Our Frank Hubeny referred to https://www.reddit.com/r/AskPhilosophy, but they are upbraiding Philosophy S.E. Anyone keen to responding to these upbraidments?

I don't want to focus on the formality level, but philosophy stackexchange is particularly bad. Stackexchange is used by software engineers, computer scientists, and sometimes math people. The Philosophy forum is mostly filled with people that generate nonsense.

Philosophy stack exchange is shit, even though stack exchange is perfectly useful for maths. Anything about formality is a speculation which comes after as to the differences between maths and philosophy, but there are other reasons why it’s shit too (it isn’t well positioned to be full of good philosophy!).

Besides, on just empirical grounds, philosophy stack exchange is generally of fairly low quality (at best).

I am just the messenger, be nice to me! Please move this to Meta. I don't got enough member points to post there.

  • A literal reading of that comment is "software engineers, computer scientists, and sometimes math people" are "people that generate nonsense", which is just poisoning the well (and it would also be kinda ironic to say that on a platform built by SEs and CSs, who also built basically every single other website there is). A more generous interpretation is that those people aren't philosophers, but that doesn't necessarily mean the arguments here are bad or wrong (but I certainly won't say you should trust something just because someone said it here, but also not in published philosophy FWIW).
    – NotThatGuy
    Apr 2 at 0:55
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    The top-voted comment gets close to making a good point, but then falls off the wagon completely by suggesting that merely knowing who someone is makes it appropriate to cite them. The actual good point they should've made is that this site doesn't have peer review from verified philosophers or other mechanisms that could be said to reliably lead to high-quality arguments (which Reddit doesn't have either). Then again, philosophy tends to be quite subjective, and you should evaluate arguments by their own merits, not by who said them. Merely being published doesn't mean that much in philosophy
    – NotThatGuy
    Apr 2 at 0:55
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    @NotThatGuy Just want to say that I don't like the term "verified philosophers." If you do philosophy, that makes you a philosopher, regardless of what institutions you might or might not be attached to. There is no objective criterion to distinguish "good" philosophy from "bad" philosophy, and "being attached to an institution" is not such a criterion. Plenty of bad philosophy comes out of people attached to institutions.
    – causative
    Apr 2 at 1:31
  • @causative Makes sense.
    – NotThatGuy
    Apr 2 at 1:38
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    It's a fair cop. half the questions on the site should rightly be closed immediately and half the answers to the good questions show no knowledge of the subject matter. People who would never for a moment think that someone who had no education in computer science should be answering computer science questions, yet think that they, with no knowledge of philosophy should be answering philosophy questions. Apr 2 at 7:33
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    There is a lot of repetition here with lots of minor variations of the same question that often seem to be asked for the purpose of reinforcing a position (or JAQing), rather than genuine enquiry. Apr 2 at 8:14
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    People with a Computer Science or Statistics background are likely to have a good basis in logic and probability, so ought to have something to contribute. I think straying out of your lane occasionally is a good thing in most fields, as long as you have your "L-plates" on and use your mirrors and indicators etc. There are lots of people without CS qualifications that know a great deal about computers and programming. It is the argument not the source that matters. Apr 2 at 14:32
  • @DavidGudeman Ironically, there are lots of people with no (formal) education in computer science (or programming, rather) who provide many useful answers on Stack Overflow (the same could probably be said about the Computer Science site), and who have well-paying jobs as programmers. But there are certainly people who post incorrect or nonsensical answers because they have no idea what they're talking about - it's usually quite easy to point out specific problems with what they've said. There are also people who don't know much, but still manage to post good answers based on what they know.
    – NotThatGuy
    Apr 4 at 0:51
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    @DikranMarsupial, I wasn't suggesting that people have to have a formal education to answer question. Most of my knowledge of philosophy was gained informally. However that's different from someone who tries to answer a technical question based non-technical understanding of the words used. Apr 4 at 1:33
  • @DavidGudeman the meaning of the words used seems to be the issue in a lot of non-technical questions as well Apr 4 at 8:48

4 Answers 4


After reading through the Reddit thread, I would surmise that those comments you quote are themselves not well-sourced (there are no samples provided at all of low-quality Philosophy SE material and a fortiori no proof that the domain of possible samples is weighted towards low quality).

Also, in philosophy, and adjacent/vaguely-overlapping areas (e.g. foundations of mathematics), one person's nonsense is sometimes another person's self-evident insight. I was just reading a sort of rough draft of an essay about an exotic kind of alternative set theory, by an established writer, in which they went on about lassos and vanilla wands. On the surface, such talk is bizarre and "nonsensical," as would be comparable talk of mice and weasels, yet that talk too is well-grounded in the field.

So, you could take the given essay here as an example of philosophical nonsense or even mathematical nonsense that is nonetheless acceptable within philosophical and mathematical academia. And historically, the work of some or another philosopher has been regarded as nonsense by other philosophers. At one time, it was even fashionable to claim that all "metaphysical" propositions (whatever those were supposed to be as contrasted with "non-metaphysical" claims) were nonsense.

Beware those who like to appeal to "what's obvious" and "what's silly," etc.


The Reddit thread is concerned with a person who referenced a Philosophy StackExchange post in a PowerPoint presentation and was criticised for it. There isn't much context. If the reference was just a matter of saying: here is where I got the idea from, then I don't see a problem. If it was intended as a citation of an authoritative source then that is a problem. StackExchange is not an authoritative source, but then neither is Reddit, nor Wikipedia for that matter.

As to the critical comments themselves, it is fair to say that the material on StackExchange is a very mixed bag. There are good and bad questions and there are good and bad answers. The voting system is supposed to help identify the good ones, but it is not used much on the Philosophy site. I don't follow the askphilosophy subreddit but a cursory look suggests that the answers there are no better than the ones here. They are typically very short, unsourced, naive, and sometimes incorrect.

It is a general problem with a philosophical site that everybody feels qualified to contribute, even if they have little or no knowledge of the subject matter. Both Philosophy StackExchange and the askphilosophy subreddit say that they aim to provide contributions that are serious and well-researched and that they are not discussion sites. Despite this, both contain material that is trying to push a personal point of view.

I doubt there is a simple solution to this.


I think the accusation of nonsense generation is a fair reflection of philosophy generally.

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    Then why are you on the group? Apr 2 at 7:28
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    @DavidGudeman I didn't say it was all nonsense!!!! Apr 2 at 8:17
  • You are one funny dude @MarcoOcram! Apr 7 at 5:35

The site has a handful of very good users (Kristian Berry, the admins), a few good users (Bumble and JD, e.g.) and some characters (Marco Ocram). It's not a great resource, but that doesn't make it evil or degenerate.

What are you gonna do, ban everyone except the mods?

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