I'm new to philosophy stackexchange. So I'm confused as to what is acceptable. May I know how to improve this question? (It's getting downvoted)


[the question was deleted; for those who can't see it, it originally asked about the definition of locality in quantum theory.]


The question has been "put on hold as off-topic" and I've been told: "While this question may be related to philosophy or occur in a philosophical context, the question itself doesn't seem to be about philosophy, and is therefore not a good fit for our site."

Why is this not about philosophy?

  • You never know who is going to be here on a given day. We do not keep experts on hand for each philosopher, or a physics specialist at hand. It just depends on the day you post your question, really. We have some very knowledgeable people here in science and mathematics but if you post your questions one after the other it can become mentally taxing for them. – Gordon Nov 26 '19 at 3:38
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    Then there is also the case where the philosophy of science people here do not deem your question to have enough philosophical interest. I agree people should give you feedback on a downvote, but that will always be a problem at Stack Exchange I guess. Don’t take it personally. Don’t ask all your questions at one time. My 2 cents. It’s holiday time in America too, so there may be reduced traffic etc. – Gordon Nov 26 '19 at 3:43

I can't speak to the other voters, but it looks like your question might be a better fit in Physics SE due to the highly technical nature of locality. Prima facie, it seems like it might be after edit a legitimate philosophical reference request; my sense is some of those who voted against it might not be in the analytical school and see the question as too "scientific". Not everyone subscribes to a natural epistemology.

  • It's been put on hold :/ . I think it will get downvoted on Physics Stackexchange :/ ... I disagree with: "While this question may be related to philosophy or occur in a philosophical context, the question itself doesn't seem to be about philosophy, and is therefore not a good fit for our site." If EPR is game so should this be allowed – More Anonymous Nov 26 '19 at 19:54

I voted for off-topic, because quantum gravity is an open problem in physics.

Even so there might be philosophers who have an opinion on those matters, it would mostly be guesswork about physics, not philosophy.

  • "guesswork about physics, not philosophy." - I see nothing wrong with using intuition, heuristic arguments or thought experiments as guesswork. – More Anonymous Nov 26 '19 at 22:14
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    @ThomasKlimpel That's interesting. How do you differentiate between an open problem in science and an ontological-centric philosophic discussion? Is the philosophy of science, in your view, what determines the ontology, and therefore that which is not adequately addressed by science neither scientific nor philosophical? – J D Nov 26 '19 at 22:24
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    @JD I don't even try. But if somebody had asked about speculations of philosophers on Poincare's conjecture before it was solved by Perelman, I would also have voted to close that question as off topic. – Thomas Klimpel Nov 26 '19 at 22:39
  • @ThomasKlimpel I wanted to ask about (existence of counter to) the Penrose-Lucas argument - but then I can foresee the same (pessimistic) logic applied and it being off topic. – More Anonymous Nov 27 '19 at 3:34
  • @ThomasKlimpel Also it seems to me that there is no role for philosophy to play in physics by this kind of logic :/ – More Anonymous Nov 27 '19 at 3:35
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    @MoreAnonymous My logic is much simpler: If you ask a non-philosophical question to which the only honest answer would be a simple "we don't know yet", then it does not become on-topic for philosophy.SE by just adding "I'm searching for philosopher's who argue for ...? I'm looking for references." – Thomas Klimpel Nov 27 '19 at 8:25
  • @ThomasKlimpel was Mach a philosopher? The honest answer to Mach's conjecture could have been "we don't know yet." Also the first line in wikipedia: "Philosophy of science is a sub-field of philosophy concerned with the foundations, ..." This is foundational so I think it should be allowed. – More Anonymous Nov 27 '19 at 8:31
  • @MoreAnonymous There were many decades between Mach's conjecture and Einstein's solution. So from the perspective of a questions and answers site, your example would have still basically a non-answerable question. So in my opinion, even in that case my close vote would have been justified. As I said, my logic is much simpler, no need to derive conclusions from it unrelated to its context. – Thomas Klimpel Nov 27 '19 at 9:58
  • @ThomasKlimpel We might be going talking past each other or on the same page but yet disagreeing on the scope. I'll summarise as a final comment: 1. Philosophy of Science does include foundations of physics (see wiki) 2. Locality is one of the bedrocks of all physics 3. While one may not know the answer one can still "guess" based on heuristic arguments. 4. This was done historically by philosophers such as Mach via the Mach conjecture. 5. From the perspective of Q&A site it should be possible to provide a whole range of references (Some hopefully be vindicated as Mach was). – More Anonymous Nov 27 '19 at 11:36

I was never satisfied with the point of views presented here and find it unfortunate. To quote Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy the argument being presented seems to be:

Given that quantum gravity does not yet exist as a working physical theory, one might legitimately question whether philosophers have any business being involved at this stage. Certainly the philosopher’s task will be somewhat different from that faced when dealing with a more-or-less settled body of theory such as classical Newtonian mechanics, general relativity, or quantum mechanics. In such cases, one typically proceeds by assuming the physical soundness of the theory or theoretical framework and drawing out the ontological and perhaps epistemological consequences of the theory, trying to understand what it is that the theory is telling us about the nature of space, time, matter, causation, and so on. Theories of quantum gravity, on the other hand, are bedeviled by a host of technical and conceptual problems, questions, and issues that make them largely unsuited to this kind of interpretive approach. In the case of string theory, there isn’t even really a ‘theory’ to speak of, so much as several clues pointing to what many hope will some day be an applicable, consistent physical theory.

However it then goes on continue (to which I agree):

However, philosophers who have a taste for a broader and more open-ended form of inquiry will find much to think about, and it is entirely possible that future philosophers of physics will be faced with problems of a very different flavour as a result of the peculiar nature of quantum gravity. Indeed, Tian Cao argues that quantum gravity offers up a unique opportunity for philosophers of physics, leaving them “with a good chance to make some positive contributions, rather than just analysing philosophically what physicists have already established” (Cao, 2001, p. 138). This sentiment has in fact been echoed by several physicists, not least by Carlo Rovelli (a central architect of the approach known as loop quantum gravity), who complains that he wishes philosophers would not restrict themselves to “commenting and polishing the present fragmentary physical theories, but would take the risk of trying to look ahead.

To close the question because one limits the domain of philosophy seems wrong to me.


I'm partially glad this post got bumped. I actually find it very discouraging that this question got closed. It's the type of questions that, in my opinion, gets accidentally closed because of our (rather just) impulse to close off-topic questions.

Definitions in the sciences, and especially, contrary to how one of the responders here says, in the "open problems" in science, requires a high degree of help from philosophy (in the case matter, phil-of-physics).

It's the case (almost) everywhere in science where a new idea comes to light, it need be highly articulated and well-thought. Much of the work sometimes being done by the scientists themselves (hopefully with some basic knowledge of the underlying philosophical implications), but that doesn't mean it isn't a philosophical work.

Specifically this subject matter, quantum theory in general and locality in particular, has a very robust philosophical work that attempt to ground, define, and speculate on. For example, an entire article on SEP specifically on this - https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/qm-action-distance/.

It's a shame I haven't seen this post when it was posted, else I'd have voted to reopen it. But I hope we can learn from this.

  • I honestly have an urge to repost it. – More Anonymous Mar 28 at 16:13
  • And thank you for your wonderful answer – More Anonymous Mar 28 at 16:13
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    My pleasure :) I just hope it'll get a bit of traction, it's really a shame to see such a post laying here with -1 votes. – Yechiam Weiss Mar 28 at 16:59

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