Is this site for philosophical questions or questions about philosophy? I asked a philosophical question (what is an author) and it got closed, since it was “off topic”. I thought the site was for philosophical questions also, so I’m confused why it was closed. (I may have read the on topic description, but I may have misread it. )
Philosophical questions and questions about philosophy are hard to disentangle at times, but as a rule of thumb, it is definitely more correct to say that the site is indeed suitable for questions about philosophy, with a given textual context.
That's not because we dislike philosophical discussion or original ideas, but because these simply do not fit well with what it means to be part of the StackExchange network, which we are first and foremost.
For more context and arguments, see our most important meta thread: Friends, we are not philosophers. Don't be deterred by the title, it is well explained within the text and the answer.
One major thing to take away is that
[T]he point is not that none of us are philosophers (which would be false), it is that we are not here in our capacity as philosophers, but in our capacity as subject matter experts about the field of philosophy.
Just as a person on Physics.SE will obviously not conduct physical experiments or develop original theories on the site, but will share or expand their knowledge about experiments and theories in the field of physics.
Sinn und Bedeuting, wie ich lieb' Frege
Ja, ich weiß viel mehr als du.
Brennt einen Sehnsucht in unserer Logik
Zwei und zwei immer macht 'deux'.
— Fritz Lang, German metaphysician
Thank you for asking the question, Doragon!
While I'm a new contributor (only a year or so), this is a most excellent question, and from around Beta this and several tangential issues seem to be at stake, for what one might consider the soul of this community. If you are interested in more of the background, as I am, in having a profound answer, please read these artifacts:
- What is our mission statement?
- What is considered off-topic?
- What are the criteria for marking answers as correct in philosophy?
- Friends, what are the criteria for marking answers as correct?
- Are we allowed to express our own opinions?
- Is it off topic to ask a question that isn't about philosophy but philosophers have asked?
- Is thinking (and discussion) disallowed on the Philosophy site?
Almost ten years, not all of the bugs have been worked out, so please be aware there are different interpretations on how to use the mechanisms of voting and closure. We seem to have no by-laws to specify a policy to regulate said mechanism. In fact, you'll find radically different interpretations on how to use voting and closure. A good start for contemporary issues are the following:
- Would it be better to show some amount of humbleness considering close votes?
- Friends, how could a question about an idea with its own article in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy be closed as off-topic?
Certainly, with the minimum of regress, a strong foundation exists for establishing the principles of self-moderation. As far as I have determined in respect to governance, there are no actual by-laws on this site. My HOA has them, my daughter's school and brownie troop, and even my best friend's gaming clan has them. If they are here, I promise you I will find them. To be fair, the convolution of the documentation might most aptly be characterized as hoary and in need of combing. But as my personal interest in philosophy includes understanding the impact of technology practice on philosophical methods, I aim to contribute in the Theses-in-Wittenbergian sense on this front. I aim on addressing many points of contention. (Aus mehr als einem Grunde wird, lesen Sie Disputatio pro declaratione virtutis indulgentiarum).
It is a rather common expectation that when people read and come to Philosophy Stack Exchange they often have their question closed rapidly and are told that while we are called "Philosophy Stack Exchange" it's best to understand that "Friends, we are not philosophers" and that technically speaking, we don't do philsophy. Personally I wonder why anyone, especially beginners who show an interest in philosophy, would be confused by that, but as is made clear "We are here to learn -- not to vent, bully or distract". Perhaps we might consider a name change to dissuade the notion we do philosophy.
:) Of course, I write those words tongue-in-cheek because if there's any community that should maintain a sense of humor in regards to their contributions in society, it should be deep-thinkers. In my not so humble opinion, the greatest philosopher in the world is Diogenes of Sinope whose pursuit of truth represents the best use of philosophy. But, I recognize such predilections are rather objective and offensive. Philosophy can be done as if we are non-probabilistic Turing Machines in a coopertition for the next great academic publication, certainly. But as a relatively new contributor who finds philosophy an end itself rather than a means of self-affirmation of my intelligence, I may accidentally offend the mien of those who see no reason for camaraderie or humor to have anything to do with philosophy. See Stanford Encyclopedia's entry 'dour-us philosophicus'.
Lastly, as a new user myself, let me make you aware that as a group of highly intelligent or highly educated contributors (sometimes even both), you will find yourself among many different perspectives, particularly on what constitutes the nature of philosophy itself. You will find necessarily that each has not only his, her, or (substitute non-binary here) approach, but their own idiolect. These differences sometimes lead to different interpretations about finer nuances of mechanism and policy, and from my perspective, these have taken a toll on the soul of the community. Once, this very forum was bubbling with enthusiasm. See How can we promote Philosophy Stack Exchange?. But my sense is the thrill is gone, oh baby, the thrill is gone. One reason for that is many who seek counsel here don't do their homework starting with the FAQ and that can be frustrating for those of us who do. To wit:
According to the counter (I'll presume it works), In almost 9 years, out of the tens of thousands of visitors, we have managed to persuade exactly 286 persons to visit (presuming it hasn't counted my use of the document multiple times). As a former teacher, sounds about par for the course.
So, we welcome you heartily, and if you persevere, and don't sufficiently annoy the moderators who seemingly enjoy absolutely unlimited power like King John before Runnymede (I joke, of course. They are the brightest and friendliest among us. And most handsome. And wisest. And hopefully tolerant with a sense of humor???), you'll certainly learn a thing or two. Unless you do philosophy, because if you haven't heard, we are not philosophers. ;)