While the site seems to be functioning quite well as a question and answer site (lots of questions with answers) it still seems a lot more difficult to learn from than something like wikipedia, because answers so often lack references for their claims. Wikipedia has the same issue to an extent, but I can't see it being helpful for me to demand a reference (as proof I mean) from every answer lacking them. And it may cause offence anyway.

And compared to something like the SEP or IEP anonymous voters etc. lack the authority that would make them more than just believable.

Just thinking out loud really.

  • 2
    "because answers so often lack references for their claims." You can always request answers back up their claims, and flag them if they don't (either for deletion or for a post notice to be added.) – curiousdannii Jun 30 '19 at 22:16
  • uh, i'll flag them for now on (get ready for s shitsorm!) @curiousdannii – user38026 Jun 30 '19 at 22:19

There's a disconnect between the title and the body of this question, in my opinion. I'll address the title first, then the body.

How to learn from philosophy stackexchange?


The goal of this site is not in fact to be a source for people to learn philosophy; it is intended to be a rather specifically-focused tool which is relevant but not wholly sufficient to that goal. And per your comment that

the site seems to be functioning quite well as a question and answer site (lots of questions with answers),

it does seem to be decent at its job - it is a question and answer site!

  • And even in that capacity it's of limited focus - not every philosophy-relevant question is appropriate here.

Similarly to how one can sometimes let the perfect be the enemy of the good, it's not always a good idea to try to do everything worthwhile; sometimes focusing on a single, limited task is actually a good idea.

It may seem odd that I'm harping on this so much, but this is an issue that has frequently arisen on PSEmeta, including if I recall correctly by the OP; so I think it is worth dwelling on.

Now as to the body of the question, you raise a specific point - that PSE answers could benefit from more references. I wholeheartedly agree with this. Better referencing is always a good thing, and certainly benefits a q-and-a site.

But it is important to view this in the right context, which is - again - that this site has a limited focus by design. So while in this particular case I agree with your critique, I don't think "it makes it hard to learn philosophy from this site" is generally an adequate justification: in this case the relevant point is that better-sourced answers actually improve the effectiveness of this site in its specific goal.


I agree with you about answers that do not have references. I wish I could add more references than I do to some of my answers. Sometimes it is hard to find anything worth citing.

It actually puzzles me why people don't take advantage of references when they answer a question. This is their chance to initially direct a reader's search should a reader want more information.

Although I have no objection to flagging posts since I've flagged over 400 of them, I don't flag posts because they do not have references. I might make a comment suggesting that references could help the answer and they would give me a place to go for more information. I leave it as a suggestion. Flagging I reserve for more serious defects such as low quality answers, spam or abuse.

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