This question was closed for alleged "polling":

What are the reasons for human conflict?

Yet the questions listed below, and numerous others along similar lines, are allowed to stand. I sense some serious inconsistencies in the criteria used for closing questions:

All of below listed questions can easily be construed as 'polling' - a rather vague term that allows a moderator to close any question that does not ask for a specific solution to a specific problem, but instead asks for general information and invites discussion. Such loose and fuzzy criteria for closing questions invites seemingly arbitrary behavior on the part of moderators.

IMO the guidelines here need to be clarified, and a single moderator should never be allowed to arbitrarily close a question simply because it is deemed 'polling', particularly a question which demonstrate serious thought and effort on the part the questioner.

"Valid" Questions:

Does anyone assert the real existence of p-zombies?;

What consequences has Locke's theory of knowledge had on modern political thought?;

What scientific evidence is there that our actions are pre-conscious?.

Does philosophy belong to empirical science or formal science?

  • Most of those are basically reference-requests -- in other words, asking after a valid/useful answer or source. Your query is structured explicitly like a general poll. What problem are you trying to solve? What exactly do you want explained? --Asking for all the possible philosophical perspectives to "chime in" isn't going to be constructive.
    – Joseph Weissman Mod
    May 28 '13 at 20:43
  • @JosephWeissman - "Asking for all the possible philosophical perspectives to "chime in": Simply another form of asking for references and context. And, just to cite one example: "Is this a valid reasoning? Has Locke's theory of knowledge somehow influenced modern political thought, especially in the justification of tyrannical regimes?" That is no request for references, if mine is not. It's simply 'polling' the group for philosophical positions.
    – Vector
    May 28 '13 at 21:43
  • --So, now the question seems to be asking for speculation about what Carlyle might have thought about some kind hypothetical situation; this definitely seems closer! :) --I would definitely encourage a little further cleanup/focusing; and having the title be a bit more indicative would also be great.
    – Joseph Weissman Mod
    May 28 '13 at 23:34
  • @JosephWeissman - OK, I'll see what can be done. I have removed the broadside from this question in the interim... ( I understand that you probably don't have much interest in Carlyle.... :-) - the 20th century essentially ignored or discarded him. I read him mostly for his knowledge of history and his amazing writing skills, not his philosophy )
    – Vector
    May 29 '13 at 4:39

We put a strong emphasis on answerability because it ties together a lot of the issues around subjectivity. Questions should be structured so that they have a specific answer -- in other words, should reflect an actual problem you're facing in your study of philosophy. One key here is that as a network it is important to try to avoid mostly opinion questions and answers.

Basically: questions shouldn't open a broad discussion, but should be narrowly focused around a specific problem, asking for an explanation about a particular issue or concern arising naturally from the practice of studying philosophy.

For further suggestions in terms of grokking the community ethos -- which it might help to keep in mind we share with Wikipedia -- I'd strongly recommend reviewing the FAQ, our About pages, the Community FAQ as well as Good Subjective, Bad Subjective.

Putting aside the larger concerns about tone and balance for a moment, my suggestions here would be as follows. The following is, generally speaking, a "constructive" question type:

  • How does thinker X [arrive at conclusion/resolve problem] Y?

It has a specific answer, grounded in a text, subject to a reasonable minimum of interpretation. The following, generally speaking, isn't "constructive":

  • How have philosophers responded to theory X?

In certain narrow cases, this might have a reasonable minimum of possible answers -- in particular, I'm thinking of the one about Locke. So that's a middle case that would have to be evaluated in situ, but definitely isn't "constructive" in the general case; though there may be sufficiently focused instances:

  • How did thinker's X ideas influence modern life/thought/society?

One of the issues here is that it's not just about question-types, but about the formulation of the question itself -- how focused, narrow, specific, balanced, etc. At any rate, feel free to ask further questions here on meta if this is still unclear. We're here to try to help support constructive reformulations with an eye to reopening closed questions.

  • See further edits on the question in question....
    – Vector
    May 29 '13 at 5:18

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