Shouldn't a question only be put on hold or be closed after a certain amount of downvotes, not a gorup of people deciding to close the question?


The short answer is simply that the way you describe is not currently how the system is set up. A handful of people with a certain amount of standing (reputation), or elected moderators, are given the right to put questions on hold as a way to promote quality content.

See also: https://philosophy.stackexchange.com/help/closed-questions

  • I think this is misleading as an answer as it stands, since it implies that what lacks quality is the question that is being put on hold. – Paul Ross Aug 13 '14 at 9:05
  • @stoicfury, what I am asking is why is this process (quality control) not undertaken by the entire community on the website? Why are the 'handful of people' (even with their reputation) able to make decisions that everyone should be able to partake in? – user8669 Aug 13 '14 at 15:21
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    @user8669 I'm not sure what you are getting at; the privilege to cast close votes can be obtained by an unlimited number of community members — you just need to earn 500 reputation first, which is really not hard at all. Currently, that's 119 users on this site, but only a small "handful" are still active at any real level. – stoicfury Aug 14 '14 at 6:34
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    @PaulRoss I don't understand your objection; the ONLY reason we put questions on hold is because of quality control. The question is either a duplicate of an existing question, off-topic, unclear, too broad, or "primarily opinion-based". I actually had also written what you wrote your answer in mine as well (to prevent premature answers) but I removed it because that's really only a secondary reason — we would never put a question on hold merely because of that. The primary reason is that as formed the question is in some way not a good fit for the site. – stoicfury Aug 14 '14 at 6:37
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    @stoicfury, the problem is the loaded nature of "quality". As I mentioned in my answer, asking particularly clear and focused questions is part of philosophical training. By closing questions purely on the grounds controlling quality of questions, you lock out people who haven't received this training from participating. Now, if you want to insist on Philosophy SE as a kind of Graduate School, where people who are already familiar with most of the tools of the trade are the ones asking questions, that's fine, but I don't think that's realistic on such a public forum as this. – Paul Ross Aug 14 '14 at 7:29
  • @stoicfury I think here's an example case where closure pending discussion would have been an appropriate response, but nobody (as of the time of this comment) has yet voted to close it and it's already attracted a couple of very cheap answers: philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/15181/… . The user clearly is looking for philosophical discussions of Chaos theory, but the best contribution so far has been the comment linking to a relevant SEP article and prompting further discussion. – Paul Ross Aug 14 '14 at 7:45
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    Your "Graduate School" example is a bit exaggerated but it is in fact categorically true: Our standards do indeed require some initial "training" of sorts, except it's not really training in philosophy so much as training in how to (a) write lucid questions which are (b) on-topic and (c) sufficiently narrowed so as to be reasonably answerable. Only (b) requires any actual understanding of philosophy, and only a basic one at that. (a)+(c) are what people more often have difficulty with here, but there's little we can do but help on a per case basis, I think. – stoicfury Aug 14 '14 at 8:53
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    @stoicfury if questions can be put on hold or closed on a quality basis, there must be a rule that after editing (either by the author or anybody else) to a sufficient extent (or else deletion by the author),mother question must be reopened.mImhave had terrible experiences where my question was put on hold, I tried to improve and reword it, but no one paid attention to my goodwill efforts to 'fix' my question. As for the 'too broad' classification: philosophy is broad naturally. It is not math or science where there are specific questions and specific answers. – user8669 Aug 14 '14 at 10:22
  • Ping the people who closed it or a mod if you believe your edits make your post eligible for reopening ("@stoicfury - check my edits! :)"). Note that this is automatically done for everyone when you add a comment on a post they've already commented on, but sometimes things do slip through the cracks (hence why the OP needs be proactive sometimes). With regard to your last comment, this site was originally designed for academic philosophy which does have very specific questions and answers. It's not really for doing philosophy, although we do allow it with sufficient focus and development. – stoicfury Aug 14 '14 at 14:59
  • But isn't asking questions about philosophy (unless it's the nitty-gritty who said what in which year) the same as doing philosophy? – user8669 Aug 14 '14 at 22:01
  • @user8669 - That's an interesting philosophical proposition right there in itself, but generally we would say that they are very different concepts. For example, we make a distinction between people asking questions like "What did Hegel mean when he wrote X?" or "What would an Act Utilitarian do in Y scenario?" and questions like, "What is the meaning of life?" / "Do people have the right to complain?" / "Is it immoral to illegally download music?". The distinction being that you can look up the answers in a book on one hand vs. what usually ends up being a bunch of rambling opinions. (1/2) – stoicfury Aug 15 '14 at 0:36
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    The creators of this website desire a certain level of factuality to the content they host; they want questions and factual answers, not questions and unsourced rants. We do what we can here to respect these goals while also allowing a great deal of "wiggle room" as long as the question is (a) clear and (b) sufficiently focused so that the answers — as unsourced and opinionated as they are — remain generally all in line with one another to a certain extent. The question example about downloading music is my own in fact and a good example. (2/2) – stoicfury Aug 15 '14 at 0:49
  • The question about morality of downloading music seems to me to be an opinion question. I am no sure how it can be considered factual. – user8669 Aug 25 '14 at 10:03
  • If you read the question body you'll see it's actually much narrower than that in that it attempts to follow a series of conclusions to the furthest point possible and essentially asks whether the conclusion is wrong. "Is it immoral to negatively affect someone's potential wealth?" I suggest that it is "ridiculous to think so", but invite others to contest my logical deduction. Again, the point is that it's not "factuality" per se but a sufficiently narrowed focus that matters. The community decides what is OK and what is not, and the votes are the indicator. (1/2) – stoicfury Aug 26 '14 at 4:24
  • The same goes for questions like this, this, this, and many others... (2/2) – stoicfury Aug 26 '14 at 4:26

