1) Why was the following post closed?

What does "disposition" mean in a philosophical context?

It's clearly a question of analytic philosophy related to the philosophy of mind and indirectly philosophy of law. The infamous Gilbert Ryle has a whole chapter in his Concept of Mind devoted to defining the term. Mr. Kloecking claims it's a concern of Dennett (Should anyone be surprised, considering the lineage?). It has it's own entry in SEP, and is used in forsenic psychology in judicial proceedings. And lastly, it has a section devoted to it in WP's entry Belief.

2) Are there users at a certain level which can override this closing or is the vote the only way to reopen?

After doing some reading online, this issue of false closure seems to be a recurrent theme.

3) The current sysadmin Mr. Klöcking and some users it seems, to agree this is troublesome and needs to be fixed.

Has a fix been implemented, and if not, how can we bring about a fix?

I believe that many capable users would be off-put if asking/responding to questions only to find a faulty mechanism in place for regulating expertise on what constitutes a good question.

See: Would it be better to show some amount of humbleness considering close votes?

Added 2020-10-29

4) Are there currently community-recognized guidelines for refereeing disputes regarding general terminology and philosophy terminology, and if not by what mechanism of governance can they be proposed and ratified?

I would suggest being a veteran of online-communities, that part of the drive to membership and participation can be driven by providing conflict standardized resolution mechanisms which in philosophy is particularly important given that people's ideas have frameworks have frameworks have...



  • Daniel Dennett works a lot with first-order and second-order dispositions as well. I think this is another case of needless closure, but that is my personal opinion and I am not authorised to simply overthrow community votes at a whim. – Philip Klöcking Aug 26 '20 at 15:59
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    I’m not strongly opposed but I guess I do wonder if this isn’t sort of “general reference”? – Joseph Weissman Aug 28 '20 at 17:30
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    @JosephWeissman If by "general reference" you mean asking the definition of a word found in the typical soft general-purpose language dictionary like OED, then I guess the response to your wondering would be whether or not philosophers have taken a general term and adopt it as a technical term. In this case, for instance, both dispositional and occurent can be found in MW. But these "general terms" are neither used colloquially (I've never heard anyone use occurent outside of a philosophy of mind context) nor are they used willy-nilly. They are prescribed to disambiguate two types of belief... – J D Aug 30 '20 at 6:26
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    If someone said, aren't terms like belief and knowledge "general reference", then one would use the same measure. They are technical terms because they address very specifical contextually driven philosophical questions. A forensic psychological evaluator who is at the intersection of the philosophy of mind and philosophy of law may have to explain to a democratically elected judge who hasn't attended law school (I actually know one), that it is scientifically possible to hold contradictory beliefs on the basis that they might be dispositional beliefs and unexamined... – J D Aug 30 '20 at 6:30
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    It is only by making the two occurrent that the cognitive dissonance is experienced, and that contradiction is consciously noted and resolved. And that explanation is made plain by the philosophical distinction of types of belief, a subject of great import to epistmemoligists. I'd be hard pressed to imagine Robert Audi consider either the notion of belief or distinctions of belief mere general reference to a natural language. – J D Aug 30 '20 at 6:31
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    And what of, Mr. @Philip_Klocking, an effort to reform the mechanism of erroneous closures? What if a disgruntled mob of five such inclined individuals were to be offended by Stack Exchange (seems to be a real possibility given all the umbrage taken at Monica's treatment) and close every post. Of course, their accounts would suffer your administrative disapproval. But yet the same mob acting without coordination according to strange, but democratic impulses to close those same questions on innocent grounds is perfectly acceptable?... – J D Aug 30 '20 at 6:45
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    So the tyranny of the masses is more important than the expertise of skilled professionals without any regard to reason? It seems some mechanism such as a democratically elected tribunal should be given the authority to reverse and defend the expertise of philosophers and philosophy equally by informed democratic vote. Indirect representation is a good compromise in governance between mobs and autocrats. – J D Aug 30 '20 at 6:51
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    My answer here has served it's purpose. And I'd like to delete it. (it'll help if you "de-accept" it) – Rusi-packing-up Nov 8 '20 at 4:37

Some people have figured out that closing questions is costless whereas downvoting has a cost albeit small. So it's come about that misuse of close-vote for down-vote is rampant.

Since down-voting costs a reputation point I prefer flagging questions and answers or voting to close questions. This action sends the post to a review queue or to a moderator. I have no preference who resolves the issue.
Relevant para from above stacker

The natural next step is "closer-cabals" even if formed informally

I'd suggest that if regular participators (with close-vote rep) are of of the order of 500 whereas active close-voters are more like 10-15 we have clear evidence of a cabal in action.

It's appropriate that the answer quoted above by "Frank Hubeny" is from the frankest of the lot!

Added later

To just give you a whiff of the cognitive dissonance I'm suffering from your posts

You're getting highly exercised over the treatment of this one question of this one individual. And remain blissfully unconcerned that she's been banned. And for a year. And so have many others with vastly higher rep/contribs to this site. Who cares???

In short since you do not distinguish wood from trees I reiterate my wish to withdraw by deleting this answer. Kindly cooperate by unaccepting this answer.

Until then let me reiterate : Frank Hubeny whose answer I've quoted is IMHO much honest-er in expressing what others are/were brazenly practising.

And is one of the many who've stopped participating post the last year havoc that Chris Sunami alluded to

  • So from noble beacon on the hill of enlightened reason to the trenches of politically expedient game theory. This answer has been most illuminating, thanks. – J D Nov 2 '20 at 0:23
  • I read your comments in other places, and I'll address them all here. It is my fundamental belief that multiple representations of answers is an important aspect of how this site should be used. I have selected this response as what I believe to be the most important point in answering this question. There's absolutely a problem with a small percentage of people using the mechanism of closure, and in my perspective, you're answer is not "right" or "wrong", but rather is the "best fit". I think this answer shows a tremendous amount of insight into a mechanical problem that needs to be fixed... – J D Nov 8 '20 at 15:26
  • But more importantly, our exchange highlights what I see to be some presumptions built in to this forum about what the mechanisms mean. For instance, I upvote all contributions to the site that seem to introduce novel material, both Q&A. I haven't moved on from anything, because EVERY claim you make in every post is material for consideration and reconsideration. In fact, your contribution in answering this question, and you raising the questions about how we interpret the mechanisms is EXACTLY the sorts of points I'm trying to elevate to discussion. I'll post a question. – J D Nov 8 '20 at 15:30
  • It might help to understand that when I taught math, I required the use of pen, because discourse is stiffled by erasing things and putting forth the tidiest answer. IMNSHO, this one answer is perhaps one of the most important answers on both sides of the site, because it goes to how the mechanisms of questioning, answering, and closure are being used in such a way as to restrict involvement. I hate to break it to you, but if I rank this answer in terms of importance on in MetaPhilSE, this might be number one. As such, I have absolutely no intention on allowing you to delete this. – J D Nov 8 '20 at 15:44
  • Interesting. I took no position regarding Monica though I'm aware. You also are projecting onto me emotions that aren't present. I'm trying to solve a logicla problem. I agree with your answer about 95%. We differ only on the application Hanlon's Razor to intention. – J D Nov 14 '20 at 18:06
  • Okay, now I can respond in detail. First, cognitive dissonance is a feeling of anxiety one get when one detects contradiction. There's nothing contradictory about saying that I think your answer is correct, but I don't think there's a 'cabal'. That's because you have no evidence of a conspiracy and why appying Hanlon's Razor makes much more sense. The group of people closing aren't coordinating. They're just using the same game-theoretic approach to manage quality of contribution. It's tough getting anyone here to coordinate, let alone organizing cabals. That being said... – J D Nov 14 '20 at 18:54
  • the important issue is still how do we change the mechanism to prevent CLEARLY on-topic posts from being closed. And to that, you answered the question I asked: Why is this closed? Because a group of people are voting to close rather than downvote. That is why your answer is not only correct, but got my upvote and recognition to answer. – J D Nov 14 '20 at 18:57
  • Just to clarify: The user has been banned network-wide because of misuse of system mechanics by using secondary accounts, several times and across several accounts and communities. It has nothing to do with the quality of their contributions per se. – Philip Klöcking Dec 30 '20 at 11:24

It's entirely possible to reopen questions that have been closed. Just vote to reopen. I've done it successfully for many closed questions. When I cast a reopen vote on the question referenced here, it was the first such vote, suggesting that others are complaining but not voting --a problem not unique to here.

It's problematic if there's a moderator who is overreaching on closing items, but that doesn't seem to be the case here. Users being allowed to cast open and close votes is a core part of the SE methodology, and it typically balances out in a healthy community.

  • I have on several occasions too. But I'm exploring the interesting fact that though the fact the closure of 'dispositions' which is clearly a topic of philosophy by any reasonable, neutral POV was brought to the attention of the community. Only 1 of 5 chose to retract their vote. Somewhat noteworthy is a moderator and subject-matter expert clearly played a role. In fact, the vast majority of attempts I have seen to reopen a post fail. Of course, I've yet to probe the statistics on these matters with my recently acquired access to SQL. – J D Nov 7 '20 at 15:55
  • Part of philosophy on philosophy includes Mitsubishi-san's notions of kan ban and kai zen, the art of continual improvement. – J D Nov 7 '20 at 15:56

Perhaps it shouldn't be possible to vote to close a question unless its net vote is -5 or worse (or some such number).

At -10 (or whatever) the question could be automatically flagged for review or moderator attention.

If people in general aren't down-voting a question, then why is it worthy of closing by a few individuals?

