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We have good guidelines on answering in our Frequently Asked Questions as well as in the default help center in How to Answer pages. A good answer should address the doubts raised in the question. It should be written in such a way that the readers need not to check external sources or check external links to understand it properly. We have hundreds of such answers on the site. Some may not perfect but they meet standards of an answer like addressing the question, backed up with sources and properly formatted.

But I have observed a couple of answers written in a different manner. If some philosophical question is asked or a clarification of a controversy regarding a matter in our books is asked, the answer would be as follows:

< X and Y Sects > do not believe in < some concept > or < some topic >. This is only specific to < Z sects > This is only written in so and so texts which are not considered as canonical texts. These are not mentioned in the Vedas and Shruti which are the primary texts of Hinduism.

For more clarity, if the question asks about a practice or philosophy which is only specific to a sect of Hinduism.

Q: What are the rules to be followed by a Vaishnava devotee after performing tapta mudra?

A : Tapta Mudras are only specific to Dvaitans and Sri Vaishnavites. The practice is not followed by Smartas, Advaitans and other sects. This is not a common practice in Hinduism. Vedas do not mention it.

I know that counter argument to the question without explaining what is asked in the question is flaggable as Not An Answer. But under which category does the above answer fall? Should we allow such type of answers?

Is this a valid answer while clarifying philosophical questions and questions regarding clarifying some belief or a practice present in the texts? How should we deal with such answers?

Note: This is a discussion post written to invite constructive opinion from the community. Not a feature request for proposing a new change. A downvote doesn't mean such answers should be allowed.

Just to let you know, the answers I'm referring to were inaccurate and wrong. I pointed out how and why the answers are wrong. Wrong answers are a different matter and should be downvoted. Not flaggable. Totally misleading answers with unreliable content can be flagged for mod's intervention. This is the guidance I got from moderators.

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  • I didn't understand. Do you mean the example quoted answer you mentioned is for philosophical question is fine or not? – Pandya Nov 14 '18 at 0:54
  • @Pandya Yes. For the question which asked clarification for a controversy of Manusmrit. I also saw this type of answer for a philosophical question too. Should we flag it for mods or leave it as it is? – Sarvabhouma Nov 14 '18 at 2:27
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    I don't know why this is downvoted. I am not proposing this should be the way answers should be written. I am inviting discussion what to do in such cases. Some people should read the question and understand meta before simply downvoting. Blind voting again! – Sarvabhouma Nov 16 '18 at 18:57
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IMO, an answer to a philosophical question should either:

  1. Go with OP's line of argument and provide valid sources in support of it. ("Your assumption is right; here's the source").

    - or -

  2. Negate the premise of the question. ("Your assumption is wrong; here's why")

    - or -

  3. Remain detached from the question and list arguments from various sides. ("ABC group interprets the verse this way for so & so reasons whereas followers of XYZ interpret it a little differently for these reasons")

The second answer is equally valid because we have the following guidance from How do I ask a good question?

Keep an open mind

The answer to your question may not always be the one you wanted, but that doesn’t mean it is wrong. A conclusive answer isn’t always possible. When in doubt, ask people to cite their sources, or to explain how/where they learned something. Even if we don’t agree with you, or tell you exactly what you wanted to hear, remember: we’re just trying to help.

If you are an asker and want only Type 1 answers (e.g., you are only looking for answers from ABC perspective), then your question should clearly state so. E.g., How do followers of ABC interpret this verse? There are several examples of this. This will safeguard your question from answers which argue against your premise. If a follower of a different XYZ sect still attempts to answer such a well-framed objective question, from his favorite XYZ perspective, it is clearly 'not an answer' (NAA). In that, it doesn't address OP's question. Is it useful? Probably, but only as a comment. To allow such an answer is misleading to OP and other readers. It promotes more answers like this. OP shouldn't have to leave comments on such answers saying "This isn't the answer I was expecting". Therefore, it should be flagged and deleted disregarding the votes it has received. Mods should step in if the close-vote reviews don't work.

But out of ignorance or carelessness if you frame your question poorly you are indirectly inviting all kinds of answers. Not all users will wait for clarification from OP before attempting to answer. And then it gets really difficult to flag any answers as NAA since the question itself is not clear.


Coming to the hypothetical answer you mention:

< X and Y Sects > do not believe in < some concept > or < some topic >. This is only specific to < Z sects >. This is only written in so and so texts which are not considered as canonical texts. These are not mentioned in the Vedas and Shruti which are the primary texts of Hinduism.

Whether we allow such an answer depends on what is being asked in the question. Is it too generic ("How to make sense of all this?") or very specific ("On what basis do people of sect Z believe in concept X")? If it's the latter, then such comment-type answers should be flagged and deleted.

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    I believe option 3 is the most valuable use of this site. When one group says one thing and another group another thing, the one less popular ON HINDUISM.SE gets downvoted making it seem absolutely incorrect. Option 3 informs site visitors of relative correctness. Obviously there will be cases when 2 usurps 3 and case 1 should be reserved for things true across Hinduism or when the context of the question is obviously limited to a specific school of thought by the questioner – Rubellite Yakṣī Nov 27 '19 at 1:37

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