8

At the time of this posting, this question has 4 close votes. Several comments have leveled accusations of being off-topic as not about Jewish Life and Learning.

However, the question asks "According to Jewish thought, do animals have the self-awareness to know that they exist?..."

I am having trouble fathoming why this is not about Jewish Learning. I am further having trouble understanding the comments that were bothered about the lack of practical ramifications, while questions about if angels have free will, or if angels have jealousy, remain untouched by such complaints. In fact, skimming the tag, I see too many questions that do not have practical ramifications to list. I don't see this as a problem.

Another comment criticized the question for being an "open ended philosophical discussion, not necessarily answerable." I don't know why it is any more open ended than any other philosophical question. And every question that asks "is there a source for x" is "not necessarily answerable" if the standard of "answerable" means there is someone somewhere who says what you are looking for. There is certainly the possibility of an answer, and I don't know why there shouldn't be Jewish sources that discuss it.

I think the question could be informative in understanding several things, among them how we should relate to the prohibition of tza'ar baalei chaim (are animals just mobile chunks of flesh, or do they have a conscious and possibly experience pain?). But even if that wouldn't be the case, I think understanding the nature of G-d's world in a vacuum is enough of a value.

Can anyone explain what is wrong with this question?

  • 1
    The question asks "what is wrong with this question?" ....I happen to think that it is on-topic, so I can't answer :P ....in any event, I think DoubleAA says it best – MTL Sep 4 '14 at 2:53
4

I later wrote a stricter alternative, to see which the community prefers.

I agree that the question is (and, in general, questions in this class can be) on-topic, and answerable, for the reasons that you cite.

It could, however, be improved significantly with the addition of motivation. Why do you care about the answer to this question, and therefore, why should anyone else? Including motivation is especially important for this type of "does this exist" question, since it is possible to ask "does it exist" about virtually anything. Motivation makes it clear why a) such a concept might exist, and b) people might be interested in searching for it.

There certainly is value in "understanding the nature of G-d's world in a vacuum," but the world being as vast and multifaceted as it is, and the universe of possible understandings of the world being even vaster, there must have been something that made you pick this possible understanding to ask about. That something should be part of the question body.

Besides the benefits I've already mentioned, including motivation that is Judaism-oriented will make it less likely that people will challenge the question's on-topic-ness.

2

This answer is intended to go further than my previous answer to gauge how strict the community wants to be on this.

The problem with questions of the form "What does Judaism think of X?" is that they often don't establish a clear basis for why anyone would or ought to care whether Judaism has anything to say about X, so it's often not clear why the community should invest resources in maintaining, improving, and answering the question. I think such a question should closed as Unclear unless it meets one of the following two criteria:

  1. It explains explicitly why one might expect Judaism to have a take on X (preferred), or

  2. In the opinion of the community member deciding whether to vote to close or not, it's reasonably obvious that Judaism is likely to have a take on X.

Even if the question meets Criterion 2, editing it to meet Criterion 1, too, would be a good thing to do, as it would make the question more compelling to readers by adding clear motivation, and it would make it less likely that different community members would have different opinions about whether it's Unclear.


By this standard, I would vote to close this question, since it doesn't say why it expects Judaism to have a take on animal self-awareness, and it's not obvious to me that Judaism would, though other community members may differ.

In any case, the question could be improved significantly with the addition of motivation. Why do you care about the answer to this question, and therefore, why should anyone else?

There certainly is value in "understanding the nature of G-d's world in a vacuum," but the world being as vast and multifaceted as it is, and the universe of possible understandings of the world being even vaster, there must have been something that made you pick this possible understanding to ask about. That something should be part of the question body.

  • I think this answer obfuscates the difference between a poor question, which should be downvoted, and an invalid question, which should be closed. There are hundreds of questions on this site that lack motivation. Readers can choose if the question peaks their interest or not. Motivation for wondering (where necessary, which I think is subjective) makes a high quality question, but doesn't define an on-topic one. – Y     e     z Dec 8 '16 at 5:34
  • 1
    I am having trouble seeing how your definition would not also advocate closing a question such as this one (37 upvotes and no close votes). Why would anyone think that Torah sources have anything to say about aliens? I could find dozens of such questions on this site, but I think the clear consensus of users and previous site policy is decisively not in line with this post. – Y     e     z Dec 14 '16 at 4:35
  • @Yez The measurable popularity of that question in particular is mostly thanks to people from the greater Stack Exchange community. I don't know if it ever had close votes, but I think those evaporate after a certain period of time. In any case, your first comment would seem to agree that a question that lacks a clear Judaism motivation could at least stand to be improved through its addition. I think that's the case here, notwithstanding the votes it has garnered. I agree with you that this answer is not consistent with the prevailing precedent. – Isaac Moses Dec 14 '16 at 14:32
-2

In your case, I think the question is alright, being that you could have some correct answers, like certain aspects of animal nature is explained in chassidus. While if someone asks what do Jews say about some random thing that someone made up, like recently someone asked what Jews say about there being brisim before Avrohom, because someone on the Christian se site made it up, there's really no answer to that, because Judaism doesn't have discourses discussing some idea that some random guy made up. But in the dog case, that's a real question and there are seforim that do discuss the nature of animals.

-5

I think that for issues of whether a question is permissible here, we should always consider where the person should ask the question, if not on Mi Yodeya. Does an alternative forum exist? Could one in theory exist? If not, is the question really so far from the scope of this forum that permitting it would be mamesh a liability?

(I anticipate that people will object to this with comments in favor of limiting Mi Yodeya's scope more strictly. I understand their premise, but I disagree that such strict limitations have much practical value.)

In the case of "What does Judaism think about x" questions, indeed I think this is the best and only place to ask them. After all, why do we have the tag "hashkafa" if not for such questions? That said, I think such questions should be phrased "What does Judaism think about x" rather than simply "Does a dog know that it's a dog." It needs to be clear that the asker is looking for the Jewish answer, not necessarily the "real" answer (which would be better found on cogsci.stackexchange.com, philosophy.stackexchange.com, or perhaps pets.stackexchange.com).

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .