I have a feeling there is lack of professional - academics - philosophers on this web site. Is anything being done to invite those people to use this web site?
There's a significant portion of non-academics here. And I think that's great.
The more philosophy encloses on itself, the more neurotic it becomes. There is lot of toxicity in the professional academic discipline of philosophy -- maybe most important in this context its forbidding welcome to minority voices.
This exclusionary logic plays itself out as an policing the boundaries with the "you can't possibly be Thinking unless you've read X" game -- a sort of Oedipal complex where you are humiliated even more when do try to obey their hysterical demands for canonical ideas, authorized images of thought, where every theoretical gesture is accompanied by a signature which auto-legitimates it in advance.
I think it's important to recognize the sterility and authoritarianism of philosophy as both a discipline and a certain negative image of thought. --Deleuze notes that philosophy was formed historically, and argues that it has often acted not simply as a gatekeeper but as an active means for impeding thought, keeping it at a standstill, preventing any move whatsoever.
Philosophy needs non-philosophers who can actually comprehend it: make real first-person use of it -- put the pure conceptual variances philosophy unleashes into active play in the world somehow, leveraging philosophy as a "simple means" enabling new possibilities for the self-realization of thinking. For artists and scientists it is clearly often a critical means towards their non-conceptual creation of novel compositions of functions.
I think it's great that we have non-philosophers actively participating in this community and posing their own questions and problems. I think it would be a much duller site without the engagement of members of all levels of philosophical specialization/sophistication/etc. (I worry a lot about the tone we set, and I know we can seem forbidding as a community; I want to make sure we don't get lax about this and lapse entirely into demanding everything be a comment on some "canonized" writer.)
Not as far as I know ...
As far as I am aware, we've had the following users who are graduate students or PhD holders in philosophy:
- commando (PhD student) [currently a moderator]
- Johannes (PhD Student)
- Hunan [not currently active on the site] (logic)
- ChristopherE (Full-time philosophy faculty member)
- shane (Post Doc, medieval philosophy)
- virmaior (PhD, modern philosophy and Confucianism, Non-Tenure Track Line)
- DBK (PhD, philosophy of science)
- Peter Smith (logician)
- Michael Dorfmann (unfortunately deceased)
- Myron Jackson (Post Doc, continental philosophy) [periodically active]
- Dan Hicks (PhD, Notre Dame)
- Philip Klöcking
My apologies if I'm missing anyone who is contributing with graduate work in philosophy.
My sense is that Bumble might have such training as well but I don't know.
One reason I don't invite people I know is the average style/type of question is aggravating on several fronts -- poorly written and people just argue when you suggest improvements. Moreover, many of them are quite far from what we do in academic philosophy.
One possibility to raise the level of the discussion on Philosophy SE is to pose challenging questions. Those who consider themselves professionals as well as the moderators could do this. As Joseph Weissman rightly emphasizes, it should be issues which are interesting also outside the circle of academic specialists.
Well, from the perspective as a man who has studied philosophy (main subject), economics and law for about 10 years (due to health problems) and is about to make his major in order to let a PhD follow:
This site can be quite frustrating. Taking the description, it ought to contain questions about philosophy in the sense of what I want to call "objective philosophy", i.e. written philosophy. This, as far as I am concerned, does not have to be what is called "academic philosophy", because this is most surely hily specific and specialized, but we should be enabled to look into the same texts at least.
That means: It should be sourced and by this I do not mean look at book xyz, but including title, edition and page. Hell, even in SciFi.SE answers that do not include the original "canon" source with a direct link or embedded picture but only vague references or Wiki-quotes are downvoted.
Now, Philosophy.SE has the strong tendency to upvote narrative answers with vague directions towards texts that may include hundreds of pages. But seriously, answering a question about let's say Christianity with "look into the bible" wouldn't be viewed as proper. Answers like these are written within minutes, from memory. They may prove helpful if the question is a vague reference request, but that's all. Most answers only point towards text, but do neither quote, nor point at specific parts of the text, may it be at least a chapter. But even this isn't done in most cases.
For me, as working in a professional environment, this would be a poor answer. And from my understanding of SE it is, too. Answering the proper questions properly takes knowledge of the subject and time. Because as far as I know noone will tell from memory, e.g. in which paragraph of the preface the author adresses the core of the question. And just saying "author xy adresses this in book ab" isn't an answer, seriously.
This may be a problem of knowledge, because if you do not know how to refer correctly, you cannot do. But if that was the case, the first step would be to ask how it is done. Here, a Meta-post referring to the main authors like Aristotle and Kant, saying how they should be cited and how it is done in general, could help.
So yes, I also think that there is a lack of "professional" philosophers on this SE. But with this, I do not necessarily mean people having a formal education in this subject and working within a professional academic environment, but people taking the purpose of this site serious enough to take the time to answer the questions with corresponding exactness and completeness instead of "just adding 2 cents and throwing names in", i.e. people with a professional stance towards the questions and the purpose of this site.
