In general (not restricted to this site), what counts as a good philosophical explanation? Are there any objective standards?
Its generally accountable to the philosophical community who over time have generated certain critical standards; its in relation, or rather dialogue to this authority that ones own thought becomes critical & authoritative; this is one one reason to signpost readings of either the primary or secondary literature; and this is often reflected in style.
This doesn't mean that the canon of philosophical works become a 'dead weight' but that they're used to draw up a map & orientation; one also becomes aware of the vast weight of previous argumentation and their repercussions on the cultural firmament of the time.
For example Hannah Arendt uses the phenomenological orientation of Husserl & Heidegger to orient her understanding of political science - this looks at philosophy as being in the world as opposed to from sub specie aeternitas (from the viewpoint of eternity). She counters the valorisation of Platos contemplation with action in the public sphere - ie politics and this draws on her understanding of how politics was understood in the Greek city-state.
Another example would be the Anglo-American analytic tradition which though in a narrow sense was stimulated by the logical argumenation and rigor of Russel, Frege & Wittgenstein; in a wider sense it is derived from the the style of argumentation in Plato where clarity in thought is seen as a natural good; and this is filtered through the European Enlightment tradition.
What can be called the counter-Enlightment takes its orientation with artistic Romanticism; its exemplars are Nietzsche & Derrida amongst others. Their writings tend towards contradiction, polemic and obscurity; their work resists easy reading as the thought is concealed. One can consider it as a code that can be broken in several ways or creatively 'misread'.
And their are the isms that help orient writers in the larger picture and thus orient in what way they are in dialogue with each other; a philosopher doesn't belong to a certain school; more that one should see these isms as a prism that overlays their writings and refracts it in many different directions; whereas seeing the influence of their philosophical predecessors turns their texts into a kind of palimpsest.
All this isn't just true of philosophy, but of any scholarly tradition; and is true of the sciences - say Mathematics or Physics. One could ask of a more particular methodology; in the physical sciences for example there is the notion of the 'repeatable experiment'. But there is no such empirical inquiry - but the larger sense of observation is important; and thus, for example Arendt relies on testimony (and what is this if not observation?) filtered through the secondary literature to examine the notion that she calls Totalitarianism in her book of the same name, as a political institution in its own right - through its roots and its future; and how it is in fact characterised.
Good philosophy defers to science, in empirical matters where science has a say. The world is fundamentally made of subatomic particles that interact according to certain mathematical rules. The mind is fundamentally based in the brain, which consists of neurons and other cells that are made of atoms that interact according to certain mathematical rules.
If you want to say the world is made of ideas, or some other substance - that's fine, as long as to you, "ideas" are functionally indistinguishable from how physics says the world works. Whatever you say on metaphysics must functionally boil down to what we've found through science.
Good philosophy is not mystical. It should not depend on mysterious objects or beings that have an influence on the world but which science has not yet found evidence for. Leave the empirical matters to the empiricists.
Words are made of atoms. Atoms are not made of words. We cannot build a picture of the universe that begins with social interaction or social consensus. The very notion of a "social consensus" presupposes an objective external reality in which there is a society. Begin with physics, then you can talk about societies based on that.
Good philosophy is realistic about human psychology. The mind is not an inaccessible black box; it depends on the brain. We can look inside, through science, and get some notions about how it is structured and how it behaves.
Good philosophy is clear and unambiguous. If a philosopher asserts X, then there must be something concrete that X means. The philosopher's job is to be clearly understood.
As you probably know philosophy is centered on asking and answering three fundamental questions, the most fundamental being "what is there?". With "how do i know?" and "what do i do?" the latter two questions necessarily arising as the inquirer becomes self-conscious of the first question, which translate into the philosophical fields of metaphysics, epistemology and ethics respectively. Good philosophy can be said to be based on the most logical possible way of answering the first question, which said answer, by extension provides a framework to answer the latter two questions. This type of "good philosophy", is good because it is logically self-consistent, that is, it does not contradict itself, and is superior to philosophy which is self-contradicting and inconsistent with logic, that is, in this respect, "bad philosophy" is self-evident".
That being said, because Philosophy has not yet produced a theory of everything which adequately satisfies the answering of the three fundamental questions in the most logical and self-consistent way possible, every philosophy that exists, is inferior in this respect to the best possible philosophy.
Now as to why you've observed fairly dubious "philosophical" explanations, that are still highly rated and accepted as answers. The answer to this is because this site is very dogmatic in its approach to answering questions, that is, this site is designed as a platform of which to provide answers to philosophical questions based on the existing work of philosophers. Basically answering these questions using the words of other philosophers, and answers are more highly rated not based on them being logically correct pertaining to the question, but more so based on a specific philosophers thoughts on a question, and the justifications as to why said philosopher thought this or that in regards to this specific question and answer. This is how "dubious" answers become highly rated, because the answer isn't necessarily the correct answer to the question, but a specific philosopher's answer to the question, and said philosopher doesn't necessarily provide the correct answer to the question, just a philosophical framework of which helps the question asker better think through the problem.
My own "Intro to Philosophy" textbook said the following:
Truth, Profundity, Clarity but the greatest is Clarity
Truth is of course as elusive a concept as anything else discussed philosophically, and wouldn't be how I would have expressed it, but the basic idea it that the arguments are strong: the arguments (at least appear to be, even after thinking through them considerably) logically valid as well as based on plausible premises. Does it seem correct to you? (Be honest, really.) Would it seem to correct to others? That's the best we can do, for now.
Personally, I'm not sure if I would have put profundity in the list, but I'll admit that it's nicer to have lists of threes. The fact is though, is that good philosophy should make you think in ways that you haven't thought before.
The greatest is definitely clarity, at least for me who grew up in the tradition of analytical philosophy. When philosophers make seemingly profound statements, or pithy aphorisms that might do better as bumper stickers, one might initially be drawn to their elegance, before thinking about what the phrase really means. Some of the most elegant phrases, upon analysis, are revealed to have no meaning at all.
Middle English: from Old French philosophie, via Latin from Greek philosophia ‘love of wisdom’.
I will argue a good philosophical answer provides new wisdom to the asker in minimum words.
Any philosopher is free to make any assertion they wish about any issue, at any time. There are no objective standards: the truth content of the assertion is a social construct; the Nazis had their philosophers and their assertions were taken as true and valid by the power structure of an entire nation from 1933 to 1945- with disastrous consequences.
Similar comments apply to stalinism, maoism, khmer rouge communism, trumpism- all of which had their philosophers who forcefully asserted the complete validity of their respective "business models" and did so for as long as their tenure permitted.
I was researching this topic after being inspired by Ai with this comment:. "A causal explanation: it's really hard to do good philosophy without a philosophy degree."
I did a search for the standards of philosophy and found that a variety of institute's have their own agreed upon standards which in most cases can vary depending on the teacher.
So I promoted Ai by asking what the standards are and this was the response: Curiosity & problem solving. To remind myself the importance of keeping an open mind.
Some other interesting responses include: Huh? Why do you want to philosophize if all this is already perfectly well described by general relativity?
Naturally I asked what philosophy has to do with general relativity..
Ai responded with: Questions concerning the existential relativity of time as a metaphysical concept. and Something similar to 'Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect' where a singularity takes over all known life aspects.
I hope this is something that inspires curiosity especially concerning the source being machine learning which initially was prompted in a group discussion concerning wether or not Ai can understand psychology.