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After hanging out in philosophy.SE I can easily tell the expectations of the community. Generally sophisticated questions and answers are the ones that are wanted rather than shallow, mediocre questions/answers. Of course that's only to be expected.

However, what I aim to ask is the "level" around which philosophy.SE operates. Of course, many users are extremely sophisticated with philosophy degrees, however, does this mean that new users wishing to learn more about philosophy (without any degrees) are not welcome in philosophy.SE?

In short, is this community made for those with a considerable sophistication in philosophy or is everyone with a basic knowledge in philosophy welcome?

  • I would say that everyone, philosophy PhD or simply interested in the subject, is welcome. The primary challenge to those with a 'basic' level of philosophy knowledge is likely to ask a specific enough question that it fits the Q&A format advocated by the SE communities. For example, to ask "What should I look at after Kant?", etc., arguably does not fit here as a question proper, but is perhaps useful aside...≈ – davidlowryduda Mar 16 '12 at 19:11
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    ... But aside from this specificity problem, I see nothing preventing new learners from the site (and that's not even that bad, right?). As for answers, answers can be given by anyone who knows some about the topic. So beginners might not be as fluent, but that's okay. As you get better, you'll learn more and be able to answer more. Or just learn whatever interests you - that's okay too. There is nothing requiring anyone to amass large amounts of 'bling' (aka reputation points). – davidlowryduda Mar 16 '12 at 19:13
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    Also, we've attempted to make this distinction relatively clear in the FAQ. If you have concerns about that, or any other suggestions on how to improve it, I and the other moderators would be thrilled to hear them. It's a difficult line to walk, but I think an important one. We don't want to limit ourselves to only "experts", but we don't want a bunch of shallow or mundane questions that will scare off and/or bore the experts, either. – Cody Gray Mar 17 '12 at 4:33
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People of all levels are welcome here. As mixedmath points out, amateur philosophers may find it challenging to ask questions initially because they lack the understanding to focus it enough to be a good fit here (often newbie posts can read as just a rambling of ideas that lack any real coherence), just as they will have less experience with which to answer questions as thoroughly as others. That said, the problem isn't exclusive to new users or beginning philosophy students; take myself for example. I have a degree in philosophy but I only specialize in specific areas, so when it comes to answering questions outside my expertise I will almost always be outclassed by the resident expert in that area (mixedmath for math, rex kerr's keen on physics and logic, DBK's new but he seems to be right on with the history of philosophy and philosophy of science, michael dorfman pretty much everything lol, etc.). But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to answer though; we may very well have insight that the expert may not or that they might otherwise glaze over.

So when you ask whether the community is a good fit for amateur philosophers, the answer is a resounding YES!

The great part about being here is not merely reading questions and answers, but the process of going through and creating an answer yourself — that's where you really learn fine-tune your knowledge. It's one thing to have an idea in your head; it's another thing entirely to write it down in an accessible manner and backup your claims with evidence. I find myself diving back into old philosophy texts and re-familiarizing myself with the material all the time, making sure that what I believe is wholly justified and defensible. In fact, amateur users who take the time to answer questions stand to learn the most here, because in many cases they might have to start from scratch to answer a particular question that interests them, and by doing so they learn a lot along the way. :)

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    Hear hear! I can confirm this from experience. I (an amateur user) have answered several questions from scratch (such as this one). Before it I had never even heard of anything I was talking about in my answer, but it all made sense when I read about it and made the connections! – commando Mar 17 '12 at 5:15
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    @stoicfury thanks a lot for the answer. Very encouraging and inspiring! – Outlier Mar 17 '12 at 21:58

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