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2010-12-12
Peer-reviewed publications
Peer-reviewed journals and other publications on Philosophy: do they promote, or, on the contrary, hinder the development of philosophical thinking? What is reviewed in them, why and by whom? Does it not look like a certain kind of censorship?

2010-12-14
Peer-reviewed publications
I suppose it depends on what criteria are used in assessing articles and whether you think those criteria are valid/appropriate.
Certainly some sort of editorial discernment is usefull, otherwise you would end up publishing all sorts of dross.

2010-12-16
Peer-reviewed publications
Reply to Bryan Keniry
The matter is I can't imagine what these criteria may be in case of Philosophy, because philosophical systems differ very much, they often contradict each other, so if one view or another doesn't fit any given philosophical system, that never means it has no philosophical value. Who has worked out "universal criteria" for all Philosophy which can be applied to any work of any philosopher? For example, Plato's Parmenides and Heidegger's Zein und Zeit: how much are they alike?

2010-12-20
Peer-reviewed publications
Well said, scholasticism !!!

P.S.: As the comment to which I reply doesn't appear on forum page, I'll cite it below:

Anton Alterman, Long Island University: "It looks like a certain kind of scholasticism, which is to say, the standard kind, with some new decorations in the church windows. No need for censors when self-interest, hero-worship, academic pressure, and other typical forces of institutional calcification are sufficient to explain the phenomena. But I wouldn't worry too much - the new Copernican Revolution has arrived already. That's how we are communicating right now. It may just take a while to get blood flowing again, as it did the last time. Shouldn't take quite as long as it took the Copernicans, though; after all, things move faster today. And there's no one around to burn deviant philosophers at the stake."

2010-12-20
Peer-reviewed publications
What absolute nonsense.

Certainly there are some oddities at times in editorial policies and processes.  But if you think that things are even remotely bad in philosophy, you need to get out more (and look, for example, at some of the practices employed in such fields as informatics or medicine where there is almost universally no attempt to use blind reviewing, but rather a kind of "half-blind" reviewing is employed where the referee knows the author's name but the author is kept ignorant of the referee's identity).  However, overall, I just don't think there is an objective case to be made against the policies or practices of most philosophy journals.  Certainly one has not even been suggested here.

Does a certain amount of crap get published?  Unfortunately, yes.  Is there a tendency to publish on what become "popular" topics (at least in certain journals)?  Yes.  So what?

There are so many (too many, I would argue) journals and related venues nowadays in philosophy that if one can't get published one way or another one must seriously reflect on the quality of one's own work -- and definitely reflect on the evaluations one is getting from the referees.  But beyond that, if your genuine goal is to make your work known, then it is trivially easy to self-publish on your own web site (or post unrefereed manuscripts to such venues as this one).  People will find them and they will be read (though perhaps not read much or thoroughly if they are in fact crap).  For a good paper that you want to make available in a very timely fashion, this is also the way to go -- rather than waiting at least a couple of years for it to appear -- and I have used that device myself (though one such paper was also later published).

Journals and other peer-reviewed venues in philosophy have several goals and roles.  Only one of these is the promotion of philosophical thinking and the sharing of philosophical work.  A very practical role is played in the evaluation of academic philosophers for tenure and promotion, and grant funding.  There is a long history of peer review (and its roles and dangers) in the sciences and the humanities, and I won't review those here.  But this would at least in part answer the question of "What is reviewed in them, why ...?"  As to "by whom", every journal of which I am aware lists its editorial board explicitly.  These are hardly secret societies.  Other referees are used, but even these are commonly acknowledged somewhere in the journal (often in the year-end edition where they are thanked for their services).

"Does it not look like a certain kind of censorship?"  No.  You want to participate in "professional philosophy"?  Then get real.  There are standards (often described to at least some degree by the journal itself); and if you are unaware of them, then you're not ready to play in the big leagues.  But this does not remotely resemble censorship.  Self-publish all you want.  But if it is the imprimatur of the professional academic philosophical community you seek, then this requires a conformance to whatever the standards of that community are -- because, by its nature, that's the only way to get the approval of such a community.  Otherwise, make your own choices and go your own way.  There are journals that I will not submit to (for a variety of reasons), but I can't offhand think of a journal in philosophy I wouldn't submit to because I was afraid of not being treated fairly and objectively (not that I haven't gotten some really inept and stupid reviews a couple of times; but in general I find the reviews to be quite accurate, well considered, and valuable -- even if I think they are mistaken at certain points).

And sure, you're "communicating" right now.  But I wouldn't drag poor Copernicus into this.  Or Galileo -- who perhaps has even more of a complaint.  But even in the case of Galileo he didn't have much trouble getting published.  He just had trouble with the consequences.

And don't conflate deviance with competence.  Sometimes -- I know this may come as a shock -- an author's work doesn't get published because it's just not good enough.



2010-12-20
Peer-reviewed publications
Reply to Gary Merrill
Thank you very much for your extensive reply and criticism contained in it, and however I am afraid the sense of the question raised by me was not understood well enough.

You write, among other things, that "if it is the imprimatur of the professional academic philosophical community you seek, then this requires a conformance to whatever the standards of that community are -- because, by its nature, that's the only way to get the approval of such a community."

So I would ask you: why me to seek the approval of any community, with all my respect toward it, if I am myself a professional philosopher, I have passed all the stages needed for that, and however I have other views on what a true Philosophy should be?

As you are well aware, I am sure, there were thinkers in the history of Philosophy who were deviating from common patterns, and that was rather their advantage. You mention the case of Galileo, so let me make a correction: that is true that he didn't have much trouble getting published, but he was having a lot of trouble in getting the approval of the professional academic philosophical and scientific community of the time, and so was with almost all of the greatest philosophers.

I think Philosophy is a unique discipline, and it cannot be handled as other disciplines should. While there are criteria which have to and of course must be applied to Physics, Mathematics, Medicine etc., there cannot be such criteria, or at least it is too difficult to work out such criteria in case of Philosophy, as I suppose, and that was the sense of my question.

As to peer-reviewed journals, I can only mention an example when to one of them /and very respectable one/ was submitted as an article a text in which only one word was, "Philosophy", and it was rejected with the common wording: "Dear ..., I regret to inform you that your paper was not accepted for publication in this journal. Please note that our policy is not to send referee's reports or comments on papers that have not been accepted or recommended for revision. Yours sincerely, ....". I am sorry, but that may mean only one thing, that papers submitted to that journals are not even read ...



2010-12-20
Peer-reviewed publications
Well, a couple of quick responses ...  You write

"So I would ask you: why me to seek the approval of any community, with all my respect toward it, if I am myself a professional philosopher, I have passed all the stages needed for that, and however I have other views on what a true Philosophy should be?"

If I were to look at this as a referee, the first thing I would be struck by is the grammar and sentence structure -- which makes it very difficult to interpret.  If this is the quality of work you are submitting, it may be quite understandable that a journal editor would choose not to send it on to a referee for serious analysis.   Indeed, I cannot extract a coherent question from what you have apparently asked here.  What exactly is the question?  The "why me to seek" construction is quite confusing.  I think that what you're asking is why you should seek the approval of the professional community.  I was not suggesting that you should seek the approval of any community.  But, by submitting manuscripts to journals, this is precisely what you are doing.  You cannot then be surprised if that community imposes on you the same requirements and standards that it imposes on others.  If you are not seeking its approval, then why are you submitting your work to it?  If you are suggesting that you have "other views" that somehow do not conform to those requirements, then it is best to seek other outlets for expressing them.

It is regrettable that a journal may respond with a simple statement that they have chosen not to publish your paper.  But journals receive so many submissions now that it is often impossible for them to respond in any detail to all of them.  I have, myself, in the past year received a similar response.  In my case (because I had other feedback on the paper) I was convinced that it was because the journal felt that the submission was not a good "fit" for them.  So send it somewhere else.  Get comments on it from colleagues.  If you send it several places and get the same response (which is, basically, no response at all), then it is likely that several distinct editors have viewed it as insufficiently well done to merit review.  Live with it and try to improve your work.

Let's consider another example from a work you have recently posted to this venue:

"The aim of this work is to show that the reality is not only the world of being, it is equally the world of non-being. Such an approach, as I think, is not nihilism, on the contrary - it helps to resolve many problems and contradictions confusing the philosophical mind. The reader will not find any citations or references in this work because I tried to bring it closer to Philosophy as it used to be in its early stages."

Again, the grammar and style makes this almost unreadable, and it is not difficult to understand an editor's reluctance to pass it on to a referee.  Without making any judgement on the content, we can also see that you have decided to omit any citations or references that would place your work in some broader context or indicate it's potential relevance or importance to issues recognized by other philosophers.  Okay, but then again it is understandable that an editor would be reluctant to consider such a submission unless the quality of it appeared to be truly stunning.  You seem to take the view that you want to do Philosophy in a way that is different from the way in which it currently is being done by the community of professional philosophers (although it is highly unclear what you mean by this).  But then you should not be surprised if that community is unreceptive to such an approach.  If in fact you have training in philosophy -- are, as you claim, a professional philosopher -- then you must understand these things and understand how publishing and peer review works.  Again, I don't know what you mean by saying that you have "passed all stages needed for that", but getting a degree does not mean that your subsequent work is publishable.  Additionally, you seem to feel that there are no reasonable standards for good philosophical writing and that therefore basically "anything goes" and editors should be happy to publish whatever you send them.  Such a view deserves no further comment.


2010-12-21
Peer-reviewed publications
It looks like a certain kind of scholasticism, which is to say, the standard kind, with some new decorations in the church windows. No need for censors when self-interest, hero-worship, academic pressure, and other typical forces of institutional calcification are sufficient to explain the phenomena. But I wouldn't worry too much - the new Copernican Revolution has arrived already. That's how we are communicating right now. It may just take a while to get blood flowing again, as it did the last time. Shouldn't take quite as long as it took the Copernicans, though; after all, things move faster today. And there's no one around to burn deviant philosophers at the stake.

2010-12-21
Peer-reviewed publications
Reply to Gary Merrill
I absolutely agree. Personally I find a vast array of differing views on all manner of topics being regularly published in peer reviewed philosophy journals. I think it highly unlikely that many editors and reviewers in philosophy would judge a paper harshly simply because it presented a novel point of view. I supect that it is primarily quality and relevance to the topic areas of the journal which are the main criteria for most journals.
As to "Philosophy as it used to be in its early stages." I assume you are referring primarily to Socrates (or Plato) since Aristotle at least frequently cites his sources. Even Plato, though he had little good to say about poets in general, frequently has his characters cite Homer and Hesiod as authorities.

2010-12-21
Peer-reviewed publications
Reply to Gary Merrill

I am compelled to remind my initial question from which this discussion has started: Peer-reviewed journals and other publications on Philosophy: do they promote, or, on the contrary, hinder the development of philosophical thinking? What is reviewed in them, why and by whom? Does it not look like a certain kind of censorship?”

As one can see, I have never asserted that peer-reviewed journals or publications are bad, or good, I only asked a question and was expecting a detailed discussion on the topic.

The sense of my question was: should Philosophy be considered a scientific discipline among others, or is it anything more than a scientific discipline, which allows some more free and creative attitude toward it? And should any journal on Philosophy reflect these freedom and creativity, if they are inherent in Philosophy?

