What is the core mission or "elevator pitch" of this site? What is a concise statement of what it is about?

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  • 1
    Good! Where's the second half of the sentence? ;-) Commented Jun 15, 2011 at 22:00
  • 1
    Couldn't follow the chat (work demands). Is this some sort of summary of the discussion? Would this not be better posted as an answer to: meta.philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/89/… ? Commented Jun 15, 2011 at 22:03
  • @Jon I think you can see the chat transcript if you look at the chat room now (I also think especially memorable parts are starred). There was a consensus to repeat the chat on Friday, but (of course) more answers and questions have arisen in the chat. This is not the summary of all of it.
    – Ruben
    Commented Jun 15, 2011 at 22:06
  • @Ruben: Reading a chat transcript is a nightmare in general. A minute or two suggests that this case is no different. I'd like to focus on just started comments, but the view I found seems to truncate them. Basically, I'd appreciate a more complete summary of the discussion (and the one on Friday, in all likelihood) if possible. (Thanks in advance to anyone who does so.) Commented Jun 15, 2011 at 22:15
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    From where does the concern arise that people are or might be treating others "dismissively?" It seems to me that such rhetoric in the site description is unnecessary. Commented Jun 16, 2011 at 5:00
  • @Cody Edited to remove dismissive. The point of this passage is to ensure that for e.g. if someone asks a beginner question on ethics like what is the trolley problem, one shouldn;t try to answer by invoking Kierkergaard or scholastic theology - i.e. to keep in mind the questioner's (implied) background
    – Chuck
    Commented Jun 16, 2011 at 9:03
  • Oh, I see. Yeah, I think I have trouble with that for questions that are relatively vague, like this one. But the way it was phrased made it sound like we were already pre-empting disrespect as a rampant problem. Commented Jun 16, 2011 at 9:10

2 Answers 2


Alternate proposed answer based on the four years that have passed since the last one:

Proposed Answer

This site is for (1) people to ask questions about philosophy understood broadly but generously in line with the academic discipline which traditionally includes metaphysics, epistemology, aesthetics, and ethics, (2) people to answer questions from lay persons and experts alike within the scope of philosophy, and (3) people to vote for answers that answer those question about philosophy, (4) people to clarify issues with respect to questions in comments, and (5) to enjoy conversations and debates about areas of substantive disagreement in chat.

Proposed Caveats:

  1. We take an expansive view of what traditions to include in philosophy (Chinese philosophy, Indian philosophy, Native American philosophy, African American philosophy, Greek Philosophy, Medieval Islamic and Christian philosophy, Logical Positivism, etc.) can all fall under the banner -- with the reverse caveat that our concerns here are about the philosophy.
  2. People do not have to formulate their questions in perfect philosophical lingo, but there needs to be a question that can be objectively answered within philosophy rather than without.
  3. Comments can be used to clarify what the OP is trying to say but they are not meant to debate. Good comments: "What do you mean by X in your question?" / "Can you account for Q in your answer?" Bad comments: comments are not the place to debate physicalism vs supervenience, whether a god exists, whether global warming is caused by man, whether dogs or cats are the best, whether marxism, Christianity, islam, hinduism is the "one true philosophy."

Thinking about these concerns, many questions that may be objectively answerable in some domain are not well-suited to philosophy:

  1. "Why is there a statue of a Hindu god outside of CERN?"
  2. "How can I learn to be motivated?"
  3. "How did humans come from apes?"
  4. "What is the ideal way to organize society?"
  5. "How does gravity move an object"?

