I am looking for posting advice.

Phil SE encourages quesitioners to do a lot of reading beforehand, and post the reading they have done, when asking or assistance in answering a question. Now, I have been thinking about philosophy problems for decades (as a non-professional), so most of the questions I would like to ask are well beyond basic. So, per the nominal guidance, this background is great!

However, my resulting questions are very specific, with a lot of presuppositions, and generally have an answer I want to evaluate, and I suspect some may be unanswerable. An example would be the James/Popper critique of epiphenomenalism and identity theories -- that the evolutionary tuning of consciousness refutes them. I think this is a valid refutation, and while I have seen some epiphenomenalist efforts to reply, I found them weak. So -- I am interested in whether there are stronger answers, or if this is a valid refutation. But is this form of question appropriate for Phil SE?

I have wandered around the interwebs for a while, and have yet to find a better site to bounce these sorts of questions off. If Phil SE can handle them, then I will post them here. If there is a better site I should consider, I would welcome suggestions.

So -- my question is -- are the sorts of questions I want to ask appropriate here? Or if not, could they be MADE appropriate in some way? Or should they go to a different site?

  • i have no idea how anyone can think about a (non-existential) philosophical problem for decades! imho just ask your question/s and see how they are received. no-one will be rude, and most people are just here to help, so there's no need to be offended if you get downvoted!
    – user35983
    Dec 25, 2018 at 13:59

2 Answers 2


The hardest part of this type of question is avoiding the XY-Problem.

In other words: When you are an expert of some sort in a very specific discourse/problem, you normally think in terms of intuitions that are above and beyond the foundational texts and three steps ahead which you have to demonstrate step by step. Your main task, therefore, is twofold:

  1. Be careful in identifying the actual question or problem you have. This can, because of the corresponding close reason, not be of the kind "is my line of thought correct". One can circumvent this either by asking whether a solution above and beyond the given texts has been proposed, or by asking whether point ABC in these texts would not be fallacious/incoherent because of DEF.

  2. Be careful to write the question intelligible, starting from more fundamental ideas/texts guiding the reader step by step towards the particular question/problem you are interested in. Mention solutions you already dealt with as insufficient and why you reject them. Most questions end up as "unclear what you are asking" because people have intuitions about the texts/problems without being able to formulate a comprehensive line of thought.

The last thing I would like to point out: While I would love to see more of this kind of question with a deep philosophical background, most of them remain unanswered or without an adequate answer. In the end, you need a user more knowledgeable than you to give you an answer that brings you forward.

  • Agreed on "more knowledgeable", but this is not unusual -- philosophy is always slow/difficult reads, and most of the relevant material is unread by casual philosophers like oursleves. Put people together, and ask a question, and the "least knowledgeable" globally in the group could be the one that has stumbled on the answer, IE be the "most knowledgeable" for that specific issue.
    – Dcleve
    Dec 22, 2018 at 22:31

Although I don't know much about the "James/Popper critique of epiphenomenalism and identity theories", as a reader I would find such questions very interesting. Someone may have a partial answer, and even more important, they may have references that I could use for more information.

So, I would find these questions appropriate.

  • thanks for the encouragement to post questions with a lot of presuppositions.
    – Dcleve
    Dec 22, 2018 at 16:20
  • Weird -- I posted the @ and your name, and it disappeared from the post. This has happened to me occasionally, but it had been about a month, and I thought I had cracked the pattern (2nd posts when one has more text than will fit into one), but that isn't applicable here ...
    – Dcleve
    Dec 22, 2018 at 16:23
  • 1
    @Dcleve This happens when you try to notify the poster of the answer (or question, when you comment on a question). They'll get a notification anyway so there's no need to notify them (which is why the @ is automatically removed).
    – E...
    Dec 22, 2018 at 16:58

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