Unfortunately, my question was misunderstood and interpreted as the question of one who is offended by editors of peer-reviewed journals who did not publish his papers.

As to my philosophical views, I have no trouble in making them public: they are and will be posted both to my personal web-site and this venue which, thanks God, is not a peer-reviewed one.

As to my English, I never conceal that I am not a native English-speaker, and however I am sure I have expressed my views very clearly in my articles in English.

As to my initial question in this forum, I will ask another one: what is censorship, and have ever been censors who admitted to doing anything wrong?

I was grown in a country where the phenomenon of censorship was very familiar to everyone, and I assure you, every censor in that country was finding a lot of grounds, especially in case of Philosophy, to rule out someone’s views and to label them “not good enough”, “of low quality”, etc.


2010-12-21
Peer-reviewed publications
'I was grown in a country where the phenomenon of censorship was very familiar to everyone, and I assure you, every censor in that country was finding a lot of grounds, especially in case of Philosophy, to rule out someone’s views and to label them “not good enough”, “of low quality”, etc.'

Can you provide a couple of specific examples (independent of the rejection of your own submissions by journals) that you would characterize as censorship on the part of a recognized philosophy journal?  Otherwise, could you provide any specific reason that you are inclined to believe (or even to suspect) that censorship is taking place in this venue?

I responded to the original postings without having read the submissions of papers that you have made to PhilPapers.  I have now read those and can understand perfectly well why an editor would not want to pass them on to a referee for serious review.  This is, believe me, not remotely a matter of censorship.   If in fact you have a genuine concern about "censorship" in contemporary philosophy journals, what is the source of this concern and what evidence suggests such a problem?

Since it is you who originally raised the question of "Does it not look like a certain kind of censorship?", then it is you who must propose the criterion of censorship according to which we are to answer this question.  Otherwise my answer (already provided) is "No, it does not look like a certain kind of censorship."  It looks like the enforcement of professional standards of excellence, broadly conceived, within the context of certain clear goals and constrained resources.

2010-12-21
Peer-reviewed publications
Reply to Gary Merrill

Dear Dr. Merrill,

I really appreciate the fact you are spending so much time on discussing this matter, I see it is very important to you. And thank you very much for being so patient as to read my papers.

I cannot propose any criterion of censorship because I have never practiced it, but I will ask you one question, and I will ask you to answer that question as sincerely as possible: would Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zaratustra, or Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Representation, or, why not, Plato’s Dialogues fit the “professional standards of excellence” you mention?


2010-12-21
Peer-reviewed publications
I see this could be a long and heated discussion. And I don't particularly want it to be heated, though I don't mind if it's long. But a reply that begins "What absolute nonsense" could easily devolve into that, and sounds more like a knee-jerk response than a considered one.

In any case, while I agree that Arman Hovhannisyan's prose leaves something to be desired (making allowance for the fact that online posts are usually more error-prone than work submitted to journals) I also agree with him that Gary Merrill has missed the point. Neither Arman's comment nor mine suggested that we are seeking to be annointed by anyone. Additionally, Arman is quite right that in the single most widely recognized cultural expression of such annointment, anyone with a Ph.D. has received the benediction of the "philosophical community". If one wants to argue that journal publication is a more important measure of someone's work one is free to do that, but if the point is that one who does not get published has not been properly "recognized" the argument threatens to become circular.

For my part, I was not complaining that I could not get published. I do not know, really, if I can get published or not. I have submitted perhaps three articles which were rejected by major journals, I am not ready to concede that I will never publish them in some form. So it is not time to reduce the issue to a "sour grapes" exercise. Furthermore, I can think of at least one case in which I received some criticism that was not only appropriate, but led me to substantially revise my article. So I do not discount peer review as an inherently corrupt institution. One article I have published in a journal speaks more to the problem: it sat there for a year, with frequent promises to "get to it", until I finally threatened to pull it, and mentioned that by the way, in the meantime it had won an essay prize in business ethics, By coincidence it was only a few days later that I was notified it had been accepted. Blind review indeed.

So leaving aside the red herrings about sour grapes, let me state in less allegorical language the point of my original comment.

First and foremost, the term "scholasticism" suggests a discipline that has settled into rigid formulas, narrowing their view of both what constitutes significant subject matter, what the limits of rational debate are, and what methods of argument are acceptable within those limits. As I read through various stultifying, formulaic and trivial academic debates on, say, the latest defense against the latest critique of the latest version of some trendy epistemological theory, it seems clear to me that philosophy has become nothing more than a career for many people in the profession; and to promote that career they simply learn the rules of the game and follow them. Yes, you too can write this sort of article: "According to theory T, knowledge is zzzzz. X'ists think that zzzzz is yyyyyy. Phil Esophagus has argued that yyyyy is incoherent because it is either a or b or c, each of which is inconsistent with Major Assumption A. However, b is not inconsistent with A if you introduce caveat C. Therefore it is possible that yyyyy is not incoherent and X'ism is correct." Go ahead, fill in the blanks, get into a major journal, get promoted to Associate Professor. That's what I mean by "scholasticism" - narrow, tired, straightjacketed formulas that characterize vast swaths of philosophical publication over the last 30 years at least.

I do not claim that every article in every major philosophical journal is trite academic rubbish. But just as Hobbes said that a state of war is not an endless series of skirmishes but a known general tendency to engage in them, so scholasticism can be an apt general description of a state of the community even if there is still quite a bit of work of value that gets published. In some cases, having made their names through books that are not as restircted by stylistic mandates, well-known philosophers can get articles into journals in ways that avoid the constraints applied to less well-known people. (My advice: better not refer to the folk of "folk psychology" as "Grannie" if you happen not to be Jerry Fodor.) There may be other ways. But if you are going to tell me that the situation I have described is not typical in many areas then we just see things differently.

Second point: while the beknighted institution of "blind" peer review that you describe is ideally a model of fairness, in practice it is also an engine of conservatism, not to mention an opportunity to be degraded and humiliated. The judgments of reviewers are often capricious, uninformed, and hostile; and everyone I know who has ever submitted an article to a professional journal has said more or less the same thing to me, so I think Gary underplays the problem by a large margin. Everyone in academia (not just philosophy) has an ax to grind for their pet beliefs and theories, and the chance of getting even an objective review depends on your managing, by luck, to avoid reviewers who are downright hostile to your point of view before they read a word of your paper. Then there are those who want to prove how smart they are by constructing ingenious counterexamples to what you say - the kinds of counterexamples that could have prevented anything from ever being published. And the ones who do not read carefully enough to understand the scope or nuances of your position and react against something you have not said. Let's not forget the reviews who suggest you missed a vital reference, in a collection they happen to have co-edited or a journal on which they appear on the masthead. The list goes on.

Moreover, "half-blind review" is a better way of describing what actually takes place. When the editorial staffer goes running into the managing editor with the news "we just received a submission from... (pick Major Name)" they may be told "well, send it out for review but make a note of it"; read: we have to keep our profile high so we need to have at least one Major Name in the next issue". If the "blind" reviewer is actually an expert in his/her field and receives anything from a major author in that field the odds are pretty good that (a) they know who it is, either from the style or because they are defending their own theory, and (b) they treat it with far more respect than that of an equally good submission by an unknown. (Which is not to say that well-known philosophers don't get rejection letters. So do well-known fiction writers when they submit work to literary journals, which are not always blind reviewed. It is merely a tendency, not an absoluite.)

Maybe in Gary's past philosophy publishing days (1981 and before, as far as I can tell) things were different. Back then, for example, you could actually publish something informed by a Wittgensteinian perspective, or a Marxist perspective, or whatever, and be accorded the same respect as a Quinian or a Rawlsian. So-called "blind" review is deeply informed by philosophical fashion, which has no objective intellectual merit but merely indicates which philosophers and theories are winning the beauty contest these days. Let's not forget straightforward cronyism either: journal editors giving favored treatment to colleagues, acquaintances, etc. In addition to my experiences of rejection, which include examples of most of the interactions I've mentioned above, I have had the other type of experience too, usually at a conference after delivering a paper: "Submit that to my journal." So that it will be blind reviewed? I doubt it.

Now, before Gary and every journal editor and reviewer on this forum gets ready to jump out of their skin, let me make a few apologies.

(1) The problem I identified was "scholasticism", which is essentially conservatism and the adoption of intellectual blinders. This is a general cultural issue and is not, in my view, a conspiracy or an indication of intellectual dishonesty. People can be honest, intelligent and well-meaning and yet reflect a long-term intellectual descent into hardening of the categories and a sort of cultural forgetting (no, I'm not a Nietzschian, it's just a convenient term).

(2) It is not my intention to suggest that the peer review system be abolished. On the contrary, the content of my comments should suggest that what is required is something like training for reviewers: not the list of guidelines journals typically send out, but a more serious, professional certification in reviewing, including examinations which can weed out inappropriate candidates. Having published or taught a course in a particular area does not, unfortunately, guarantee competence, and actually tends to conflict with objectivity. (Have you ever taken a course with a major philosopher in her own area of expertise? If so, very likely you have had this experience: you are assigned an article to read; you think you have understood the point; then you go to class and hear her give a summation of the article which sounds like she had read a completely different work. Perspective, interest, telos: they can strongly determine what you see in what you read.) Mandatory training can help people recognize their own weaknesses and prejudices, inculcate a sense of moral responsibility in reviewing, and provide actual methods of assessment which minimize prejudicial tendencies.

(3) I do not think philosophy is any different from the sciences or other humanities in the ways I have described. We are what we are: human beings with egos, ambitions, moral weaknesses, intellectual limitations and (perhaps most of all) limited time. Scholasticism is partly the result of war-weariness: we are tired of fighting certain intellectual battles and narrow our horizons to disallow talk of a certain sort, to make sure arguments are surveyable by harried professors who have no time to re-read Hegel or discern novelties, subtleties or nonlinear methods as they carry out their reviewing responsibilities between 20 other obligations.

Journals are necessary; reviewers are necessary; hiring committees, examining committees, tenure committees, and many other academic institutions are necessary, unless anarchy is a satisfactory model for academic management. But academic disciplines go through periods of intellectual expansion and consolidation. The 1960's and 70's was a period of expansion; perhaps the 1910's and 20's were similar. Today we are stuck in a reactionary loop, where cognitive science, naturalization progrms and other quasi-scientific discussions tend to dominate debate in many areas. There are plenty of other signs of calcification too. One may mention, say, Hegel, (late) Wittgenstein, Foucault, Dewey, Nietzsche or Sartre as a source of intellectual authority only if one is either writing in a clearly continental or historical idiom, or one has already had one's intellectual virtues vetted in more properly analytic contexts. This is not the problem itself; it is a sign, a warning notice on the door that says "these are the limits of the path you may walk". That is not the death of philosophy or academia or any such thing. It is a challenge, and it may, as I said earlier, take a while to overcome.

2010-12-21
Peer-reviewed publications
Actually, I could not agree more with your assessment of the current state of publishing in a significant portion of philosophy.  Of course, what this has to do with anything that someone might intelligibly construe as censorship is another matter.  As I mentioned in passing, I think that entirely too much gets published nowadays (and not just in philosophy;  computer science, I would suggest, is even worse).

