This editing of my post is completely ridiculous. The claim stands and has citation of reference in support of the claim:


Keelan is insisting upon this:

Some people say that both are fictional characters (for example, see the Carrier reference below).

Yet the claim I have made is supported:

Certainly, according to everything we know about either Jesus or Socrates there is one aspect of their lives which is completely identical: they are both fictional characters.

If such an edit is to be made, then evidence supporting the revision need merely be cited. So far all Keelan has offered is argument from false authority. In both the case of Jesus from Nazareth and regarding the Socratic problem, all we know are second hand accounts as nothing was written by either fictional character. Wishing that they were real people does not make it so. Scholar agreement does not render opinion fact.

This is a simple epistemic issue and yet the pale insistence upon acceptance of fiction as fact is passing as "moderation". Shameful.

  • 1
    the moderators can be frustrating. ime you'll get better responses by not kicking up a fuss
    – user25714
    Apr 24, 2017 at 16:11
  • the last thing you need on an anonymous voting site is bad standing. i think that's the issue i faced, asked a few dumb questions, and now the mods cba
    – user25714
    Apr 24, 2017 at 16:26
  • Historians take an "innocent until proven guilty" approach to the historicity of figures whose existence was taken for granted by early sources. In other words, anyone who commented on Jesus or Socrates within 100 years of their supposed lifetime saw no need to argue their existence, so historians tentatively assume they existed until convincing evidence to the contrary is brought forth. May 1, 2017 at 18:34
  • @called2voyage are you familiar with "John Frum"?
    – MmmHmm
    May 1, 2017 at 19:38
  • @Mr.Kennedy Yes, and so are most historians, thus the phrasing "innocent until proven guilty". The likelihood that John Frum is purely fictitious is considered to be higher than that he is not, whereas historians consider the reverse to be true for Jesus and Socrates. May 1, 2017 at 19:42
  • @Mr.Kennedy Further reference May 1, 2017 at 19:51
  • @called2voyage are you familiar with the work of Dr. Carrier (cited in the referenced answer)? Note that history is not a court of law and metaphor has no epistemic merit. That John Frum is verifiably fiction, however, is a valid premise for soundly concluding the same of Jesus and Socrates. The issue is epistemic, not a preponderance of opinion.
    – MmmHmm
    May 1, 2017 at 20:35
  • @Mr.Kennedy Given that we are two laypersons (correct me if I'm wrong) discussing the possibility of a conclusion at variance with the conclusion of an expert community, I will refrain from further debating the particulars with you. Your arguments have been exposited repeatedly, and I've presented references to other arguments. I do not claim to be an expert in this field, and I will leave it at that. In short, any claim of persecution or discrimination on your part in regards to this topic is frankly ridiculous given the constraints of this community. May 1, 2017 at 20:42
  • @called2voyage expertise is irrelevant to empirically verifying a knowledge claim.
    – MmmHmm
    May 1, 2017 at 21:09
  • @Mr.Kennedy It is irrelevant in theory, but not in practice. In theory, anyone using the right methods could verify a claim. In practice, most do not know how to appropriately apply the right methods. May 1, 2017 at 21:12
  • @Mr.Kennedy Do you believe that Plato exited? Aristotle? Descartes? Hume? How would you empirically verify that?
    – E...
    May 2, 2017 at 8:30
  • @EliranH are you being purposely obtuse?
    – MmmHmm
    May 2, 2017 at 8:54
  • Mr. Kennedy: it is okay to disagree, but keep it civil. Focus on the topic, not the person.
    – user2953
    May 2, 2017 at 10:37
  • 1
    @Mr.Kennedy this entire argument is you moving the goal posts. First you make the claim that Jesus and Socrates are "verifiably fiction" which is an absolute claim. You are claiming that it is possible for us, right now in this moment, to absolutely verify that they are fictions characters. How do we go about doing that, should we make an appeal to some authority on history? But of course that isn't what you want because you already admitted that expertise has nothing to do with verifying an epistemic claim. How then are you going to prove this verifiable claim?
    – Not_Here
    May 3, 2017 at 8:28
  • 1
    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – user2953
    May 3, 2017 at 21:07

2 Answers 2


Citing a source does not make your claim uncontroversial. The best you can say about the issue is that there is disagreement among scholars as to whether Jesus/Socrates existed or not. According to wiki and this history.SE answer, the consensus is different from what you report, and a good and honest answer should reflect that. Your answer is completely one-sided and opinionated and the moderator's attempt to edit it is definitely warranted.

