User talk:Owl

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Hello there, welcome to the 'pedia! I hope you like the place and decide to stay. If you need pointers on how we title pages visit Wikipedia:Naming conventions or how to format them visit our manual of style. If you have any other questions about the project then check out Wikipedia:Help or add a question to the Village pump. Nice work on Meta-ethics - it wasn't even an encyclopedia article before you touched it. Cheers! --maveric149

Wikipedia's accuracy and credibility (editorial comments)[edit]

Problems: I see mistakes in Wikipedia articles about things I know about, and it makes me distrust the articles in subjects I don't know about. I could edit the articles to correct the mistakes, but this can be extremely time consuming (one could spend days just going through various philosophy articles). I also find periodic grammar or other style problems. One doesn't find this in traditional encyclopedias such as the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, or the Edwards (Macmillan) Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Probably other readers have the same experience.

Causes of the problems:

  1. No one is accountable, nor does anyone feel responsible, for the accuracy of Wikipedia articles, since they are unsigned and have no official authors.
  2. There is virtually no incentive to work on them.
    • Doing so is extremely time-consuming. People who write traditional encyclopedia articles also expend a lot of time. However, they are typically repaid in one or more of three ways: with money, with recognition or prestige, and with the chance to gently support what they see as the right view of the subject. However:
    • One is paid nothing to write or edit Wikipedia articles.
    • One gets no recognition or prestige, since the articles are unsigned.
    • One gets no chance to forward what one sees as the correct views, because of the NPOV policy.
    • Finally, one can't even link to one's own relevant papers on the subject, since there seems to be an unofficial policy to automatically delete such links. So the deal is: spend hour upon hour doing web editing, and you can be sure of getting nothing in return.
  3. Genuine experts in a subject are usually people who have other demands on their time--often professors, for example, who could spend their time working with their own students or doing research in their field that they'll get credit for. So just thinking of these factors a priori, it seems unlikely that many experts would contribute to Wikipedia.
  4. It's true that if someone sees an error in an article they can fix it. But it's also true that others can introduce new errors. And the people most likely to see errors and not introduce new ones, are the experts who seem to have no incentive to contribute. --owl232 11:58, 3 January 2006 (UTC)

On the other hand, probably more than a thousand mathematicians have contributed to Wikipedia. One of the regulars is a mathematical physicist at MIT; another is a winner of the Fields Medal. The articles on subjects covered in courses required of large numbers of students every semester (the first couple of years of calculus, linear algebra, a few other things) are often clumsily done, but (1) only a very small proportion of the math articles are on those subjects, and (2) even those who write clumsily on mathematics are usually glad to learn from those who know more; otherwise they wouldn't be here, so the article often don't stay that way. As for linking to one's own papers, I did this a few days ago and no one's altered it yet (see Faa di Bruno's formula). I see no reason why one shouldn't link to one's own things on the web when they're relevant. But a suspicion may arise that you're just trying to advertise, so you have to be careful how you do it to avoid that misunderstanding. (An anonymous user, apparently in Britain, added a reference to a paper of mine to the article on Cox's theorem, thereby proving that at least one person noticed that paper.) Michael Hardy 02:59, 14 January 2006 (UTC)

Mathematics articles may be more reliable because people who don't know mathematics usually recognize that fact and don't feel tempted to write about it anyway.--owl232 13:24, 18 January 2006 (UTC)

Owl: I have commented on a problem that I see with your treatment. You can find my thoughts at Wikipedia_talk:WikiProject_Philosophy, if you're interested. Lucidish 01:38, 21 April 2006 (UTC)


Do you mind if I reply? Just delete this if you don't want it here.

I think you sum up an important issue rather neatly. The Wiki is not an authoritative resource, for the simple reason that it is not written by authorities, but for the most part by amateurs - in the less common sense, that of those who love the subject.

But what is extraordinary is that it works at all. That there is a quite marked improvement in both the quality and quantity of articles over time is something I would not have supposed possible given the open nature of the project.