  • I think the situation in philosophy as against the more "classic" SE technical sites is very different. Out there relevance is focused, narrow, clear: a Windows q on askubuntu-SE or Unix-SE is clearly in the wrong place even if it's an ok question. Here it's the other way round: anything and everything (can) have a philosophy angle. So misuse of "off-topic" for "I don't like" is inevitable. But on the whole agree. Upvoted. It's just that closing for things like spam should take a different channel; not wait too long – Rusi-packing-up Nov 2 '20 at 15:11
  • Things like spam should use the flagging mechanism. Poor or inappropriate questions should be down-voted. Closing and deleting should be based on those flags and votes. In the legal system, juries and burden of evidence exist to counter-balance biased judges. The current SE system bypasses that balance. – Ray Butterworth Nov 2 '20 at 15:13
  • @Rusi-packing-up I whole-heartedly agree. The mechanism for regulating content abuse is inevitable, not because of technical concerns, but rather, because a lack of a mechanism for governance. The Tribunal that runs the technology is democratically elected, but it is not democratically accountable because there is no mechanism of democratic accountability. The moderators are good people, but they don't have an important tool to regulate conflict fairly: the rule of law. – J D Nov 2 '20 at 16:36
  • @RayButterworth Agreed, however, it is a perennial temptation of the human condition that immediate political expedience is the foil of fairness, justice and reason. It seems to me that some bare-bones Constitution is in order, and it's creation should be a community-negotiated process. My inclination is that the Tribunal of Moderators should be empowered by the members of adequate reputation to exercise a representatively democratic set of simple rules. – J D Nov 2 '20 at 16:41
  • How do you gentleman feel about us starting a second thread as a Request For Comment to see if we can facilitate consensus among members of the community including the moderators? Nothing so dramatic or important as the Magna Carta :D, but maybe the formalization of some rules of thumb? Otherwise, as far as I see it, the Hobbesian trap stays in play, and the fractioning of membership into two cabals is a perenniel problem (just like here in the US!)... – J D Nov 2 '20 at 16:44
  • If there really is an informal cabal voting posts closed because of one metaphilosophy, essentially the only solution not withstanding forming a group of 5 block voters who then can open any quesiton they collectively deem deserves reopening. Then we're right into the two-party system that is screwing up my country. On the other hand, if we have something simple but parlimentary in the European sense, conflicts can be broked more fairly. – J D Nov 2 '20 at 16:46
  • @PhilipKlöcking, as someone who is very invested in this community, has sizeable reputation (1 of maybe 30), and is moderator with, shall we say, a less analytical, and more holistic view on philosophy, can you secure me the approval of the Tribunal of Moderators to put forth an RFC here on Meta for reformation of governance to be sorted out by those with some minimum reputation? Even high school organizations have by-laws, mein Hair. – J D Nov 2 '20 at 16:50
  • To all three of you gentleman, I would remind: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead – J D Nov 2 '20 at 17:02
  • @JD We came the closest to agreement in this comment of yours «(if) there really is an informal cabal voting posts closed because of one metaphilosophy...». Now it seems that (a) you believe there's none or (b) you're agreeable/belong to it. That confirms my decision embodied in the added suffix to my user-id, viz. to refrain from participating. – Rusi-packing-up Nov 8 '20 at 7:19
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    First to this post in particular: It is intended that votes and closures are separate since votes are indeed more tied to "liking" or "disliking" while close votes are more tied to policies. That said, posts with -4 or lower can only be seen by high reputation users anyway. This would, therefore, be kind of pointless, especially as we very rarely reach a net vote exceeding 3/-3. – Philip Klöcking Nov 8 '20 at 12:45
  • @JD Only seen this comment now. As mentioned, comments ping users only if they own the post itself or already wrote a comment underneath it. I guess this is on it's way already? If not, feel free to ping again (which now works and notifies me) – Philip Klöcking Nov 8 '20 at 12:48
  • To be fair @JD, we also came v close to agreeing in your inequation «democracy ≠ governance» (Ok You used "accountability" where I use "governance"; we can let this pass as a minor nit-pick). But after that point you've evidently moved on... – Rusi-packing-up Nov 8 '20 at 13:36
  • @Rusi-packing-up Yes. I have moved on. But I also haven't moved on. I appreciate your agreement, and our discussion here can simply continue to evolve independently of me forking a new question. Linear thinking, sequences if you will, play heavily into how we organize our thinking, but this mechanism for discussion is simply non-linear. I have repeatedly come back to this question and the answers when reflecting. This post, for instance, is much more important than whether or not the post itself has been closed. Even if the post is open, the question itself is still relevant and stands... – J D Nov 8 '20 at 15:40
  • @Rusi-packing-up What I'm trying to do on this side of the SME-philosophy divide is get the philosophical parts of the brains working on how do we improve discourse on both PhilSE and MetaPhilSE... and I myself haven't answered this question (which eventually intend to do). Call me lazy, but often times when I pose a question, I feel it's best to gather up a multiplicity of perspectives, and let the question stand so that it might be ruminated upon awhile. And then, even when I answer the question, my answer might not be the best response even if it is most thorough... – J D Nov 8 '20 at 15:47
  • @Rusi-packing-up As a programmer, when I begin working on a separate module, that doesn't mean I have moved on. It means I have begin coding the larger framework. When the software runs, ALL code is important because the structure of code, while punctuated with linear runs, is highly cyclic. Same thing with developing theories, which is precisely what you are contributing to here. Our back and forth here is not less relevant because I start another back and forth elsewhere. I have marked your answer correct, but Ray Butterworth has an equally intriguing proposal that needs to stand. – J D Nov 8 '20 at 15:50

It's an obvious error, why and how this particular question can be fixed, but of much more importance is the question of how can it be prevented in the general case. I like to believe as someone with software engineering experience that information and information systems can be improved, and the better questions are 'Is it worth it?' and 'How?'.

