How do we tell when we're asking questions without answers?

I think this is what I've been doing, intransingently.


They don't, it's nonsense to try and make sense of divine attributes. History of religion.


This is not answered explicitly by philosophers rather than social scientists. The american dream is too obviously an ideological or at best literary idea.

Did Adorno retain anything from Heidegger's Being and Time?

You could ask what important points did he retain, but that's subjective. Both discuss Descartes, what else do you want to list?

So, I should apologise, and ask about the best way to tell what has an answer, before asking

  • i guess questions that are basic ones, or ones about how to understand or agree with what you're reading
    – user6917
    Feb 16, 2017 at 12:07
  • I mean I think having substantial philosophical context and a narrow problem in your reading are the keys here -- a specific issue derived from your study that's answerable by further research, which could be outlined briefly by someone here
    – Joseph Weissman Mod
    Feb 16, 2017 at 13:57

2 Answers 2


A great question has a single correct topical answer.

That doesn't mean it isn't subjective, but it shouldn't be vague, personal or opinion-oriented.

Substantial philosophical context combined with a narrow problem in your reading are the keys here.

"Answerable" questions are specific issues derived from your study that can be answered by further topical research -- and are scoped narrowly so they can be answered in a few paragraphs.

The question should, in other words, explicitly specify a narrow and largely-objective criterion for a correct answer -- ideally which centers around some specific problem or "blocker" you're encountering in your study of philosophy (reading, summarizing, comparing philosophical works and writers.)


Questions do not need to have a definitive answer in order to be asked on Stack Exchange sites.

From the guidance (here)[https://stackoverflow.blog/2010/09/good-subjective-bad-subjective/]

1..."How?" and "Why?" has more lasting value than a bunch of product-feature bullet points or a giant enumerated list, no matter how extensive. In contrast, the bad subjective questions let answerers get away with hit-and-run answers that maybe provide a name and a link -- but fail to provide any sort of adequate explanation, context, or background.

This suggests that question which simply ask for book recommendations and such should not simply have one answer, or a list, but a personal (inevitably opinion-based) explanation as to why one thinks those books are best.

2.Great subjective questions tend to have long, not short, answers. The best subjective questions inspire your peers to share their actual experiences,...

There is no need for questions to be scoped narrowly as great subjective questions have long, not short answers. This point also advises adding the extremely personal and opinion-based element of personal experience into the answer, so even questions about how one applies a certain philosophy would not be too subjective (although my personal preference would be not to touch such questions).

  1. ...There is always more than one right way.

A great question need not have " a single correct topical answer." As the SE guidance explicitly states. The presentation of different points of view will assist the philosophical student far more than someone trying to present everything as the only way.

5.Great subjective questions insist that opinion be backed up with facts and references. Opinion isn't all bad, so long as it's backed up with something other than "because I'm an expert", or "because I said so", or "just because".

"Philosopher x said...", because I'm an expert and I know such things is clearly not a great answer according to these guidelines, nor is simply referring to other "experts". Questions of the sort, what did philosopher x mean by... would only invite good subjective answers if they invite interpretations based on fact. Questions which invite opinions based on facts (by which most of the world means science) would be good subjective questions.

It is absolute nonsense to suggest that a site must be little more than an elaborate index for the SEP in order to fit the rules of SE sites. There are thriving sites like Academia.SE, World-building.SE, Seasoned Advice.SE, Parenting.SE etc..., the list goes on. All are based partly or in some cases entirely, on opinion backed up by facts a tried and tested combination which most of the academic community have been using for centuries.

If people don't want a site that tackles philosophical questions (even the vague, more than one answer types) and provide a ranges of viewpoints backed up by facts then that's fine (it's a democratic community after all), but can we please stop this charade that crops up every time this sort of question is is asked that our hands are tied and this is the way it must be because the SE rules make it so. They clearly do not.

