Greeting, fellow lovers of wisdom!

I apologize for the length, but this is an important topic that has come up repeatedly, one that has never been completely addressed, and I feel the site has come to a point where it needs to before we can progress further (i.e. out of Beta). On that note, the good news — this site is very steadily growing in activity. It has been a long Beta for us, but it's understandable given the topic of the site and the format we are trying our best to adhere to. Despite these challenges, we have seen increasing growth over the years (esp. in the last year):

growth chart

Most of this growth comes from traffic from search engines (only 5% is direct traffic); people are finding this site and creating new accounts in order to participate in our discussions. With this, however, we have had an increase in the amount of "subjective" questions, which don't fully align with what we have historically been trying to achieve (a more academic-style Q&A site).

The Way Things Are Now

Currently, we try to keep questions on this site academic-style while being as liberal (generous, as least restrictive as possible) with regard to borderline questions. For answers we will tend to ask for citations/references for things which are not clearly established lines of thought in philosophy. This tends to be more difficult for novice users of the site, and thus may in turn explain why our growth is not as explosive as other sites on the network.

However, we do allow subjective questions when they are posed as more of a "What do major philosophical schools think about X?" For example, the title of this question asked recently, Ought we respect the privacy of the deceased? to me falls into the very subjective category. Indeed, the answers (as of now) are all also very opinion-based (or locality-based) and do not reference specific philosophical expertise. However, the body poses the question in a format we have come to allow as an acceptable compromise: asking specifically for what established philosophers and schools of thought would say about the issue (i.e., what the tag is for). This still isn't the "one question, one real answer" scenario we'd like to aim for on this site, but at least the multiple answers should all be referencing specific expertise and not simply people's own personal rants on the matter. It also falls questionably close to polling. However, I think it would be somewhat tedious to force users to post multiple questions to get the same broad understanding, for example:

  • What does Kant think with regard to respecting the privacy of the deceased?
  • What does Hegel think with regard to respecting the privacy of the deceased?
  • What does Aristotle think with regard to respecting the privacy of the deceased?
  • What do the Stoics think with regard to respecting the privacy of the deceased?
  • What does Buddhist philosophy think with regard to respecting the privacy of the deceased?

... and so on and so forth. I think most of us accept that asking people to do that would be unreasonable, so we allow it. We can decide to ban those reference-request/"survey the field"-type questions completely and stay as true as possible to the Q&A vision, but most of us agree that there is some value in those questions, especially for newcomers to particular topics.

Unfortunately, what it often comes down to then for any particular question is how skilled in philosophy/writing someone is; are they skilled enough to pose their question in an objective manner with a relatively narrow scope? New users may not always have this skill, so they seem to get hurt by our restrictions the most, curbing potential growth as we close their questions continually.

The Way Things Can Be In The Future

The goal in the end is building a database of knowledge and wisdom in as clear a manner as possible. On the one hand, a large group of users prefer well-defined questions with a single, specific answer (indeed, like the Q&A format was intended) and not a huge collection of random opinions where no one of them is truly "correct". Another subset desires the freedom to ask questions perhaps not fully grounded in existing literature, more as a survey of people opinions on the matter.

We have to decide how we want to proceed.

  1. We can be stricter with regard to the subjectivity/specificity of the question. No more reference requests. All questions must reference specific literature and answers must cite literature to remain on the site.

  2. We can continue down our path now, skirting this hazy line of what's too subjective and what's not, and not really being able to provide a precise definition in our FAQ with regard to what we are looking for and having to constantly go through review queues to edit, delete, and close questions which do not meet our unclear guidelines.

  3. We can figure out a way to allow subjective questions as long as they are well defined and don't overwhelm the users who don't want to see them.

I think #1 would drive away a lot of our traffic (which may prevent us from ever leaving beta). Also, some of our most popular questions are very subjective, just well-posed and clearly defined. The point is thus that they can work, when done right. I think #2 (the status-quo) is not really working. We do need more people reviewing questions, another moderator or two would be helpful since I'm the only one really active lately. But as traffic grows, option #2 becomes increasingly unfeasible as our only solution is then to fight fires as they come and add more reviewers. I think we need to think of how we can do #3.