You're of course right that scholar agreement about x does not make x true. But relying on experts is a good epistemic strategy, and that's pretty much the best we laypersons can do in these contexts. The fact that you refuse to acknowledge those experts that disagree with you says much about who's advancing their own agenda here.

  • Scholar agreement matters not one iota to rendering the truth value of knowledge claims and as of yet there is all of ZERO support for positive ontological claims regarding either Jesus from Nazareth or Socrates to be found anywhere, hence, the claim that both are, for all we know about them, completely fictional. Feel free to cite one single counter-example (hint: you can not). Along with the trivial matter of what is empirically verifiable and what is not, this is simply a matter of what the subject allows. Positive ontological claims regarding the two are false and that is fact, not agenda.
    – MmmHmm
    Apr 22, 2017 at 8:18
  • 4
    Even if it would be clear to everyone here that you would be right, you would still have to write an objective answer reflecting the academic disagreement. That is what Eliran H is saying and what I'm saying too. That I think your claim is incorrect is irrelevant.
    – user2953
    Apr 22, 2017 at 8:26
  • @Keelan "right" has nothing to do with it. Try true or false. Also, feel free to write your own answer to the question instead of making unwarranted edits to reflect your own inability to render truth value to knowledge claims. By locking the answer on top of making edits which do not improve the answer, you are simply abusing your moderator privilege in order to advance your own admitted agenda.
    – MmmHmm
    Apr 22, 2017 at 12:33
  • 8
    @Mr.Kennedy please consider taking this as a serious and impersonal recommendation: you will get further treating other users with respect and charity than with recalcitrance and bitterness. Imputing bad faith to other users who are actively trying to engage with you is neither fair nor constructive, and is really unacceptable anywhere on SE. Please remember that this is not your personal blog, and that we are not paid support.
    – Joseph Weissman Mod
    Apr 22, 2017 at 13:25
  • @JosephWeissman that's quite the non sequitur. The issue at hand is epistemic, not personal worldview. Bad faith has been demonstrated and admitted on the part of a site moderator. Please keep in mind that moderating is not a matter of soliciting agreement with your personal agenda..
    – MmmHmm
    Apr 22, 2017 at 23:49
  • 5
    @Mr.Kennedy looks like we're not going to settle this on meta. Maybe it's better if you write a complaint to the community team using the 'contact us' link at the bottom of the site and have them resolve the issue.
    – user2953
    Apr 23, 2017 at 6:37
  • @Keelan in the meantime you could simply revert your unnecessary and destructive edit. "Some people say" is as epistemically vacuous as imagining a fictional character to be real. The knowledge claim I posted and cited support for is the issue here and the only thing keeping it from seeing the light of day is your pale insistence that the claim be censored.
    – MmmHmm
    Apr 23, 2017 at 6:51
  • @Keelan in your comment upon the edit when you say "made objective" don't you mean "made objective to me" i.e. "made subjective"? The claim was already objective and empirically verified - as discussed in the cited source. Perhaps you imagine "objective" to mean "according to the bible"?
    – MmmHmm
    Apr 23, 2017 at 8:16
  • @Mr.Kennedy I would not be comfortable with a reversion of the edit without also deleting the inappropriate answer. May 1, 2017 at 20:43
  • @called2voyage fortunately your comfort is not an adjudicating factor. There is nothing inappropriate about the answer except the edit made by a moderator admittedly advancing their own personal agenda
    – MmmHmm
    May 1, 2017 at 21:08
  • 4
    @Mr.Kennedy Actually, since this is a community-moderated site, it is a factor. The answer is inappropriate because it asserts that Jesus and Socrates are certainly fictional without reference to more than a single fringe historian in defense. May 1, 2017 at 21:11
  • @called2voyage and despite this, you are not a moderator here. See my comment to the moderator in question regarding the use of certainty and otherwise note that certainty is only a mood.
    – MmmHmm
    May 1, 2017 at 21:15
  • 4
    @Mr.Kennedy Then you misunderstand the way SE works, community-moderated is not a reference to the pro-tem/elected moderators only, but to the whole community of users who collectively decide what is appropriate for the site. May 1, 2017 at 21:16
  • @called2voyage again, your presumption is incorrect - that SE is "community moderated" and that you are not a moderator are distinct. Again, it is not a matter of fringe vs. mainstream historians, it is a matter of epistemic claim and what is empirically verifiable. Feel free to cite one single counter-example to the claim that both Jesus and Socrates are fictional characters (hint: you can not).
    – MmmHmm
    May 1, 2017 at 21:29
  • 4
    @Mr.Kennedy: The history.SE link provides several sources of historians providing further sources, e.g. a recent French biography of the historical Jesus (i.e. without all this theological stuff like resurrection etc.). What do you want more? As one of the posters points out, we do not have first-hand sources of Ghengis Khan (illiterate). Does that mean he is a fictional character as well? Epistemical barriers high enough to suit one's agenda - higher than almost every academic - is your method. You just put forth a certain (imho problematic) reading of Searle's understanding of truth.
    – Philip Klöcking Mod
    May 3, 2017 at 11:21

