Today I came to register to Philosophy Stack Exchange, I naively thought that only StackOverflow was all negative because of mature age of the system and users with 5+ years under their belt getting frustrated of answering same questions day after day over and over again, which is understandable.
Could someone explain the reason behind Stack Philosophy beta being so bitter and philosophers having short temper?

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    Is there any chance you might be able to identify some specific case of bitterness/resentment/whatever? It's a little hard to respond to generalities...
    – Joseph Weissman Mod
    May 8, 2014 at 22:00
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    I could start pointing fingers, but would prefer to refrain from doing so. Things I could point out downwotes without explanation, members with more reputation picking on semantics, inquisitive comments on questions and general feeling of being unwelcome, which is really surprising as I expected to find mature philosopher audience. If you would ask for my explanation - I think most likely it's happening across all boards and simply becoming culture of Stack Exchange. May 8, 2014 at 22:16
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    Having found this question here I will ask you directly instead of opening a new question (if you people think I should though, let me know): Why do you think we need tags like "universe" or "meme"? I admit that I declined the edits. I just don't see how adding a new tag for everything helps making the site tidier or clearer.
    – iphigenie
    May 15, 2014 at 17:58

2 Answers 2


So, I'm a mid-rep user who gave you a down vote. I did leave a rather short comment explaining why, though I did not use the "-1" convention. In this case I thought you had not answered the question at all. Anyway, some reasons...

Inquisitive comments on questions are very common here, especially if your question is very short. Personally I welcome them, because it helps me understand how other people interpret what I have said, and helps me understand both how to improve my communication skills and with thinking about the thing I am asking about. Being brief invites being misunderstood.

Picking at semantics is fair game in philosophy. It's pretty brutal, but a lot hinges on your exact choice of words. But concerning your question about stem cells, where you say "I would prefer not to go into semantic argument", I think this comes from the long history in this site of ethics questions being asked that are of the form "answer this question from the point of view of all different ethical theories", which is too open ended, making people are a bit fed up with them. It's a bit of a problem actually.

I don't agree that people here have a short temper or being bitter, instead I'd say they're honest, outspoken and often pedantic - I would expect nothing less from a philosophy site ;)

But, what matters is you have been made to feel unwelcome...

This is a bad thing. But I don't think it was intentional.

I have to say I don't find stack overflow to be particularly negative. I ask a question, get a great answer in about 10 seconds, the end. That said, I've had fairly bad experiences with math.SE and I know what it's like to be on the other side of a bunch of people who don't seem to care to understand you.

All I can say is that I empathise, and I apologise if my own actions have been a part of it, I did not mean to discourage you from participation.


I also have given you a downvote here or there. I'm sorry if you felt hurt by anything I wrote. I think one of the challenges with philosophy.se is that the word "philosophy" has quite a few meanings running about. Philosophy as an academic discipline (which is what I take us to mean here at philosophy.se) has a very long history and is, in my experience, far harder to master than any programming language or systems theory.

Imagine if there were a programming language with its own syntax far removed from other language (say LISP) and you came and wrote what you thought were fine answers with the differences between that and Java handled as bet you could. It's still likely that the experts in that field would tell you that your answers are wrong -- because LISP and similar languages invoke programming concepts not present in languages like C.

Moreover, unlike programming questions where the answer is largely what works, here the answer is whether what one says usefully explains a problem and properly relates the thought of a text or thinker who may often be misunderstood by based on cultural impressions (E.g., Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Hegel). Unfortunately, it's hard to do -- and even harder if you have little background in philosophy (and one problem here is that philosophy means different things in different places and not all are adequate training to deal with philosophy more generally).

It stinks when someone tells you you're wrong, but that doesn't mean they mean it personally.

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