I do think that most of your comments about blind review are speculative.   (For example, I have had the "submit that to my journal" experience, and I KNOW it was subsequently blind reviewed.")  And there are few alternatives.   However, there are a couple of alternatives and I will mention them briefly here.  The first is the approach of the journal "Applied Ontology" where reviewing is totally unblind:  the identity of the author is known to the reviewers, and the identities of the reviewers are known to the author.  I really rather like this for several reasons, but won't go into more detail here.  Another approach that I've proposed -- that would be particularly appropriate to electronic publication -- is a venue in which an "editorial review board" is constituted (through some reasonable process of qualification), submissions are made simply by posting them (as in the case of PhilPapers), and then reviews are provided publicly online by members of the review board.  Reviewers could "self select", but given enough qualified reviewers, I think that such an approach could work for most submissions.  Alas, this requires a change in perspective and attitude of philosophy departments and tenure/promotion committees since they would actually have to read the candidate's material carefully and the responses and critiques to it.  Some would do this (and do it now).  But it is so much easier to simply list the "recognized" or "top level" journals in which a candidate has published as justification for promotion or tenure.  So how realistic this is, I don't know.

Regarding your points:

(1)  True.  But the (over)abundance of journals and conferences tends to mitigate this in a practical manner via kind of law of large numbers.
(2) I definitely agree with the major point.  However, I'm not entirely sure how such "training" would progress.  I think (and in my somewhat limited experience, this is supported) that editors often try to select reviewers based on their own published works -- on the grounds that these demonstrate the required skills in analysis and expression.  Editors also "try out" reviewers (it is fairly unusual that a paper will be sent to a single referee -- at least most of mine over a period of about 35 years have been sent to between two and four referees (sometimes with quite distinct views being expressed by the referees) -- and a good editor won't keep a referee in his stable past one or two experiences if the results are not good.  However, there are other motivations for selecting referees, and these can lead to some problems.  The problem with mandatory training is that it seems to face some of the same problems as refereeing about which you are concerned.  If it is just technical issues about refereeing, that is one thing.  But if the concern is that training may help to avoid "conservatism", I don't see that happening.
(3) A bit too cynical (even for me -- and those who know me will be astounded by this statement).  I have in fact over the past year (as I have been attempting to reintegrate myself into philosophy to some degree) reflected quite a bit over the current state of journal content and the whole idea of publishing.  In part this has stemmed from my history of publishing in philosophy some decades ago, publishing then to some small degree in engineering and computer science (and closely examining that literature) for a number of years, and then publishing a bit more in the past ten years in the area of pharmaceutical science and medical informatics.  If you take a kind of pure intellectual perspective (as I tended to do for about 30 years), a lot of what makes it into print in the journals (in a variety of disciplines) is a lot of stuff that no one will ever care about and that arguably is not a significant contribution to the literature of the discipline in question.  More recently I have had to concede that a major role of publication in journals is simply to demonstrate one's professional competence in a public and reasonably objective forum for purposes of one's career.  This is somewhat akin to an artist needing to generate works of art simply as a "product" rather than as great contributions to the field or history of art.  It is also akin to a physician's participating in "continuing medical education".  There's nothing wrong with that.  But it does require a different perspective on the process and criteria for publishing in philosophy.  It is, in the end, the desire to have a "profession" of philosophy, represented by the type of career that "professional" philosophers seek in academia, coupled to such institutions as tenure and the freedom to pursue research of one's choice while minimizing teaching duties, that drive such an approach.  Welcome to the real world.  (Almost 30 years ago I left a perfectly good tenured position in philosophy at least in part because of my disillusionment with that sort of environment.)

Science, by the way, is truly a bit different (though science in the academy exhibits many of the same "success-oriented" issues).  But I won't go on about that.

Your phrase "cognitive science, naturalization progrms and other quasi-scientific discussions" apparently as an expansion of what "reactionary loop" means I do find a bit puzzling.  While "cognitive science" has about as much specificity of meaning as "artificial intelligence" or "semantic web", it is nonetheless the case that at this point in time (and over at least the past 20 years) a number of excellent philosophers have fled philosophy departments for departments of cognitive science (and linguistics, and computer science, etc.).  And however vague the sense of "cognitive science" may be, to characterize the field broadly as "quasi-scientific" is a serious error.  Perhaps this was not your intention.  More distressing to me is the fact that the abandonment of philosophy departments by a variety of philosophers is resulting in departments that are essentially becoming departments of ethics and political philosophy with some history of philosophy mixed in for the sake of tradition.  And the kind of (for example) contemporary metaphysics then being done in such departments is of virtually no value beyond the sort of incestuous exercise you describe.  But that, I think, is not attributable to criteria and policies of publication.

I did recently discover, by the way, that the philosophy department in which I received my bachelor's degree exists no more.  You can still get a bachelor's degree (as always, a B.S.) in philosophy, but it is in the department of cognitive science.  I'm okay with that.  I think Aristotle would have been quite happy with it.  Plato, probably not.   But there is a danger of the philosophy getting lost -- and a consequent loss for science as well.




2010-12-22
Peer-reviewed publications
You are certainly right about the quantity over quality phenomenon. But it is also a matter of what constitutes "quality". It is hard to say whether certain seminal essays would have made it into print today, but it does not seem that highly original, creative thought is an important criterion of academic publishing. That seems to be left to the relatively few journals that are more courageous than others. For example, it is notable how many of the most important essays in 20th century analytic philosophy appeared in Phil.Review, a journal with a distinct Wittgensteinian heritage. Here we find "Two Dogmas", "What Is it Like to Be a Bat?", Grice's "Meaning" and Rawls's "Two Concepts of Rules" - all in their own way both unusual in conception and revolutionary in implication. Quite a few other journals - I will avoid mentioning names but most philosophers could find their own examples - have become stodgy and predictable. They do not want to take chances. Perhaps they are afraid of something like the Aronowitz incident: failing to recognize the distinction between challenging intellectual novelty and outright nonsense. But for my money I would rather dine on a buffet of imperfect arguments with a few gems among them than be fed dry, logically correct and ultimately useless academic fodder.

I'm not sure what you think was cynical about my third point (it was actually a caveat, the points came earlier). My comments about people's egoism, perhaps? But I was not trying to give a complete picture of the human spirit, only the negative side of it that affects how we behave in certain situations. Regarding your point that publishing can serve as a sort of intellectual exercise, the way track stars or skiers might participate in races just to stay in shape, that's fine if everyone recognizes it for what it is. I'm not sure they do.

If my earlier points about the journal review process were "speculative", it is only in the sense that I cannot offer more than anecdotal evidence of how extensive the problem is. The examples I gave are drawn from direct personal experience, e.g., a reviewer offering an extremely intricate (and frankly off-target) counterexample to an original proposal I was defending; another who seemed to be completely unfamiliar with the literature to which I was addressing myself and therefore thought the piece was of no general interest; another who insisted that I should have referenced an article in an obscure collection he co-edited; etc. Similar experiences and many more have been related to me by colleagues over the years.

But two things can demonstrates the arbitrrariness of the process, even without such examples. One is that when you do get feedback from reviewers, they usually have very different issues with the paper; the defects that one sees are not important to the other. In one or two cases reviewers even suggested more or less contradictory modifications to my paper. Second, in so many cases, an article just keeps going through the revolving door to one journal after another, without substantial revision, until someone finally says "okay". One colleague said he sent an article to eight different journals in his field, all of whom said "No thanks", and finally as an act of desperation shipped it off to a leading journal he never expected to get into. You can guess how that story ends. So what happened at the first eight journals? I do understand that there may be other criteria than perceived quality that determine acceptance, but factoring that in, it is still a very arbitrary process.

You suggest that "cognitive science" is a vague term, but since you go on to use it I assume it is specific enough to be meaningful. Now, we should probably open a new thread if we are going to debate its merits, but I will restrict myself to your statement that "a number of excellent philosophers have fled philosophy departments" to work in cog sci departments. I guess you are not worried that characterizing them as "excellent" is a bit question-begging. But that aside, there is a broad question here as to what has more long-term value in the philosophy of mind, the contributions of, say, Wm. James, Wittgenstein, Ryle, Quine, Davidson, Putnam, Goodman and Searle, or that of the Churchlands, Dennett and the many who have followed them down that path. Cog sci, broadly construed, has been a program in philosophy since the early 19th century; J.S. Mill at mid-century said more or less what many would say 1 1/2 centuries later: show me that this can actually solve any philosophical problems and I'll believe, but until then let's keep doing philosophy. As for its offshoots in bioethics, I think they are extremely dangerous and ought to be resisted.

I did not mean to imply that cog sci is "quasi-scientific", but that approaching philosophical problems through cog sci is quasi-scientific. It is a science at the appropriate level for what it studies. Biology is a different kind of science than physics in the same sense that philosophy is a different kind of study of the mind than cog sci. And just as there are interesting and useful interesections of biology and physics, yet most progress in biology has little to gain from progress in physics, so there are useful interesections of philosophy of mind and brain science, though the former must for the most part carry on independently of the latter. But this means that efforts to make philosophy subservient to the sciences, which are already quite visible in the early 20th century (though there it was primarily the so-called "scientific method" rather than specific discoveries that captured the imagination) are overall reactionary, shutting down all sorts of philosophical programs in the march toward the next discovery about reticular nuclei or the amygdala.

I must admit I am far more distressed by this than by the departmental motion you identify in the direction of ethics, political and historical philosophy. I deeply believe in philosophy maintaining relevance to the culture and the world at large; from what I can tell, you have similar concerns. So an expanded emphasis on moral philosophy should not be a bad thing. If a lot of phil.mind folks want to get out of philosophy I'm perfectly happy; less so at the number of cog sci types who want to get into philosophy. I have a bookshelf packed with the work of people like Damasio and Pinker and Glynn and Llinas and a host of others, each of whom thinks they are ready to solve the mind-body problem or something similar with their knowledge of synapses and brain waves and whatnot. Bah, humbug, let 'em try. Better relevant philosophy than irrelevant scientific speculation.

Some years ago I started a blog called "Brain Scam", which I have unfortunately been unable to keep up in the way I had intended to do. (I still post to it occasionally. You can read the posts at http://brainscam.blogspot.com.) The idea was to track the popular expressions of cognitive science through news reports of various putative breakthroughs, combined with more in-depth critique of the philosophical and cog sci literature on consciousness and bioethics. I wish I had time to pursue it. But I have a full time job doing what you did - more or less (I'm in application development, not OS or sw engineering, and I don't try to publish in that field). That plus part-time teaching in philosophy, conferences, other blogs and web sites, and projects in music and literature keep me way too busy. When I am blessed like you with the opportunity to retire from the computer field I hope to take it up again.

2010-12-22
Peer-reviewed publications
Anton, I guess your reply should be addressed to Gary Merrill, not to me :)

2010-12-25
Peer-reviewed publications

All this reminds me of Kafka's The Castle: you have written something but that is not enough, your paper has to be approved by some judges who are nobody knows where and who are vested with the power to make decision on what you have written.

After all, submitting a paper to a journal does not mean pretending to be better than anyone else, it is not participation in a contest, it is merely an effort to make public the product of your mind. Once it is made public, let the philosophers’ community judge on it, and there are a lot of ways to do that.

As I understand, the main counter-argument against what I have just stated is that before reaching this very community, your paper should be revised by experts, professionals, because it may be just “dross”, or “crap”, in the words of some of the participants of this forum.

Of course, science has its standards and criteria, and the work of a scholar must meet them. Of course, the editors of a scientific journal must control its content in order to prevent any paper failing to meet these standards and criteria from appearing in their publication.

