I've been pondering the question on the causes of war; I think the chief problem for this question was the definition of the term "power", and I'm going to ignore that. I'm also going to specify in advance that I'm not mocking Canadian Coder - he merely happened to ignite a stream of thought.

If we set aside the question of power, then there are a couple of other interesting features of this question:

  1. It is a list question

  2. It is a hypothesis question ([ask] discourages questions of the form "I think X, don't you?") - it will tend to generate discussion.

But I feel that this is a class of questions that perhaps are closed unfortunately. We also tend to argue about military history questions - there are many examples, but the most recent one I found was Stalingrad breakout.

My proposal

I wonder if we couldn't encourage a class of questions that invite examination of a hypothesis. What if the question above were reformulated as:

Hypothesis: The fundamental cause of war is a faction's desire for power Please provide examples and cite research that supports or weakens this hypothesis.

Would Stalingrad breakout have been a better question had it been phrased:

"Hypothesis: If Hitler had granted Paulus permission to redeploy to meet the relief column, then the Sixth Army could have broken out before year's end" There is still speculation & opinion here, but that is, in my opinion, part of the practice of military history.

Some nice features (I hope): * A good example or counterexample can "close" the question - if I offer, "Hypothesis: Capture of a cite requires numerical superiority", then a single reference to King Saud's assault on Riyadh is sufficient to disprove the hypothesis.

  • partial answers are OK. Examples that weaken or strengthen are good.

  • Discussions of the predictive power or utility of the hypothesis are good

  • Discussions of military history are slightly less difficult.

I would continue the following existing constraints * No counterfactuals: "Hypothesis: All wars are started by the illuminati to dominate the world's supply of orichalum and psionic slaves", * No pure opinions: "Hypothesis: My child is the best!" * No Trivials "Hypothesis: A shark could absolutely beat a gorilla in a fair fight" or "Hypothesis: All Lutheran Preachers in 1573 who were left handed preferred lamb to beef" (absolutely no predictive power)

1 Answer 1


I feel like a carefully crafted hypothetical would already stand up to scrutiny. I mean, we have a lot of "why didn't A do X?" questions, and your hypothetical could be reworded in that manner: "Why didn't Hitler grant Paulus permission to redeploy..." I realize that the scope of the question is not identical in the reformatted version, but the answers you receive would be similar to what you seem to be going for.

I like the suggestion, but the execution would be the tricky part.

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