Citations

Every once in awhile, when reading an article in Wikipedia, you’ll read a paragraph of something and at the end there will be a little blue note saying, “citation needed”. Why is that? The paragraph you’ve just read must be accurate, or it wouldn’t be there, right? Why is a citation needed and what is a citation anyway?

Is there any chance that the little blue note is suggesting that confirmation of the information or opinion of the author needs additional supporting evidence and/or reference to those who have had the same opinion?

What is a citation? Since it is highly unlikely that there are any ideas (barring new scientific discoveries) that haven’t been explored by someone in the past, aren’t citations a confirmation that the idea I’ve just read about is supported by other thinkers as well? Does this not lend credibility to the accuracy of the paragraph I’ve just read?

Does anyone purporting to do philosophy have completely new and unique ideas? Or is it possible that they are simply re-hashing old ideas - re-inventing the wheel? If there is any desire to have any credibility in their ideas, isn’t the process of citing supportive information part of the overall discussion? Doesn’t the lack of supportive citation leave us with nothing more than opinion?

Is there any difference between doing philosophy and just general cocktail party chatter?

Note: This isn’t philosophy, this is questions ABOUT philosophy.

Of course this is philosophy, Tentative. :slight_smile:

Xunzian posted recently about the Dunning-Kruger effect. I didn’t know what it was so I looked it up on Wiki. As I read the entry, I was struck by this:

I think citations are meant to provide substance, or “meat”, to an assertion. What kinds of citations provide this kind of substance varies depending on the person. For many people, scientfic studies are practically unquestionable. For others, references to relevant passages from “the word of God”. In the case of the above quote from Wiki, anyone at any time in history might express the same opinion. But only some of those people are published and therefore quotable, and of those people only some of their names are considered appropriate vehicles for carrying the desired message. In the case of Justin Kruger and David Dunning, quoting from a famous apologist for some religion would have been a poor choice.

We are connected to a broader world, in both space and time. We have histories, and we have other cultures to communicate with. That we use citations is positive - we can’t simply say whatever we want and cast it into the void. Well we can, but why should anyone listen to us? On the other hand, that we use citations well doesn’t make us in any way superior. A person who says “be kind” while citing the Dalai Lama is no better and no kinder than any other person. If the citation is used to promote some kind of superiority (other than breadth of knowledge - i.e. the ability of someone to choose citations well) then it is simply like a fake diploma.

I once read a poem that was all citations. The citations were the poem. I can’t find it, and I read it a long time ago, but I remember thinking it was brilliantly funny.

Anon,

In no way would I suggest that the use of citations make’s one superior, only that citation is one of the “tools” used in philosophy to add credance to any assertion. Nor are my questions to suggest that citation is the only way to present a credible assertion. I’m sure that you’re aware that there are other threads with other questions that help define the “doing” of philosophy. Constructing a narrow focus on a specific issue with rigorous definitions, logic, epistomology… all part of doing philosophy as compared to casual discussion with the clerk at the convenience store. Doing philosophy doesn’t just require thinking, it requires rigorous thought and preparation. Otherwise, we meet at the pub, order up a few beers, kick back, and opinionate to our hearts content. :wink:

Philosophy is in the end the persuit of wisdom.

There are many ways to do that… and many areas in which one can seek wisdom…
Ethics… epistomology… you name it.

But wisdom is not just information, it’s insight and understanding as well… It’s about how to APPLY information… an opinion is just information. “Joe Average believes X” is information about Joe Average… Telling me WHY he believes X gives me method!

I can observe how Joe is applying information what assumptions he’s making, ect… I can follow the thinking, I can get insight… understanding.
I don’t have to agree with it… but I’ll at least have acess to Joe’s “wisdom”… and not just information about Joe.

Yes, Wiki is supposed to be fact based, but usually when you see the “needs citation” marker, it is because the author of the entry is assigning meaning to a fact or facts and has provided no grounding for their assertion.

I certainly agree that multiple sourcing strengthens any assertion. Citation is just one of the things that distinguishes philosophy from"philosophizing". What is philosophizing is philosophy without the rigorous grounding. The lines may be blurred, but it is important to know the difference.

I’m not sure that the name makes much difference, but I wholeheartedly agree that most of the posts in ILP are just philosophizing - including the vast majority of mine. :smiley: Still, on rare occasions there is philosophy being done. There is nothing wrong with being an asshole. I’ve been one my whole life and have no intention of changing. The question is one of purpose, isn’t it? I just spent the last few days being an “asshole” along with a few others because I dared to call out not philosophy. Get used to it or do like I do and stick with the philosophizing. Look for the occasional nuggets of serious discussion and participate where you can.