Can there be a general definition for what is criticism and what is not?

And what e.g. distinguishes criticism from harrasment?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Nov 2, 2021 at 14:32
  • "In the first place, I must take leave to tell them that they wholly mistake the Nature of Criticism who think its business is principally to find fault. Criticism, as it was first instituted by Aristotle, was meant a Standard of judging well. The chiefest part of which is, to observe those Excellencies which should delight a reasonable Reader." - Dryden. Harassment has a legal definition in many jurisdictions, see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harassment#Laws
    – CriglCragl
    Nov 2, 2021 at 15:59

1 Answer 1


This is an English language and not a philosophical question, however:

According to criticism (MW):

1 : the act of expressing disapproval and of noting the problems or faults of a person or thing : the act of criticizing someone or something There was much public criticism directed/leveled at the senator. The new law attracted/drew widespread criticism. [=many people criticized the new law] See More Examples
2 : a remark or comment that expresses disapproval of someone or something I had one minor criticism about her design.
3 : the activity of making careful judgments about the good and bad qualities of books, movies, etc. literary criticism


According to harassment (MW):

1 : to annoy or bother (someone) in a constant or repeated way She was constantly harassed by the other students. He claims that he is being unfairly harassed by the police. He was accused of sexually harassing his secretary. [=of making unwanted sexual comments to her]
2 : to make repeated attacks against (an enemy) The troops harassed the defeated army throughout its retreat.

The difference between the two ideas is one of intention and agreement. A person who criticizes is citing faults, oftentimes with the approval of those receiving the criticism, such as in the constructive criticism of a teacher critiquing a student's work. Harassment is by definition an unwanted advance or attack, and may actually be fulsome praise. Of course, unwanted, harsh criticism can be harassment when it is overwhelming and unwanted such as when Internet trolls unleash doxing and virulent language diatribes against victims, such as the parents of the Sandy Hook gun massacre who were claimed to be actors by conspiratorial wing nuts.

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