The ban mascot

I have a bot icon for bans.

But the community has come up with a ban mascot:…

Jack Fraser came up with the “lol u banned m8”, Stephen McInerney came up with the idea of a ban-mascot, Melanie Knotter had the idea of the ban-ana and Stephen found the image of a ban-dana ban-ana on google. Lyonel Perabo added the text. Rob Lion suggested forwarding it here.


Michael Masiello’s answer to Was God a person?

No, but it is refreshing to see someone flirt with euhemerism on Quora.

Euhemerism – Wikipedia

Euhemerism is an approach to the interpretation of mythology in which mythological accounts are presumed to have originated from real historical events or personages. Euhemerism supposes that historical accounts become myths as they are exaggerated in the retelling, accumulating elaborations and alterations that reflect cultural mores. It was named for the Greek mythographer Euhemerus, who lived in the late 4th century BC. In the more recent literature of myth, such as Bulfinch’s Mythology, euhemerism is termed the “historical theory” of mythology.

What is the meaning of meaning, philosophically speaking?

I’m going to give the linguistic meaning of meaning; certain (old school) philosophers would accept it as an answer, and Gottlob Frege, who came up with the crucial distinction, is considered a philosopher and not a linguist. (Back in the 1890s, linguists weren’t really doing semantics.)

Language is a code. A code is a system of signs. A sign is a mapping of an utterance (e.g. a word) to something in the world (e.g. a thing).

The meaning of a word is its mapping.

The naive understanding of meaning is its denotation: the set of all things in the world that a word maps to. So the denotation of apple is the set of all apples in the world (that were, or are, or ever will be). The denotation of Nick Nicholas is the set of these guys (among others):

Swift sent this up in Gulliver’s Travels, with the scholars of Laputa lugging sacks along of a bunch of stuff, which they could pull out and point to, to establish the denotation of what they were talking about. “Cat! You know! One of these! *pulls cat out of a bag*” “*Mrowwwww!*”

It gets a good deal messier with adjectives and verbs, but still not intractable. The denotation of yellow is the set of all yellow things in the world. The denotation of sleep is the set of all animals sleeping. The denotation of give is the set of all people giving things to someone.

You may have started seeing the problems with this approach for verbs. But Frege identified it more straightforwardly with nouns. His example was the Morning Star and the Evening Star. In class, I used Clark Kent and Superman.

You and I know that Clark Kent and Superman are the same person. So “Clark Kent” and “Superman” have the same denotation. But Jimmy Olsen doesn’t know that. And in fact, even if we do know that, Clark Kent and Superman don’t mean the same thing. Clark Kent means “some geeky guy with glasses who works as a journalist at The Daily Planet”. Superman means “some musclebound himbo who wears his underpants on the outside and leaps tall buildings in a single bound”. (That’s leaps, not flies.)

Frege’s example is along the same lines: we know that the Morning Star and the Evening Star have the same denotation, {Venus}. But the ancient didn’t, and even now, they don’t have the same meaning. The Morning Star means “the really bright star you see in the morning”, and the Evening Star means “the really bright star you see in the evening”. The fact that we have now established they are the same thing does not mean those definitions are identical.

Frege identified sense as distinct from denotation. Sense is not the set of all things that the word means. Sense is the criteria you use, to work out whether something belongs to the set of all things that the word means. Those definitions I gave of Clark Kent and Superman are different, even if their denotations are the same: they are different senses.

Denotation naively assumes there is one objective meaning in the world for any noun, that you can point to. Sense walks it back: meaning is a set of instructions to working out what a noun points to. And notice that those instructions are themselves language. It was the start of realising, increasingly, how subjective meaning is, and how divorced it can be from the outside world: how meaning is trapped within language.

In fact, that realisation was earlier than Frege. Remember the definition of sign I gave above? “A sign is a mapping of an utterance to something in the world”, and the mapping is the meaning? That’s Saussure’s simplified model. The Semiotic theory of Charles Sanders Peirce, decades before Frege, adds a third element to a sign: the interpretant sign. It’s not the person interpreting the sign: it’s the interpretation of the sign—which is itself a sign. Turtles all the way down.

What happened when your friends found out about you being a famous Quoran?

Well, the prize for this goes to a friend of my wife’s, who took to saying “Oh My God, you’re, like, the Beyoncé of Quora.”

I mean, obviously.

Should Quorans be allowed to present a statement of defense before being sentenced to a permanent ban?

Natural justice – Wikipedia:

In English law, natural justice is technical terminology for the rule against bias (nemo iudex in causa sua) and the right to a fair hearing (audi alteram partem). While the term natural justice is often retained as a general concept, it has largely been replaced and extended by the general “duty to act fairly”.

The basis for the rule against bias is the need to maintain public confidence in the legal system.

Nemo iudex in causa sua: “Noone should be a judge in their own case.” Community moderators were not. Quora Employees are.

Audi alteram partem: “Hear the other party.” Appeal is still possible, and bans do get reversed. They are however post-facto.

Quora does not have a business motivation to care about being seen to be equitable (as Michael Masiello’s answer to What do you hate about Quora as of March 2017? memorably put it). Users are fungible, and they can continue to put ads up against your content whether you are banned or not, until such time as you delete it:

The question however, does not ask whether it is allowed; it asks whether it should be allowed.

From Quora’s perspective, as most here have argued, no: costs too much, little benefit to the company, and if you don’t like it, there’s plenty more users where you came from.

From the users’ perspective? A significant number of users are disgruntled, because they can’t see the justice—even if most of the time moderation is right. (Caesar’s Wife has not only to be above reproach, but to be seen to be above reproach.) A significant number of users are quite happy with how things are. The debates continue to play out here.

But boycotts aren’t going to achieve anything. The brouhaha about sexism on Quora publicised online in 2014 came and went. As the subtitle to The Insurgency says, Quora is a Wall.

Nevertheless, until such time as I hear differently from Quora, I am posting banees’ statements on Necrologue. Yes, the banees’ statements are only one side of the story, and as Quora moderators have said publicly, banees can distort the truth. And the moderators are constrained by their own policies not to refute such statements. (They also have deleted at least some banees’ profile bios.)

You should read the banee statements in that light: critically. But given the summary justice applied, I think I’m doing the right thing by giving banees a voice. Not because Quora needs to care about Natural Justice. But because I do.