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I read this today in a comment on someone else's question-answer:

'Stack Exchange is not a network for exchanging opinions, but rather factual information. This answer essentially isn't more than stating your opinion. Please improve this question by providing references to philosophers supporting your theory (or delete your answer).'

I am curious how quoting others' opinions supports one owns opinions and does the sheer number of opinions one quotes eventually result in facts?

migrated from philosophy.stackexchange.com Mar 6 '15 at 4:16

This question came from our site for those interested in the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence.

  • Reading up on the social construction of reality may be relevant here. – R. Barzell Mar 5 '15 at 22:44
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Generally, renowned philosophers do not give opinions but produce arguments. Citing a philosopher is not supporting one's opinion with someone else's, it's refering to an argument in the literature.

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    Isn't that the same thing really? Isn't an argument in philosophy a structured approach to sharing opinions? Quoting them is really an indication you agree with the opinion/argument but what is the basis in facts? – zietho Mar 6 '15 at 6:11
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    No it's not the same except if you wish to interpret "opinion" in the most generic sense possible--then everything (including "scientific facts") is more or less structured opinion. But this view is uninteresting. If you take "opinion" in the commonly accepted sense of "unwarranted or non objective belief" then philosophy is very far from opinion sharing. It is a rational inquiry. – Quentin Ruyant Mar 6 '15 at 11:26
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    A rational enquiry that requires quoting others to defend an argument which turn quoted those before the. Originality requires an extremely good knowledge of ideas as they have been presented but I still don't see how quoting them strengthens an argument. It sounds more like idea archaeology than philosophy. I've read many undergraduate papers where half the tewxt is quotes and most teachers ask students to elaborate, analyse the ideas of others. The more sequentially relevant quotes the better the scholarship. – zietho Mar 6 '15 at 20:56
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    It's not very different in science: scientists reference each other because they build on past results. You wouldn't question the fact that past results strengthen their new work, and you wouldn't call it archeology. – Quentin Ruyant Mar 6 '15 at 22:24
  • That's a very good point. Interestingly many of the philosophers we quote don't often quote others. Are their thoughts foundational by virtue of the fact that they have been quoted a thousand thousand times since. That seems more like religion. – zietho Mar 7 '15 at 6:43
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    Again it's not very different from science: an undergraduate will "quote" (=use) Newton's equations a lot. Would you say it's like religion? A researcher will use recent work only. Same in philosophy. I think every argument you provided so far apply to science as well. – Quentin Ruyant Mar 7 '15 at 8:56
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    Back to the original question: asking a question on this forum which merely expresses an opinion with no reference to authors, would be like proposing a theory in a physics forum expressed in two sentences, with no background and ask "what do you think?". If you understand what's wrong with that, you can understand what's wrong with asking an opinion-based question with no reference here in philosophy. – Quentin Ruyant Mar 7 '15 at 9:07
  • Isn't the very concept of philosophy fundamentally opinion based? And how useful is it to say "I don't understand why morality is fundamentally subjective, but somewhere somebody understands it." Does that sound like a helpful attitude towards preserving the insights of philosophy? See meta.philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/2791/… – John Slegers May 9 '15 at 15:11
  • No, it's argument based. That makes a huge difference. The quote in your link is not about academic philosophy, but about "philosophy of life" or something. If you quote an argument on morality but don't get it, only take the conclusion for granted, you're not doing your philosophical job and that will transpire. No professional philosopher does this. – Quentin Ruyant May 9 '15 at 18:36
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I agree with quen_tin's answer, but since this is my comment I will also answer.

We study philosophy, we don't do philosophy.

First of all, you didn't quote the whole comment. I also added:

For more information, see this meta post.

And that link actually gives a very good overview. But anyway, I'll clarify myself:

The reason I write comments like this is that some questions, like this, are not a good fit for the SE format:

  • What's the purpose of life?
  • How should I act in this-and-that situation?

Because we don't do philosophy here. We discuss philosophy. Questions that do fit are:

  • Why does Kant say you should do this in that situation?
  • How would philosopher X respond to theorem Y?

The problem is that the first type of questions should be closed because they don't fit in the Q&A system (there's no one right answer), but they don't get closed quickly enough. We get many answers to these questions - mainly by new users who don't know that this type of answer is actually not the idea here.

For example, one may answer:

The purpose of life is to live for others. If you don't help others, what do you get satisfaction from? Humans are social beings, so it's very natural for us to live together with others and be there for them.

This does not help anyone in his personal study of philosophy. It is the statement of an opinion, but frankly we're not concerned with the opinion of every random person.

Sometimes, answers like this can be fixed in a way similar to this:

According to philosopher X, the purpose of life is to live for others (see this article he wrote). He writes:

If you don't help others, what do you get satisfaction from? Humans are social beings, so it's very natural for us to live together with others and be there for them.
– Philosopher X, book Y, Section A.B.C

However, often the person who wrote this answer actually doesn't know a philosopher with the same view - the answer is unsalvegable. This is why I so rigorously comment "(or delete your answer)".

I wrote more or less the same in this question: What can be done to get less rubbish answers?

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    That's it! We study but don't do philosophy. So who does philosophy. Is there a group for that? – zietho Mar 7 '15 at 6:45
  • By the way, I think the way the quote is written, postulates a system of knowledge and inference. It is doing philosophy and perhaps could have been made stronger with a few quotes from eminent philosophers. – zietho Mar 7 '15 at 6:50
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    @zietho please don't take me wrong. I'm not saying you, or anyone, is not good enough to do philosophy. In fact, I'd encourage anyone to practice philosophy! It's just that this website doesn't have the right format to do this, because of its strict Q&A style. – user2953 Mar 7 '15 at 7:55
  • As for groups, what about your friends? Philosophy course in school or university? – user2953 Mar 7 '15 at 7:58
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    The Aristotelian method of posing questions and answers is a form of philosophical enquiry. It is not about philosophy but is philosophy. – zietho Mar 7 '15 at 8:14
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    @zietho I encourage you to start your own Q&A platform where opinions are allowed. This is not the place for that though, which you can read in the help center. This is just the way it is. Sorry. – user2953 Mar 7 '15 at 8:16
  • The help centre says " This is a Q&A site for examining ideas and concepts in the field of philosophy. It's OK to have opinions (even those that might differ from the "mainstream"), but you need to express them in a constructive way. " – zietho Mar 7 '15 at 8:20
  • I am attempting to understand a little better the assertion that quoting others ideas is more scholarly... I am not quite sure why that doesn't apply here. – zietho Mar 7 '15 at 8:22
  • @zietho Have a look at this other help page - it specifically mentions you shouldn't answer questions that invite debate and opinions. – user2953 Mar 7 '15 at 8:25
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    Almost every question on this site seems to invite debate and opinions. If they didn't they wouldn't be worth asking. They would be questions that have a factual answer which can be answered on Wikipedia. . – zietho Mar 7 '15 at 8:29
  • @zietho yes, many good answers include opinions to some extent. Not to the extent we can't discuss which is the best answer anymore. See for example the example questions I have in my answer here. – user2953 Mar 7 '15 at 8:32
  • Sorry did you mean to put a link? I don't see the example. – zietho Mar 7 '15 at 8:34
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    @zietho unfortunately, many people don't. Especially new users. We try to close, improve, delete, etc. of course. Anyway, whether many people do this or not isn't really relevant. – user2953 Mar 7 '15 at 8:39
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    Isn't the very concept of philosophy fundamentally opinion based? And how useful is it to say "I don't understand why morality is fundamentally subjective, but somewhere somebody understands it." Does that sound like a helpful attitude towards preserving the insights of philosophy? See meta.philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/2791/… – John Slegers May 9 '15 at 15:11
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    @Kentaro I don't intend to discuss every question here. If you have a question about that question, start a new meta question. – user2953 May 9 '15 at 20:01
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does the sheer number of opinions one quotes eventually result in facts?

The number of quotes someone marshals in favour of a view has nothing to do with the truth or falsity of that view. It may have something to do with the persuasiveness of your argument, but that has little to do with truth or falsity.

One thing you might have in mind is that if a sufficient number of people agree about a particular view, then that view is true (i.e. the view is a fact). But that would be a poor theory of truth or facthood - there are plenty of cases in which the majority opinion about some view is not correct.

Sometimes philosophers will quote others to show that their position has historical antecedents, or is common (or uncommon!) in the literature. The most common use of quotes, however, is when discussing another philosopher's work (notice that this is what I did above!). This allows the audience to see directly the view that the author is talking about, and this gives the audience some meas reasons to think that the philosopher doing the quoting isn't misrepresenting the view in question. And there are other possibilities too (e.g. exegesis).

In your quote the author was reminding a user that their post didn't meet the standards the community requires of good posts. It's not that the author was making something a fact, rather they were pointing out that by posting on SE we accept certain norms regarding content of our posts, and that if we violate those norms we are subject to penalties, such as our posts being edited, removed, or otherwise moderated.

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