Making Better Use of The Tags

Personally, I think we can take advantage of the tag system more than we have. Did you know you can select specific tags to hide from the front page, or add favorite tags to filter only what you want? We could come up with a tag for questions, which could then be filtered by those who like those types of questions and those who do not. A lot of people don't realize this nifty feature of the site:

tag preferences

Would developing a system like this be a reasonable compromise? The advantage is that this would remove all our problems with closing and editing questions which are on the subjective side, and leave the moderators and reviewers to do what they were meant to do in the first place: improve for clarity. It would also foster growth in an area where we have historically pushed people away from. Lastly, it will help users out tremendously with regard to their preference for subjective vs non-subjective questions, because those who don't want to see subjective questions currently do see them (and vice versa). The tag filters allow users to choose exactly what they want to see. But I'm sure this is not the only way we could do it:... What other things could we do to solve these issues?

I really want to make this a community for all to enjoy, although being an INTJ programmer/philosopher, I am super logical and detest a lack of clarity. I don't want this site to be like any of the dozens of philosophy forums where people drone on about their opinions and all the good answers get lost in the muck. We need a way to moderate and control it. But I think we can find a solid middle ground, a place for people here who do want to do a bit of philosophy that can be of benefit to the thousands of people who come to this site each day. A lot of people do not use Philosophy.SE because of our format, despite them being interested in philosophy. I think that's a great shame; I would really like to be able to welcome those people back and make this place the premier place on the web to get answers to philosophical questions anyone might have, regardless of whether or not they are skilled enough to frame them objectively.

Let me know what you guys and gals think about all this. I think we can make this work for everyone if we come together. :)

Nathan // Stoicfury

See also:

Is this site for doing philosophy or discussing philosophy?

Should this site be restricted to academic answers only?

Should we restrict this site to academic questions only, or target a more casual audience?

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

  • 1
    For what it's worth: I will commit to pulling my weight a bit more!
    – Joseph Weissman Mod
    Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 1:39
  • IMO, it's too difficult to gain reputation, which deters participation.If reputation is only relatively meaningful, it's relative to other members of this stack, and across the site.We're a growing stack, so we can expect more members whose most informative comparate is other stacks. In regard to it being difficult to gain.Philosophical answers more often require (often protracted) defense.There's also more disagreement about what qualifies as a good answer, and so there are fewer upvotes. IMO, either encourage questions we can answer briefly or bump up the rewards for up votes and acceptance.
    – Hal
    Commented Mar 19, 2015 at 17:22
  • 1
    @Hal - Why would it matter if it's too difficult to gain reputation if it is equally so for everyone here? I don't see how that deters participation in anyone other than people who only participate in stack sites solely to be a high-rep user (which isn't probably best reason to join a site anyways). I agree with your statements in general regarding the slower rep gain but I just don't see it as a problem.
    – stoicfury
    Commented Mar 19, 2015 at 19:12
  • @stoicfury "If reputation is only relatively meaningful, it's relative to other members of this stack, and across the site.**We're a growing stack, so we can expect more members whose most informative comparate is other stacks.**" In other words: We're new, so we'll have more new users (provided we're growing). New users won't know how much a point of rep is worth here, so they're more likely to compare it to what they think rep is worth generally, across sites.
    – Hal
    Commented Mar 19, 2015 at 21:30
  • We could reward people for voting. Instead of just getting 2 rep for accepting - give people some rep for up voting (to a max of x/day).
    – Hal
    Commented Mar 19, 2015 at 21:36
  • 2
    More to the point of this post. IMO, subjective questions are a pain in the ass. "Ought we respect the privacy of the deceased" ought to have been something like "What are the arguments for and against respect for the privacy of the deceased?"
    – Hal
    Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 0:08
  • I might not be answering to your....inquiry, I found this site the most fun. Since I do not have any intention to obtain the reputation, I kind of agree to anything. However though, that would not mean there could be anything written here, but should be written according to some standard. Though setting the standard itself is quite ambiguous, so, I think, should we not judge the criteria or degree ..... case by case?
    – user13955
    Commented Mar 21, 2015 at 11:22
  • 2
    @KentaroTomono - Well that's what we do now and will have to do in the future (take each question case by case). We just have to establish the standard more clearly, which is what I'm trying to do here. :)
    – stoicfury
    Commented Mar 27, 2015 at 23:44
  • Maybe there is something to be gained by considering how Physics SE treats "soft questions": physics.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/soft-question
    – Dave
    Commented Apr 10, 2015 at 17:39
  • My removal of the tag here is primarily to indicate that this post isn't in current review by the staff of the site. If this is still an issue y'all are experiencing, please feel free to continue discussion.
    – Catija
    Commented Feb 14, 2023 at 21:30

