This question What books on the political philosophy from the Enlightenment period can you recommend? was closed as off-topic. I have voted to reopen. The history and philosophy of politics is surely on topic here, and I don't see any reason to close this question. Yes what text is "best" is a matter of opinion, but the poster and others can get a list of possibly useful references, and this is not the kind of opinion issue that is likely to stir up dissent or endless discussion.

Why do people want to close this sort of question?

  • 1
    See also "What is the definition of a list question?" on the general meta stack exchange. – Philipp Jan 15 at 9:57
  • @Philipp The linked thread is interesting, but seems of only limited relevance to the issue I asked about. – David Siegel Jan 15 at 16:01
  • I should like to ask why this was downvoted. I am asking why a particular question, and by extension others like it, is thought off-topic by some, as I cannot see a valid reason for this. If ther is a problem with how I expressed this, please explain so i can improve the question. – David Siegel Jan 15 at 16:04
  • @DavidSiegel On Meta sites, downvotes signify disagreement. The downvote you got is likely from someone who disagrees with you that this question is on-topic, not necessarily from someone who thinks this is a bad question – divibisan Jan 15 at 17:33
  • @divibisan Since I ask "why is this sort of question closed" it would seem more helpful to write an answer, explaining the reasons to close such questions, or link to some previous post on the matter, but OK I had thought that dovnoting to indicate disagreement on meta applied to answers not questions. – David Siegel Jan 15 at 17:39

I also do not see why this question was closed, for the reasons outlined: it would be a useful resource, unlikely to promote any great conflict or debate, and clearly on-topic for the site. I have some suspicions, though, which are worth raising for consideration by the community. I know the following to be true:

  • There is a pervasive bias against political theory and philosophy within the academic discipline of political science (mainly in the Anglophone world), ostensibly because they do not lend themselves to the mathematical paradigms that some elements of the academic community use as a rubric for 'scientific'.
  • There is a similar pervasive bias against political theory and philosophy in Anglophone intellectual communities, driven by a similar (but far looser and less tenable) ostentation that they do not satisfy 'empirical' principles.

Both of these stretch back to a centuries-old, nasty schism in the philosophical community between Empiricism and Rationalism (if anyone here cares about the history of the matter), and the biases have strong overtones of anti-religiosity (both in the original efforts of science to separate itself from the Church, and the modern conflicts between liberal secularist and Christian fundamentalist politics). Opposition to open-ended questions like this is often an unconscious, knee-jerk response, prompted by a half-imagined fear that zealots, kooks, or angry sophists will see it as an opportunity to establish a foothold on the site.

No real criticism meant: it's a good-hearted response by people trying to do what's best for the site. But the unconscious application of that well-meaning effort catches otherwise inoffensive questions like this one. I think we all have to recognize that this bias exists in our (overtly Anglophone) community, and take some efforts to counter it.

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