In Why do we prohibit incestual relationships? I was downvoted for the question and told to ask in an Anthropology SE site and not a Philosophy one.

I have seen no issue when reading the help pages. We welcome questions on ethics — the nature of the right thing to do and logic — the nature of reasoning and inference.

What types of questions should I avoid asking? states that

Some subjective questions are allowed, but “subjective” does not mean “anything goes”. All subjective questions are expected to be constructive.

And I feel this question fits that criteria.

Constructive subjective questions:

  • inspire answers that explain “why” and “how”
  • tend to have long, not short, answers
  • have a constructive, fair, and impartial tone
  • invite sharing experiences over opinions
  • are more than just mindless social fun

OK I didn't

  • insist that opinion be backed up with facts and references

But, my question was full of prior research and supporting evidence for claims made, and that alone would show that pure opinion would not be accepted as an answer.

Is the question acceptable in Philosophy.SE or should it be migrated to an anthropological site? If so, which one would be recommended?

I am a highly seasoned member of Psychology.SE and it won't fit there as it doesn't pertain to the sciences of Psychology and/or Neuroscience. And Law.SE won't accept it as it doesn't fit the criteria at https://law.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic

Edit: It was closed but is now been reopened a while ago

I don't know who closed it as it is not shown, but the reason given was

screenshot of reason given which is: 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.

And to reiterate what I said in comments after the latest response answer, the question is not talking about non-consensual incestuous relationships.

So I ask again...

If this question is off-topic where would migration be recommended?

3 Answers 3


perfectly on topic- if an ethical question cannot be asked in a philosophy forum, then where at? and judging by the amount of responses, by active users in stack phil, it is a philosophical question. anthropology might bring evidence to bear upon the question, but last time I checked ethics is still philosophical.

  • 2
    It's not just an ethical topic. Both IEP and SEP have articles devoted to the philosophy of sexuality. I suspect closure may have been due to a lack of familiarity with the topic. ; )
    – J D
    May 22, 2022 at 10:34
  • 3
    Closure due to a lack of familiarity with the topic or attention is not as scarce as one might wish.
    – Philip Klöcking Mod
    May 22, 2022 at 10:40

Incest, which is part of the broader philosophical inquiry into Sex and Sexuality (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy) or if you prefer The Philosophy of Sexuality and obviously has ethical dimensions, is not a mainstream philosophy topic, but it obviously philosophy. On this site, I have repeatedly bore witness to even "professional" philosophers vote to close topics that have entries in encyclopedic entries on philosophy. The most hilarious demonstration of mysterious logic occurred when a question on philosophic dispositions was closed despite their being both an entire chapter devoted to the topic in Gilbert Ryle's seminal work and a SEP article literally entitled "Dispositions".

Obviously it would take an act of superintelligence to rationalize the closure of a question off-topic when there are articles, books, and even journals devoted to a topic, one that a lowly thinker such as myself could never understand. The only question is how to react to cowardly anonymity and a senility of logic, and for that I would urge the review of a cautionary tale. Ignaz Semmelweis was persecuted for his thinking. In a stroke of genius arguing against Miasma theory, he implemented a program at his hospital to wash hands before child delivery. The practice of the day allowed physicians to conduct autopsies in one room, walk into the next and delivery babies. His research and logic were irrefutable, but in his frustration he alienated his colleagues who conspired with his wife and had him institutionalized. LOL!

There are excellent contributors here, and there are intellectual lemons. I'll leave it to you to decide which is which. The important life lesson here is actually psychological: it's called the Dunning-Kruger effect. Some people just don't know they don't know, and sheepskin provides no immunity.

One seldom gets in life a clear rationale for obvious acts of blundering reason, because reasoning is subordinate to the psychological impulse and is often just a rationalization. There's philosophy-qua-regurgitation and then there's philosophy-qua-critical-thinking. The distinction is obvious to some more than others.

Illegitimi non carborundum and remember the plight of Captain Yossarian! ;)


I don't think it's possible to discuss incest without the discussion leaving the arena of ethics and ending up in the realm of psychology. Setting aside the long-term biological problems of incestuous relationships, the main problem of incest (ostensibly) is the emotional/psychological damage that ensues. Incest (like rape, and slavery) always seems to have an element of power/submission – of someone being coerced against their will — and culturally we expect sexuality to involve appropriate forms of consensus and egalitarianism.

In other words, short of a detailed psychological analysis on the effects of incest on the human psyche, all we have is the cultural taboo against incest. And questioning a cultural taboo with nothing other than mere speculation is (more or less) a non-starter.

You might try the question over in a psychology forum. Taboos are not 'philosophical' (per se) because they are generally precognitive expressions of disgust, without any real rational extrapolation. Of course, one could easily develop a philosophical position advocating for a Hobbesian life which is intentionally 'solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short'; one in which incest was not taboo or fetishistic, but merely the nature of things as they are. But few philosophers (who tend to be idealists) would take that road.

Before one starts questioning whether incest is moral or immoral (in the philosophical sense), one needs a deep understanding of the various harms, miseries, and damages that incest might inflict. This is true whatever form of philosophical ethics one tends to follow. And that requires psychological analysis outside the skill-set of most philosophers.

  • There can be an element of psychology involved, and I come from a psychology background anyway, and have supported rape and sexual abuse survivors for decades. So, I am aware of that. From the other answers here, the question of incest is definitely able to be discussed in the realms of philosophy, and if you look at the linked question, I am not talking about non-consensual relationships, so, where is the power/coercion/submission? In the realms of ethics (and law) submission is not consent. Jun 4, 2022 at 2:43
  • @ChrisRogers: I'm not trying to answer the question here. I'm suggesting why it's not a good fit for a philosophy site. If one accepts that incest causes physical, psychological, or social ills, then it is prima facie immoral; if one does not accept that, then it is prima facie not immoral. I mean, the same can be said of murder: in places from ancient Rome to the antebellum US south vendettas and duels of honor socially acceptable and sanctioned means of resolving disputes. Jun 4, 2022 at 4:01
  • @ChrisRogers: Ethics isn't generally about determining the morality of specific actions and behaviors. It's more about developing and understanding the nature of moral reasoning. Jun 4, 2022 at 4:03
  • ...Assuming morals exist. But plenty of us use ethical reasoning directly, avoiding the assumption that morals are anything other than guidelines or shortcuts for ethical calculus. Also, "questioning a cultural taboo with nothing other than mere speculation" is one of the foundations of philosophy; see Pirsig's comments on brujas and how he connects them to classical schools of philosophy like Skepticism and Cynicism in his second book, Lila (1991).
    – Corbin
    Aug 13 at 21:38

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