5 Answers 5


My two cents: even for questions that are phrased in a subjective way, what ends up mattering more on this site is whether answers are given in an objective or subjective manner. I can imagine, for example, a philosophy professor posing many "subjective" questions we get on this site, but clearly the response the professor would expect would be "objective" in the sense that it would be reasonably well informed, citing references, consider different sides fairly (i.e., not misconstruing another side's argument, intentionally or not), etc. That is the sort of approach I would hope to see.

For new users to the site who aren't comfortable answering questions in this manner, I would hope part of the reason they are here is to get better at communication. Improving communication of users was a stated goal of the invention of Stack Overflow after all.

There are subjective questions where this is hard to do. If it's too broad, then the answers are going to talk past each other, and that's no fun. If it's someone pushing one's personal philosophy, then they're probably not trying to approach with an open mind, so answering would be a waste of time.

Specifically, what makes a good objective answer to a subjective question? I agree with much of the content here, including this quote:

While philosophers do not agree among themselves on either the range of proper philosophical questions or the proper methods of answering them, they do agree that merely expressing one’s personal opinions on controversial topics like these is not doing philosophy. Rather, philosophers insist on the method of first attaining clarity about the exact question being asked, and then providing answers supported by clear, logically structured arguments.

Let me give a specific example. The following question is taken from an MIT OpenCourseware philosophy assignment:

Is there an answer to the question of what constitutes personal identity?

This is subjective in the sense that there are many points of view to it, but a good answer will:

  1. Cite multiple points of view (ideally a representative sampling, not three points of view that are basically the same).
  2. Have a charitable interpretation of the different points of view (that is, for the points of view that one would disagree with, present it in the best possible light, or in a light one who agrees with it would present it in.)
  3. Have references to anything that isn't obvious.

As to the question of how to get new users used to this, I'm not sure. One approach is to give feedback to new users to help them understand why their answer, even if some people might agree with it, isn't very good. I've generally tried this approach, but I'm not sure how effective it is. We could try to update the site docs, but I don't think new comers really bother reading it. Another approach would be that we spend more time curating old questions and come up with a corpus of "ideal questions," and point new users at them as the ideal way to ask and answer questions on the site. I don't know if this last approach will work, but I'm not sure it's been tried either.

  • I'm happy to see some more input. How do you think we should encourage (new) users to write objective answers (especially if the question strictly doesn't require objectiveness)?
    – user2953
    Commented Mar 19, 2015 at 8:42
  • Asymmetry between standards for questions and answers allows for what I might call 'soft trolling'. People ask casual questions to provoke philosophically serious responses or to share their concept of the devine in ways that are not grounded to systematic thought. Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 2:12
  • Perhaps I should clarify: I'm not arguing that we should just go wide open and let any sort of subjective question whatsoever. Instead, what I'm suggesting is we look first at what makes a good, objective answer, then we look at what sort of questions lead to such answers. Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 16:48
  • Re. Updating the docs: I think this may be helpful, not because people read them by themselves, but because we could refer to them. I don't know how many times I've had to comment several times to explain the point why someone's answer was not so good. So, may be a good idea to have one canonical post for this.
    – user2953
    Commented Mar 31, 2015 at 7:51
  • On RPG.SE we just leave new users comments on non-obvious desired behavior, with a link to a meta post explaining why we do that, in a nice and friendly manner. Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 0:29

Let me start with thanking you for taking the time to gather information, sum up the problems we're currently facing as a community, and for writing this question.

As you write, we're a site of increasing popularity. We can only continue if there is a proper consensus among the vast 'core' community - the people who are around most, also in the review queues. New users are to be taught by example by that core, since if not, they are not taught in any way, and the ideas of the community would fluctuate heavily.
I am primarily talking about a consensus concerning what are good questions and answers.

