I am curious why sometimes answers are provided in the comments section. I think comments are great for q&a on context, clarification, reshaping the question .. etc. But answers sometimes come in that way. I've found myself wanting to up vote an answer only to find that content stranded in a comment.

Not a major issue, but is there any guidance here?

Love the site and the community, btw. I am getting increasingly engaged. Just trying to learn the ropes :)

  • Do you have specific questions in mind?
    – virmaior
    Commented Dec 9, 2015 at 5:13
  • The question that prompted my meta question was on Kant expertise philosophy.stackexchange.com/q/30084/4701 ..
    – sourcepov
    Commented Dec 9, 2015 at 14:27
  • In the case of your question, I personally think it's a poor question which ought to be closed (either due to the use of authoritative or due it seeking a list), so that's why I initially asked what you meant by authority and then addressed it in part in the comments. At the same time, I can see why that providing any answer in the comments is a flawed way to do things. My view is that list questions ought to be either off-topic or wiki answered.
    – virmaior
    Commented Dec 9, 2015 at 22:22
  • Ok @virmaior, understand better. Appreciate that you didn't close the question I'm still pretty new here, and I'm learning by doing. Didn't know about the list rule, but I have used wikis before, can see the advantage over q&a. Will check it out. In any case, I learned something from my flawed question .. and got to the experts I was after :).Thanks.
    – sourcepov
    Commented Dec 9, 2015 at 23:48
  • We're still working on rules to make the philosophy.SE function well... we run into lots of problems (at least I think we do).
    – virmaior
    Commented Dec 9, 2015 at 23:55

4 Answers 4


Comments should not be used for answers.

There are two types of situations where this tends to arise:

  1. Questions that have been closed where commentors answer in comments to express disagreement with the close.

  2. Questions with patently obvious answers.

I'm probably guilty on the second which I don't see how to solve. For the first, I can see why people would do this and am not enough of an autocrat to delete / enforce strictly (since I'm usually the one who closed the question).

Really what ought to happen is better resolution by rules here on meta.

  • 2
    There's just a lot of discussion in comments here, and hand-waving by mods doesn't seem to make much difference. Although maybe just talking about it more on meta might help. (A lot of it is long-time high-rep users who "should" know better but...)
    – Joseph Weissman Mod
    Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 0:06
  • @JosephWeissman agree conversation may lead to undesierd rabbit trails, but with some effort by those commenting to stay focused and hold context of the topic, isn't there value in a healthy dialectic?
    – sourcepov
    Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 2:52
  • For me personally it is often a hint/direction that pops up in my mind but I do not have the time to formulate a sourced, well written answer on that. Then I leave a comment instead. This sometimes leads to the answer the opener looked for, but it just does not have the format of an answer yet.
    – Philip Klöcking Mod
    Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 23:58

In addition to the two cases virmaior mentioned, I personally will on occasion leave an "answer comment" for something that's an idea for an answer, but isn't fully fleshed out. Not sure if this is a great practice, but it has these advantages:

1) Someone who is looking for something quick or a hint has a place to look that might be helpful

2) Avoids crummy half-baked answers.


I think this is a real issue in Philosophy SE. For example, in this question the correct answer is given in the comments, which leaves us without the means to upvote and provide feedback on it, that might be useful to other users. It happens all the time.

One way to go would be just to copy the correct answer given in a comment into a proper answer, but I at least would find that very rude. So, I don't know. It might be good to have some kind of automatic reminder when one comments on a question, that this is not a best practice, perhaps.

  • 3
    One thing that I've done in the past is the following (after suggesting that the commenter add an answer of course): I'll write up an answer along their lines, but make it community wiki (so I don't gain reputation), explicitly credit their comment, and optionally announce that if they add an answer of their own I'll delete mine (I only do this if I really don't have anything to add beyond their comment). I think that's a decent solution, albeit not perfect of course. Commented Jan 21, 2020 at 16:08
  • That sounds like a good policy, thanks.
    – Schiphol
    Commented Jan 21, 2020 at 16:28

As I read other Phil.SE posts, I've seen quite a few cases where learners and students are not comfortable asserting Answers outright, but use comments to provide partial feedback and ideas for consideration .. essentially, floating "test balloons". This seems useful, and doesn't preclude an Answer later. It's also in keeping with comments as a means to discuss, expand, and reshape the context of the question .. meta for the OP.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .