The Fallible Ideas Discussion Group Guidelines

  • The group is for people to discuss philosophy, taken very broadly. Good topics include science, political philosophy, economics, the history of ideas, epistemology, morality, religion, math, evolution, memes, social rules, psychology and art.
  • Every post should have an idea that someone could learn something from.
  • In order to have organized discussion, you must format your posts the same as everyone else. Only send posts in the group style:
    • Do not top post. That means do not quote text and reply above what you quote. If you are replying to something, write your reply below it. If you are not replying to something, delete it. More information.
    • Use quotations. When you refer to some text, quote it. All posts should make sense if read individually — they should be standalone and self-contained. But don't quote text you don't need; delete it.
    • How much should you quote in your email? The same amount of quoting you'd include if you were writing a blog post.
    • Give a source for quotes, such as the name of the person being quoted.
    • All emails should be plain text. No rich text, HTML or attachments. You can use *italic*, _underline_, **bold** and SECTION HEADING.
    • You must set your message format to "Traditional" on Yahoogroups. Send a blank email to [email protected] and then reply to the confirmation email. Replying to any email from before you do this will be broken.
    • Some posters send their emails to the Fallible Ideas Google Group in addition to the Fallible Ideas Yahoo Group. This is optional. The Yahoo Group is the main group and all emails should be sent there. The purpose of also carbon copying emails to the Google Group is for redundancy in case Yahoo fails to deliver a message.
    • Both the Yahoo Groups and Google Groups websites are broken for the purpose of posting correctly. You should post using email, in plain text mode. Some software I know to be usable is: Mail (Mac and iOS), MailMate (Mac), gmail (browser).
    • Tip for Mail users: Apple adds an extra quote marker in front of the "Elliot wrote..." line at the top, the blank line underneath it, and sometimes older attributions. Fix those quote levels before sending each email.
    • Tip for MailMate users: use my configuration files.
    • Tip for gmail users: If you are using gmail webmail, in your browser, after hitting reply to an email you must click the little "...", which expands it to show the quoted text. Then click the little arrow at the bottom right and select "Plain text mode".
    • Here is an example of correct email quoting:
    • Long paragraphs are discouraged. Use whitespace. Include a full blank line between paragraphs.
    • Use a relevant subject line. If you change the topic or discuss a tangent, change the subject line to match. So people can track these changes, indicate them like this example: "Morality (was: Philosophy of Science)"
    • An email's main text should stand on its own and make sense even if a reader did not see the subject line. Because subject lines don't get quoted to reply to and sometimes change.
  • Do not hesitate to reply to old topics, reply in someone else's thread, start a tangential discussion about any topic, reply to questions that were directed to someone else, or not reply to questions or comments directed to you.
  • This group is not neutral ground and should always be friendly and welcoming to people in favor of ideas on Fallible Ideas. Criticism and outsiders are welcome too, especially if they are respectful and write quality posts. Remember that in order to criticize an idea, one first needs to understand it well; otherwise a better type of post would be a question.
  • Most group members are not moderated. That means people need to regulate their own posting. If you're angry, take a break. The group is for intelligent discussion, not fighting. Keep all hostility out of your posts.
  • New members start on moderation to prevent spam bots and to handle the (majority of) people who refuse to figure out how to use the group before they start posting. But I'm unwilling to moderate anyone longterm. You have to learn how to post or you'll become unwelcome.
  • The best way to maintain a good group atmosphere is to focus your attention on the best posts. Try to reply more to the most interesting ideas, instead of the ones you think are stupid.
  • Limit meta discussion (discussion about the discussion), especially in adversarial contexts. That means limiting statements about other posters, yourself, the group itself, how specific individuals should discuss, and so on. The group's purpose is to discuss ideas.
  • Reading the discussions for a month before posting is recommended in order to learn what to expect.
  • Initiation of force is prohibited.
By Elliot Temple | Join the discussion group, receive the newsletter, or send comments to

Acknowledgments: some ideas presented are modified from, or inspired by, ideas from Karl Popper, Ayn Rand, David Deutsch and William Godwin. Thank you!