You have described three different ways in which we can now decide to continue: a stricter path, a freer path, and trying to continue the tricky path we're on now.

Option 1

I don't think there are many people (anyone?) who would argue we should not allow questions of the form "What do major philosophical schools think about X?". I will not discuss that path now but may edit this if later appears users actually want to prohibit these questions.

Option 2

I believe this option is feasible iff there is a strong consensus among the core users. For example, I have been adding comments on questions of the form "Is X true?" where X is some question major philosophical schools disagree about. I would much rather edit these questions to the form "What do major philosophical schools think about X?", but cannot do this now, because without a strong consensus on which form is better these edits would be deemed to change the intentions of the author.

If we would have such a consensus we could edit these questions and many of the problems we're facing now would not be there anymore. But indeed, this would mean we need more people to review and edit. I have taken a look at the Close Votes Review statistics and saw that many users don't seem to review. Also activity on Meta is much lower than on other sites. Whether new moderators would be useful is something best decided by the moderators, I believe, but I think elections aren't usually held for sites in beta.

Option 3

There are some major problems with subjective questions and answers in the current Q&A format.

  • There is no one right answer. Which answer should be accepted? The one the OP likes most?

  • The accepted answer will appear the highest in the results. When people come from search engines they may think that the opinions stated in that answer are generally agreed upon. When questions are of the form "What do major philosophical schools think about X?", you don't have this problem, because answers will unambiguously show that there are different opinions about this.

  • We should take care not to drift away from the SE network too much. In one of the SE podcasts (#61, 29:00) the idea of removing comments after a certain time, like a week. Comments would be meant to improve the post. Useful information should be added to the post, and the comments can disappear.
    Nobody really wants this anymore, but suppose something like this would change: subjective posts heavily really on comments since that's where the real discussion happens.
    If we drift away from the SE network, new changes may have a significant, negative effect on the user experience on this site.

  • Subjective questions never end: new users will come continuously and add their own answers to these questions. But in fact the users who at the time the question was asked participated in the discussions, are now long gone and the discussion is dead. We can't discuss with them anymore.

It has been argued that subjectivity can work fine because it works fine on other sites like Programmers.SE. This site is quite different from Programmers though. With Programmers you're talking about things that can often be measured, calculated and compared (like time and space complexity). With philosophy, that's a little different since different doctrines use different dogmas and axioms.

Our options, in short

There are serious problems with allowing subjective questions in a Q&A format. I would like to change them into questions of the form "What do major philosophical schools think about X?" - questions of which can be said what is the best answer.

This way, we don't lose questions, but gain quality.

We can continue down the current path if we manage to create consensus on how to edit subjective answers to a format that works.

But yes, we should look for ways to let users discuss their own ideas

Because apparently they really want. As said before, I don't believe in doing this with questions and answers. Also if we would tag these questions with , many of the problems listed above still apply, for example that subjective questions never end. (Besides, meta tags were officially discouraged in 2010).

Perhaps we could use chat for discussions. I really want this to stand out more than just bold, so here it is:


One chatroom for every topic / field. This has many advantages:

  • It's faster. You don't have to wait for the system to send you a notification, etc.
  • Discussions can be as long as you want (whilst already 50 comments is often too much)
  • We have factual information and discussion clearly separated. When users come from search engines they find the main site, and get the actual information. They are not misinformed by an opinion-based answer which they then think is agreed upon by all philosophical doctrines.
  • We are conform the SE format, since chat is actually meant "for less structured, casual (but still roughly on-topic) conversation".

It also has some disadvantages (but we can work around that):

  • Chat is harder to find. How do we guide new users looking for a discussion to chat?

    → Solution: link to the appropriate chatroom(s) from questions of the form "What do major philosophical schools think about X?", and obviously simply invite new users when they seem to be looking for discussion.

  • Users need 20 points to enter chat.

