It feels like the only acceptable questions I can write are those that fit to a narrow ideal outlined by the website administrators.

Why does it seem like there are many restrictions regarding asking questions?

  • 3
    I think opening the discussion of your question by asserting an answer without qualification might discourage people from participating. Perhaps you could consider rephrasing the question; what about "what is the purpose of a Philosophy stack exchange site, given the implicit background knowledge, beliefs and standards of participants that may not be accessible to an inquisitive audience asking questions?"
    – Paul Ross
    Jul 13, 2014 at 0:18
  • 3
    It can often be frustrating to fit your question to another's frame of reference, but it is often necessary in our world. It is worth putting in the effort to articulate your questions well, something which I am still working on.
    – yters
    Jul 13, 2014 at 2:25
  • I just want to say that I don't understand this place either. Philosophy asks questions that only lead to other questions. StackExchange is about questions that have answers. The two are wholly incompatible; hence the contradictions and frustrations of this forum. The OP's phrasing may not be artful; but I understand where he's coming from.
    – user4894
    Jul 13, 2014 at 4:12
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    @user4894 I don't think that's quite right... or rather if you ask the big philosophical questions, I agree there's no clear answers. But if you ask for say an interpretation of a passage or an explanation of a quote, many (not quite all) of those sorts of questions are answerable. I take those sorts of question to be useful. I think the bigger issue is that the word philosophy refers both to a professional discipline and to a popular concept of talking about non-practical things...
    – virmaior
    Jul 13, 2014 at 7:57
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    @felino Have you tried any of the other Q&A sites used for questions based in philosophy? e.g., answers.yahoo.com/dir/index?sid=396545231 quora.com/Philosophy answerbag.com/category/philosophy_535 Philsophy.SE is far more clearly geared towards people with an interest in academic philosophy, as its studied, which is a much more narrow field of interest than you may have been expecting. Also FWIW, rhetorical questions aren't a very good fit for this site in general.
    – Ryder
    Jul 13, 2014 at 8:56

2 Answers 2


This question is better addressed in meta as its not really a question about Philosophy but about the 'friendliness' of the site.

There are biases on this site; as many other sites will have; for example, I find myself frustrated by the inordinate attention that questions around mathematics enjoy, whereas there are many more important topics to discuss or subjects to raise; also its important to articulate your questions well - so that its easily understood by a wide and diverse audience; or if it is directed towards a specialist audience to use specialist jargon correctly.

I recall the Physicist Feynman when he was studying Physics in advance of his tutors developing a specialised language of his own - it took him a while to understand that standardised technical language is there for a reason - to facilitate communication in what is a demanding discipline; the same goes for philosophy; it too does have a technical vocabulary - and one should at least attempt to learn something of this language when one is asking questions in this subject.

But given the low visibility of philosophy in the Anglophone world (as opposed to the Francophone one) and due to the prominence of science as opposed to the humanities, particularly now which is an exceedingly technocratic age and on the web which by its very medium (McLuhans 'the medium is the message' comes to mind) tends to foreground the sciences and the physical & mathematical sciences in particular; and the well-publicised fight between them (the Science wars, which actually goes much further back if one is to judge by Snows two cultures and some of Simone Weils writings) this technical language isn't used much here (Philosophy according to Hawking is dead, for example).

Still it is possible (despite the obscurities of the Continental tradition) to ask questions in a clear way - one of the advantages of the anglo-analytical tradition (one might even call it a Socratic virtue) - without burdening oneself with a technical tradition.

If the question is unclear, then one is passing the burden onto someone else to make some sense of the question as well as answering it; this is different to a wide-ranging question which is difficult to answer as one doesn't know quite where to start.

Both of these difficulties can be gotten over, if one is prepared to ask and accept help in clarifying the question and/or focusing it.

  • Could you provide references to the claim that the Francophone world has a high visibility of philosophy compared to the Anglophone world? Oct 17, 2018 at 3:44

Take a look at some of the questions on meta which address the issues you raise. Note that a new user is not necessarily an amateur philosopher. We have new users who are already familiar with philosophy who fit right in rather quickly. The issue here primarily is with people who are new to philosophy and unaware as to how to phrase their question or narrow it sufficiently for this Q&A site.

Helping amateur philosophers (who often have difficulty with the format):

Are amateur users that have little knowledge about philosophy not “ideal” for philosophy.SE?
New to Philosophy and learning how to ask good questions
Summer of Love (of Wisdom): How to drive friendliness?

Veteran users having problems question quality (particularly from amateur philosophers):

Subjective answers and questions stimulating subjectiveness (subjectivity and lack of focus)
Do questions have to be answerable? (unreasonably answerable)
Should we restrict this site to academic questions only...? (a preference for 'academic' questions)

Options for other websites which may allow the ambiguous/open-ended/unfocused content Philosophy.SE does not:

What other sites are available for debating issues?

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