Why is Quora claiming my questions need improvement?

The Question Bot is actually getting more aggressive about questions that make no sense without reading the question details. It’s detecting them in a hamfisted way—by looking for “this”; but…

… well, it’s doing the right thing. Questions have to make sense on their own. As Frank Dauenhauer explains.

For a more rarified instance:

Which dialect (hesitate to call it that) of Greek is being used in this translation of the Iliad?

With the translation shown as a scan in details.

Dinged, timed and again by the question bot, until I confirmed what translation I thought it was, and changed the wording to:

Which variant of Greek is being used in Alexandros Pallis’ translation of the Iliad?

OP may or may not have known whose translation it was. Lots of Greeks may not have heard of Pallis, and would find the scan in the question details more informative.

But as a one sentence question, “Alexandros Pallis’ translation” is more useful than “this translation”.

Would you not agree?

What are the most important historical sources for the Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations?

A2A, but I can only agree with Hans-Georg Lundahl, though with some qualifications.

Historical sources are by definition what is written, as opposed to what is dug up out of the ground.

For the Minoans, we have undeciphered writings in Cretan Hieroglyphic and Linear A. We have too-oblique references from Egyptian diplomacy (Amarna letters). We have some garbled memories via Greek mythology, notably around the Minotaur.

For the Mycenaeans, we have deciphered writings in Linear B, except that they tell us what little they do tell us indirectly, as they are purely accounting texts. We have something embedded in the core of the Iliad—but with a lot of accretions on top of it, so that archaeology is more help in extracting what’s Mycenaean about the Iliad, than the Iliad telling us anything on its own about the Mycenaeans.

How did terms such as stoicism and cynicism come to adopt totally different meanings from their original Greek definitions?

Sorry to answer by reference to Wikipedia, but, well, I think the answers are all there.

We have ancient philosophical schools.

We have popularisations of what those ancient philosophical schools were about, in education and in all-round educated discourse.

We have people repurposing those popularisations, to express commonplace attitudes.

To the extent that the meaning differs from antiquity, that’s the result of popularisation.

Stoicism first

The Stoics taught that destructive emotions resulted from errors in judgment, of the active relationship between cosmic determinism and human freedom, and the belief that it is virtuous to maintain a will (called prohairesis) that is in accord with nature.

Later Stoics—such as Seneca and Epictetus—emphasized that, because “virtue is sufficient for happiness”, a sage was immune to misfortune.

The word “stoic” commonly refers to someone indifferent to pain, pleasure, grief, or joy. The modern usage as “person who represses feelings or endures patiently” was first cited in 1579 as a noun, and 1596 as an adjective. In contrast to the term “Epicurean”, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s entry on Stoicism notes, “the sense of the English adjective ‘stoical’ is not utterly misleading with regard to its philosophical origins.”

And indeed, if you read Epictetus, the stuff of pop stoicism is there: you should only care about the stuff you can control, there’s no point being bothered by the stuff that’s outside of your control. So you don’t let pain, pleasure, grief or joy from those things run your life. It’s just that there’s a calm—at times, a defiance, even a joy, in Epictetus not bothering with the stuff you can’t control. And there is a sense of purpose in the stuff you can control, which does give you joy.

The pop version of stoicism, as exemplified by the British stiff upper lip, doesn’t have that; it’s more absolute. But you can see how you would jump from one to the other in the 16th century.

Now Cynicism (philosophy):

Cynicism is a school of Ancient Greek philosophy as practiced by the Cynics. For the Cynics, the purpose of life was to live in virtue, in agreement with nature. As reasoning creatures, people could gain happiness by rigorous training and by living in a way which was natural for themselves, rejecting all conventional desires for wealth, power, sex and fame. Instead, they were to lead a simple life free from all possessions.

That’s not small-c cynical.

By the 19th century, emphasis on the negative aspects of Cynic philosophy led to the modern understanding of cynicism to mean a disposition of disbelief in the sincerity or goodness of human motives and actions.

Oh, OK. So what gave people that idea?

The ancient Cynics rejected conventional social values, and would criticise the types of behaviours, such as greed, which they viewed as causing suffering. Emphasis on this aspect of their teachings led, in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, to the modern understanding of cynicism as “an attitude of scornful or jaded negativity, especially a general distrust of the integrity or professed motives of others.” This modern definition of cynicism is in marked contrast to the ancient philosophy, which emphasized “virtue and moral freedom in liberation from desire.”

Ah. So too many anecdotes in the 1800s of Diogenes of Sinope flouting conventional morality to point out hypocrisy. And not enough justification of what Diogenes’ point was, behind his antics—that there was true virtue to be found out there, it just wasn’t to be found in conventional pieties.

Does Knowledge require denotation?

An interesting question, Anon. Denotation means many related things, in different disciplines, and in all of them, I believe the answer is no. Denotation is a not a sufficient prerequisite for knowledge.

Going through Denotation:

  • In linguistics and semiotics, knowing the denotation/sense of a word is knowing only a narrow subset of its meaning: you also need to know its connotative, emotional meaning to know how the word works in context. Knowing that assertive and bossy refer to the same kind of attitude doesn’t mean you know how to use them appropriately.
  • In logic, we can go further: the denotation as the extension/sense of a word, the set of all things to which a word applies, is an unworkably narrow kind of meaning. To use the hackneyed example, the Morning Star and the Evening Star have two different senses, even if they both refer to {Venus}. The Present King of France and the President of Australia have different senses, even if their denotation is the null set in both cases.
  • In fact, inasmuch as the Present King of France and the President of Australia don’t have a denotation (a set of things they refer to in the world), denotation isn’t even a necessary component of meaning—and therefore of knowledge as the destination of meaning. You can know about things that don’t exist—and which therefore have no denotation.

Do I hyphenate “upper middle class family”, if yes, then how?

Yes, hyphenation is less fashionable than it used to be, and yes, people think that it is finicky to introduce a distinction between two levels of punctuation.

But may the fire of a thousand Harts and Fowlers rain down on all respondents, for not one of them suggesting as an alternative something involving an en-dash:

upper-middle–class family.

Regrettably, that would these days be regarded as an affectation. Particularly as most people don’t know how to type en-dashes (even if they do know what they are).

It is true, though, that upper middle class family without hyphens will usually be understood just fine, and hyphens are more avoided these days than not.

I disagree with Paulette Smythe and agree with Jeff Christensen, btw: the nesting is surely (upper middle) class, not upper (middle class).