Building on some recent posts here such as Keelan's "What can be done to get less rubbish answers?" (and new found super powers), I wanted to put up to the community an idea I was considering:

Closing questions that draw opinion-based answers

What I mean is this, some questions do have philosophical merit or at least the potential for it. But then they end up being honeypots for opinion-based answers. Moreover, sometimes the OP demonstrates that they were hoping for this by jumping into comment threads arguing back and forth over the broadest of topics.

My question for how we want to do this is can we close such question as opinion-based when it seems that's what they've become?

  • I'm looking forward to seeing your superpowers in action. Good luck!
    – user2953
    Apr 18, 2015 at 7:50

2 Answers 2


My point of view will be no surprise, but I'll put it here so that we can vote on it.

  • If the question doesn't ask for opinion-based answers, it should not be closed. The answers should be dealt with, and the question could be clarified.

  • If the question has no bad answers yet, and the OP may be helped by answers that do follow our guidelines concerning references and so on: edit the question to make it a and check with the user if that's okay in the comments.

  • If the question already has bad answers, and the OP doesn't particularly seem to like them: remove the answers or invite their writers to improve them (perhaps put the citation-needed notice on it) , and edit the question to be a

  • If the question already has bad answers and the OP likes them, in the way you described above, close the question.

I do not think such new policy should be applied to old, frequently visited questions. Instead, they could be locked, like is done on Stack Overflow.

We will need a page to refer users to when they don't understand that their post doesn't fit here considering our ideas of references and so on. I don't know of a help center page that explains this very well, or a much upvoted post here on meta. Otherwise, we have to discuss about this with every new user again...

Anyway, like this, I think we lose as few questions as possible, and we maintain quality.

  • 1
    I don't really think -- as in the last 2 bullet points -- whether or not the OP likes the answers should be a factor. The first 2 points are spot-on though. We handle questions and answers separately. Well-asked questions which draw poor answers should not result in the closing of the question but removal of the answers (and perhaps a note of clarification to the question to reduce the number of future bad answers).(Note: That said, questions which tend to generate lots of opinions are likely not a good fit for the site, but it isn't inherently that way.)
    – stoicfury
    Apr 19, 2015 at 17:05
  • 2
    @stoicfury what I was trying to say is that when the OP likes the subjective answers, that tells us something about his post, and about if he would be okay with an edit towards the reference-request kind of question. Anyway, since you've opened the Final Poll (thanks!), I think we should just wait for the outcome there.
    – user2953
    Apr 19, 2015 at 20:19

Personally, I'd change the site so it allows both - after philosophy is both about dialogue and closely reasoned questions and answers.

There ought to be a way of somehow incorporating both; I suppose the chat rooms are supposed to accommodate this - but my experience of them in Phil.SE is that they don't work so well.

I can't imagine that your super-powers will somehow extend to this.

In terms of getting less rubbish answers - the way math.SE deals with it is that they've split into professional and students; but I suppose we don't have enough professionally trained philosophers on the site for this.

  • 4
    I think if you do that in terms of dialogue about problems, then it's no longer an SE.
    – virmaior
    Apr 18, 2015 at 13:49
  • 3
    I think the Math.SE example is interesting, but different: there is very little overlap in the content between professional mathematics and basic math. I was a math major undergrad, and the times I've been on MathOverflow I've seen few question I understand let alone am capable of answering. Math seems to grow by becoming more specialized. Philosophy, on the other hand, seems to grow by having more nuanced or complete understandings of the same questions. Apr 20, 2015 at 0:37
  • @kingsbery: yes, same here; however I recall speaking to a philosophy graduate once, and he said that professional philosophy has a large technical vocabulary...which we don't see much of on this site; perhaps fortunately. Apr 21, 2015 at 14:26
  • And besides philosophy covers a wider sphere of interest than math/physics for the average layman; that wider scope makes it easier to ask questions that are immediately interesting: does God exist as opposed to the number five... Apr 21, 2015 at 14:29

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