Building on an earlier post about voting (early and often), I wanted to reach out and get some thoughts from the community on how to increase the utilization of the 'ask question!' button by a larger cross-section of our user base.

So a large part of my question here is about how we tempt more students of philosophy in particular to ask more of their actual questions that arise from their philosophy study and work?

Now, to be clear I am certainly not suggesting posting seed questions or anything like that -- the goal as always should be specific problems you are facing in the study of philosophy, which invite answers that make you better at your job (studying philosophy). But please keep in mind that, even though it is sometimes difficult to formulate a good question, the community is here to help flesh it out.

The central point I think I am trying to express is to encourage more of you that are actively engaged in philosophical study to share your questions as well as answers with us.

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    I guess most of us are just deluded in thinking that was have all the answers :P But the main thing for me is (in terms of asking questions) that I find this site only useful for generating ideas for research or as a method of introducing theories I've personally developed. In all other instances, if I have a question I'll just search through peer-reviewed academic databases and online literature which will tend to give a more neutral POV and have more well-supported claims. The standard Q&A format is not necessarily the best fit for philosophy in some ways, it seems.
    – stoicfury
    Commented Aug 26, 2011 at 5:06
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    @stoicfury: I don't think you've described a problem with the Q&A format. In fact, I think the case you described is where the Q&A format is ideal. In my eyes, the shortcoming you describe is chiefly one of our user base; i.e., there aren't enough expert users to provide you with the type of answers that you're looking for, forcing you to dig through academic databases yourself. That's one of the things that this site could replace, much as Stack Overflow replaced tediously digging through computer documentation, etc. Commented Aug 26, 2011 at 6:14
  • I don't think it is a terrible idea to consider 'seed' questions. Of course one may not care as much as the asker. One can seed by being inspired by similar questins at other sites like askphilosophers.com.
    – Mitch
    Commented Aug 27, 2011 at 17:53
  • @Mitch, I strongly disagree. The point of SE is getting expert answers to actual questions you face in your work; lifting unoriginal questions from other sites with different formats is not going to help us get moving in the right direction. (If they are your own questions, and you didn't get a useful answer on other sites, go for it -- but please don't just grab other peoples questions and dump them here.) I'm just trying to encourage those of you engaged in a formal study of philosophy to consider sharing your interesting questions as well as excellent answers with us.
    – Joseph Weissman Mod
    Commented Aug 27, 2011 at 17:59
  • @Joseph: I understand. I'm not sure I would go to the length to do 'seeding', I was just pursuing the idea to see where it would go. And I think you've convinced me that it is not a good idea. But I think 'work' is a bit strong...I think one can come up with very interesting philosophical questions without being motivated academically. These 'lay' situations may have been well articulated already, but also may not be.
    – Mitch
    Commented Aug 27, 2011 at 20:35
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    @Cody: Hmm, I'm less certain. :\ Again, I agree a solid user base can help focus ones ideas or explore area in an emerging theory. But with typical questions, even with a massive base of expert users no one will answer your question as thoroughly and clearly as an academic article will. People spend years researching and writing academic papers; no one spends years researching and writing answers to SE questions.
    – stoicfury
    Commented Aug 28, 2011 at 19:21

1 Answer 1


I'm not sure I quite agree with the "ask early and often" notion; actually, I think I'd prefer fewer, better questions. Too many of the questions lately seem to be things that could be cleared up with a simple visit to Wikipedia or the SEP; I get depressed when I see people asking questions without even attempting the simplest research.

My question is: how can we encourage better questions?

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    +1 totally agree with you, if you want to attract experts, than sorting questions by votes should show good questions of modern philosophy and not mainly questions on limits of math, god, religion as now. Why should a philosophy or physics student participate here with so many speculative questions. The only way imo is a nonlinear voting system discuss.area51.stackexchange.com/q/2733/38770 average questions can still be asked, but as it is now, good questions yield not very much upvotes as the majority seems not interested in questions on phil. of mind/science/lang. in mod. philosophy Commented Aug 29, 2011 at 14:01

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