A recent question What are the most influential arguments for the existence of "real" external objects?

asks "What are the most influential arguments for ..."

I wonder if this is really a useful way of posing questions on the SE.

My main worry is that it 'influence' questions that are not hinged (hinged = "what is the most influential argument that influenced Kant's view of knowledge?") are unclear as to what the criterion would be for an answer.

I'll leave it open to hear the thoughts of others as the fit of these questions for philosophy.SE.

Here's two more "who is the most influential" type questions that may be worse fits than the original one for the site:

This question:

Who among 20th and 21st century Aristotelians has the most citations?

has now been edited in a way I might suggest for others to "most cited"

Who are the most prominent Christian philosophers of the 21st century?

  • Generally speaking, questions that are as broad as this title are too broad. This one however mentions that "science gets on with its business" before asking for "most influential contemporary arguments", so I think its problem is just in the title. "What are the most influential contemporary arguments for the existence of "real" external objects as in science?" would do it. Unfortunately, I am not sure this would make a difference. Because another problem we have is with answers not following the approved "academic" standard but rather engaging in folk philosophy.
    – Conifold
    Oct 11 '15 at 3:14

Since I posted the question, let me respond.

I take your point, that "most influential" is not a well defined criterion. I intentionally used it because I originally asked for "proofs," which, outside of logic, are not really part of the modern lexicon.

For "most influential" I meant the best known or most often taught. Things like Quine's "Two Dogmas" or "fat man and trolley." It seemed preferable to something like "best" or "most conclusive."

This way of framing a question is simply one of the hazards of autodidacticism. I have big gaps in my knowledge, making it hard to specify what I'm after.I know something about how problems of ontology were dealt with after Kant, but little about treatments in the analytic tradition. Hence fishing expedition.

Perhaps it would be better for me to ask "which texts" or "which philosophers in the analytic tradition after Carnap"...? Names and text references. Better? The only drawback is that there are lots of "fat-man-and-trolley" type "floating topics" not really pinned by a text or name.

As an aside, this type of broad inquiry entailing a "value judgment" from academics is, in my view, one of the most valuable aspects of PhiloStack for those of us outside of academia, since Google can handle so many specific questions.

  • I guess "commonly taught" in universitiy-level philosophy courses would mean the same thing. The difficulty with influence is that it's really hard to measure.
    – virmaior
    Oct 11 '15 at 2:14
  • I admit I have not really looked at the reasoning behind the "stack" format, so I should do that. I like the way it minimizes chitchat and opinion. But, as I say, it needs to do things Google can't, and informed "value judgements" on the treatment of issues and topics, reputations and influences, within the discipline is certainly one of those. That said, I carry no torch for "most influential." Though it seems pretty straightforward to me. No one argues that Kant CPR was "most influential" in some realm. Just leaves lots of wiggle room. Oct 11 '15 at 14:35

I consider the original question "What are the most influential ..." a useful and interesting question.

Useful, because any potential respondent is forced to decide first how he himself defines terms which can be understood in different ways, e.g., influential.

And interesting, because I learn much more by forming my own answer and stating my personal arguments. Than by giving just an account from the history of philosophy what is considered most influential according to the famous philosophers X or Y.

In addition, I fully subscribe to the last passage from the answer of Nelson Alexander on this site.

  • 1
    I don't think this answer addresses how it would fit into philosophy.SE qua stack exchange site. Or rather I don't see how plurivalent terms are helpful on a SE, but you often call this a forum, so it's possible you don't see what is supposed to be different be SE and a forum.
    – virmaior
    Oct 11 '15 at 2:15
  • I made an edit of my answer.
    – Jo Wehler
    Oct 11 '15 at 3:15
  • 1
    I think that still just means the question is poorly fit, since this means each answer will be defining the criteria which ought to have been defined in the question. (this is is regarding <Useful, because any potential respondent is forced to decide first how he himself defines terms which can be understood in different ways, e.g., influential.>)
    – virmaior
    Oct 11 '15 at 3:16
  • In order not to make this issue artifically greater: I had no problem to indicate in my answer to the original post how I understand the term influential.
    – Jo Wehler
    Oct 11 '15 at 3:29
  • 1
    I think that's a fair point with respect to this particular instance of "most influential" but I'm also hoping we can come up with ideas with respect to this type of question and their fit.
    – virmaior
    Oct 11 '15 at 3:35

As I understand it the question aims at an overview of arguments providing the possibility to get a profund basic idea of how to defend a certain philosophical school.

I think there are two ways to deal with the upcoming of these questions:

  1. Saying that this is a SE and, alas, there is no source whatsoever that covers the needings behind this sort of question. It does not fit this format and therefore the questions are closed. But they will appear from time to time. And it will be frustrating for the questioners if they had looked intensively for other sources.

  2. Saying that it does not conflict with the very idea of SE to have at least some broader questions covering the needings of its readers by establishing some knowledge database that is near to a philosophy wiki, but another format. That would allow to give answers to questions like "What are the main arguments behind realism/scepticism/transcendental idealism.

No. 2 would be some work, but it will in the end construct a backup-reference for these kinds of questions. The meta-question behind this, for me, is: Can plato.stanford.edu cover these questions? Where's the limit?

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