(Scroll down for a short version.)
I'm wondering how we should deal with clearly very subjective answers. An example. Most of the time, you can't really blame the answerer: the question asks for an opinion. Generally, I see two types of questions on this Stack site. Type 1 screams for subjective answers, type 2 doesn't.
- Is P true? ... Can Q be justified? ... Is it moral to do X? ...
- What philosopher says P? ... What does philosopher A mean by this quote? ... How does idea X differ from idea Y? ... Is statement S arguable?
Clearly, type 2 is very academical. Often, it can be tagged with reference-request. There is one best answer. This is possible because the question itself doesn't ask for an answer to a philosophical question. It asks for explanation about a philosophy or something like that. This type of question addresses some kind of meta-philosophy, which makes it possible to actually answer it.
Type 1 really asks for an answer to a philosophical question though. These questions don't have one best answer. The accepted answer often represents the opinion of the asker instead of the answer that's most useful to the question, for what accepting is actually meant. Also, this type generates a lot of discussion in the comments. In terms of the Good Subjective, Bad Subjective StackExchange blog, type 1 is bad subjective.
Some questions of type 1 are answerable: they're about logics, so something can be said about the validity of a reasoning. Those questions are good, of course, they can be answered. They don't ask for an opinion, they ask for explanation on common logic, or sometimes mathematics.
Following the consensus on other Stack sites, questions of type one should get closed as not constructive:
As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or specific expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion.
However, I don't see questions of type one getting closed or edited. I'm wondering why that is.
Often, the subjectiveness can be edited out quite easily. Have a look at the difference between Is it immoral for mosquitos to take blood from other living things without their consent? and Could it be justified to kill someone or make someone sick to reproduce yourself?. The first is a subjective question, the second isn't: the difference is that the first asks for any opinion, whilst the second asks for an overview of opinions. You can clearly see the difference when you look at the answers. Is it a good idea to rephrase the subjective questions to make them like the second example?
StackExchange is and should be a place where experts answer questions that can be reasonably answered. However, on this site I see anyone tossing in his two cents. Upvoting subjective answers basically means "yes, I agree" like it does on Meta. That's not what upvoting is for - it should be for answers that are useful to others. And what would make subjective answer A more useful than subjective answer B? Not the statement, but the argumentation. However, voting is based on the statement rather than the argumentation.
From our FAQ:
Please note that this site is not a personal blog or a pulpit for you to express your own personal philosophical beliefs. This is a Q&A site for examining ideas and concepts in the field of philosophy. It's OK to have opinions (even those that might differ from the "mainstream"), but you need to express them in a constructive way. If you fail to do this, your contributions are subject to being edited or moderated so that they adopt a less hostile or confrontational point of view.
I feel like we lost this rule. It's a very important rule to keep the quality of this site high. It should be clear that philosophy is academical and not just chit-chat in the café where anyone can scream God exists or not, for example.
There are two types of questions on this Stack:
- Subjective: is P true?
- Objective: what philosopher says P?
Problems with subjective questions and answers are:
- There is no one right answer
- They generate much discussion (example)
However, often, the subjectiveness isn't edited out, and the question doesn't get closed either. Why? It could be closed as not constructive, and is in any way contrary to our philosophy-specific line in the FAQ:
Please note that this site is not a personal blog or a pulpit for you to express your own personal philosophical beliefs. This is a Q&A site for examining ideas and concepts in the field of philosophy.
What can / should we do to keep the quality of the site high? More specific:
- Should you edit / comment on / flag a subjective stimulating question?
- What should you do with a subjective answer? Should you flag it? Which flag?