Similar questions however might be:

  1. How does Aristotle think motivation works?
  2. How does Locke think an ideal society should be organized?
  3. Does David Lewis think possible worlds exist without gravity?
  4. How do contemporary philosophies deal with ideas like idols? (possibly too general).
  • Could you give some examples from recent questions to illustrate questions/answers/comments that are acceptable. Most questions seem to be a bit more complex than the examples you give and so it's hard to see where you might want to draw the line.
    – user22791
    Commented Oct 5, 2016 at 10:51
  • Here's one: philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/38217/…
    – virmaior
    Commented Oct 5, 2016 at 12:57
  • This one's also pretty good as far as questions go: philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/34774/…
    – virmaior
    Commented Oct 5, 2016 at 12:58
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    But more generally, the point isn't to draw a bright line. If that could be done to a T, then we would not need humans for SE.
    – virmaior
    Commented Oct 5, 2016 at 12:58
  • Thanks, I understand that no bright line will be possible, what I was interested to establish was how specific a reference you were thinking of and how many questions we'd be left with.
    – user22791
    Commented Oct 5, 2016 at 13:01
  • Here's another one I think is not bad but too which I have no answer: philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/38213/…
    – virmaior
    Commented Oct 5, 2016 at 13:11
  • This seems revisable to a good question: philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/28066/…
    – virmaior
    Commented Oct 5, 2016 at 13:11
  • I'm still not sure what distinction you're drawing here. If you look down the answers to your first example you describe as "pretty good", not one philosopher is mentioned in any of them, not one citation, just a series of really well informed and rational arguments which answer the question. This seems to be a good example of the second half of Joseph's statement.
    – user22791
    Commented Oct 6, 2016 at 6:28
  • Also, I'm having trouble conceiving of someone who is interested enough in the organisation of society to know that Locke had an opinion on the matter, but not interested enough to just look him up on Wikipedia where they will already find an objective and well cited answer to their question.
    – user22791
    Commented Oct 6, 2016 at 6:30
  • This comment, for example philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/38204/…, is actually a perfect answer to the question, but rather risks making the SE obsolete. I suspect people coming to Philosophy.SE are looking for something a little more.
    – user22791
    Commented Oct 6, 2016 at 6:32
  • Not much to say on most of that, but I never claimed the questions presently have good answers. If we can't give more direct and better answers than wikipedia, we shouldn't bother trying...
    – virmaior
    Commented Oct 6, 2016 at 6:47
  • Surely the point of a good question is that it elicits good answers, after all, it's the answers this site is about.
    – user22791
    Commented Oct 6, 2016 at 6:54
  • I take it the point of a good question is that is one that fits the SE and deserves a good answer. Whether it successfully elicits answers only matters if the lack of good answers is a failing of the question (rather than the lack of a person adequate to answering it. For some of the above questions, I don't answer them precisely because I don't think I could provide a good enough answer without distracting from other more important uses of my time).
    – virmaior
    Commented Oct 6, 2016 at 7:15
  • I'm sorry, I don't quite understand what you're saying. The argument seems circular "...a good question is that is one that fits the SE and deserves a good answer". Unless we are going to define the bounds of the SE arbitrarily, we are imposing some definition of what it is "good" for the SE to be about. If we derive this from examples of "good" questions then we have a circular argument in that we appear to have already defined what is good, no?
    – user22791
    Commented Oct 6, 2016 at 7:22
  • I'm assuming you're misunderstanding what I'm trying to say, so I will try again. The SE's bounds are defined as philosophy which is an imperfect but functional boundary. The point of my comment was to respond to your claim that the questions can't be good (on my definition) because the answers don't cite philosophers. But my answer is that the merits of the question are not singularly defined by the quality of answers it receives.
    – virmaior
    Commented Oct 6, 2016 at 7:35

Following our site-definition chat discussions, here is one proposed answer:

This site is about asking serious, thought-provoking, philosophically-minded questions that invite answers that are terminologically secure, not shallow or pretentious, that show an understanding of the questioner's level/tradition/culture in order to engage with it on relevant grounds, that can either be part of a particular, widely-studied school of philosophical thought (e.g. Epicureanism) or are such as to be focused on abstract reasoning and widely accepted methods of argumentation and be precise in that they rigorously adhere to the demands of the original question.

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