    → Solution A: on Electronics.SE the 10 points needed to post images was reduced to the minimum 1 because many questions rely heavily on circuit diagrams. We could perhaps lower the points required for this privilege.
    → Solution B: don't change anything, just ask new users to write an answer or question somewhere. Questions like "What do major philosophical schools think about X?" are not difficult to ask. Note: this requires the community to vote more, so that reputation is earned more quickly.


  • We change subjective questions asked on the main site to ask for the ideas of different schools.

    • That way, we don't lose questions but can still be a knowledge base.
  • We instantiate one or more chatrooms for users who would like to participate in discussion.

    • We link to these chatrooms from the main site, so that it's easy to find.
    • If possible, we could discuss lowering the reputation required to talk in chat.

If we use the site like this, we use the features of the SE format in the way that they are meant, meaning that we don't have to worry about future changes in the format. We have a place for the knowledge base and a place for discussion and the two are clearly separated, so that no confusion is caused.

I hope we can make such a compromise so that everyone will be happy to keep hanging around.

Note: I'd like to try to revive the old chatroom The Symposion as The Salon - you're all most welcome.

  • RE: Top Users Not Reviewing This is just personal preference for people. We all spend only a portion of our time here and we can't force people to review if they don't want to. Our top rep user actually has been deceased for a while now he can't review. I spend all my time combating flags. Some people just want the review badge and then stop. Everyone has their own reasons; we just have to accept that of the increase in members we get over time, only a portion of them will be active reviewers.
    – stoicfury
    Commented Mar 15, 2015 at 19:53
  • RE: Changing Subjective Q's to Reference Requests The problem with this is then we need to be much stricter with regard to what answers we accept to these questions. I'm fine with that, but people will need to cite their answers unless what they are claiming is well-known and well-established within a particular area of thought. Editing/reviewing as you claim is problematic, I see this as being too much. In fact, even moving all subjective questions TO this kind of wording/format I think will be a pain. (1/2)
    – stoicfury
    Commented Mar 15, 2015 at 19:54
  • Take this question for example. If we establish this as the official road we take, all but 2, maybe 3 of 31 answers would have to be removed. I think though that there is some good content there, and the question is obviously one on people's mind. Why not make room for these types of questions if we can? (2/2)
    – stoicfury
    Commented Mar 15, 2015 at 19:54
  • RE: Meta tags discouraged I had not seen this before, good to note. I'm wondering if we could get an exception in our case, as philosophy is naturally very subjective (part of the reason why a lot of people don't like it and think it's "wishy-washy").
    – stoicfury
    Commented Mar 15, 2015 at 19:55
  • 1
    RE: Chat I've always tried to get people to use chat to ask their subjective questions. I am totally down for implementing a chat solution except that rooms will get deleted if they lack activity. This means creating new chatrooms for each new subjective question asked won't work, unless we are ok with losing all that content. Further, if we have rooms for each major field of philosophy, we'll get a lot of duplicate questions anyways because people won't search through the whole room's history just for their question. If we have enough users using it, maybe that's ok though. (1/2)
    – stoicfury
    Commented Mar 15, 2015 at 19:57
  • Lastly, it's also just really hard to get people to use it and the functionality is not optimal because new users are not immediately aware of how to get there. The Community Bulletin might be a way to make people aware of what chats are available, as it's displayed fairly prominently for people to see. The chat system isn't really setup well for sitting in multiple rooms (basically you can only do it with tabs in your browser). But people may not want to have 5 different chat tabs open and have to cross-communicate all the time. So maybe one room is best? (2/2)
    – stoicfury
    Commented Mar 15, 2015 at 19:57
  • @stoicfury Top users not reviewing - absolutely, agreed. I didn't so much want to tell people to review more but rather point out this is one of the problems we're facing. Meta tags discouraged - I don't think you have to formally ask for an exception, it's your call. But there are still other reasons why I think we should not combine discussions and Q&A on one site.
    – user2953
    Commented Mar 15, 2015 at 20:37
  • @stoicfury Changing Subjective Q's to Reference Requests - with only about 10 new questions a day, I don't think that will be the problem. These edits are quickly made. Regarding answers, I would say: ask the poster to provide references, with a link to an FAQ page where it's all explained - if he doesn't (either because he doesn't want to or because he doesn't know) the answer can be removed through the Low Queue review queue. Regarding old questions: some, that are not so heavily visited, we can leave as they are. The ones that are frequently visited could perhaps be locked? (1/2)
    – user2953
    Commented Mar 15, 2015 at 20:42
  • @stoicfury They do this (lock questions) for example on SO, when a post is useful but doesn't fit new standards. It stays there 'for historical reasons'. (2/2)
    – user2953
    Commented Mar 15, 2015 at 20:43
  • @stoicfury Chat: hm, I didn't know chats were deleted. I'm not sure if it's a big problem. Concerning one/multiple chatrooms, we'd probably have to try it out to see what works. Problem with one room may be that it's difficult when two discussions are running at the same time. You already mentioned the problems with multiple rooms. Hopefully we could guide users to chat by inviting them and linking to chat in questions and answers. But it's tricky, that's true.
    – user2953
    Commented Mar 15, 2015 at 20:47
  • 1
    In any case, what I hope most is that other users will post some ideas as answers here. I really hope to get some more input from the community. There seem to be many quiet users (again, their own personal choice, but sometimes it's difficult to see what they would like most).
    – user2953
    Commented Mar 15, 2015 at 20:48
  • @stoicfury: Michael Dorfman died? I'm learning this from you. It seems so, I can find obituaries searching online. This is really sad.
    – DBK
    Commented Mar 22, 2015 at 21:05
  • Yeah, it's very unfortunate. He left quite a legacy here and continues to be upvoted which only shows that his contributions were of the highest quality. We were thinking of honoring him in some way but couldn't really think of a way that would be appropriate here. :(
    – stoicfury
    Commented Mar 23, 2015 at 3:14

