Expanding on this meta post about a "super question asking contest", what do you think about a contest where the objective is to ask questions about two competing philosophical theories/ideas?

More info:

  • The goal would be to ask and answer more questions about the side you believe in
  • Whichever side has the most page views at the end of the contest wins
  • The user who asked the top question and gave the top answer on each side also gets a prize
  • It would be kind of like this Call of Duty vs. Skyrim contest we just did on Gaming.SE

My questions for you are:

  • Do you like this idea? What changes (if any) would you make?
  • What two competing ideas should we use?
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    I would hate to foster debate over discussion, but this could be interesting if handled prudently. – Joseph Weissman Nov 16 '11 at 21:47
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    See with gaming the choices are easy because MW3 and Skyrim just came out, but philosophical theories don't often "just come out" and when they do there's not much people will be able to say about them. This means we need to survey all of philosophy, and that could take a while. determinism vs free will, maybe. I was going to suggest physicalism vs. dualism, but no one is really dualist anymore. I'll think some more on this. – stoicfury Nov 17 '11 at 5:18
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    @stoicfury yeah, you're right that theories don't "just come out" - that's the trouble with trying to come up with something that people will be excited about. Just throwing the idea out there, we definitely don't have to do it. I'm totally open to other ideas if you think there is something better we can do! – Lauren Nov 18 '11 at 14:28
  • @stoicfury I think we want to go ahead with this contest soon. You suggested determinism vs. free will earlier, do you think that's the best option? I'm fine with that, just don't know much about the topic so would like to get your input. – Lauren Dec 6 '11 at 15:34
  • @JosephWeissman would love to hear your thoughts as well. – Lauren Dec 6 '11 at 15:35
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    Rationalism versus empiricism might be my suggestion here. Just in passing I would suppose there is likely to be a significant amount of middle ground on any opposition we select here. – Joseph Weissman Dec 6 '11 at 15:46
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    Yes, Joseph is right. These issues all have middle grounds; there are positions which encompass both sides. The only question is to what extent each duality we suggest has a middle ground. I would be wary of rationalism vs. empiricism if only for that reason—very few (if any) people are strictly one way or another these days (i.e. most people are in the middle). That's not to say determinism vs. free will is free of middle-ground people (compatibilism et al.), but I imagine there will be less people there (i.e. a greater amout of people are on the ends, with only some in the middle). – stoicfury Dec 6 '11 at 19:39
  • @stoicfury comments are getting pretty long, so I wrote a new answer below – Lauren Dec 6 '11 at 20:06
  • @JosephWeissman also pinging you to get your thoughts on the idea outlined below – Lauren Dec 6 '11 at 20:06

In response to comments above, another option would be to have a contest where we choose two debates and see which one gets more questions. One could be determinism vs. free will, and the other could be rationalism vs. empiricism. The rules would be the same as above, but it would be much easier to draw a line between the two debates than between two sides of one debate. Thoughts?

Feel free to comment on this answer with suggestions for which debates to use.

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    Free will v. Determinism sounds good to me. Again, just in passing, it might also make sense to do philosopher-oriented, rather than concept-oriented, contests or drives as well (Spinoza week or something) – Joseph Weissman Dec 7 '11 at 4:08
  • @JosephWeissman: Agreed – stoicfury Dec 7 '11 at 4:46
  • @JosephWeissman That sounds like a great idea! A "which philosopher is more popular" kind of thing. So who should we use? (Not being a philosopher myself, I can't really make great suggestions) – Lauren Dec 7 '11 at 15:04
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    Just a student and not a philosopher either (by any stretch) but some of the most "popular" tend to be: Nietzsche, Kant, Wittgenstein, Derrida, Descartes, Hegel, and perhaps Spinoza. I would also like to see some perhaps "minor" figures as well -- like Bergson, Hume, etc. – Joseph Weissman Dec 7 '11 at 15:25
  • @JosephWeissman great suggestions! See my answer below. – Lauren Dec 7 '11 at 16:11
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    Hume = "minor"? haha. He is very, very major (he was an influence to Kant!). Aristotle(/Plato/Socrates) and Locke should be in there as well. I never even heard of Derrida until I started reading these boards. Wittgenstein and Hegel are up there, but they are no Kant/Locke/Hume/Aristotle/Descartes. – stoicfury Dec 8 '11 at 4:20

As suggested above, probably the best option we've come up with so far is Philosopher Week. We'll designate one philosopher each week, and all questions asked that week relating to that person will be entered into a random drawing to win a prize.

We'll announce the philosopher each week on meta, and people can feel free to make suggestions and vote on who to feature the following week.

Sound ok?

(Apologies for answering my own question twice, the comment threads were just getting pretty long.)

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  • This sounds great. Another thing that occurs to me is that we could try to setup or facilitate reading and discussion groups to help generate questions – Joseph Weissman Dec 7 '11 at 18:42

In terms of "famousness"; how widespread their influence was and the extent to which their works have been read as part of philosophical studies, I think:

tier 1: Aristotle Descartes Locke Kant Hume

tier 2: Spinoza Berkeley John-Stuart-Mill Leibniz Hegel Wittgenstein Nietzsche Satre

tier 3: Foucault Chalmers Dennett Fodor Nagel Heidegger Husserl

I should also point out this is very Western-philosopher heavy. You could add Sun Tzu, Confucius, et al. in there, but while famous they may be less studied in general. In my college, for example, I didn't learn about any of those until I took a specific course on Asian philosophy. Even intro didn't cover them. I have no idea what percentage of people go out of their way to take those courses, or whether that divide exists everywhere else too, etc.

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  • +1, the tiered system and the particular selections do strike me as a bit odd but I guess we have different notions of major and minor thinkers -- Hegel, Husserl, Heidegger seem much more "major" than Hume to me, but I may just be quirky :) I might suggest starting another question where we can suggest and vote on the first "thinker of the week" – Joseph Weissman Dec 8 '11 at 14:54
  • The point about Asian and other philosophical traditions is critical. We should at least make a goodfaith effort not to unduly focus on Western thought – Joseph Weissman Dec 8 '11 at 14:56
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    @JosephWeissman how about we start with Aristotle, since I think we can all agree that he is in tier 1. Then we can announce the event on meta on Monday with all the details lined up, and ask for people to make suggestions there. Then the person with the most votes at the end of each week can become the following week's "thinker"? – Lauren Dec 8 '11 at 18:51
  • That sounds great, @Lauren -- if the right honorable stoicfury concurs I think we may be good to go :) – Joseph Weissman Dec 8 '11 at 21:19
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    Haha, sounds awesome, let's do it! :) – stoicfury Dec 8 '11 at 22:06
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    @JosephWeissman about to announce this, any thoughts on what the prize should be? I was thinking a book about the philosopher of that week, but open to suggestions. – Lauren Dec 12 '11 at 15:34
  • A stone bust of the philosopher! ...or a book... :P – stoicfury Dec 12 '11 at 16:01
  • haha if only! I went ahead and posted the contest here. Let me know if you want to change anything. @JosephWeissman – Lauren Dec 12 '11 at 16:49

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