I mean phrasing your answer in a weird pseudo-neutral, pseudo-detached, cumbersome and guarded way … also pondering and avuncular … this faux “academic overview” style.
(Of course I don’t mean backing up your answer with sources in an academic way. That’s good.)
I find this increasingly annoying. No need to hide that your answer is opinionated and lacking in breadth. It’s most of the time still better than no answer.
A truly neutral, rigorous and broad philosophical overview is always going to sound cumbersome. But just sounding cumbersome like a scholar who researched that topic for years doesn’t mean you’re on his level.
It’s cargo-cult philosophical writing. People note this style and then try to emulate it without understanding the reasons for that style.
It’s not enough to put in endless qualifications in your answers. They also have to be the right qualifications!
Often academic overviews try to elicit some appetite for wonder in the reader. Which is very difficult for philosophy. It’s not like piquing an interest in something that is obviously mysterious compared to normal life like quantum mechanics. The writer has to list some cutesy trivial observations (that the person on the street would not find at all puzzling) and use his rhetorical skill to transport a feeling of “non-obviousness” to the reader. Again, SE users try to emulate this and 95%+ fail horribly. They only manage to make their answers needlessly boring and verbose and pretentious to the point of self-parody.
Worst case, for a naive questioner this style gives authority to the answer it does not have.
Exhibit A – a very heavily opinionated, low quality philosophy.SE answer in faux-academic style:
A perfect circle can be imagined and visualized by a mathematician who is a geometer, and its definition can be precisely expressed by him or her mathematically.
That mathematical expression can be readily presented graphically as part of the definition and accepted as valid by other mathematicians, even though the graphic representation of it is imperfectly rendered.
A perfect circle cannot be realized in the world we inhabit because there is no infinitely precise manufacturing method that can produce one.
Exhibit B – professional philosophical writing (from Michael Loux, Metaphysics):
The objects we talk and think about can be classiﬁed in all kinds of ways. We sort things by color, and we have red things, yellow things, and blue things. We sort them by shape, and we have triangular things, circular things, and square things. We sort them by kind, and we have elephants, oak trees, and paramecia. The kind of classiﬁcation at work in these cases is an essential component in our experience of the world. There is little, if anything, that we can think or say, little, if anything, that counts as experience, that does not involve groupings of these kinds. Although almost everyone will concede that some of our ways of classifying objects reﬂect our interests, goals, and values, few will deny that many of our ways of sorting things are ﬁxed by the objects themselves. It is not as if we just arbitrarily choose to call some things triangular, others circular, and still others square; they are triangular, circular, and square. Likewise, it is not a mere consequence of human thought or language that there are elephants, oak trees, and paramecia. They come that way, and our language and thought reﬂect these antecedently given facts about them.
See what I mean?
Ok, some of you do philosophy professionally. Still better not to adopt this “academic overview” style. Who puts the same energy into an SE answer as in the introductory chapter of his monograph about a topic he researched for years?
And it takes even more genius and writing skills to condense broad scholarly knowledge into a short SE answer.
There are indeed a handful of users here who can do this. But most of us cannot. In that case, it’s the way lesser evil to write in an “amateur style”.