My opinion reflects why I generally find this SE-philosophy frustrating and therefore avoid the site.

  1. Questions that show no effort at research.

  2. Questions that are not grounded in the practice of systematic thought.

There is often too much asymmetry between the effort behind the question and the effort required to provide a useful answer. Too many questions are expositions rather than genuine enquiries.

I will admit that this site may not be the right fit for me. While I believe each person is intrinsically valuable, their questions are not all equally valuable. Getting out of beta by compromising quality to drive numbers up neither brings good to a large number of people nor is it self justifying. A low quality philosophy discussion does not make the internet better. A place for pursuit of philosophical expertise has value. A place with no risk does not.

As a final thought, if there is a subject most suited for perpetual beta I believe philosophy is it.

  • I don't see this asymmetry as a problem. As long as there are people who don't mind and still answer, we have our knowledge base growing. That's what it's about for me: building that knowledge base. If a question wasn't asked properly, the answer may still be useful. There is a limit though, of course.
    – user2953
    Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 6:49
  • @Keelan So long as "the tenants are of light build and relatively sedentary and if the weather's on our side, I think we have a winner here." Depending on what people are willing to do is not quite the same as leveraging what people do willingly. Low standards for questions makes SE-philosophy more attractive to people who write low quality questions and less attractive to those who are interested in answering high quality questions. If that's the desired market segment, great. Otherwise it's desperation and desperation doesn't sell. Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 13:47
  • It is not necessarily the case that "low-Q questions" attract low-Q answers and scare away high-level users. See for example: philosophy.stackexchange.com/q/1667/2953, but there are many more.
    – user2953
    Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 13:52
  • @Keelan I am not talking about attracting low quality answers. I am suggesting that low quality questions reduce the pool of people interested in providing high quality answers {I am assuming that these people are like me except that they provide high quality answers}. I am thinking of Spolsky's canonical example on StackOverflow. It's closed. It's higher quality than its analog on SE-philosophy. It reflects a decision about what the community is not. Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 14:45
  • What I pointed out with that link that people interested in providing high-Q answers (here: stoicfury, Michael Dorfman) were not scared away by this question that could be interpreted as opinion-based, too broad, and lacking research. Hence, your point doesn't hold, in my experience.
    – user2953
    Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 15:30
  • "It's higher quality than its analog on SE-philosophy." - what analog?
    – user2953
    Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 15:31
  • @Keelan Though it is certainly polite, I don't consider the accepted answer to be particularly high quality. At the level of making the internet better, Wikitionary is a better place for definitions because they are cross-referenced. At the level of philosophy, "everyone is a philosopher" renders the idea of a philosopher meaningless. "You get a car, and you get a car, and you get..." has meaning because it restricted to members of Opra's audience. Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 18:56
  • @Keelan We can take your example as the analog for convenience. It's a yes/no question. It's a "What code have you tried?" Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 19:05
  • Just before you were "not talking about attracting low quality answers". So I explained that 'low-Q questions' don't scare away people interested in academic-style questions. Now, you're again talking about answers: "I don't consider the accepted answer to be particularly high quality". Do you want to talk about people, or answers? I have already shown that for both cases your point doesn't really hold.
    – user2953
    Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 20:53
  • @Keelan What you have done is argue on the internet for whatever reason. Amateurishly. I have first hand knowledge of one person who finds SE-philosophy unattractive because of low quality questions. If you have read my answer above for content, then you posses testimony that such people exist. Of course, that evidence may be discounted for sport and amusement. Whether doing so demonstrates sound judgement is left as an exercise for the reader. Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 21:37
  • You're twisting and turning and responding to points selectively such that you can somehow still support some points from the answer you wrote initially. Now, there may be some users who are scared away. Not everyone can be satisfied. It's at least hardly the big picture. In any case, since your writing style has taken on an unpleasant tone, I have lost my appetite in this discussion.
    – user2953
    Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 21:50