Those who think the Wiki could become an authoritative resource, in the sense you discuss, are perhaps mistaken, for the reasons you give. But writing a Wiki article on a chosen topic remains an excellent way to develop one's own understanding of the topic, and provides an opportunity for those no longer involved directly in the teaching of Philosophy (or whatever other subject one chooses) to teach again.

In other words, it might not attract much professional kudos, but it is fun! Banno 05:07, 5 January 2006 (UTC)


Information.svg I notice that you've edited a few philosophy articles. Have you considered joining the Wikipedia:WikiProject Philosophy? It is an effort to coordinate the work of Wikipedians who are knowledgeable about philosophy in an effort to improve the general quality and range of Wikipedia articles on philosophical topics. Banno 23:31, 1 January 2006 (UTC)


Hello. I see you created a new article: commensurability (ethics). It is good practice when doing this to consider which other articles should link to it. I've added it to the list of philosophical topics. I don't really know to what extent that will bring it to the attention of Wikipedians interested in the topic, but I know doing a similar thing with a new math article has that effect. Michael Hardy 02:10, 2 January 2006 (UTC)


As I said in the Talk page, meta-ethics, I don't object to your re-structuring there.

I'm curious, though, whether we should make room for a theistic command theory. In other words, the meta-ethical position that there is a God, who tells me what to do, and that what is moral is obediance to those commands.

This would be a form of moral realism, and (perhaps) of reductionism as well ... if 'obediance to commands' is considered a pre-moral idea to which morality is here being reduced. But it doesn't make sense to call it "naturalism," which our new structuring seems to do. Its a revelatory super-naturalism. (Although if coupled with atheism in metaphysics, it would presumably be a sort of error theory.)

I'm a layperson in philosophy, but I recall that one of Plato's dialogs turned on Socrates' exposure of the inadequacies of this view.

Inadequacies notwithstanding, shouldn't it have a name, and a place in the chart? --Christofurio 15:34, 2 January 2006 (UTC)

Yes, Socrates exposed one of the problems with the divine command theory in the dialogue The Euthyphro (the basic question is, does God command x because it is right, or is it right because he commands it?) However, it should have a name and some discussion in the article. Its proper place in the taxonomy is actually under subjectivism, which is the view that evaluative properties are dependent on the attitudes (or practices) of some observer(s). --owl232 10:51, 3 January 2006 (UTC)
I've added a three-bullet list of subjectivisms to the article. See what you think when you get a moment. --Christofurio 16:12, 3 January 2006 (UTC)
Good. I'm going to edit & add a bit to that. --owl232 13:15, 5 January 2006 (UTC)

Why your article was (speedy) deleted[edit]

Let me say that I wasn't responsible in any way for the previous deletion of your article. I just happened to see some of your edits being reverted and noticed your presence. I wouldn't be doing all this if I didn't think there was a good possibility your article (after modifications) would be acceptable to the community at large. I normally don't do this kind of thing, but I thought it would be a real shame if another expert left Wikipedia because of a misunderstanding.

That said, since you seem genuinely puzzled, what's going on here is that Wikipedia has a tendency to generate cruft. There are plenty of articles that if taken to a vote would get deleted, but are not brought to attention for some reason or another. I read that something like 80% of Wikipedia is basically maintained by 1500 contributors. There are obvious problems with this. The big one is that it's difficult for this limited number of people to keep quality consistent across all of Wikipedia. And many of these contributors are of the "janitorial" type, good at cleaning stuff up, but not subject matter experts themselves (some are both of course).

So what's happening is that you've attracted an undue amount of attention with your extensive linking. Thus the most rigorous standards are being applied to you. And they're being applied by people with little or no knowledge of the philosophy world. Thus the game is to convince these people. As for your economist friends, I'm a bit surprised that their articles exist. It doesn't appear to me that their notability is all that well established. I think though that any votes for deletion for their articles may be contentious, since the reason people seem to have created their articles is that they are involved with what appears to the most popular economics blog. Whether that is notable is, of course, debatable, but there is systemic bias toward the Internet, so I'm guessing enough people would find that notable.

My own issue with those articles is that they don't explain (other than the blog) what these men have accomplished. What are their contributions? One article explains its subject is a recognized critic of Austrian economic theory. I guess that fits the bill somewhat, but it doesn't go into any specifics.

With your article, I've added note of some of your accomplishments and how they are received. At the least, it makes your bio more interesting, don't you think? Part of the motivation for having a bio assert notability with some evidence is that in the end, this is beneficial for Wikipedia. For example, Phenomenal conservatism isn't an article, but now there's a link to it in your bio. Soon there will be an article (hopefully). Remember that we are trying to make an encyclopedia here. A rather weird and kooky one, to be sure, but an encyclopedia nonetheless.

As you may have guessed by now, "notability" criteria on Wikipedia can be inconsistently applied and sometimes differs from subject area to area. After all, Wikipedia is (in)famous for its hordes of Pokemon information. However, people do try to be reasonable about it most of the time. BTW, the examples you named, such as Jimmy Wales, are in fact very notable. You may not regard Wales as very famous, but since he is often mentioned in the press (in association with Wikipedia), he is arguably as famous as Wikipedia (even if people have trouble remember his name). Things like media attention are often used as justification for notability on Wikipedia. Of course, this doesn't work as well for academics.

Wow, I wrote a lot.  :-)--C S (Talk) 16:01, 2 January 2006 (UTC)

Thanks, and thanks for the edits on the article. --owl232 13:13, 5 January 2006 (UTC)

Help wanted[edit]

I'm having a lot of difficulty on the Philosophy page. It desperately needs the involvement of someone who is actually a philosopher. See my latest comment on the talk page for the context of this. Any help you can give, much appreciated. Dbuckner 09:30, 11 January 2006 (UTC)

Thanks for your generous words about me. I haven't read through the whole article for reasons you can probably understand, but I made a few suggestions. --owl232 06:17, 13 January 2006 (UTC)

Thank you & I wasn't expecting you too. I was hoping for something exactly on the lines you set out. If I had said it, they wouldn't have taken any notice. Did you get my email on epistemic possibility btw? I had some questions about your (excellent article). Amused by your comment about Continental philosophy. I was a pupil of C.J.F. Williams, who would be overcome by an expression of pain and agony if any naive student was foolish enough to mention Heidegger or Sartre (this was before anyone had heard of Derrida). It was understood you didn't utter those names in his office. Dbuckner 08:12, 13 January 2006 (UTC)
On 'Truth', by the way, you don't want to go there. I was a mistake for me to get involved in 'philosophy'. If you keep away from the main articles, unum verum, ens &c you will unlikely to be bothered. My William of Sherwood has not been touched since I created it. I could have made the whole thing up, and no one would have been the wiser. Also, on links to one's own work, this is generally tolerated, as long as with discretion. Dbuckner 08:26, 13 January 2006 (UTC)
Didn't receive the message about epistemic possibility. Did you use the email link from my web page? I'll have to check on whether it's working.--owl232 01:16, 14 January 2006 (UTC)
I hit the link which practically begs one to send mail. I would like to talk about your interesting paper. my mail is d3uckner AT Dbuckner 09:05, 14 January 2006 (UTC)

simple links[edit]

Hello. Please note that if you write [[dog]]s, [[dogma]]tic, [[hyphen]]ated, [[logic]]al, [[apocrypa]]l, [[Russia]]n, [[rabbi]]nical, etc., then the whole word, not just the part in square brackets, appears as a clickable link, and links to the article whose title is inside the brackets. In the interest of avoiding pointless complexity, the more complicated form, as in [[philosophy|philosophies]] or [[epistemology|epistemological]], should be reserved for cases in which it is necessary. Also, the first letter of a link, unlike the later letters, is case-insensitive, so that you don't need to write [[Book|book]]. Michael Hardy 22:36, 11 January 2006 (UTC)

Thanks, Mike; I didn't realize those things. --owl232 06:18, 13 January 2006 (UTC)

debate about Mind review of your book[edit]

