Wikipedia:Comparison to Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

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This essay began (on March 16, 2005) as a section of criteria removed from the article "Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy" (SEP). Other sections have been added, to the essay, to expand details for specific subjects.

Comparing the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy to Wikipedia[edit]

An exercise in quality assessment might suggest itself: compare what is found on various topics at the SEP to what is found here (and perhaps, as further datapoints at other online philosophy resources). For example:

How is one to assess the results of such an exercise? The following criteria and issues would appear to be to the point:

  • Expository quality: how much of value does the reader learn from the texts? The order in which the entries are read is very much to the point!
  • Reliability: how much trust can the reader, who typically is not an expert on the topic, place in the encyclopaedia?
  • Comprehensiveness: how many important topics are covered? Naturally, each of these resources have holes the other lacks; particularly to the point is that the index of the SEP mostly consists of entries that correspond to an article that has been commissioned but not yet accepted, meaning the reader must go elsewhere.
  • Bias: are the alternative viewpoints presented and presented fairly? Both projects handle risk of bias in a quite different manner, and it is difficult to compare like with like here.
  • Granularity: the results of the above exercise may be unfair, in that Wikipedia coverage of the topic tends to be spread out over several smaller articles, so by comparing just the pages is to compare the SEP's whole summing up off a topic with little more than the equivalent of an introductory preamble.


Although the Encyclopedia is peer reviewed, some errors slip by the process:

Article name Error Reason
Identity Politics

[As of December 23rd 2006]

"Despite a complex history of biological essentialism in the presentation of racial typologies, the notion of a genetic basis to racial difference has been discredited; the criteria different societies (at different times) use to organize and hierarchize “racial formations” are political and contingent (Omi and Winant 1986). While skin color, appearance of facial features, or hair type are in some trivial sense genetically determined, the grouping of different persons into races does not pick out any patterned biological difference."

Actually, a "genetic basis to racial difference" has not been discredited.[1] The main criticism of the concept of human "races" is not that they aren't genetically based, but that they don't differ enough to constitute separate "races." There is clear evidence, however, that this concept of "race" isn't only related to "skin color, appearance of facial features, or hair type", as said in the article. One example of this would be sickle cell disease. There is debate as to whether there are further differences that result from "race." To sum up the nature of this error, no there are no human "races", but what are called "races" are actually genetically based to some degree.

In addition, there are in fact "patterned biological differences." For an example, see this paper written by scientists who oppose the idea of a "biological race", but also observe patterned biological differences in these socially constructed categories.