Are quote/misquote attribution questions of the "Did X really say quote Y" kind on-topic for Skeptics SE?


Or are they more appropriate for https://history.stackexchange.com/ or https://literature.stackexchange.com/ ?

  • I invited mods from literature.SE and users from History.SE to comment here.
    – Oddthinking Mod
    Commented Nov 22, 2011 at 4:47

3 Answers 3


I agree with Borror0. Not every instance of a "Did X say Y" type question would be worthy of a skeptical claim, however, in the Marcus Aurelius case is of great notoriety (You will see it all over the internet on facebook, Google+, etc.), yet when I attempted to answer the question, I couldn't find anything that had that quote attributed to him that was dated to prior to 2009 (WikiQuotes says 2010 is the first appearance).

I would say that when I fist saw that quote attributed to him, it did align with other quotes that are attributed to Marcus Aurelius and have documentation. Hence why many people have accepted this new one at face value. I think this may fall into the list of famous posthumous quotes from the likes of Einstein, Twain, Jefferson, etc. Or even the posthumous quatrain from Nostradamus in response to 9/11.

  • 7
    Confucius say, believing every quote claimed to be from a famous person can lead to easy falling for Appeal to Authority fallacy.
    – user5341
    Commented Nov 20, 2011 at 18:22
  • 5
    Wow, that is so AMAZING that Confucius said that! ;) :P Commented Nov 20, 2011 at 18:24

Attribution of the quote to a person is a claim. "This was said by Marcus Aurelius." It's definitively on-topic.

  • But is it "scientific"?
    – user5341
    Commented Nov 19, 2011 at 14:00
  • 1
    @DVK: "Is history a science?" isn't a topic we are likely to resolve.
    – Oddthinking Mod
    Commented Nov 19, 2011 at 19:45
  • 1
    @Oddthinking - good point. My main concern is really "does it belong on other SEs more than Skeptics" than with "does it belong on Skeptics at all".
    – user5341
    Commented Nov 19, 2011 at 19:48
  • Interesting - I might consult with the history and literature mods if I get a chance to see what they think
    – Oddthinking Mod
    Commented Nov 19, 2011 at 20:26
  • 2
    @DVK: I think that question should be left to the user. We can only define what is or isn't on-topic. A bit of overlap is simply unavoidable. If an user feels he is best served with Skeptics, then he should use Skeptics; if he feels he would be best served with another site, then he should use that site.
    – Borror0
    Commented Nov 20, 2011 at 3:01

Lit mod here. Unless the question is along the lines of "Was x quote written by y author?" or "Was x quote in y work?" I really couldn't see these being on-topic for literature.

So, to reiterate, unless the quote is associated with a literary work it would be off-topic.

  • as an example, would a question about quote attribution related to Mark Twain belong on LitSE or SkepticsSE more? (it clearly is on topic for both)
    – user5341
    Commented Nov 22, 2011 at 15:27
  • Depends on if it's supposed to be a personal quote or something that he wrote in one of his works. If it's supposed to be a personal quote I'd say it's more on-topic for skeptics, if it's a quote from a piece of literature I'd say it's more on-topic for Literature. In Literature, questions about authors, unless it's tied to a piece of literature, are off-topic. For example, a question asking "Why did X write y anonymously?" is on-topic, but asking "Did x say this?" would be off-topic.
    – DForck42
    Commented Nov 22, 2011 at 15:40
  • Here's a good example that skims the line of literature and skeptics: literature.stackexchange.com/questions/956/…
    – DForck42
    Commented Nov 22, 2011 at 15:41
  • Apparently we have a meta discussion: meta.literature.stackexchange.com/questions/231/…
    – DForck42
    Commented Nov 22, 2011 at 15:45
  • Actually, in most cases we don't really know if it is a personal statement or literature. E.g. if the claim is that Caesar "said" xxx it probably means "wrote somewhere", and only marginally that "a contemporary reported the Caesar said xxx but never wrote it down".
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Nov 22, 2011 at 17:48

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