I recently posted a controversial answer to a question, then spent a few days off site life-tending while things cooled off. When I returned with the intent of seeing how the controversy had been resolved, I was initially unable to find my own post -- it wasn't visible in my own recent answers, and the question appeared to only have 4 answers when viewed from the search page (mine had been the 5th).

On clicking the question I was able to see that my post had garnered 4 upvotes, 15 downvotes, and had been subsequently deleted by moderation staff along with a comment that my answer missed the mark in their opinion. When I went to undelete the answer solely for the purpose of clarifying my position and responding to the comment, I received a notification saying that my post had been deleted by a moderator and couldn't be undeleted, and that I couldn't comment on deleted posts (even to to respond to comments made by a moderator before they manually deleted my post, apparently).

The situation has been resolved wonderfully by the moderation staff as per usual, and I regret the egg on my face as a result of the Orwellian references. Cheers to bastions of knowledge presided over by the best of us!

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ No way I can form an opinion on this without seeing the post in question. Can you provide a link? $\endgroup$ May 26 at 21:50
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Here you go, Alec. It's been undeleted now. $\endgroup$
    – Todd Trimble Mod
    May 26 at 22:17
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Please note that there was broader community response to the answer than just (one of the) mods taking the final step, with various users flagging (and downvoting), and also voting to delete the answer. I think I get the intent of your answer: there are people who consider category theory barely "real" mathematics, and similarly, one can easily find discussions of eg the Replacement axiom not actually being used for "real" mathematics (guilty as charged, but I prefer the term "generic mathematics" now), implying that its core role in ZF(C) and friends isn't real mathematics. $\endgroup$
    – David Roberts Mod
    May 27 at 0:29
  • $\begingroup$ But these points perhaps could have been made about combinatorics in the mid-late 20th C, when it was apparently looked down on by "serious" mathematicians and the prestigious journals. It's a matter of degree, and attitudes of groups of people, not epistemic status in the field as a whole. Labelling the whole of set theory, for instance, as only debateably mathematics, throws out many babies wit the bathwater, rather than seeing logic and set theory as a continuum ranging from philosophy to purely mathematics. $\endgroup$
    – David Roberts Mod
    May 27 at 0:32

1 Answer 1


I encountered this question in the "Close votes" queue; I find it reasonable, so I voted to leave it open.

On the other hand, it is for the first time that I encounter somebody stating that set theory and category theory are not part of mathematics proper. Duting my university years, both of them were taught by professional mathematicians, in a faculty of mathematics. Yes, there are indeed logicians, working in institutes or faculties of philosophy, who also work in these two fields, but this does not make them any less mathematical. In particular, I would never say that Saunders Mac Lane and Samuel Eilenberg were not real mathematicians.

It seems that the majority of the MO users who voted on that answer of yours agree with me (currently: 4 upvotes, 16 downvotes, which makes it 80% downvotes). When a post (question or answer) garners so many downvotes, it is customary on Stack Exchange sites for it to be deleted. So, deletion was a natural consequence of massive downvoting.

The only thing that I would suggest is for the next deletion of your answer (because I am sure that there will be another, final one) to be performed "organically" by regular users, through the regular deletion procedure, with no moderator involvement, in order to eliminate any possible doubt about moderators abusing their deletion powers.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "When a post (question or answer) garners so many downvotes, it is customary on Stack Exchange sites for it to be deleted." This isn't quite right. For instance, see the FAQ on deletion at Meta SE, which says, "Answers that are wrong or that dispense poor advice should be downvoted, not deleted." There is no need to delete Alec Rhea's answer; part of the reason why a thread is made community wiki is so that users may vote freely on the expressed opinions without worrying about the cost in reputation points to anyone. $\endgroup$ May 27 at 7:55
  • $\begingroup$ @TheAmplitwist: I did not say that it is mandatory to delete downvoted answers, this is a deformation of my words. I only said that it is customary to delete them. $\endgroup$
    – Alex M.
    May 27 at 12:52
  • $\begingroup$ Sure, though I don't see where I said or implied that you meant it is "mandatory" to do so. $\endgroup$ May 27 at 13:10
  • $\begingroup$ @TheAmplitwist: "There is no need to delete Alec Rhea's answer" - for me, "need" is an imperative. $\endgroup$
    – Alex M.
    May 27 at 13:30
  • $\begingroup$ Your objection is completely opaque to me, but I will be disengaging from this conversation. I don't get the sense that it's going to be productive to continue. $\endgroup$ May 27 at 15:02
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Hi Alex; for the record, I personally think category theory and set theory are some of the most interesting fields of mathematics, which is why almost all of my posts on this site have to do with those topics. I wasn't proposing that I don't think category theory or set theory are 'mathematics proper', but rather that this opinion is implicit somewhere in the established mathematical world as evidenced by the data mentioned in my answer. I'll edit the answer to clarify in just a bit, but wanted to head things off at the pass here in case it is re-deleted as you suggest (and as may be likely). $\endgroup$
    – Alec Rhea
    May 27 at 18:53

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .