I recently tried asking a soft question which was entitled "Which mathematical ideas most influenced the way you think?", which was closed.

One the one hand, I really think this question is on topic, albeit a very "soft" question. I see mathematics not only as theorems and formulas, but also as a way of thought about problems - mathematical constructs give us the tools to think about problems in new ways. Many members of the community apparently thought the question was on topic as evidenced by the number of up votes.

On the other hand, I can see how the wording can lead to some very off topic answers, so I can also understand the close votes. So:

Is this question inherently off topic, and if not, how can I reword it so that it can be re-opened?

  • 9
    $\begingroup$ It's a poll question, which is not a question at all. You just invited everybody to state what influenced them the most. A more concrete question would be: "which ideas most influenced the development of [subject] since [time period]." As for up-votes indicating on-topicness, that is not convincing argument. See this funny picture of a cat. $\endgroup$
    – user147263
    Commented Jul 19, 2014 at 21:01
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Thisismuchhealthier. - That's exactly the definition of a "soft question: "For questions that don't admit a definitive answer but still are relevant to this site. Please be specific about what you are after." $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 19, 2014 at 21:10
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ A question: "what ideas most influenced the development of algebraic topology since 1970s" does not a definitive answer either (and is soft) but it's quite far from a poll. The way your question is phrased is an explicit invitation for everybody to drop their favorite thing into the answer box. $\endgroup$
    – user147263
    Commented Jul 19, 2014 at 21:16
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ My suggestion would be to add the "about non-mathematical situations" part to the title. The question certainly dances on the edge of too broad/off topic/a poll, but refining it so that we're talking about the "bleeding over" of mathematical thought into other parts of life makes to question concrete enough to fit in the philosophy tag, in my opinion. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander Gruber Mod
    Commented Jul 20, 2014 at 2:51


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