to be constantly reaching toward something in order to “live,” or is existing actually living within itself?
Often, you’ll find that though these terms are similar, they mean something different to everyone.
6. How do you perceive time?
Do you see yourself as staying stagnant while time moves forward around you, or do you see yourself moving with time?
A viral TikToker mentioned this in a video and explained it using a simple metaphor. He asked everyone to consider their answer to this question: “If I tell you that Wednesday’s noon meeting has been moved forward by two hours, do you think the meeting is now at 10 am or 2 pm?”
If your answer is 2 pm, you generally see yourself as moving with time. If it’s 10 am, you see yourself stagnant while time moves toward you.
7. Do you think the means or the end are more important?
Some will say that the journey is the important part and the end is less important, and others will say differently. This question can bring up further questions about morality, purpose, and how we view the learning experience.
Similarly, you can ask:
8. Would knowing the date of your death change how you live your life?
This is an interesting way to pose the question above because it brings back the topic of knowing the end. If we are going to die anyway, does that make life less enjoyable or important?
You can also consider what knowing your death date would change about how you go through daily life. Would you look at minor inconveniences differently if you only had a certain amount of time to deal with them? How will you live a fulfilling life knowing you only have a set number of years in your human existence?
9. Does suffering make you a better person?
Is it truly necessary to go through hardships? Do we have to suffer in order to learn and grow, or can it be achieved by other means?
10. What does it mean to live a good life?
Another one of philosophy’s oldest questions. How should one live? What does it mean to “live well?”
Existential questions to ask your date
You can try asking these questions about love and relationships next time you are looking for something to deepen your conversation and your understanding of another person.
A few of these existential questions can open doors to talking about emotions and how you view connections with others.
1. Does love exist?
What some consider as love may be infatuation to others. It can also be seen as something innate in humans, that we are born with the ability to love. This is because the same chemical that releases in our brains is similar to that of an addiction to outside influences.
Regardless, love is hard to define because each person experiences it differently.
2. Do you believe in soulmates?
This can be a good question to ask someone you are already in an established relationship with, rather than asking it the first time you meet someone new. This way, your date doesn’t feel as if you are coming off too strong.
However, don’t be afraid to ask deep questions in the beginning if you truly envision a future with that person.
3. What’s your biggest regret?
The range of answers to this question can give you a good insight into who they really are as a person and what they value in life.
This question can give you a glimpse into their past, especially if the answer stems from something that happened a while ago or when they were a child.
4. What do you think two people must have in common to connect with each other?
This can further open the conversation into an area where you can discuss your common interests, therefore helping you both to understand where you agree and disagree and how your bond can develop on a deeper level.
You can also look at it from the viewpoint of whether or not opposites attract. Do you need to have something in common to connect?
5. What makes you special?
Asking this existential question can help you better understand how they view themselves and their self-esteem. Their specialty can stem from their personality, beliefs, goals, attitude, etc.
6. If you start a new hobby and aren’t that good at it, how long before you give it up?
Some people are quick to give up when they are frustrated or can’t see any use in carrying on, while others are more determined to see it through even if it’s difficult at first.
Both answers will shine a light on key points of your potential partner’s personality.
You’ll be able to judge how quickly they may crumble under pressure or how they are when it comes to dealing with difficulties or moments that don’t go their way immediately.
Existential questions to ask your friends
Try these deep conversation starters next time you are in a group gathering with your friends, and you want to get a little existential! Some of these questions will have more concrete answers to explore than others.
1. Can art be defined?
This one is enjoyable to ask your friends who are creative or enjoy creating things; writers, artists, musicians, etc. Since art has few limitations and differs from person to person, it’s interesting to try and contemplate what defines it.
2. Does your zodiac sign truly have an influence on your life?
This question is fun when you’re with a crowd divided between being avid followers of horoscope readings and those who don’t know what their sign is at all.
3. If you could watch everything that happened in your life up until now, would you enjoy it?
Having a movie reel of our life could be nostalgic, or it could make us relive some memories we’d rather forget.
4. What do you want your “golden years” to be like?
This question makes you first answer what you consider as your golden years. Are you living them now, and you don’t realize it? Or do you view it as some point in the future where you have x, y, and z?
5. Would you choose fame if it meant losing those around you along the way?
Often, fame comes with major sacrifices. This question can open up which of your friends would be willing to give up close relationships with their friends or family to make it to the top.
6. What one piece of advice would you give another about life?
If your circle of friendship is diverse, this question will elicit a plethora of answers that can be interesting to hear.
7. Do we want others to be like us, or do we want to be more like others?
This can also judge the status at which someone sees themselves; if they admire others and have things about themselves that they want to change, they will likely lean toward the latter answer. If they view themselves as higher than others, they may go with the first option.
8. Would you live life differently if you had a different name?
For some, this question hits home because we have a unique name that can never be found on a keychain or mug from those cozy beach-themed stores on vacation!
Names are an incredibly important part of our identity, and changing it can make all the difference in how we act, how we carry ourselves, and how much we believe we belong.
9. What’s an activity you’ve done that made you feel the most alive?
Was it while you were doing something breathtaking and dare devilish, like sky diving or swimming with sharks? Or maybe it’s the first time you saw a sky full of stars in the countryside? Maybe the first time you held your little one in your hands.
The possibilities, like with most existential questions, are quite endless.
Sometimes we don’t want to talk about the weather or what’s happening in celebrities’ lives. Although it’s okay for conversations to be superficial and meaningless sometimes, it can be mentally stimulating to ponder more intellectual topics.
If you are looking for questions to ask that spark better conversations, existential questions are certainly the way to go. You can change up dull or mundane conversation topics by asking thought-provoking questions such as those mentioned above.
Existential questions are not supposed to elicit an existential crisis, although some of them can leave you slightly spiraling and in deep thought! They are primarily meant to be questions to ponder over because we can’t answer them outright.
They can open our eyes to different viewpoints on life and death, the human connection, ourselves, and society. Having these conversations can also deepen our understanding of ourselves and our friends and partners.
Wait until the atmosphere is right, and try tossing out a thought-provoking question to a friend or family member for some guided, deep conversation at your next dinner party!
You’ll most likely find that one existential question can spawn other, different questions and that the conversation will flow naturally from topic to topic.