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A encyclopedia article written with a sympathetic point of view accords preference to a coherent presentation of information from the view point of the subject. In the case of a concept, writing from a sympathetic point of view proceeds from the premise that the concept makes sense. The concept of sympathetic point of view was developed from experience with NeutralPointOfView
and was applied on WikInfo
, a fork of Wikipedia. The vision is to present the main article on most subjects from a positive point of view; other views of the topic being prominently linked from the top of the page. The net result would be a cluster of related articles on the subject from multiple points of view. Due to low traffic on Wikinfo, the viability of this approach remains untested in a vital environment.
Taking a subject such as "Jesus", one can see the numerous considerations which might come into play. For example, what should the tenor of the main article be? Obviously not that he was a fraud, or nuts, but should he be presented as a man or god? Alternative articles are easily visualized as being written from the perspectives of the major Judeo-Christian religions, with perhaps articles such as analysis of Jesus from a psychoanalytic perspective or from a gnostic perspective thrown in.
Subjects such as "Hitler" or "slavery" are obvious exceptions to full application of the concept. You must fall back to alternative presentations to maintain sensible use of the concept in an encyclopedic context.
SPOV, the obvious acronym, has also been used for "scientific point of view" in the context of Wikipedia disputes about maintaining appropriate content in contested article such as "global warming" or "big bang."
Subjects such as "Hitler" or "slavery" are obvious exceptions...
I think you've just hit on what would be a major obstacle to adopting SymPOV? on a large scale: exactly what should be an exception, and why? Why should slavery be an obvious exception, for instance? Chances are, because you disapprove of it. So do I. But that won't wash when it comes to making rules.
(Now I start spouting hot air ;) You might be better off systematising the idea. Give each major worldview — Christian, say, or Scientific — its own facet of an encyclopedia. People can decide on their own which viewpoint is most helpful to them, and stick to it in future. -- ChrisPurcell
- I'd find it pretty hard to justify Hitler (cf GodwinsLaw), but I think slavery can be justified in various ways. If someone volunteers to become a slave, then they are entering into a contract of their own free will, just as modern employees do (with shorter notice periods). The acquisition of slaves via wars of conquest or abduction is less defensible, but this is a problem of wars and abduction, not a problem of slavery. Animals can be owned, land can be owned - why shouldn't people be owned? Looking at history shows us that slavery was a necessary part of various early civilisations, leading to many advances. The reason it is condemned today is not that it was ever wrong, but because it is no longer useful. If slavery was useful, we'd still have slaves. -- MartinHarper
(I'm not convinced; I'm just amazed at the acrobatics I'm seeing before me.)
I think I like Chris' idea better.
I think two challenge for SympatheticPointOfView are the questions:
- "Given that subjects (such as slavery) cannot have viewpoints (only people,) articles written with a SympatheticPointOfView should be written sympathetic to whom?"
- Should the page on Rabbit be written sympathetic to people who like to eat rabbits, or to the kids who raise them?
- "What are the varieties of sympathy, and how do we decide which expressions are sympathetic, and which ones are not?"
- Are just any "positive" expressions accepted? (Anarcho-Primitivist, saboteur, writing on TheSingularity: "The singularity is great! Nobody will have to think about anything, and everything will come out grand!")
- Supposing not, how can these attacks be defended against?
- Is it sufficient to express sympathy for the people compelled to an activity? (Oh, those poor, poor racists; They know not what they do.)
- Is it sufficient to find reasons that something may be good? (Suicide is proven to eliminate pain, 100%)
- Must we actually express a people's words, as they themselves would argue it?
- Which people, in the case that the people engaging in the activity are fiercely divided on the why? (Jesus is Good because he's a prophet, or because he's the one and only savior?)
- Who is qualified to speak for the people, and how do you demonstrate it? Who will judge?
- Nice to have all this comment. With respect to "rabbit", sometime the question of point of view is simply not relevant, although one might take the Watership Down viewpoint. With respect to encyclopedia articles in wikis, resolution of such questions is determined through the give and take of wiki process, essentially negotiation. -- FredBauder
I think the major benefit of the NeutralPointOfView is that it's an authoritative stance to take when there's an unresolvable dispute: include both viewpoints on the page. SymPOV? loses that, meaning it's no longer a solution to the problem it's trying to tackle — namely, multiple authors with strongly conflicting views trying to collaborate, disputationally, on an article.
Another disadvantage of SymPOV? is that every crackpot theory about how perpetual motion is possible has to be written about as if it were true. I think that would quickly lose such an encyclopedia the respect of its readership. -- ChrisPurcell
Although subjects (such as slavery and rabbits) often cannot have viewpoints, the human capacity for anthropomorphism solves that problem. If the idea (meme) of slavery was a person, how would it defend its existence? If rabbits could communicate with humans, how would they describe themselves? Alternatively, in the special case of ideas such as slavery, you merely need to write the article from the perspective of someone who is pro-slavery, or (better) get someone who is pro-slavery to write it. On conflicting viewpoints, note that non-sympathetic viewpoints, where necessary, are intended to be contained in seperate articles, prominently linked. --MartinHarper