I have seen many questions with no votes and accompanying answers with no votes, but many comments. Should we be answering and voting rather than indulging in often flippant and unhelpful comments? This is not a chat forum. Is it possible to hide comments?
On my view, there is a certain social contract. One should:
- Vote based on strengths of response (citations, clarity, factual content) and not agreement.
- Avoid down-voting without some form of criticism.
- Use chat.stackexchange.com for chats. (There's an auto mechanism that allows the comments to transition.)
- Use the existence of the existence of journals/published books on a topic to determine if a subject is a philosophical discipline. (Yes, philosophy of sexuality is a thing).
- Up vote answers to questions you've been asked if they contribute to your understanding.
- Strive to keep as many Q&A questions open as possible and negotiate edits to get the question to conform to the standards (despite our differences of opinions on them).
But you'll find there's a certain culture of laissez-faire that permeates the Philosophy StackExchange which I think has to do with the metaphilosophical differences in participant's philosophies of philosophy. When you combine the anonymity of the Internet with the tendency of philosophy to be argumentative by nature, it would appear you get a standoffishness to more active participation. As such, some back and forth is had in comments. Seldom and answers receive 10+ votes anymore (it was far more prevalent at the beginning of the site when participants were more enthusiastic).
Moderates regularly do delete comments and port them to chat. If you are unsatisfied, perhaps you can spearhead fresh elections and become a moderator! Otherwise, given the volunteer nature of the site, it is what it is.
Glad you are participatory!
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Thus, yeah, people use comments for some discussion or trolling or whatever. And that is not what comments are for.
On the other hand, it is not possible to hide comments. Nor is it feasible to completely monitor and delete chatty comments for us three pro bono moderators.
In my view, one of the issues with this is that the 'right' answer isn't always based in philosophy, or some philosophical text. So there's a kind of blurry line between what's allowed as an answer, and what is actually answering the question.
Comments are likely used more often here because the actual answer to the question isn't technically appropriate as a real answer, which is supposed to use philosophy references. And sometimes all a question needs is a few quick lines, and the commenter doesn't have time to exposit in more depth.
As another answer to this question said, every stack site assumes it's own culture, and IMO it'd be a mistake to push too hard against comments. Let them be used for their real purpose here, rather than forcing them into Stack Exchange guidelines.
The occasionally barbed and combative comments are for me part of the vibrancy of the site. I would find PSE a much duller place if it were policed by heavy-handed mods to the point of being in sterile compliance with the guidelines. Sometimes the sparring and jibes get out of hand, but most cases get moved to chat and you can always scroll past any that don't.