And however, as I suppose, in case of Philosophy such an approach must be somewhat softened, because Philosophy is and at the same time is not a scientific discipline, or to be more correct, considering Philosophy only as a scientific discipline leaves a great part of it out of consideration, and this part may be as much or much more important than the scientific part of Philosophy is.

The proof of what I just stated is the pluralism in Philosophy, when every philosophical system is correct in itself, and however does not meet the standards and criteria of another system.

So in case of Philosophy, I suppose, the editors of a journal should consider, first and foremost, rather the philosophical picture of the world, given by one author or another, than the correspondence of any paper to sometimes very vague standards and criteria.

There are a lot of examples in the history of Philosophy justifying my assumption, and everyone can easily recall at least one or two of them.

As to censorship of which I spoke starting this discussion, it must not be understood literally. Saying censorship in this context, I mean intolerance against any uncommon or deviating way of creating a philosophical picture of the world.


2010-12-25
Peer-reviewed publications
"As to censorship of which I spoke starting this discussion, it must not be understood literally. Saying censorship in this context, I mean intolerance against any uncommon or deviating way of creating a philosophical picture of the world."

Okay.  Can you give a specific example of where you have encountered this in the case of a journal?

Or do you really maintain that there are no objective standards concerning the quality of philosophical writing that it is reasonable for journal editors to enforce?


2010-12-26
Peer-reviewed publications
Reply to Gary Merrill
Dear Dr Merrill,

To be short: yes, I do maintain that there are no objective standards in case of Philosophy, if only the above mentioned philosophical picture is given. And even if there are such standards, let the philosophers' community  judge on this matter and not one or two scholars.

2010-12-26
Peer-reviewed publications

There are certainly objective standards, Gary, but what are they? Basic writing ability, ability to set out a philosophical position and defend it, knowledge of the relevant literature, understanding of basic syllogisms, perhaps a few other formal criteria. But I suspect that most reviewers, when they have a new article in hand, pretty much assume that these will be the case. If the objective criteria are not met it will show very qickly and that's that. By and large, the real work of evaluation does not rest on objective criteria, but subjective reactions. And of course, evaluation is necessary. But we rely too much on the idea that a person with some expertise in a field is going to give an objective appraisal of work in that field. I argued in my previous replies that that is just not the case; instead, you get various degrees of subjective reaction, from stylistic issues to an interest in protecting a certain theory from criticism to the belief that a point of view is open to counterexamples.

This may not be censorship, but it is not harmless either. The question was whether certain world pictures are exlcuded. It is not the sort of question that you can answer by saying "show me an example", first because we are not really privvy to all the whys and hows of decisions to accept or reject, and second because if we were it would still require quite a bit of interpretation to make the case. But it is easy to see that at one point, for example, an essay on neuroanatomy and ethical beliefs would have been considered close to the lunatic fringe, while today it is the very model of raionality; whereas many other views are excluded by most of the mainstream journals. A perfectly well-constructed Marxist-Freudian critique of Fodor's semantics is going to be written off as out of bounds, as will many other approaches that might have once been found acceptable. Not long ago I attended an APA forum on Bennet and Hacker's Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience, which is obviously informed by WIttgensteinian analysis, and while you might call it a sign of repsect that the APA even hosts such a forum, what was quite apparent was the sense of outrage among both panelists and audience members that the authors would have the audacity to challenge the fundamental validity of neuroscientific approaches to philosophy of mind. They were more or less told that their view was outside the bounds of acceptable philosophical discourse (a phrase I once heard Kripke use explicitly to describe Hacker's critique of his book on WIttgenstein).

The phenomenon is very widespread and is not limited to rejecting Marxist or WIttgensteinian views. It applies in different ways to different fields. I do a lot of work in aesthetics, particularly the philosophy of fiction, where I have addressed a lot of my work to criticizing Kendall Walton's theory of fictionality as "props for games of make-believe". While there are many who do not hold this view, there is a critical mass of known writers in aesthetics for whom any theory or proposal that does not at least pay hommage to Walton's idea is simply beyond the pale.

So, there are examples - I don't know if they are the kinds of examples that Arman has in mind. I don't know if Arman's views are really subversive or unfashionable, or just underdeveloped or incoherent. Journals received many essays that don't deserve the time of day. But all views that are contrary to established protocols are at first seen as badly mistaken if not downright dangerous, including the ones that eventually become quite acceptable. That's why I began by talking about Copernicus. I could have talked about Rorty instead. But he was already respectable when he started publishing very conentious stuff. Contingency, Irony and Solidarity was a set of invited lectures. In Consequences of Pragmatism and the first volume of his collected essays, only a couple of essays were published in a major blind-reviewed journal (the Review of Metaphysics; I'm not counting the J.Phil. which publishes papers from APA symposia). Rorty may have been President of the APA but we're talking about journals and their presuppositions. I think you could find all sorts of ways of demonstrating the validity of the view Arman has expressed if you are willing to do the work.

(I tried posting this earlier but had connection problems. Excuse me if it got posted twice.)


2010-12-26
Peer-reviewed publications

"Basic writing ability, ability to set out a philosophical position and defend it ..."  If you concede this, then you concede a great deal -- since it is precisely what counts as adequately "setting out"  a philosophical position and "defending it", that is very much the issue.  Is it sufficient to "set out" a position that several different reviewers regard as incoherent or flawed?  Or is coherence not a criterion of an acceptable "setting out"?  I think there have been philosophers who might argue that coherence is not a criterion.  Fine; then let them edit their own journals.  I don't see that anything is stopping them.  Is it sufficient merely to say that you are setting out a philosophical position?

"But we rely too much on the idea that a person with some expertise in a field is going to give an objective appraisal of work in that field."

I guess I don't really know what you mean by "subjective".  Does that mean that the reviewer does not, and can not, provide reasons for his recommendation that the author and others can understand?   Do you mean to suggest that it is a widespread practice for reviewers to render reviews the content of which is basically "I don't like this." ?  Or do you take the position that if someone submits a paper and it is rejected without comment (or with only a terse one), then we can assume that it was some sort of "subjectivity" that was at fault?  Then I think I must deny what you "suspect".  Doesn't it bother you to be seeming to say that you want the recognition and approval of the philosophical community while complaining that this approval is subjective and unfair?  Or does your view require some kind of "philosophical silent majority" that is the "real" philosophical community, independent of the biased and subjective establishment?  I think I'll stick with my original "nonsense" claim, however offensive that may be.  Look ...  I'm not denying that the peer review process doesn't have its problems and faults.  It's nothing new.  My wife encountered it over 35 years ago in having a paper rejected by "Science" (almost certainly because it was reviewed by someone with a vested interest in the field) only to be accepted and published by "Nature".  In the past year I've had a (rather odd, to be sure) paper summarily rejected by "Nous" (no surprise, but I thought the three-line review in which it was clear that the reviewer had mostly read the list of references and, incorrectly, inferred the rest of the paper
was hilarious;  his comment was also that the paper would not be of interest to academic philosophers -- I think based largely on the reference list).  Then it was rejected without comment by "Dialectica".  When I asked for some kind of feedback (I was really interested in seeing what they thought), I was told that it had simply been discussed by their editorial board and they had decided against publishing it.  Too bad.  Then another very good journal responded with a detailed suggestion to "revise and resubmit", which I did -- and they promptly rejected the revision!  But because of their comments it became a much better paper.  I was about to give up on it, thinking that truly no one cared and that maybe I would try it out at a conference some time in the next year or so, when on a lark I sent it to another very good journal -- and it now appears that it will be published there in a few months.  But these kinds of things are just examples of how journals (any journals) work and how a lot of what you seem to see as subjectivity can (a) have a beneficial effect, and (b) be ameliorated by the fact that there are so many journals and other venues.

(I will leave aside here the issue of how shamefully long it often takes a philosophy journal to return any kind of decision.  Certainly there are some journals where you could grow old in an alternate career before hearing from them -- but again this is hardly new; just regrettable.  And THIS is something that I think COULD be changed.)
 
But in the end, then what are we to do?  We have lengthy educational programs in philosophy by means of which numerous people (you included, I presume) get various levels of degrees that testify (and are for the very purpose of testifying) that they are competent in this field called "philosophy".  We have professional societies composed largely of these people who have repeatedly demonstrated their expertise and contributions in the field and who are (even more so than in other fields) quite critical of the work of one another in public fora.  We have a system of numerous professional journals for the publication of the writings of those who want to contribute publications to this field.  This very site currently lists 315 monitored journals.  Another site (http://homepage.mac.com/mcolyvan/journals.html) claims that there are over 500.  A search for "Marxism" on PhilPapers site yields 479 hits -- indicating, I would guess, potential venues for publication.

" I think you could find all sorts of ways of demonstrating the validity of the view Arman has expressed if you are willing to do the work."

But I should think that, in coming to hold that view, it should be Arman who has done the work.  Yet there is apparently no evidence of that.  I don't think that one could find all sorts of ways of demonstrating his particular view -- largely because it appears to me that his view is indeed incoherent (and I do impose coherency as a criterion of claiming that I understand something), and it now appears that a part of his view -- if I may extract some coherency from it at all -- is that standards either do not exist or should not be imposed.  I have given up trying to formulate a publishing model in accord with such a view, and yet it is precisely such a publishing model that seems to be demanded.

So what we have is a view that seems to go something like this:  "Things are terrible in the realm of philosophy journals and publishing in them.  Subjectivity runs rampant and important views and ideas are not being published as a result [I will concede that by its very nature, such a claim is difficult to defend, but that also does not lend any support to it.].  Editors and reviewers are being subjective, biased, and unfair.  The way to fix this situation is ..."  But that's the point that -- even if I would be willing to concede all the rest -- I don't get it.  Exactly what do you WANT?  And how do you think you could GET it (trying to keep in mind the obvious features of human nature, academic disciplines, and professional societies -- all of which the complainants still apparently want to participate in and benefit from).


2010-12-27
Peer-reviewed publications
Reply to Gary Merrill
What I want can be described very simply: a free exchange of views between philosophers. And that is just what are we doing very successfully through PhilPapers.org. You can make the conclusions by yourself...

2010-12-27
Peer-reviewed publications
In my understanding, the issue under discussion has to do with the prevalence and the dominance of private interests in the public domain. This, I think, has been philosophically addressed by many in recent times, including Habermas and Foucault, in their own different ways. Didn't Habermas write on the 'transformation of the public sphere'? Foucault's essay, 'The Order of Discourse' is perhaps worth rereading in this context.

2010-12-27
Peer-reviewed publications
Reply to Gary Merrill
You can stick with "nonsense" if you like - and I'll stick with "scholasticism": empty rhetorical flourishes dressed up as content, presented via pre-defined formulas (I gave you an example of one, there are others), passed through paradigm filters that weed out unwanted intrusions, and annointed as valid philosophical positions by philosophical institutions, journals being among the leading representatives. That, BTW, is a problem with what is published, as much as with what isn't. (Censorship would not be my word for the issue I am addressing, as I have said from the beginning.)