  1. Chris Sunami has suggested that the post can be reopened. Of course, it can be reopened, but it is of little concern whether or not the specific post can be opened because the intention of asking the question is how do we in the sake of quality of this knowledge base prevent these 'normal accidents' (from Charles Perrow in his book, Normal Accidents: Living With High-Risk Technologies).
  2. Rusi-packing-up has called the ultimate cause of this closure for what is. There is a group of users who have a methodology of using a hair-trigger to close questions such as these which obviously shouldn't be closed, but much more concerning, who refuse to do the work to bring a good question in the rough up to standards.
  3. Ray Butterworth Given his long-standing experience with computers understands that ultimately, this isn't a problem solvable by asking people to behave in a certain way, but rather can be solved by fixing the rules of the game. As such, it is clear that Ray understands that technology-practice is balancing the techne against psyche.

This then is the crux of the drive to improve the quality of our knowledge base. First, let us make some assumptions:

  1. Everyone who contributes here is well-intentioned, but not entirely unencumbered by an ego and emotions. This forum, like all electronic fora, is stripped of the more important part of communication, the presence of the person communicating, whose effects might best be understood by Poe's Law and Hanlon's Razor. So, directly to Rusi-packing-up, I do believe there is a group of people who are routinely closing posts some of which shouldn't be closed for a variety of reasons, but I do not think that one can stand behind the claim it is a cabal in the technical sense. That requires a coordinated conspiracy, and if there's anything way to characterize this organization, and yes, we are an organization in the dictionary sense, there is far too little communication and coordination that occurs here. I believe that by having a feature-request honored and changing the mechanism for closure and opening, a lot of grief and lost energy can be saved.

  2. Everyone who contributes here has their own agenda, and let's be honest. Some people don't come here to exercise their abilities to wield subject-matter editorial skills to build a high quality knowledge base of Q&A, and many of those that once did are either gone or apathetic probably because they don't believe it's possible. There's an entire range of contributors from our walking encyclopedias like Conifold to high school students who are trying to understand what philosohy is/does.

  3. Another major cause of the emphasis on closure over the quality of Q&A comes from the overwhelming number of contributions and the attempt to maintain their quality. So, it's easier just to throw out the baby with the bath water than it is to clean the water. I'm sympathetic. For the last couple weeks, I have tried to sustain a daily regimine of doing so, and it's not possible for any single person to do so. Thus, the ability to do so is engaged collectively with little coordination. In fact, the issue with closures is the better of two evils, the alternative being a stream of horrendously poor content to be created. This is exactly why the mechanism for closure needs to be modified after debate on the best way to do so while not letting poor quality posts be allowed to remain in the knowledge base. That's no easy task, but it can be done, both technically and politically.


Rusi-packing-up's Answer:

Some people have figured out that closing questions is costless whereas downvoting has a cost albeit small. So it's come about that misuse of close-vote for down-vote is rampant.

Since down-voting costs a reputation point I prefer flagging questions and answers or voting to close questions. This action sends the post to a review queue or to a moderator. I have no preference who resolves the issue. Relevant para from above stacker

The natural next step is "closer-cabals" even if formed informally

I'd suggest that if regular participators (with close-vote rep) are of of the order of 500 whereas active close-voters are more like 10-15 we have clear evidence of a cabal in action.

It's appropriate that the answer quoted above by "Frank Hubeny" is from the frankest of the lot!

  • @Rusi-packing-up Here's another reason I didn't move on from the question. I hadn't answered it myself. The Q&A mechanism can be used as a rhetorical device. In this case, I found it beneficial to keep your answer not only because it seemed to answer my question best, but because it allowed me to answer the question after I had the assistance of other contributors here to come to my own answer. If in the future someone else contributes (seems unlikely), I'll probably expand my own answer. Unlike typical face-to-face Q&A, a Q&A document is actually an artifact for reference in multiple dimens. – J D Nov 14 '20 at 20:06
  • I'm engaging you because you seem to contribute on this side and recognize the somewhat, shall we say, non-deterministic outcomes in participating on the non-Meta side? I find your question about editing posts still be an open question because the response you got, while not poor, responds generally, instead of specifically. – J D Nov 14 '20 at 20:08

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