  • 2
    There's no need for hijacking different meta questions (meta.philosophy.stackexchange.com/a/3256/2953) just to make the same point again. If you're unhappy about the outcome, either continue the discussion there or open a new question, but don't post only remotely related answers to questions which are actually about something else.
    – user2953
    Feb 20, 2017 at 5:50
  • 1
    If an answer which claims "A great question has a single correct topical answer." and, "... it shouldn't be vague, personal or opinion-oriented" is sufficiently on-topic to be highly voted, could you explain how an answer which says the opposite is so wildly off-topic that you feel the need to reprimand me. I disagree with what Joseph wrote, I disagreed when I first brought it up and I still disagree now, is disagreement no longer allowed on Philosophy.SE?
    – Isaacson
    Feb 20, 2017 at 7:33
  • 1
    I did try to register my disagreement in comments, which, looking back at past questions on Meta seems entirely the thing to do. Seeing as moderators deleted my disagreement, I reverted to the advice I was given last time I had a comment deleted, to put it in an answer. It seemed strange advice at the time, but I have followed it here and now you're saying it can't go in an answer either. If I can't disagree with an answer in comments and I can't disagree with it in an answer it seems the rule is, if you disagree with a high rep user just shut up.
    – Isaacson
    Feb 20, 2017 at 7:37
  • 1
    The question asked here is how to know if a question has (an) answer(s). Your answer says that questions do not need to have a definitive answer. That simply does not answer the question. If you disagree with another answer, comment on it. But even that would seem strange to me. This point has been discussed by you and others before. If you want to continue that discussion, 1) bring in new points, and 2) keep it in one place. Otherwise, we're just repeating ourselves. I don't know who told you that you couldn't disagree in comments, a link would be appreciated as it may be another context.
    – user2953
    Feb 20, 2017 at 7:47
  • The tag is"discussion" is it not? The opener to the other answer states first how many correct answers a "great" question should have, and then specifies the appropriate content for this answer. The question was no "how many correct answers should there be to a question?", nor was it "what level of subjectivity should be in an answer?" and yet Joseph clearly felt justified in making his thoughts on both these questions central to his answer, and I agree entirely with that justification. You are applying a level of relatedness to my answer that you simply do not apply to others.
    – Isaacson
    Feb 20, 2017 at 7:59
  • As to the suggestion that disagreement was not appropriate for comments. I have asked about this before and the question was simply deleted, but before it was, the advice I was given by Joseph was "If you're really this concerned about a single comment, maybe consider adding your thoughts as answers rather than as throwaway comments!". I tried to register a disagreement with his answer in comments, he deleted it, so I took his advice. If what moderators really mean is "if you disagree with me then shut up" they should at least have the decency to say so.
    – Isaacson
    Feb 20, 2017 at 8:04
  • Yes, the tag is discussion, but that does not mean you can discuss anything; you should still stay on topic. Joseph, in his answer, gives a clear explanation of what an answerable question looks like, thereby answering the question. No, nobody means that you need to shut up if you disagree. However, there is no point in continuously reiterating your point on questions that are only remotely related. Keep the discussion in one place.
    – user2953
    Feb 20, 2017 at 9:31
  • The question asks what kinds of questions are answerable and cites as an example of one that might not be because answers would be subjective. Joseph answered that questions that are answerable have one answer and are not opinion based. I disagree. Tell me, where am I supposed to put that disagreement? I tried comments, but that was deleted, I tried an answer but you've asked me not to put it there either, how can I come to any other conclusion than that my disagreement is not welcome anywhere?
    – Isaacson
    Feb 20, 2017 at 10:12
  • I told you already; comments. I asked you for a link where someone said that you should not put it in a comment but you didn't give me one, so then I suggest you use comments instead. The answer space is reserved for posts that actually answer the question.
    – user2953
    Feb 20, 2017 at 10:18
  • 1. I've just said that I put the disagreement in comments but it was deleted. Presuming that only moderators have the power to delete comments and moderators apply the rules, then comments was clearly the wrong place for it. What other logical conclusion could I reach?
    – Isaacson
    Feb 20, 2017 at 10:22
  • 2. As I've said before, the last time I had a comment removed and asked why, I was told by Joseph to write it up into an answer, the direct quote for which I have already provided. I can't provide a link to the question to which that was an answer because it was also deleted, but a repeat of the comment is here meta.philosophy.stackexchange.com/users/81/joseph-weissman.
    – Isaacson
    Feb 20, 2017 at 10:25
  • The logical conclusion is, as I have said already, that it was a different context. Without you giving a link, there is no way to check. The link you gave now links to Joseph's profile, not to a comment.
    – user2953
    Feb 20, 2017 at 10:34
  • My mistake, the link to the question is here meta.philosophy.stackexchange.com/q/3325/22791 The advice is given in the first comment.
    – Isaacson
    Feb 20, 2017 at 10:36
  • Notwithstanding that, a different context cannot explain why my attempt to disagree in comments to this actual question was deleted, the advice to write deleted comments up into an answer might have been in a different context, but what conclusion am I supposed to draw from the fact that my disagreement here was deleted from comments?
    – Isaacson
    Feb 20, 2017 at 10:39
  • 1
    Your question seems to have been removed because it was a discussion thread, which is not what comments are for. The comments were moved to chat, so it isn't really lost. Joseph says you shouldn't use comments for long discussions. Also, there is a difference between the main and meta site here; on the main site, comments are meant to be ephemeral, in order to improve the post. On meta, disagreements can be pointed out in comments.
    – user2953
    Feb 20, 2017 at 17:32

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