I participate in several SE sites, and nowhere have I seen so many users acting as authorities (prescribing to other users what they should do, discussing questions/answers from the point of view of relevance for the site rather than expressing their own opinion about the content or just appropriately flagging/voting with an explanation). Only at one other SE site have I seen something similar but there the specifics was that it is a site for one particular language and the native speakers feel more competent than the rest and give themselves liberty to act as guides for others.

So I decided to ask whether there is some specifics of this particular site which I have to take into account here?

It is not so much a sarcastic question but rather an attempt to adapt to the local atmosphere better. I like this site, have seen several things interesting for me and want to contribute productively in return, but too much of my effort is redirected toward coming to terms with authoritative users instead of discussing the essential content of my and others' answers/questions, and I would like to know whether there is anything I can do to improve this situation (and from what I've observed I suspect I am not the only one with such concerns).

  • I'm voting to close this question as unclear what you're asking because of the lack of examples. We can't discuss vague notions here.
    – user2953
    Mar 28, 2015 at 9:33
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    @Keelan I am aware of that; you raised this issue in a comment to your answer and there I explained that I consciously avoided any concrete examples, and explained why. However by your own initiative you provided at least one concrete example in your answer, maybe this improves the situation a bit. Mar 28, 2015 at 9:37
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    I don't see an ethical issue. You could consider providing examples without mentioning any names but only links, and explicitly stating they're just examples. If you don't want that, that's fine, but that also makes this matter impossible to discuss as it's ill defined.
    – user2953
    Mar 28, 2015 at 9:38
  • @Keelan yes I agree it is incomplete this way, and as I said you partially improved it by providing an example yourself. The fact you don't see an ethical issue here only means we have different ethical principles. Providing a link means for me pointing to a concrete user and is not acceptable for me as such. Mar 28, 2015 at 10:05

2 Answers 2


I guess I don't understand the problem because the whole point of the SE design is that users are the authorities. Even with almost no rep everyone has the power to vote up/down questions which alters their visibility on the site, they can vote to close or delete, etc. It is an error to think of ♦ Moderators as sole "authorities" in the sense we dictate how the site operates or have any real (unique) control over it. We simply try to keep the site in-line with its intended vision and the network vision, and that's exactly what users are supposed to do too (hence the privileges for voting to close, delete, etc.) The only difference is that we need less consensus (1 vote vs 5 votes to close, for example). But again that doesn't mean we make the rules or dictate how the site is run — we're here to help manage this place in the way the community wants, not how we want.

There are a number of users who go the extra step to help clean up the site's content beyond just reading and answering for themselves, and the community really owes them a lot. I'm not suggesting that our wording/tone couldn't be adjusted so that we are interpreted in the least combative manner as possible, but I think a lot of what you have issue with is really more in how you interpret the comments you view as authoritative. Understand that these are just regular people who like philosophy; they work, go to school, raise their kids just like anyone else here. They hate waking up early on monday mornings. They enjoy a friday night after work cozying up on the couch watching their favorite TV show. They enjoy an ice-cold lemonade on a hot summer's day. They are just regular people, they are almost certainly not here spending their time just to get a kick out of being mean to people. While perhaps a particular thing they wrote seemed to come off a bit abrasive or cold, they probably did not mean it that way. Give people the benefit of the doubt. You will know real trolls, real jerks when you see them — those people do find their way to these boards from time to time and it gives you perspective.

Like Keelan said, philosophy is hard. It's hard because asking your question can be hard when we have to shape it to the Q&A format, especially when you really are just groping in the dark yourself and are not sure of what you are talking about. Thus, more clarification and moderation is needed to help people. This is just how our site is, but I don't think there's any real issue with that. It just means we have to do a bit more work than other sites might have to with regard to cleaning up questions. That's all. :)

  • Thank you, it is a beautiful answer, I really enjoyed reading it. Most probably I will accept this one, just let me explain a bit as it seems I did not make myself clear enough. I have no problem with arbitrarily harsh clashes of viewpoints on the philosophical content of a post, nor have I encountered any trolls or jerks. What I am concerned with is the stance of primarily analyzing not that philosophical content but rather whether the posts (or even views of the poster) satisfy some obscure conditions to count as appropriate for the policy of the site. Mar 28, 2015 at 18:49
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    I'm hoping we can make those conditions less obscure very soon. :)
    – stoicfury
    Mar 28, 2015 at 18:52
  • Thanks, I have seen that, maybe I have to read it more carefully. And please understand me correctly - I know well that the attitude I am concerned about might be relevant sometimes but when I see that many users view most of my (or others') from that angle without much attention to the content these posts try to convey, I start thinking that I don't understand something important about the general policy here. Mar 28, 2015 at 18:55
  • Just one more thing, and sorry for lengthy comments. At no other SE sites have I seen not only what I describe in my question but also so many complicated efforts to formulate fine details of the site policy, in this respect this site also seems quite singular. Consider this another part of my question - why is it so? What is the specifics? Mar 28, 2015 at 18:58
  • I guess I don't see how the content is being ignored. Without examples I'm not sure what to say, because in my experience most every constructive comment I see seems to be directly about the question and its content. Regarding your other comment, I address that at the end of my answer: it's because philosophy is hard. We are trying to shape the guidelines the way we want them, and because it's not as clearcut as math or physics or programming, it has taken a bit more time, that's all. :)
    – stoicfury
    Mar 28, 2015 at 18:59
  • Yes you are right the question is flawed in this respect but unfortunately I can't help it - I find it not acceptable to discuss concrete persons in such contexts. Maybe we leave it as it is by now. I am quite reassured by your answer and will just wait a little, if there will be no alternative I will accept it soon. Mar 28, 2015 at 19:02

