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My question is in relation to close votes on the recent question: What created the universe? The question presently has three close votes on the basis that it is "primarily opinion-based". At the moment it has two answers, but it might end up being closed.

There is some existing discussion in the comments (initiated by me) where users discuss whether the scope of the question is proper for this site. If I understand correctly, users seem to believe that this question is "opinion-based" because it is a broad question, and there are different answers that one could give. User Conifold explains that "We are taking questions that (ideally) have a single answer based on published philosophical literature."

This strikes me as a strange position for a philosophy Q&A site. The most important questions of philosophy are broad in nature, and for any fundamental question of philosophy (in metaphysics, epistemology, etc.) there are many different schools-of-thought, and so there are many conflicting answers that can be given to a single question. Asking "what created the universe" is a basic metaphysical question that is squarely in the domain of philosophy. It is possible to give answers to this question based on different philosophical positions enunciated by different schools-of-thought. This multiplicity of answers does not mean that metaphysics is merely "opinion".

It strikes me that if this basic question of metaphysics is "primarily opinion-based" then so is every broad question in philosophy. (This seems to be an implicit acceptance of subjectivism; everything is just a matter of opinion.) There are many other philosophy questions that are at about the same level of "broadness" that have, quite correctly, not attracted close-votes (see e.g., Why must everything have an origin but not an ending?, Morality is subjective?, Why does all of existence take place through my subjective point of view?, Does all matter exist forever?). It is my view that all such questions are legitimate, and can attract helpful answers. But do others disagree? Should broad philosophical questions be closed as "primarily opinion-based"?

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    Looking at the quality of answers in those threads might help explain why they should have been closed as too broad or primarily opinion based (with the possible exception of Does all matter exist forever?, which puts the question into the context of non-dualism although it is not reflected in the title). This is not accidental, the questions are asked by very inexperienced users and seem to come from thinking by loose association and without much structure, the answers respond in kind. I believe online encyclopedias are a much better source in such cases than such answers. – Conifold Jun 12 '18 at 17:46
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Just look at this help center page.

You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face. Chatty, open-ended questions diminish the usefulness of our site and push other questions off the front page.

Your questions should be reasonably scoped. If you can imagine an entire book that answers your question, you’re asking too much.

If your motivation for asking the question is “I would like to participate in a discussion about ______”, then you should not be asking here. However, if your motivation is “I would like others to explain ______ to me”, then you are probably OK. (Discussions are of course welcome in our real time web chat.)

Fundamental questions have fundamental answers. Fundamental philosophical questions have several hundred books dealing with them (this is not exaggerated - I'm serious here) with at least two, mostly four or five very elaborated distinct positions with a lot of different premises. How, then, can you expect this question to be answered here in an objective, in any sense correct and not just opinionated, way?

If it were just me, taking the above-quoted rules, more of these questions would be closed. They all are general enough to involve a PhD thesis for any appropriate discussion, i.e. cannot be given an answer that is any good (i.e. not omitting considerable parts of the discussions and picking just but one position - which would be chosen according to opinion) within the confines of this format. But as my vote alone would close them, I tend to let the community decide. Even if I, personally, do think it gives too much of a leeway for the sake of not turning people away immediately.

The last sentence of the quote is what people should look for regarding these questions - we are fine with discussing them in chat.

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I am one of those who voted to close this question after seeing it appear in the "Close Votes" review queue.

You may have enough reputation to participate on these review queues: click the icon with the check mark in the banner to see what review queues are available for you. You can then have impact on what questions get closed or not.

I might have made a mistake with my close vote, but looking at the question just now, I would likely vote to close it again because the question seems to me to be too broad to handle effectively in a short amount of space without the answer being primarily an opinion.

  • Thanks for explaining your close vote (+1). Very helpful to hear motivations for these. – Ben Jun 12 '18 at 22:23

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