A big reason to put questions on hold early is to stop people submitting premature answers. Questions asked without much experience of philosophical argumentation, particularly of the terminology, concepts or logical technologies that have tended to be used in philosophy, sometimes need a little support to help work them into a form that invites strong answers. Otherwise, people might be tempted (and I know I particularly fall prey to this temptation myself) to submit answers to the questions in the form that they've been asked, rather than in response to what it is that the asker might really like to know.

Questions are put on hold whenever it seems like there is some uncertainty as to exactly what the question is asking, so that discussion can take place to help resolve that uncertainty in some way before others try to capitalize on it with cheap and smug answers.

  • Paul, thank you for your answer. The problem is that even when I try multiple times to edit and improve my question (after it was put on hold), I do not get a response and certainly the question does not get reopened. I suggest making a rule that a question put on hold must be edited by either the author or the people who put it on hold (or else deleted-- but only by the author). If any party is no satisfied with the edit(s), the process can be repeated as many times as necessary. – user8669 Aug 13 '14 at 15:17
  • @user8669, I think one of the reasons for this may simply be a lack of users of the site who would have enough expertise in particular fields of philosophical inquiry to help supervise you through working up your question. The site is run by volunteers and a community, so there's not much incentive for professional academics to contribute when they have their own students to help train! That's unfortunately just a problem with running a Q&A site on fields as deep in literature as the many philosophical topics. – Paul Ross Aug 13 '14 at 19:19
  • @user8669 I know for my part I tend to keep a close eye on questions that have been explicitly tagged in fields I have some academic training in, so maybe good use of tagging might be a way to encourage people to help you out with your question? Have a look at what kinds of tags people are using in the tag lists, what kinds of questions are similar to yours, and see if you can slot your query in with others like it. And when in doubt, just add another tag; the worst that will happen is a mod will remove it! – Paul Ross Aug 13 '14 at 19:22
  • Paul, if there is a deficit of professionals in fields pertaining to the questions asked, those questions should not be closed in the first place. Only a professional can deem a question 'bad' or wrongly (unclearly) phrased. Those 'professionals' who close questions should be willing to edit and improve them! – user8669 Aug 14 '14 at 0:01
  • Questions have to be clear enough to be understood by users of the site. If you ask an esoteric question that is technically well-formed but no one else in the world understands it, functionally that is the same as asking a poorly formed question which will be closed. In practice however, this never happens; we have a lot of bright people here, and if 5 people close vote your question then it's probably a pretty good indicator that there's something wrong with it and not simply a failure of their intellects. If you think a question should be reopened after edits, post it in META or ping a mod. – stoicfury Aug 14 '14 at 6:47
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    I really do want to stress that we do not put questions on hold because we are bent on making people suffer on the internet. We just want to maintain certain levels of quality on the site using standards the community has been using successfully for a long time now. In time the community's stance on certain things may change over time, but that's up to the community. I personally do try to edit questions as best I can before I put them on hold, but some are just so unclear they need clarification from the author. But the network will never force people to edit first, and we can't change that. – stoicfury Aug 14 '14 at 7:00

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