- What do you think philosophy is or for the purposes of the SE? How do you think this SE should balance popular and technical uses of the term?
Knowledge is a non-negotiable part of what philosophy simply is. We should thus strive here for knowledge, facts, and valid argumentation above all; no speculation, unsupported opinions, and entirely uncited claims. The ideal question well-defines an answer (or space of answers), and the ideal answer simply satisfies what the question wants, with evidence and objectivity.
As far as the scope of subjects is concerned, we can afford to be broad (within reason). Philosophy covers, after all, everything from the stereotypical "big questions" about gods, meaning, and the universe, to such esoteric debates as whether causal-sequence or alternative possibilities definitions of free will are preferable. Given this breadth, I won't attempt to define what philosophy is here - instead, here are some things I'm pretty sure philosophy is not (at least, for the purposes of this site): spirituality, life advice, politics, and religion (contrasted with the philosophy of religion). We've gotten our fair share of such questions in the past, and they overwhelmingly don't fit with our site.
- In some respects, the word "philosophy" is a recipe for boat programming questions. What, if any, are good reasons for closing a question as off-topic as moderator of philosophy.SE (rather than waiting for users to vote)? What signals and/or internal rules do you plan to use to decide when to act unilaterly?
Most close reasons are either well-defined or easily well-definable - unfortunately, as I suggested above, I don't think it's feasible to offer a complete definition of "off-topic" given just how broad philosophy is. Nor, honestly, do I expect that such a definition would even be efficacious, since I don't anticipate most users studiously reading every close reason before posting.
I can consequently offer only broad strokes of what I'd consider off-topic to the extent of needing closing. Again, some of the most frequent offenders are questions about spirituality, life advice, politics, and religion. This isn't to say that all questions dealing with these issues are off topic; to the contrary, we have a great question about the ethics of deciding whether to become a doctor and numerous good questions on political and religious philosophy. Where things get off topic is when questions are devoid of philosophical content, i.e. do not request any objective facts/arguments/references within the philosophical tradition.
The general rule I'd use to determine unilaterally whether a question is off-topic is: can this question, paired with its answer (if the question is too broad/unclear for an answer, that's a different close reason) contribute to a user's understanding of philosophy? I realize this is a bit circular, so to bootstrap it: philosophy is what any bona fide philosopher has done/written/spoken about.
By this metric, non-philosophical questions about philosophers ("was Nietzsche an mean guy?"), and questions about the "philosophies" of non-philosophers ("did Einstein believe in God?") are, in addition to the aforementioned questions about spirituality etc., off topic. This is reasonable, I think.
- How would you deal with a user who produced a steady stream of valuable answers, but tends to generate a large number of arguments/flags from comments?
This depends on the particulars of the arguments and comments. Philosophy, by its nature, (unfortunately) produces many abrasive practitioners - but there's a difference between abrasively philosophizing and simply being insulting. If the user contributes good content and stirs up arguments/flags which do not constitute attacks on other users, but are just toned aggressively, I'd do my best to nudge the user in question to be less confrontational, and leave it there. They're not being mean to anyone; they simply have a philosophical tone that leans on the acerbic.
If, however, the user is engaging in any ad hominem, insulting, offensive behaviour, then I'd be prepared to escalate to increasingly harsh measures if they're unresponsive to my initial requests. Being blunt is one thing. Being rude is another.
- How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc a question that you feel shouldn't have been?
If I feel strongly about their decision, I'd raise my concerns politely and privately in chat, and we can work it out there, noting what the community has to say as well (if I don't feel strongly, it's probably not worth debating). If such disagreements continue, I'd suggest refraining from any immediate action to see how other users receive the content in question - they're ultimately in charge of the direction this site takes, after all.
- How do you propose to deal with popular philosophy and (new) users who want to participate in a low-level discussion themselves? Think, for example, about quantum mechanics. Related Meta questions: 1 2 3
We can't change the plain fact that this is not the place for these questions. The best we can do is welcome users who make such contributions, but politely indicate that their content doesn't belong here. Ideally, we'd explain why this is (i.e. the Q/A format, the general goals for this site, and the low-noise SE model, are all incompatible with low-level discussions), maybe tack on a few thoughts about their ideas, and hope they'll stick around to make more appropriate contributions (after we've closed the question, of course).
- A lot of the philosophical landscape is plagued by the conflation of opposing philosophy and bad philosophy. Where and how do you draw the line, in those fields where you have personally held positions, between something you "merely" disagree with, and something you believe needs to be downvoted, edited, or even removed for poor quality?
If I can identify a coherent argument, founded in some modicum of objectivity and soundness, then it doesn't matter how much I disagree with the reasoning itself: it's good enough. Bad philosophy happens when people offer specious reasoning or found their syllogisms in speculation or incontrovertibly false claims. Here, such behaviour needs correction.
- In your opinion, what do moderators do?
They watch from the shadows as the good people mill about their daily lives, intervening only when they must. They clean up the litter that naturally accumulates across posts, organize the skeleton of tags, meta, and chat rooms, and occasionally prevent pileups due to poor questions or poor answers. Otherwise, they're just like the rest of us: users enjoying and contributing to this community.
- A diamond will be attached to everything you say and have said in the past, including questions, answers and comments. Everything you will do will be seen under a different light. How do you feel about that?
It's a serious responsibility, and will require a particular degree of care I have not needed to exercise as a regular user. Being a professional philosopher, I'll need to take caution so that the disagreements which inevitably occur between myself and those of opposing positions remain maximally polite.
- In what way do you feel that being a moderator will make you more effective as opposed to simply reaching 10k or 20k rep?
It pains me sometimes to see the delay between a flag and a moderator's response - though they've always done an absolutely wonderful job, it can't be helped that there's a lag between me seeing something that needs immediate attention, and them responding to that need. As a moderator, I'd have closed that gap, so that anything I see needs fixing will get that fixing immediately.