This can't be blabbering about philosophy. And what I described here is what prevents me personally from investing more time into this site, although I consider a lot more questions as interesting than I answer to. But why should I take the time to answer the question thoroughly investing about an hour to do so, if a wall of text throwing in names written in ten minutes is going to be preferred?
The problem is that if this problem is not adressed, it is self-energizing, because the people that could even see this as problematic and work against it with their votes will become fewer in numbers. Looking at the quality of some older questions and answers and the corresponding votes, this already has happened to some extend.
How often do well-sourced questions and answers get more than 10 upvotes? And how often do narrative answers that are unsourced or do only name maybe-sources (without really adressing why and how they are sources) do?
For a Stack Exchange site, this is a serious problem.
As a professional philosopher, I too have become incredibly frustrated by the nature of the site to the point of withdrawing from involvement.
Obviously the clearest departure from professional philosophy is the poor quality of the questions and answers we get, but to my mind, these are actually not a relevant factor in my frustration as I find it quite easy to either filter them out, or find some interest in answering them using concepts in academic philosophy regardless of the fact that the the OP often just wants someone to agree with them, or marvel at how 'deep' they're being.
What I find more problematic is actually the attitude to concepts within modern academic philosophy.
Firstly, there seems little interest in modern philosophy - I have written a number of answers recently from the perspective of modern philosophers; Lucy Allais, David Atkinson, Hans Jonas, Annette Baier, Joel Kupperman, Alasdair McIntyre, to name just a few. All of them have received totally lacklustre responses. I, and so I suspect other professional philosophers, have considerably more interest in the current position of debates than we do in explaining positions that were held 200 years ago but from which we have now moved on. I suspect there may be some value, to those still involved in teaching, in rehearsing the explication of classical works, but it is not so useful outside of teaching.
There also seems to be an extremely strong conservative trend to supply answers which provide the 'standard view' without presenting a balanced mix of stances within modern philosophy. Approaches to philosophy range from the biographical which verge sometime on idolatry in their attempts to extract meaning from the exact wording of 'sacred' texts (as you may infer I'm not a fan of this kind of philosophy), to the almost completely dismissive works of Peter Hacker or Peter Unger, and yet this range does not seem to be represented here, with a very strong focus on exegetical work on classical texts. The number of times I've read 'The Logical Positivist project failed' as if it needed no reference, nor mention of those like Michael Friedman who disagree, does not do credit to a site which aims at a more critical standard of answer.
The major problem, of answers being voted on the basis of some popularity contest, is not restricted to the non-academic answers. Even questions where all the answers have well-cited academic positions (very rare) will tend to gather votes on the basis of how popular the positions are, not on how useful the answers might be to the OP, or others following them, which is probably equal for such answers.
The significance of these issues is not really just that they mean the site fails to draw interest from a whole range of professional philosophers, it's that it simply doesn't need to. Solutions to the problem of the wide range of philosophical positions have been suggested above, like restricting questions to those that have a single correct answer, but if the only answers the community wants are a standard presentation of a narrow range of classical philosophical positions on a very constrained set of subjects, then we already have all the professional philosophers we need. It only takes a handful of well-read individuals to provide the popular standard response to any questions actually about academic philosophy, and a single moderator to close all the others. The only point to attracting a wider community of professional philosophers would be if the variety of their resulting input was appreciated, in my experience it is not.
Generally speaking, the worst tend to drive out the best; the best by definition being a kind of elite, are few.
Consider, for example, the Olympics, an immense amount of training and winnowing out, from an early age presents a few elite athletes that are the best in their generation; but also, the structure for this has been slowly and carefully put in place over generations.
The SE design, allows any-one to participate - at that point - one can says its democratic; there are certain pressures, for example, viability, that push for this - this is, after all what crowd-sourcing is about.
However, this means most questions will be bad, or wrong, in many ways; until enough experts participate; but why would they, when they see the average is so low?
After all, one doesn't often see a Premier League team play with the 4th Division - I'm talking in football terms here; perhaps a friendly, out of site of the public.
Thus until the average remains low; experts, even with time on their hands, may rather just play elsewhere - and advisedly, so.
This rather suggests, that to drive up the quality, one needs to winnow out more firmly, answers or questions that don't match a certain standard.
Athletes who run competitively, run on tracks built to a certain standard; because they want to play at their best, similarly philosophers.
It would be a good question to consider the ratio of support staff to athletes and ponder the same situation on a Phil.SE.
An additional point to consider, is that philosophy is not a subject that is commonly taken by schools (at least in the UK, probably the US, and elsewhere in the West - though I have the impression that France might be different here); for example: history, English, or mathematics; so those who appreciate it, are likely to have an uncritical appreciation of it, without the beginnings of a critical apparatus, that is given by rigorous schooling or tutoring.