The purpose of locking the post is to resolve disputes about its content, and to prevent rollbacks from flooding the main page of the site. So, let's try to find a compromise.

On this site, we always try to do right to the divergent ideas held by many different people in philosophy. We do that by making it clear when something is not being commonly agreed on. See for example this meta answer about a different post:

It's misleading and academically dishonest to represent physicalism as the consensus position in philosophy of mind. Any answer that does this is indeed "too subjective" for its misrepresentation of the facts: physicalism is but one position in philosophy of mind, and stating it "as is" as though there could be no other truth does not make for an appropriate answer.

That is my only objection to your post in question here. So, again, my personal ideas about the claims represented in your answer are irrelevant, and censorship is not the case here because my edit did not remove any of the ideas put forward in it. It only put them in context. In fact, your answer would be even better if it would also highlight the arguments of people who deem it likely that Jesus was a historical character. So, in a sense, this edit is already a compromise from my side.

Would you be happy with changing the paragraph that now reads

Some people say that both are fictional characters (for example, see the Carrier reference below).

to something like:

It is arguable that both are fictional characters. For example, Richard Carrier shows that ...

and there you would highlight a few key points from Carrier's argumentation.

This form has the advantage that the arguments are made clear, so that it is also clear what others may object to. I also hope that you may prefer the "It is arguable" formulation over "Some people say", because it shows that the position is actually backed by arguments.

  • When an author is making a knowledge claim - any knowledge claim, it can be presumably prepended with "it is arguable that". Such is an unnecessary rhetorical consideration as the answer is obviously from the specific author, not the site nor the word of an authority. If you want to make a comment upon such a claim or provide an alternative answer, you are, of course, free to do so. In this case, you have abused your privilege as moderator to make an objective and verified claim fit your subjective epistemic viewpoint. The post should be rolled back.
    – MmmHmm
    Apr 23, 2017 at 8:35
  • 3
    @Mr.Kennedy if any knowledge claim can be prepended with "it is arguable that", what is the problem with adding it? As a user, I disagreed with the way you presented the positions in your post and edited it and rolled back your rollbacks. As a moderator, I locked the post because of this rollback war. Yes, it may have been better to lock it in the original status. However, the current status is more in line with site guidelines (see the meta post I linked to), and locking it in this status is an incentive for you to discuss it on meta. Anyway. Are you willing to find a compromise?
    – user2953
    Apr 23, 2017 at 8:41
  • Of course I am willing to find a reasoned compromise, however, there is no need to mince words when "according to everything we know about either Jesus or Socrates there is one aspect of their lives which is completely identical: they are both fictional characters." If all ravens are black, there is no need to state, "it is arguable that all ravens are black." In the instance of the answer in question, the claim needs not be reworded and you've offered no counter-claim to demonstrate its falsehood nor sound argument to support your edit.
    – MmmHmm
    Apr 23, 2017 at 9:13
  • As for the meta post you linked, the original answer was not a statement of "absolute truth" and such a concept is oxymoron as truth is merely a condition of statement which the original answer satisfies. Again, all you need do is cite one single instance which is other than the knowledge claim to refute it and you have neither done so nor provided sound reason for your edit other than insistence upon agreement with your opinion. The compromise here is that you rollback your edit to the original post and if you must, remove the word "Certainly."
    – MmmHmm
    Apr 23, 2017 at 9:36

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