Hi. There's something of a debate about the Mind review of your book occurring on the talk page of Michael Huemer. You might want to weigh in with your comments as to the validity of an anonymous editor's interpretation of certain remarks by the reviewer. I have little interest myself in getting in an extended discussion of what the reviewer meant by such and such. --C S (Talk) 08:58, 13 January 2006 (UTC)

Philosophy page[edit]

Your points about Cartesianism /empiricism were good. However, this article is doomed. I don't propose to spend any more time on it. Dbuckner 09:40, 18 January 2006 (UTC) PS I send a test mail from my work address - did you receive it? I don't know if its spam filtering that is causing the problem. Dbuckner 09:40, 18 January 2006 (UTC)

Analytic vs 'Continental'[edit]

I have located the article I was thinking of, by no less than Sir Michael himself.

The history of European philosophy is the Latin tradition, which survives until the 17th century (later in Germany), in which regional differences are disguised by the common language (Latin). Then a period, right up until the early twentieth century, in which mainstream British philosophers are influenced by Continental philosophers and vice versa.

There is no period in European history comparable to the modern period, where philosophers working in one tradition completely ignore those in the other. Dbuckner 11:59, 18 January 2006 (UTC)

I don't know enough history to know if that is true. If it is, I wonder whether it is a good sign or bad. Perhaps a good sign, because some philosophers have finally gotten serious enough about their profession that they aren't going to waste their time talking to people who aren't engaged in a cognitive endeavor. Think about science: in any of the natural sciences, there are certain intellectual standards such that, if you fall short of them, people don't debate you; they just ignore you and go on doing their own thing. (Physicists, for instance, don't go around constantly arguing with the advocates of perpetual motion machines; they just ignore them and go on doing serious work.) Perhaps the ability to ignore people who aren't doing serious work is a hallmark of science.--owl232 13:22, 18 January 2006 (UTC)
Except for this: when I go into Waterstone's opposite University College London where I occasionally teach, I have a browse round the philosophy section. What always strikes me is the increasing proportion of 'continental' material on the shelves, by comparison with the 'analytic' stuff. It gets more pronounced every year. I'd be interested in your experience in America. I don't know if mine is representative because London is not really a centre of philosophy in the way that Oxford, or even Cambridge is. Cambridge of course famously disagreed about an honorary degree to Derrida. Dbuckner 17:07, 18 January 2006 (UTC)

On epistemic possibility, by the way, I had only one question. It was: can't all varieties of possibility be regarded as epistemic? This struck me the other day. Someone said "we might be singing on Tuesday". They meant, "after all". That seems an epistemic use. As for past tense use, might (might!) that not be the past tense of the present tense epistemic? It's not at all clear to me what 'logical' possibility or impossibility is. There are other uses of the subjunctive both in English and in Latin where the only purpose of the mood is to immunise the speaker against the truth conditions of the subjunctive proposition. This is just a wild idea, it's not an area of mine. Dbuckner 17:07, 18 January 2006 (UTC)

Here's another, which I Googled. "Jesus might have been homosexual, says the first openly gay bishop". That seems clearly epistemic, though past tense. Dbuckner 17:10, 18 January 2006 (UTC)

logical possibility external link[edit]

i noticed you added a sole external link on logical possibility, which happens to be an article of your own. i want to ask you to consider its appropriateness, especially in light of Wikipedia:Reliable sources. my greatest complaint is that you don't mention it being peer reviewed in any way. also consider that it appears on a commercial site, and that there must been abundance of of other free material on the web, in scholarly and maybe even textbook forms. i realize that you are a professional philosopher (I am, by the way, far from it), but it might not be enaugh for inclusion in this encyclopedia. notice that there is also a convention of referring to SEP articles. sorry for errors, i am in a hurry. tell me what you think. trespassers william 21:45, 11 February 2007 (UTC)

A "commercial site"? This user seems to be a customer of that site, not a person whose selling something via that site. Michael Hardy 01:32, 12 February 2007 (UTC)