A few days ago this question has been posted on Worldbuilding, asking about a hypothetical solipsistic society. Yes, it is vague and was ultimately considered as POB (primarily opinion-based, i.e., too vague, not narrowed down enough), which I think is debatable, but I do not disagree wholeheartedly, but that is not the point of this question.

The discussion in the comments quickly ended in disagreement about whether the term solipsism is required to be explained by the author.

Now, if this question was posted on Philosophy I'd assume it obvious not having to explain the term, as it is a philosophical term the audience might likely be familiar with and the discussion would probably not have taken this turn. But since it's unlikely the majority of users on Worldbuilding knows the term, is the author required to explain it?

Like other users, I was unfamiliar with it, but a quick Google search shed light on my mind in less than a minute. I personally do not hold the author responsible to fill holes in my general knowledge, even if those require a certain specialization to be well known. If this is the case—as a follow-up question—how badly established and hard to find it explained does a term need to be before an author should include a rough explanation to a technical term for an audience outside of the specialized field of knowledge?

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    This seems like a dubious example of the kind of situation you're asking about. Firstly, because from a quick Google it seems that "solipsism" is usually used just to mean the belief that the self is all that one can know to exist (which seems true to me), while the OP is using a less common (though still correct) definition: the belief that the self is all that exists (which seems nuts to me). That means that in this case the definition is not trivially Googleable.
    – Mark Amery
    Aug 6, 2018 at 9:49
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    But secondly, because the OP did provide a definition: "Each individual in the group is fully convinced that nothing exists outside of his or her own consciousness". Then they say that it's not their responsibility to provide reference material on solipsism (true!) and get slated and told that it's "100%" their responsibility and we're not their "research service". WTF? They gave sufficient information about solipsism in the question for it to be understandable without any research, and weren't asking anyone to research solipsism; the hostility towards the OP is completely uncalled for.
    – Mark Amery
    Aug 6, 2018 at 9:51
  • I was only using the provided example to explain the reason for this question. As you can see from the comments, I totally agreed with the author (and you), but in this case I'm rather requesting a more general answer. Aug 6, 2018 at 9:55
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    What is POB? It is not something that springs to mind.
    – PolyGeo
    Aug 6, 2018 at 11:43
  • @PolyGeo It means Primarily Opinion Based. I read it quite often on worldbuilding (so I thought it's a common term here), when a question is not narrowed down specific enough and the author doesn't give enough information on how she/he would evaluate an answer. Aug 6, 2018 at 12:01
  • Is a question obliged to be easily understood so as to quickly attract correct answers? Of course not. In what possible world would that make any sense? In fact, you should devise your own new terms... nay, your own lexicon, and use it exclusively in your questions. ROT13 the thing before you post it, too. No, better yet, salt and hash it and post the result. Keep the salt secret, tho.
    – user1228
    Aug 6, 2018 at 18:17
  • I added again writing as it now has a tag wiki.
    – Rubén
    May 6, 2023 at 22:56

1 Answer 1


Defining terms is not something that is required of someone who posts a question or an answer. However, presenting information in the clearest way possible can help more users to quickly understand and consider responding to the question or answer.

This is all subjective so each individual must make the choice for themselves. It will not hurt to offer up a brief definition (in parenthesis) to words that are not commonplace but it is not a requirement. As some of the comments have suggested, if you're able to read this on the internet, you should also be able to search for a word's definition on the internet as well.

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    There is also this hyperlink thing (no extra text, only some extra formatting (usually)). It will only distract readers who are very easily distracted. Aug 6, 2018 at 20:12

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