This came up in the non-buddhism question (comments to the question). Apparently this is a sort of question that is discouraged on some stack-exchanges. My google-fu is not good enough to find the relevant meta discussions.

1 Answer 1


Thanks for bringing this up, it did slip off my radar. When I said "this question asks for characterization" (in reference to question about the "non-buddhism" movement) I meant that the question leads to answers tending to be closer to value judgement, than a fact or interpretation.

I define the boundary between question seeking interpretation and question seeking a characterization as follows:

Question seeking interpretation pertains to a phrase or concept the meaning and/or significance of which is unclear (to OP). While question seeking characterization pertains to behavior of a person or group of people. The two seem similar, however in first case, there is supposedly an objective answer, even if it is arguable (e.g. "what does anatta really mean?" or "is life really suffering?" or "does bowing have any significance beyond ritual?"), while in the second case, the question is unquestionably open-ended and all answers are a matter of opinion.

I believe we should allow interpretation-questions but not characterization-questions.

  • Well I don't think my question was soliciting value judgements, but the answerers sure did take it as a request for discussion of the merits of non-buddhism/or the demerits of those who don't adhere. Commented Jul 6, 2014 at 19:56
  • Yes, because you clearly were familiar with the phenomena in question, so when you asked what it was, you did not need a description (as somebody who only heard about NB but did not have direct access to their writing would need), therefore you could not have sought anything but opinions. That's what I call seeking characterization.
    – Andriy Volkov Mod
    Commented Jul 6, 2014 at 21:29
  • That sort of puts questioners into a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation. Were I unfamiliar with who they were, I would be criticized for not doing do diligence and basic googling. Anyhow, I'm fine with the Q being on hold. It will be a few more weeks before the patterns of "okay" questions become clear (to me). Commented Jul 6, 2014 at 21:57
  • I agree, that's why it is safer to stick to questions relevant to one's practice rather than letting one's mind run loose.
    – Andriy Volkov Mod
    Commented Jul 7, 2014 at 0:13

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