Not an answer, but a summary so far:

It seems that from James' and Keelan's answers (and the people who upvoted them), we will just not really allow subjective questions on the site at all, however their solutions differed.

  • James suggests we go after what he sees as the larger issue, which is the subjective, ill-cited answers.
  • Keelan suggests we rephrase the question ("What do major philosophical schools think about X?") and allow multiple answers. He also seems to agree that answers should be fact-based and not just opinion.

The problem I have with allowing questions in this format is that no particular answer will be the "correct" answer. It breaks the Q&A philosophy in a sense because there will be many correct answers (assuming each person answers with what they know about one of two schools within their expertise) so any one answer marked correct will be relatively arbitrary. It also messes with the voting system a bit; the voting system is really best when multiple answers are posed trying to answer the same question from the same angle and the best of the pack is voted up to the top, but for each of these types of questions there could be many correct answers from different angles, diluting the clarity once obtained from "most voted equals best".

The last issue I have with this approach is that it turns this site into a reviewing nightmare, which isn't too bad now but will only grow worse as we graduate and traffic increases (as all answers to questions like these [which are becoming more frequent, too] will need citations, which new users tend to not provide). I'm thinking We will have to establish a policy where we don't use "very low quality" flag, because I've been spending all my time on this site just cleaning up those flags and with something like this only more will come. On the other hand, if we implemented a system which allowed limited, focused subjective questions (like my tag idea), we wouldn't need to police the answers in those questions.

Keelan also brought up chat but it's not a good long-term solution since chatrooms are deleted periodically. This makes preserving useful content difficult, and chat rooms aren't in general super user friendly in terms of acting as question repository when people are pointed there with their subjective questions.

I'm going to wait a few more days then post a poll for people to vote on which solution they want to implement, and we let that run for a while and we'll roll with that.


I already wrote in another answer why I think mixing normal Q&A and discussions is a bad idea. I just thought about another way to try and edit more questions to let them fit here.

This idea doesn't rely on chat as much and might as such be more feasible, since we don't need to guide people to chat, and questions and answers don't disappear, while chats do.

Suppose a question of the form

Is this true? ... Is this ethical? ...

As described many times before this can be edited to:

What philosophical schools claim this?

But this doesn't allow for people to discuss their own opinions yet. If we want to allow subjective questions on the main site we need to find a way to talk about subjective questions without being subjective. I think that is possible with questions of the form:

Has there been any philosopher claiming this?
What are arguments for and against this?

The first type would require answers to have references. The second not necessarily (but preferably, if it's up to me). Like this, if someone made up an idea of his own, he can get to know:

  • What are problems you will face when accepting the theory
  • If there has been literature written on this idea
  • Possibly, what that idea is called

What it does not allow for is real discussion: long comment lists are still discouraged. But then you will get an automatic link to chat in those comments and you will be able to move comments to chat, where the discussion could be continued.

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