"Coherence" is a fine criterion if it is understood in a certain way. But is, for example, Jean Baudrilliard coherent? Probably not, to a large number of analytic philosophers, though to a lot of French intellectuals he's plenty coherent. While I personally have little truck with most French philosophy, I sometimes enjoy reading it just because it stimulates me to think about things differently. That can be a virtue, coherent or not. (I believe most people can think coherently about something that is presented without any pretense of a solid logical argument.) On the other hand, is the phrase "there is something it is like to be in a conscious mental state" coherent? IMHO, it is at least as incoherent as any Lewis Carroll poem. But seeing its incoherence requires peering below the surface, whereas if you peer below the surface of Jabberwocke it instead becomes coherent! Seems to me that "coherence" had better be treated very carefully as a criterion of anything, and take a back seat to creativity, originality, cultural interest, moral relevance and other such qualities that are not always encouraged in our current academic environment.

"But these kinds of things are just examples of how journals (any journals) work and how a lot of what you seem to see as subjectivity can (a) have a beneficial effect, and (b) be ameliorated by the fact that there are so many journals and other venues."

After you give this litany of rejections based on dubious premises, or none, to say "well, that's just the way it works" is pretty much to concede the argument. And saying that the problems are "ameliorated" by the quantity of journals is not quite to the point - problems that can be gotten around are not really "ameliorated", so if the issue is whether or not it is a problem, the quantity of journals doesn't change the situation. The "beneficial effect" is a better point. Of course when you do get useful comments it helps. And I never said that you don't. I sent a paper to the British Journal of Aesthetics some time ago; it came back with some fairly harsh comments, not all of which I agreed with, but among which was one that led me to revise a key substantive claim in the paper. And I realized that the claim I had made was incompatible with my own larger philosophical perspective, so I was very happy to have it pointed out that the claim was neither necessary for nor compatible with my paper. Of course it can also have a beneficial effect when the comments are ridiculous - you wonder how anyone could have misread your work so badly, and you try to make it clearer to avoid that happening again. All that said, the question is not whether the practices and perspectives I have objected to have some beneficial effect, but rather whether they are beneficial per se. And on that subject I think I have already said what I wanted to say.


2010-12-27
Peer-reviewed publications
Dear sirs,

I would like to thank everyone attending this forum because this somewhat heated discussion displays very clearly that the problem exists and persists, regardless of how coherently or incoherently I am expressing it.

As to my own view on this issue, I will repeat my last reply to Gary Merrill: "What I want can be described very simply: a free exchange of views between philosophers. And that is just what are we doing very successfully through PhilPapers.org. You can make the conclusions by yourself...". And I will add that what I do not want can be described as much simply: everything hindering and blocking the above mentioned free exchange of views between philosophers.

2010-12-27
Peer-reviewed publications
"Seems to me that "coherence" had better be treated very carefully as a criterion of anything, and take a back seat to creativity, originality, cultural interest, moral relevance and other such qualities that are not always encouraged in our current academic environment."

This is an interesting assertion that exposes a deeper disagreement between us as well as another puzzling aspect of the complaint against subjectivity in determining what is to be published.  To begin, I wonder if you have recently had the pleasure of attempting to teach philosophy to a generation of students who appear to have been trained to believe just this -- and that creativity, originality, cultural interest, moral relevance, etc. can in fact even be understood in the absence of some sort of inter-subjective coherence.

But beyond that, it appears obvious that these are exactly the qualities that are among the most "subjective" in our judgements of them -- and so one should not (well, I suppose I am just again trying for some kind of coherence here) expect or demand anything other than subjectivity in their evaluation.

Perhaps this is in large part a difference based on whether you consider philosophy to be more of an art or a science.  I look at it as both, but favor the science angle  Certainly there is (and always has been) room for both perspectives, and for most philosopher there is a mix.  But if you regard philosophy primarily as an expressive art rather than a cognitive pursuit, then your expectations of journals that have been founded and explicitly administered to favor the latter perspective do seem a bit out of place.



2010-12-27
Peer-reviewed publications
Reply to Gary Merrill
"Perhaps this is in large part a difference based on whether you consider philosophy to be more of an art or a science.  I look at it as both, but favor the science angle  Certainly there is (and always has been) room for both perspectives, and for most philosopher there is a mix.  But if you regard philosophy primarily as an expressive art rather than a cognitive pursuit, then your expectations of journals that have been founded and explicitly administered to favor the latter perspective do seem a bit out of place."

So what an earth are they called journals on Philosophy if they "have been founded and explicitly administered to favor the latter perspective", and therefore, one may conclude, have not been founded and administered to favor the former one? Here I would return to what I have written in this forum earlier, however incoherent it may have seemed: "Philosophy is and at the same time is not a scientific discipline, or to be more correct, considering Philosophy only as a scientific discipline leaves a great part of it out of consideration, and this part may be as much or much more important than the scientific part of Philosophy is."

2010-12-27
Peer-reviewed publications
Reply to Gary Merrill
I regard philosophy as a search for coherence, or some closely related term, though certainly not "truth" in the sense of exclusive correct answers to philosophical problems. The kind of coherence we look for may be primarily rational-cognitive-scientific in some instances, and aesthetic-evaluative-creative in others (and also practical-moral - I think that covers the three Critiques!) But really I don't think there is much of a dichotomy in practice. Scientific reasoning involves both; any physicist worth his weight in Higgs bosons knows that. So does philosophical argument.

So, fine, you can have "coherence" as a criterion of evaluation if it is understood properly. But it is not, usually. I had one quite well-known professor who insisted that every line of argument in every paper you write must be readily reducible to a piece of formal logic. The same professor insisted that counterexamples are the heart of philosophical argument. I disagree with him on both points. These views overemphasize one particular kind of coherence that has become an academic shibboleth. This is precisely what I mean by scholasticism. It is rare to have it articulated quite so explicitly, but it is out there in force nonetheless.

I highly recommend another reading of On Certainty if it is more than 5 years since you last visited it. :-)

2010-12-27
Peer-reviewed publications
I sense an underlying problem of logic and interpretation here that I think I will pursue no longer.

2010-12-27
Peer-reviewed publications
"These views overemphasize one particular kind of coherence that has become an academic shibboleth. This is precisely what I mean by scholasticism. It is rare to have it articulated quite so explicitly, but it is out there in force nonetheless."

But I think this is what I mean by human nature, and I find nothing wrong with it.  Indeed, it is in the working out (or attempts at working out) of extreme positions and their consequences (and their relations to alternative positions) in which there is such benefit.  And there is hardly then only the one kind of coherence or the one flavor of the shibboleth -- what with over 500 journals in play and enumerable other venues (including the meetings and proceedings of various "societies" such as the ones that are found in seeming abundance in programs of APA meetings).

A quick check on the APA site, for example, shows meetings with such titles as "International Conference on Arts, Ideas, and the Baroque", "Karl Jaspers Society of North America", "1st Buenos Aires Philosophical Aesthetics Workshop", " PHENOMENOLOGICAL PATHS IN POST-MODERNITY. A COMPARISON WITH ANNA-TERESA TYMIENIECKA’S PHENOMENOLOGY OF LIFE", "2nd Annual North American Anarchist Studies Network Conference", "New Practices of Philosophy:  "Taking Philosophy beyond Disciplinary Bounds", "Life, Death, and Liberation", etc., etc.  The descriptions of these seem to fit well the sorts of topics and perspectives that you seem to hold dear.  The shibboleth you indict at least seems to be absent in all of these, and they are specifically addressed to, for example, perspectives in Marxism, phenomenology, and other areas with which you seem concerned.  And these are even outside the societies I mentioned that have regular meetings in conjunction with the APA, and some of which have their own journals or published proceedings.  In short, it appears that opportunities for presentation and publication of philosophical views abound -- no matter what one's orientation.

This thread began with a question asking whether peer-reviewed journals promote or inhibit the development of philosophical thinking.  Even if one argues that a particular journal (or set of journals) "inhibits" the development of philosophical thinking by imposing standards that prohibit the publication of contributions from a certain perspective (e.g., it's probably pretty difficult to get a paper on the foundations of set theory published in your average phenomenology journal -- at least without applying a lot of spin to it), it does not remotely follow from this that the system of peer-review in philosophy (with hundreds of journals, societies, conferences, proceedings, etc.) results in any such inhibition.  And the question "Does it not look like a kind of censorship?" (followed by a later comment that expanded on this) was clearly intended to suggest that it IS a kind of censorship.  I think that at least the censorship accusation is now unquestionably off the board.  But I also think that the inhibition question (under any reasonable construal) is also off the board with regard to the peer-review system as a whole.


2010-12-28
Peer-reviewed publications
Reply to Gary Merrill
Let me make a correction: if the question "Does it not look like a kind of censorship?" was clearly intended, as you insist, to suggest anything, so, I am sure, the most exact wording would be: it looks like censorship. I think the difference is obvious.

And also, I do not think anything is now (as a result of this discussion) off the board: everyone has expressed and defended his position, and it is up to the reader to make his own conclusions.

2010-12-29
Peer-reviewed publications
I am aware of the diversity of journals. I think it would be quite reductive of what I have said to to read it as arguing that the epithet "scholsticism" applies equally to every journal, or without exception or caveat to any journal. I identified, or suggested, a kind of Weltanschauung that holds true in the profession generally, but never universally; that dominates discourse at certain key times and on certain key issues, but certainly not always and without exception; and that is reflected in editorial decisions at some of the leading and most prestigious journals, though it is far from some sort of dictatorial mandate for every reviewer or editor.

Institutions always have cultures of one sort or another; so do professions. But they are arenas of contention. Marx said "the ruling ideas are always those of the ruling class". I think this is far too one-sided; it is merely the case that the ruling ideas (of society, an institution, a profession, etc.) have a way of dominating, co-opting or mitigating competing perspectives in crticially important debates, in the long run and for the most part. Conformity is never universal, and the situation is always fluid to one degree or another. There are pressures that can be applied; there are also infinitely varied methods of resistance and change.

The dominance of one perspective or another is certainly up for grabs even in the long run. Trends like neo-Hegelianism, logical positivism, new realism and pragmatism have all at one point or other more or less dominated discussion in Anglo-American philosophy, and all have been to one degree or another dispatched. (Pragmatism not entirely, but in some of its incarnations.) Today, naturalism&cog sci tend to dominate, but they are far from universally accepted. The question is not whether there is room for other perspectives, which there clearly is, but whether there is not a deeper and wider tendency to accept formulaic approaches in philosophy, reflected in a narrowing down of the kinds of discussion that are typically published in major journals, the kinds of presuppositions that would generally be allowed an author without an acerbic comment from a reviewer, and the like. This is not open to refutation by pointing to the existence of various kinds of journals which are specifically dedicated to phenomenology, Marxism, Wittgenstein studies, etc.

So there is the more nuanced version of my idea. I hope it responds to your (Gary's) last comment adequately.

2010-12-29
Peer-reviewed publications
"So there is the more nuanced version of my idea. I hope it responds to your (Gary's) last comment adequately."

Yeah.  I take it to be consistent with my observation about human nature and the nature of organizations, and to be an expanded version of "Academic fashions come and go."  Das ist immer so.

2011-01-11
Peer-reviewed publications
As an amateur I once submitted an article to JCS and I shall be eternally grateful to the editor for refusing to publish it. I would praise the journals for their refereeing standards and think if anything they should be made tougher. I know this is the age of recycling, but one can have too much of a good thing.   

I would not praise them for their content, but I suppose this has more to do with what they're sent than with some sort of editorial conspiracy. A conspiracy among philosophers lasting longer than a week seems an implausible idea to me.   
 