I also participate in several sites across the SE network. What I see is that this site is one of the most difficult ones. It seems that Philosophy Q&A is hard. Why? Because we are not philosophers, in the sense that the idea of this site is not to do philosophy, but to discuss it. Especially, we always encourage people to provide references to their answers.

You're saying in your question here:

[...] nowhere have I seen so many users acting as authorities (prescribing to other users what they should do, discussing questions/answers from the point of view of relevance for the site rather than expressing their own opinion about the content or just appropriately flagging/voting with an explanation).

Discussing the relevance of posts is 1) because of the above, that Philosophy Q&A is hard, and also 2) because it's typical for a beta to still try and find out what posts are well or ill suited for the site.

That being said, you complain about users acting as authorities. I take it that you are partially talking about me, considering our discussion here. For me it's always easier to take an example, so I'll take this one - if this is not what you meant, please tell me, and show another example.

Your answer in question was:

Having free will means nothing more than not knowing yourself what you will do (or will want to do or will try to do) in future. Even if all of your actions are perfectly known beforehand to everybody else but you you still have free will.

My first comment was:

References, argumentation, ...?

Normally I write a longer comment with a link to the help center or meta. In your case I didn't because you had shown before (1, 2) to be quite stubborn anyway. But considering you're active on more SE sites you should know that we like answers to be supported by references. This is also the way it works in most other contexts (e.g. academical).

So basically with this comment I did exactly what you want: I expressed my opinion about the content and flagged the post accordingly. You then started discussing so I supported my claims with three references: 1, 2, 3. Now you can say you find those references irrelevant, but you can hardly call this acting as an authority. I gave you the references to support my claim: meta and the help center. If you want to dismiss a meta post of one of our moderators with score +12/-0 because it's only a meta-question, that's your decision, but it's not really how it works here.

Essentially, I don't really see what you mean. Users acting as authorities? Not really. We provide references to meta and the help center as much as possible to help you write better answers. In this case I invited you to chat to discuss it further, which you for some reason ignored - that's fine though.

Every SE sites has its own ins and outs concerning what are good questions and answers. You can have a million reputation on some other site, if you come here for the first time, you'll have to learn our ins and outs. There's a small vast user base here which is very willing to help you with that. It is the idea of communal work.

  • I did not have in mind only our recent exchange of comments, there are many other examples (not only involving me or you) that I witnessed. As for your question in your answer, again I believe your answer illustrates one aspect of it. You begin with a statement which is formulated as a common rule of this site rather than your personal opinion. I've seen several other statements here which are not really compatible with this statement. See for example this answer by a moderator Mar 28, 2015 at 8:18
  • @მამუკაჯიბლაძე I only used it as an example. You're referring to many things but it's not clear to me what they are. What is the question in my answer? The statement I began with - is that "I also participate in several sites across the SE network"? With what statement is the answer you linked not compatible? That answer says nothing about references. Doesn't say they should be there, doesn't say they can be left out. Please clarify.
    – user2953
    Mar 28, 2015 at 8:37
  • Sorry you are right I should be more specific. I called question the phrase Essentially, I don't really see what you mean. in your answer. Mar 28, 2015 at 8:47
  • I don't see a problem with that statement. I argued it in the rest of the paragraph.
    – user2953
    Mar 28, 2015 at 8:55
  • You mostly argue concerning that exemplary exchange of comments between us. Concerning your initial statement, the only essential argument that I could find about it is because it's typical for a beta to still try and find out what posts are well or ill suited for the site. This is very interesting. I've seen somewhere else concerns of moderators that this site is beta for a very long time. And it might well be that the problem is precisely the unusually high percentage of users which stance themselves as authorities rather than collaborators, hindering the increase of integrity of the site. Mar 28, 2015 at 9:26
  • @მამუკაჯიბლაძე there is not really anything to discuss about else, because you didn't provide any examples. In a similar way we can't discuss "I have the impression many people on this site like blue". I believe my answer provides you with many more arguments than the one you quoted now. You may not find them essential, but without telling me why, this discussion ends here.
    – user2953
    Mar 28, 2015 at 9:29
  • Sorry I consciously avoided concrete examples as it is not ethical for me to declare public complaints against concrete persons here. If this implies insufficient information for you, let us indeed stop discussing that matter. As for your arguments in support of your initial statement, I would be grateful if you could either point to them here or restructure your answer in such a way that they would be more visibly tied to it. Mar 28, 2015 at 9:32

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