Is it useful to remove non-constructive criticism of individuals or their works?

Consider someone asks a good question and another responds, but in the course of the response includes non-constructive criticism of an individual or their works.

What is meant by non-constructive criticism? Well, it adds no interesting factual data to the answer. In other words, no one would be the poorer for having missed it.

For instance, in responding to a question about Nagarjuna someone says:

"I don't like Thich Nhat Hanh's interpretation of the Heart Sutra"

With no explanation whatsoever...

All that is learned is that the respondent has some unexplained problem with Thich Nhat Hanh's interpretation of the Heart Sutra. How this information is relevant to the question at hand is similarly unexplained.

This is an illustration of what I mean by non-constructive criticism of an individual or their work. I think this sort of thing should be removed or made into constructive criticism by adding or explaining what the disagreement is and how that relates to the question at hand. The purpose of the site does not seem to be to publicize unexplained opinions, but rather to give factual answers to real questions.

Requiring constructive criticism I think would be a good way to decrease or minimize controversy among proponents of different schools. I would actually like to learn and gain mutual understanding with those of other schools, but I find this kind of non-constructive criticism makes this harder.

1 Answer 1


With no explanation whatsoever...

It is perhaps not fair to say there was "no explanation whatsoever":

Nirvana and the Buddhahood are of the 5th Statement. The Intellect-mind is able to come as far as the Four-statements (Catuskoti) limitation. To go beyond the Intellect-mind, what should be looked for by all practitioners but the Self-nature as in Ch'an (6th Patriarch Huineng: How so the Self-nature, originally is self-sufficient (何期自性, 本自具足)), or the Tathagatagarbha, or the Alaya... the teachings only available in the Mahayana Canon (but excluding Tibetan Tantric texts). One of the most important Sutras is Prajna-paramita Sutra, which the related is Heart Sutra. I'm afraid Thich Nhat Hanh though a respectable teacher I respected, his interpretation of Heart Sutra as quoted in this post is questionable. It's only max. to the level of a Śrāvaka, not for the Bodhisattva or Buddha, i.e., not of the Prajna-paramita Heart Sutra the ultimate Emptiness.

The OP asked another question on usefulness of Madhyamaka, the key answer is, due to the decline of man's capacity, very rare few able to see directly the Ultimate Reality ...

I assume the OP is reaching some limit of the Intellect-mind's ability to explain; and is saying, though without saying why, that they assess Thich Nhat Hanh's interpretation as being at most on the level of a Śrāvaka.

How this information is relevant to the question at hand is similarly unexplained.

I think the relevance is explained, i.e.:

  • The question is about Svabhāva, self-nature
  • That's related to emptiness
  • The Heart Sutra is about emptiness
  • Thich Nhat Hanh has tried to "interpret" the Heart Sutra

I think this sort of thing should be removed or made into constructive criticism

I too might wish there were more to the answer, or that I understood it better.

Perhaps that means it was a good answer though, not a bad one?

Not that I want to encourage obscurantist or mystical answers (especially, "You wouldn't be able to understand until you're enlightened, like me"), but still.

You tagged this topic though. IMO there's a limit to how much moderators are able to require high-quality content. The most I can do as moderator is delete content, and I'm reluctant to delete everything you disagree with and/or don't understand!

  • I think that as a moderator I'm expected to intervene when content is "hostile" or "abusive".

  • Per this topic moderators were apparently not expected/trusted to be even able to recognise when an answer is off-topic (i.e. they're supposed to wait for the community to downvote first)

  • If you want someone to clarify something, the right thing to do may be to post a comment, such as, "What did you mean by X?", or, "Is there any better interpretation of Y that you know of?"

    Or you can downvote the answer if you think its overall content is "not useful".

Please keep in mind, too, that perhaps we're fortunate that some people are able and willing write answers at all, and that they have limited time, that they're trying to answer the OP's question (not yours), and that there are other constraints (e.g. Chinese versus English language).

Something else you can do, if you don't understand an answer, is maybe post a new question. Ask a new question about the Heart Sutra if you want to, and/or about Thich Nhat Hanh's interpretation of it. If you do that, though, I'd just ask you to treat it as a new question, and not as an opportunity to perpetuate a hostile argument over several topics (which, I might sometimes see other people do) ... i.e. don't ask a question of the form, "In [this answer](link), Mishu wrote (whatever it was he wrote). That's wrong, isn't it!?".

Or, if you can, and think that an answer is inadequate, post a better answer to the OP's question.

  • I was not trying to make this about my dispute with Mishu, but the more general question of what to do with non-constructive criticism. Is it ok if I edit my question and remove reference to Thich Nhat Hanh and give a more generic example? BTW, I have tried to ask for clarification from Mishu to no avail... Anyway, it seems this example is not applicable for you or doesn't demonstrate what I'm getting. I'm asking in this question for a ruling on whether non-constructive criticism should in principle be accepted.
    – user13375
    Commented Apr 23, 2018 at 17:36
  • 1
    This isn't a final answer -- it's my explanation of my present view. As moderator if the community and/or other moderator vote to accept your proposal then I'd try to implement it ... I intend this partly as an explanation of why things are as they are at the moment.
    – ChrisW Mod
    Commented Apr 23, 2018 at 17:37
  • I'd like to suggest you don't edit your question. IMO I'm unable to understand any abstract policy suggestion, without some specific example[s] of content which the new policy is intended to govern.
    – ChrisW Mod
    Commented Apr 23, 2018 at 17:38
  • Ok. BTW, it was stated that the reference to Thich Nhat Hanh was included as disagreement about some quote in the post, but I can't find any such quote, but perhaps I am missing it...
    – user13375
    Commented Apr 23, 2018 at 17:41
  • I did delete some sentences, which I thought were critical and off-topic and too broad (i.e. aimed at a whole school) -- so it's partly "a matter of degree".
    – ChrisW Mod
    Commented Apr 23, 2018 at 18:40
  • Yes, I know. It is just that the non-constructive criticisms were fed to the implication of the things you deleted. And now by linking to essentially what are hate sites for Tibetan Buddhism in general and HHDL in specific I think Mishu has shown clear motivation: buddhism.meta.stackexchange.com/a/2255/254
    – user13375
    Commented Apr 23, 2018 at 18:45
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    Downvoted because I don't like this answer at all.
    – user13579
    Commented Jun 20, 2018 at 14:38

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