  



  

2011-01-17
Peer-reviewed publications
In the last couple of years I've worked on three related papers.  I don't really know this, of course, but let's say they're all of roughly the same caliber.  One was rejected at three places, and accepted at a fourth.  One (a short note!) has now been held at one journal for about a year, and I cannot get any information even as to what is their average length of time for reviewing.  The third was rejected the day I sent it (and it took me at least a week just to get the footnotes in the style they require).  When I inquired whether it was likely that anybody had read it in that circumstance (or whether my font choice was unpleasant or something), I was told that, as the journal is interdisciplinary, in such cases it may be that somebody thought there was a bad fit. 

While a philosophy professor at one time, I have been out of the field for many years, and I do not have an institutional connection to report. I've published maybe a half-dozen papers at peer-reviewed journals over the last 30 years, and, In my view, the only reason I got that sort of treatment from this journal, was not a matter of "bad fit" but because of my back (residential, rather than university) address.  If it had said, Dept of Phil. XX University, they might not have published it, but somebody would at least have taken the trouble to read it.

Now, I don't claim that's censorship, but I do think that it's in the interest of the existing professor class (who may be looking for tenure or promotions) for journals to act that way, and it's in the interest of non-affiliated people (like me) for journals to be very meticulous with their blind-review standards.  The thing is, it's not in the in the journals' interests to be meticulous, not only because it's more trouble, but because if their next issues have famous names rather than nobodies in it, they look more impressive and likely get more readers.  My (quite unscientific) sense is that over the past 15 years or so, journals are getting less and less strict about blind reviewing.  Fewer and fewer seem to me to require separate cover sheets, all identifying marks removed, etc.

So, (though I certainly may be wrong about this, and, as indicated, I do get stuff published now and again anyhow) it seems to me one more case of "To them that hath shall be given, and they shall have abundance.")

W

2011-08-29
Peer-reviewed publications
Reply to Walter Horn
I'm sure you're right and that possession of a recognised university affiliation changes one's chances of being published enormously. Academia is gradually becoming more and more of a professionalised closed shop, and the peer reviewed journals seem to me to be one of the central ways of accomplishing this. Moreover, it is essential for any piece to be published that it should address the issues thought to be central within some particular sphere of current philosophy - action, science, metaphysics, etc. This obviously must be the case otherwise they wouldn't be able to find referees to critique it. 

What are the chances of a wholly new philosophical voice getting published, or even a completely new direction being taken which ignores current work or assumes it all to be mistaken? How far would a Wittgenstein or a Nietzsche get with publication? Imagine the reaction of referees to the Tractatus or the Gay Science!

P

2011-08-29
Peer-reviewed publications
Reply to Phil Rees
I cannot but agree with at least some of what is being said here.  Walter Horn says

"Now, I don't claim that's censorship, but I do think that it's in the interest of the existing professor class (who may be looking for tenure or promotions) for journals to act that way, and it's in the interest of non-affiliated people (like me) for journals to be very meticulous with their blind-review standards.  The thing is, it's not in the in the journals' interests to be meticulous, not only because it's more trouble, but because if their next issues have famous names rather than nobodies in it, they look more impressive and likely get more readers."

All true, I think, though I would say that it is not in all of the journals' interests to be meticulous about such things since I do think that they retain some additional professional and principled interests.  Also (as I have pointed out previously), there are some alternatives to blind review that offer some advantages and attraction (though I don't know of a philosophy journal that is now using such an approach).  But if you think such reviewing is bad in philosophy, take a look at bio-medicine at some point.

Phil Rees remarks that

"Academia is gradually becoming more and more of a professionalised closed shop, and the peer reviewed journals seem to me to be one of the central ways of accomplishing this."

"Gradually becoming"?  Hardly.  It has always been thus, I would suggest.  It has just become more obvious as the supply of aspiring academics has so greatly outstripped the number of career slots available to them.  And yet they continue to flock to graduate schools -- which continue to accept them and even fund them because, well, you just can't have a graduate program without graduate students, don't you know?  And you need a graduate program because ....  (well, we all probably know the arguments).

And then he asks

"What are the chances of a wholly new philosophical voice getting published, or even a completely new direction being taken which ignores current work or assumes it all to be mistaken? How far would a Wittgenstein or a Nietzsche get with publication? Imagine the reaction of referees to the Tractatus or the Gay Science!"

But these sorts of questions begin to expose an underlying dissonance to the complaints being voiced.  In fact, the answer to the first of these is "The chances of a new philosophical voice getting published are excellent -- including such a voice that ignores current work and assumes it all to be mistaken."  How far would a Wittgenstein or  Nietzsche get with publication?  Twenty years ago, the answer to this would be "Nowhere."  But now the answer is "All the way".

How?  Simple.  The route to self-publication is now straightforward, trivial, and involves little or no expense.  And the potential (monetary) rewards are higher than they have ever been.    Do you have a book in you?  Something like the Tractatus or the Gay Science?  Then write it and publish it!  No one is stopping you.  Amazon (and some other alternatives) have a simple and streamlined process for doing this.  No bothersome referees or editors (though you can find your own, if you like).  High royalties (30%-70%).  And your book will be made available to a huge audience, popping up in their search results and in "you might also be interested in" suggestions.  With some degree of effort and additional expense you could send copies of your book to journals for review or do direct marketing to academic philosophers.  Go for it.  Hume never had it so easy.

This leaves aside the alternative, taken by at least a few, of setting up your own web site and placing papers on it that may be read by anyone who cares to do so.  You could do this in a very professional manner and maintain your own standards.  And you can always make such work available through PhilPapers.  In the 21st century, making your philosophical work available to readers really has ceased to be a problem.

But you might think this isn't really publishing within the philosophical "community" or the philosophical literature.  Here's the dissonance.  What do you really want?  What do you expect?

If you want the "prestige" of publishing in a "recognized" philosophy journal, or of having a book published by a recognized publisher (which will require its acceptance by professional reviewers), this trick won't work.  But if that's what you want, then you can't complain about the standards and habits of the academic publishing community.  That's the very community you want to accept your work!  If you want your work to be accepted by that community and recognized as "good" and "valuable" by that community, then you have to satisfy that community.  If your work doesn't conform to the requirements of that "professionalised closed shop", then it will not be accepted by the community.  This is surprising?  Do you really think that somehow the closed shop (any closed shop) will abandon whatever standards and constraints it has, recognize your work as somehow "special", and accept it into the community?  Really?  But if what you genuinely want is to become, in some way, however small, a member of that community -- of that club -- then that is the challenge you face.

(I take it also that a part of the complaint is that one's work can genuinely satisfy that community in terms of quality and significance, and yet not be published because you are not a member of the "club".  I am not wholly convinced of this speculation or the degree to which it may be accurate -- and without some reasonable evidence it is just speculation -- but I won't address this here since it's not relevant to the point I want to make.)

But if what you want, through, say, a "love of wisdom",is to expose your ideas to a large audience for its members' consumption and judgment -- if what you really want is to be a philosopher (rather than an academic member of a closed shop) -- there are now some genuine alternatives.  And perhaps be guided in this by the immortal words of Marx:  "I just don't want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member" (Groucho; not Karl).



2011-08-29
Peer-reviewed publications
Reply to Gary Merrill
Well said! Here I cannot but completely agree with Gary, for the first time during all this discussion. ) 

2011-08-30
Peer-reviewed publications
Reply to Gary Merrill
GM: "If you want the "prestige" of publishing in a "recognized" philosophy journal, or of having a book published by a recognized publisher (which will require its acceptance by professional reviewers), this trick won't work.  But if that's what you want, then you can't complain about the standards and habits of the academic publishing community.  That's the very community you want to accept your work!  If you want your work to be accepted by that community and recognized as "good" and "valuable" by that community, then you have to satisfy that community."

Let's put this another way: "If I want what I have to say to be recognized by the academic elite as having value then I have to say something that appeals to the intellectual predispositions of the academic elite." Okay... is that the defense speaking, or the prosecution?

I have at one time or another attempted to challenge deeply ingrained and widely accepted views or bits of scholarship in the philosophical establishment. Although it was recognized that my articles were well-researched, the reactions usually ranged from incredulity to solemn regrets at the inability to accept my work. These reactions came from a wide area of philosophy: e.g., a certain view of Wittgenstein I presented at my thesis defense (it was touch-and-go and probably went through only under pressure from my advisor), a challenge to a leading and very widely accepted theory of fictionality, an interpretation of a key idea in Hobbes's political theory, and a recommendation for a new translation of one of Wittgenstein's works. Different areas of philosophy, different parts of the academic establishment, different journals or departments... all with the same result: "go away". (I am not saying I've never published; I have, but it has been as much a political struggle as an intellectual one.)

Apparently your view is that if I want to challenge academic shibboleths I should scurry off to Amazon and self-publish my work; or to put it differently, I should come to the realization that the philosophical establishment is no place I would want my views aired, since I am so given to challenging what they deeply accept. But first, it seems to me obvious that when one wants to challenge an idea it is precisely the community that holds the idea to whom one wishes to address oneself. Standing completely outside it and shouting from a hilltop to a coterie of equally disillusioned listeners does not sound like a way to achieve that.

Second, there is the fact that the establishment does indeed challenge itself, by first annointing certain schools and individuals as legitimate and then permitting them to have a voice. Thus a professor at Harvard has a right to challenge the analytic/synthetic distinction, the prevailing trend in ethics, or the notion of narrow content; one at Princeton can face off against the prevailing theory of proper names; and a graduate of Berkeley and Cornell who teaches at U. Michigan can be trusted to provide a new aesthetic theory - and all of them get much more than a polite hearing in these challenges to accepted wisdom. But don't try these tricks at home - e.g. if you don't teach at a Top 10 school in the Philosophical Gourmet! So the problem seems not to reside in the fact that prevailing views are challenged (thus there is also no reason to assume that they are not challenged because they are actually right), but in the credentials of those who challenge them.

Is this defensible? To about the same extent that one can defend financial firms annointing their own proteges and honoring their investment strategies, failed or successful, with 6 or 7-figure bonuses. Sorry I can't agree with you here, Gary, but academic success, publication and recognition should not be based on club membership, any more than personal wealth. And philosophers should be doubly criticized when they engage in such morally corrupt practices, since they are allegedly the gatekeepers of morality.

Just to reiterate what I said last year, I do not make sweeping judgments of every journal, department, professor, etc. - that is bound to be false and have many counterexamples. But since you at least partially acknowledge the "closed shop" atmosphere in the philosophical establishment I think it is important not to resign oneself to the situation, write it off as par for the course, or dismiss the whole idea of peer review and run off to the unexpurgated world of self-publishing. Steps can be taken to change things around. I don't see that happening very much right now, but it is possible that that will change. Founding a whole new philosophical establishment is of course an option, at least in theory, but it was a lot more practical in 5th century Athens than it is today. I'm afraid we have little choice but to keep banging on the walls.

2011-08-30
Peer-reviewed publications
"Let's put this another way: "If I want what I have to say to be recognized by the academic elite as having value then I have to say something that appeals to the intellectual predispositions of the academic elite." Okay... is that the defense speaking, or the prosecution?"

It's reality speaking.  And "predispositions" here is simply a pejorative way of referring to the accepted principles and practices of any domain of expertise.  You recognize the domain of expertise.  You want very much to be viewed as a part of it.  That much is clear.

"Apparently your view is that if I want to challenge academic shibboleths I should scurry off to Amazon and self-publish my work; or to put it differently, I should come to the realization that the philosophical establishment is no place I would want my views aired, since I am so given to challenging what they deeply accept. But first, it seems to me obvious that when one wants to challenge an idea it is precisely the community that holds the idea to whom one wishes to address oneself. Standing completely outside it and shouting from a hilltop to a coterie of equally disillusioned listeners does not sound like a way to achieve that."

The litany of complaints we have seen in this thread are not from those who see themselves as conducting a crusade to "challenge the establishment", but rather those who are complaining that their (at least mostly) mainstream work is not getting published.

If you want to stand inside and shout, rather than stand outside and shout, then the time-worn techniques for doing this are well known.  You first establish a reputation as a competent member of the community who understands the accepted criteria and norms (which means you put in time and "pay your dues" by doing what is regarded as quality work and publishing in recognized and respected venues), and then on the basis of that you "challenge academic shibboleths".  Either you are willing (and able) to do this or you are not.  You are standing outside and shouting, and complaining that no one will let you in.  Silly.  Childish.  Fruitless.  And a denial of the situation.  But often a good excuse for not succeeding.  

2011-08-30
Peer-reviewed publications
Reply to Gary Merrill
I guess the above reply should have been addressed to Anton Alterman, not to me. Nevertheless, I would like to make some remarks on this.

So what goal should one pursue submitting his work to a journal on Philosophy? I think the main goal should be making one's opinions public, i.e. getting published. So what is the difference between being published in one venue or another, if the audiences are the same? Does one think that the visitors and readers of this venue, for example, PhilPapers.org, are not competent enough in Philosophy, and this venue, with tens /or maybe hundreds, I do not know/ of thousands of visitors and more than 410 thousand entries, cannot be considered a recognized and respected one? The same can be told in case of Amazon: does one really think that anybody searches for a book on this giant portal, finds it, pays for it and purchases it without understanding what is written in it?
 
So I would not agree with the assertion that finding alternative venues for publication is like "standing outside and shouting": outside for the members of the above-mentioned "closed clubs" - maybe, but never outside the community of philosophers.

2011-08-30
Peer-reviewed publications
"So what is the difference between being published in one venue or another, if the audiences are the same?"

Ah, a good question.  However, I don't think that the audiences are quite the same.  It is still the case that professional philosophers (by which I mean people earning their livings in philosophy departments of colleges and universities) regularly read the recognized philosophy journals.  So the most immediate way to reach this audience is to publish in those journals.  Those are the journals that are listed under "Browse journals" at the top of this page.  Yet it is also true that nowadays a great deal of research is done via search engine, and if you have a paper out there with a reasonable title, a reasonably intelligible and accurate abstract, and reasonable content, then people will find it -- and perhaps read it.  I have had a recent example of this myself when looking for material on Aristotle's concept of dialectic (yes, those who know me are gasping for air at that thought).  One of the best papers that showed up was on someone's web site.  (Now it's true that this was by a recognized expert in the field and that the paper had also been published in a journal.  But the fact remains that I got to it via a Google search, and to a form of it that was not in fact in a journal.  This is not an uncommon example, and I have had it happen a number of times in several different disciplines.)

But it really isn't an issue about the audience in a direct sense.  It's a question about prestige -- or perceived prestige.  It is "more important" or "more significant" to publish in some venues rather than others.  From such a perspective the quality of the work is at best secondary.  The actual audience you reach -- or the few who may read your work -- hardly matter.  You have the prestige of publishing in a "recognized venue".  Now this indeed is important if you are a career academic -- or aspire to become part of that club.  This is how promotion and tenure are decided.  This is how grants are awarded.  If you want promotion to full professor, then you'd better not be publishing in "Bob's Monthly Philosophy Newsletter."  This is how the system works.  Not just philosophy, but any intellectual or professional discipline.  This is how they have to work.  It's not evil.

When you submit a paper to a recognized academic journal, then a judgment is made on that by (supposedly) competent experts in the field.  This judgment can then be relied upon by promotion and tenure committees, and by grant-awarding agencies in order to make important decisions.  What else could they reasonably rely on?  They can't reasonably rely on feedback or sales figures from Amazon.  That would be nutty.  But if your own goal lies outside the career academic tenure and advancement ladder, then you have to ask exactly what you gain by publishing in a "recognized journal" or through a book publisher who will put your book through a classic academic publication process.  There is, of course, nothing wrong with wanting to publish in the recognized journals and pursuing this as a goal -- whether you are a career academic or not.  But if you choose to play the game, then you can't subsequently complain too much about the rules if you don't win.

Objectively, if you are not a career academic, then submitting your material to one of the mainstream journals strikes me as a senselessly painful way to spend your time.  The response time for most journals in philosophy is shameful.  I have to say that the quality of some of the referee reports I've gotten back in the past couple of years has been truly disappointing (though some have been great), and time to publication is even more shameful.  We're talking a couple of years in many or most cases.  (And you know what?  Right there is a pretty good argument for editors to downgrade the priority of an author who is not currently at an institution -- since his tenure or promotion doesn't depend on the response.  And please don't give me one of the "purity of the discipline" or "guardians of morality" arguments in response to this observation.  Just get real.  If your tenure or promotion depended on it, you'd be fully in favor of such a prioritization.)

The last paper I published got sent to a recognized philosophy journal precisely because I wanted it read by academic philosophers -- because it contained a specific message for them.  If I had not put it in such a journal, I'm not at all sure how long it would have been before it was found and read by that community (which, by the way, may also very well have ignored the message!).  But a couple of years ago I sent a major paper to a recognized formal ontology journal, and editorial miscommunication resulted in its languishing without being refereed for several months.  I withdrew the paper (even though the editors very much wanted a second chance to review it) because it was more important to me that the paper quickly be made available to the biomedical community.  It went directly onto a company web site and in the first day was read by 400 people scattered across the globe.  (A slightly edited version was then subsequently published in an online journal that contacted me and requested the submission, but I have no idea how many people ever read that version.  But at least I got four distinct -- and mostly valuable -- referees' reports within about two weeks!)

At one point, prestige of publishing in recognized journals meant a lot to me.  Also, it was a fun game (I have yet to write a philosophy paper for publication that was not subsequently published in a journal).  But the prestige element wore off, and I tired of the game.  Although I have several more publishable papers that could be written, I doubt that I will ever go that route again.  But everyone has different goals.  It's just good to be clear about them -- and not become too morally indignant when the machinery of an organized discipline functions in pretty much the way it must.

I do believe that (for a variety of reasons) we need a new model of publishing in philosophy and have discussed this with some others.  But I don't know where that will ever go or how fast.  However, I don't think it will address the issues of those who feel that their work is not being taken seriously because of a club mentality of those who control the means of publication.




2011-08-30
Peer-reviewed publications
Reply to Gary Merrill
"Not just philosophy, but any intellectual or professional discipline."

I would reformulate this as such: "Any intellectual or professional discipline except Philosophy." And I am going to explain my approach.

In case of medicine, for example, we cannot rely on the results of someone's researches unless they are approved by professionals in the field. Applying the professional standards in this discipline is justified, moreover - necessary. So there can be no question about it here.

The same is in case of almost all the sciences /except, to some extent, the humanities/.

However, as I think, that is not the case with regard to Philosophy which is the most, let me say, revolutionary of the sciences, if only can be considered one /we have talked of this above/.

So can there be any standards in Philosophy, and who sets them up? And are there such standards objectively, or are they dictated by anyone's positions of authority?

If the latter is the case, so I would unequivocally prefer to publish my works in less "important, prestigious, recognized" but much more free and democratic venues, because I am sure the freedom of thinking is much more important for the development of the philosophical mind than someone's authority and standards dictated by it.

2011-08-30
Peer-reviewed publications
There appears then to be a conflation here of philosophy as an intellectual discipline and philosophy as a professional discipline.  One can believe (if not argue) that with regard to the intellectual discipline there are no objective standards.  I do not agree, but one can believe this to be the case and argue it, perhaps coherently.  One cannot do the same for philosophy as a professional discipline.  (One could, I suppose, attempt to argue that the professional discipline should reflect the lack of objective standards in the intellectual discipline, but as a practical matter such a professional discipline would not endure. There are actually some cases that appear to be of this nature in the history of academia.)   A problem arises for those who want to be members of the professional discipline while maintaining a view (perhaps based on their belief about the nature of the intellectual discipline)  that the standards of that professional discipline should not be applied to them.  This, again, is the sort of dissonance to which I earlier referred.   I would argue that, in itself, this is a rather clear mark of a poor philosopher in addition to being a clear mark of someone unable to grasp how the world works.

2011-08-30
Peer-reviewed publications
Reply to Gary Merrill
I hope you won't mind that those standards have permanently changed during the history of Philosophy, so I'll return to my point: who sets them up?

2011-08-30
Peer-reviewed publications
We disagree about this as well.  But you will need to wait on my extended argument regarding that view for about a year.

2011-08-30
Peer-reviewed publications
Reply to Gary Merrill
OK, I'll wait.

2011-09-01
Peer-reviewed publications
Reply to Gary Merrill
"You are standing outside and shouting, and complaining that no one will let you in."

The metaphor may resemble something I said but it obscures the point. "Shouting and complaining" is just an unsympathetic way to characterize what I take to be the subject matter of this forum, a critique (or metacritique) of the professional management of the peer review process, particularly as applied by philosophy journals. Then why participate in the forum, Gary? Are you standing inside the forum shouting because others who have not matched your illustrious (apparently infallible, as you profess) publishing endeavors find something fundamentally wrong with the peer review process? I mean, sorry, but this seems to be a legitimate subject of professional debate, and the response "oh, stop complaining and get with the program" is sort of out of bounds, I think.

On the one hand you suggest that you yourself find something deeply flawed about the peer review system, since you state (albeit with a somewhat jaded attitude) that you no longer seek to participate in it, that the quality of the reviewers' commentaries is often poor (this is not a recent phenomenon, as you suggest!) and that you would like to see an alternative system. On the other hand you have the zeal of a regular Don Quixote in pursuing those who are actively engaging in this metacritique. Your own criticisms of the journal system are apparently of far too refined a character to be aired in detail in this forum, but those who do wish to air something you chide as if they are infants crying about a candy cane that is too high on the tree for them to reach. Methinks you have completely missed the point, and denigrated the message by reducing it to a personal protest about rejection letters or the like. I know that my own comments went far wider and deeper than this and included numerous documented examples of what I called a modern form of scholasticism. But I don't think anyone else here is merely airing gripes about the difficulty of getting things accepted. With far more papers reaching every major journal than they could ever realistically publish, that alone would mean that publishing is going to be difficult. It is the reasons for rejection that are at issue. You are of course free to believe that there is some objective standard of quality being enforced by peer-reviewed publications, and that this explains why some articles are accepted and others not. It appears that others do not buy this explanation. I have already given the reasons why I don't.

"Silly.  Childish.  Fruitless. And a denial of the situation.  But often a good excuse for not succeeding."

Disingenuous. Ad hominem. Narrowminded. And it is clear from this who is measuring success by major journal publication. I've given more than 30 conference papers, taught 10 different courses in 20 semesters, published a few things, built a web site where I can self-publish anything I want, written several philosophy blogs, and obtained the respect of some philosophers who I myself respect in turn. I have also been treated to some near-idiotic responses to some of my papers, by the putative experts who review things for journals; though more often the result has been little or no comment at all. I don't need endorsements from these very same people to consider my work in philosophy a success, thanks. But that does not absolve them from the responsibility to conduct themselves in a reasonable manner, nor us from the responsibility of taking them to task when they don't.

I suggest you reorient your thinking about this discussion. Whether there are people here who are doing nothing but whimpering about failed publication efforts I cannot say. But the substance of the discussion has not been that, but the pressure to conform to certain presuppositions and modes of presentation in philosophical writing. And these, moreover, are not the assumptions of logical thinking, historical accuracy, relevance, etc., which are universally presupposed in any intellectual endeavor, but of conformance to received ideas of content and structure, annointed sources of authority, what questions may or may not be debated, what arguments must be paid hommage, and a lot of more subtle notions that are shown in what is printed even if they are not said in any guideline. I find it hard to believe that you can't understand this. How different it is from whatever infantile complaints you are arguing against.

2011-09-01
Peer-reviewed publications
So, Anton, and to repeat one of my questions "What do you want?" (aside from wanting recognized journals to publish your submissions).

"Steps can be taken to change things around. I don't see that happening very much right now, but it is possible that that will change. Founding a whole new philosophical establishment is of course an option, at least in theory, but it was a lot more practical in 5th century Athens than it is today. I'm afraid we have little choice but to keep banging on the walls."

What steps?  How is it possible that that will change?  Does addressing whatever problems currently exist in the publication process really require founding a whole new philosophical establishment?  How would you go about founding a whole new philosophical establishment, and exactly how would the publication process be different in that?  How would that establishment differ from the current one in terms of the roles of philosophers in universities?  How would things work out better for you in such an establishment?  How would you ensure that it just wasn't a kind of pendulum swing that you profited from while others suffered?  How does the vision of that differ from the one you currently have of yourself publishing  material in recognized journals and working as a professional philosopher in the current establishment? Wouldn't you just be trading one establishment for another -- except the new one would accept you and reject others?  (I mean ... I think Arman's views about standards in philosophy are wrong and goofy, but I at least admire the attitude with which he approaches these things.)

We have little choice but to keep banging on the walls?  Really?  That's a contribution?  Banging on the walls is a paradigm of childish behavior.  If you want to be taken seriously, you really need to stop saying things like this.

One ought not confuse revolution with complaining about the status quo.  The one requires courage and action.  The other is just ... well ... complaining about your situation.

Do you have any kind of positive proposal?  I do have a positive proposal about improving publishing in philosophy, and I've discussed it with some others over the past couple of years (including some of those managing this site).  I'll post it here later today or tomorrow -- including some potential difficulties with it that will require some additional changes in what you think of as "the establishment".  What have you got?



2011-09-01
Peer-reviewed publications
Here is my proposal for A New Model for Publishing in Philosophy.  Make of it what you will.

2011-09-01
Peer-reviewed publications
Reply to Gary Merrill
I would like to add a requirement. One of the problems is that access to the very journals we are discussing is more or less restricted to the academic community. I'll give an example - it occurs in the UK context, but I think will be similar elsewhere. I recently obtained my PhD, having studied as a "mature student" with no intent to take up an academic appointment. As soon as my studies were completed and PhD granted my university affiliation came to an end, and with it my library access. Now it is true that I could still get physical access to read physical journals, but I could not get electronic access via, for example, JSTOR. I submit that in order to keep up with current developments one really has to have electronic access, particularly if one lives distant from any academic library. So what I want to question is the way in which electronic access to all of the academic journals is controlled via commercially chargeable companies. Try downloading a recently published paper privately, and you'll find it costs $30 - $40 for each paper, sometimes more.

The fact is that unless the person is affiliated to a university, with the consequent electronic access, he/she is pretty well shut out of the journal system.

And while I'm on the subject of this commercialisation of academic papers, I might also add the incredibly high cost of academic books from some publishers - I'm thinking particularly of Springer, where great new publications can cost $150 - $200 - the prices are so high that only some libraries will take these books into stock. In theory, one could wait for a paperback version to come out, but with Springer, even those are often at prohibitive prices. Why are academics so frequently prepared to have their work published by publishers such as this who charge exhorbitant prices? In the UK at least, universities are publicly funded, so why aren't the products of their researches (both papers and books) freely (or at least cheaply) available to the public to read?

These two factors taken together make it pretty well impossible for anyone who is not affiliated to a university to keep up with current work - I regularly receive a stream of notifications of interesting new papers available for download, but not available for download by me!




2011-09-01
Peer-reviewed publications
Reply to Phil Rees
Phil:

I agree completely with this.  In fact, access to the library system and online journals is the major benefit in my current relationship with a university.

While I can understand the cost that at least some publishers charge for access to their journals (and remember, it cost them a bunch to publish all that in the first place and then another bunch to put it online, maintain it, etc.), a lot of it does appear to be at least a bit excessive.  I hope that a better "pricing model" emerges at some point -- and it should with a complete shift to digital publication.  But I don't know.

I'm more than enough of a capitalist (and realist) not to expect "Free journals for the people!", but one does wonder what alternatives may be available with some thought.

You mention Springer.  They are not alone in this, but there has been a phenomenon that has developed over about the last ten years that I think of as the "pseudo-book".  The way this works is that someone (typically two guys) get together and decide to create a book on a given topic (let's say formal ontology, just to pick an arbitrary one).  (These guys are always academics.  Industry people don't have time for such nonsense.)  They send out calls for papers far and wide.  These papers will be rigorously refereed, and the accepted ones published in this book.  It will be a monumental feat, and a compendium of knowledge.  Time passes.  Papers are refereed.  The book comes out and it is HUGE.  You will get a hernia just trying to pick it up.  Sometimes there are page charges for your paper in the book.  Sometimes there are charges if your paper has diagrams in it.  Sometimes there are charges if it is over a certain length.  Sometimes there aren't any charges.  It varies.  The book costs $200.  90% of the papers in the book are crap.  Even papers that receive crushing referee reports end up appearing in the book.  But it's great because EVERYBODY WINS.  Authors get a publication in a book (maybe even better than in a journal!).  The editors now have a huge book published by a major academic publisher.  The publisher sells the book to libraries (though why they buy it I can't imagine -- maybe it sneaks in as part of an ongoing subscription of some sort?).  Your department chairman and administration are happy because you've published in this major book.  It's great.

I know.  I have a paper (invited) in such a book.  Embarrassing, but I didn't realize what I was getting into at the time.  You wouldn't want the book -- even in paperback.

See ... my concern over the past decade or so hasn't been that not enough has been getting published, but rather that way too much is getting published.  This is made worse in some areas (I would mention computer science) where rather refined techniques have been developed to enable authors to publish what is basically the same paper three or four times.  You really have to see this to believe it.  The most egregious example was, as I recall, a paper on data mining methodology that was published (or presented at conferences) eight times with only minor changes in the data and the pictures (and order of authors' names).   I see a genuine decline in the quality of scholarship across several different disciplines that I have worked in.  I'm hoping this is not the case in philosophy.  But I'm thinking I should reserve judgment.


2011-09-06
Peer-reviewed publications
Reply to Gary Merrill
I know it's childish, Gary, but Copernicus was doing it, Galileo was doing it, Kepler was doing it, so was Descartes, and Spinoza too - and I want to be a child like them.

In spite of your continued ad hominem responses I have done you the honor of reading your proposal. I have nothing against someone starting a "system" of this sort, as you put it. But if you think this will solve even the limited problems that it addresses I think you are mistaken. It will simply perpetuate the existing system in a different form. The local, more manageable problems are that reviewers approve what they recognize as fitting within an acceptable range of ideas, that they look for structural cues that limit the range and style of writing, and that they reject papers with ridiculous arguments, often demnstrating little understanding of the paper, allegiance to theories they are personally committed to, and narrowmindedness with regard to alternative ways of looking at things. All of that will continue, and quite possibly be exaccerbated, in a system where reviewers choose what they want to review, whether or not they are known to the submitters. Besides, a great deal of "review" goes on even before the review process begins: the 12 people in the world who actually write about and follow a particular subject (reliabilism, narrow content, virtue ethics, emotions in music, or whatever) talk to each other, exchange papers, hash them out over a beer at conferences, and then submit them to journals - at which, more likely than not, one or more members of their debating club is a reviewer, if not an editor. So I think this system will change very little, and possibly make things worse.

Solving this problem requires executive management - people who are assigned to review papers must not have a major ax to grind on that particular subject; their reviews must demonstrate a solid understanding of the subject matter; and their arguments for rejecting a paper must be grounded in clearly established and reasonable criteria: the paper is self-contradictory, the paper does not demonstrate knowledge of the literature, the paper does not meet basic standards of professional writing, the point of the paper is too obvious or too ludicrous to merit a hearing, and the like. The editor must make a judgment as to whether the reviewer has met these standards; clearly they don't do so today. Part and parcel of the solution is to permit the writer to respond to the reviews before making a decision. I've seen quite a few reviews where, if the editors were likely to entertain objections, I could have torn the review to shreds in one short paragraph. But it is considered unprofessional, and there is no reason to think it would affect a rejection. This has to change, as the results are so obviously flawed. I am quite sure that if these simple methods were applied, the contents of the vast majority of journals would be different, better, and much more interesting.

So there is a proposl, or part of one, as you requested. But that, as I said, is the easy part. Scholasticism is reflected in the peer review process, but it is not limited to it. It is also reflected in the hiring process, the tenure process, the politics around conferences, the rating of departments, the mentor system, and basically the whole range of philosophical activity. What it is rooted in is an interesting question; all I can say, as a sort of placeholder, is that every major trend in philosophy tends to have a period of flourishing and a period of decline, and during the decline a narrow and rigid system of beliefs and practices becomes entrenched, substituting for lively and even (dare I say, in my aforementioned childish enthusiasm) revolutionary thought. That is what is usually called scholasticism, and the signs of it are everywhere in analytic philosophy.

That is my answer to your waterfall of questions, for the time being.

When you start banging on the walls with a hammer instead of trying to scratch them with a pencil perhaps you will at least be recognized, if not immediately sucessful.

2011-09-06
Peer-reviewed publications
Wonderful response.  I'll just let that one stand on its own merits.

2011-09-06
Peer-reviewed publications
Anton Alterman said:
"So there is a proposl, or part of one, as you requested. But that, as I said, is the easy part. Scholasticism is reflected in the peer review process, but it is not limited to it. It is also reflected in the hiring process, the tenure process, the politics around conferences, the rating of departments, the mentor system, and basically the whole range of philosophical activity. What it is rooted in is an interesting question; all I can say, as a sort of placeholder, is that every major trend in philosophy tends to have a period of flourishing and a period of decline, and during the decline a narrow and rigid system of beliefs and practices becomes entrenched, substituting for lively and even (dare I say, in my aforementioned childish enthusiasm) revolutionary thought. That is what is usually called scholasticism, and the signs of it are everywhere in analytic philosophy."

Total agreement. Philosophy (academic at least) seems to me to be in a state of decline, which is well described by "narrow and rigid system of beliefs and practices becomes entrenched, substituting for lively and revolutionary thought". However, I cannot see that "the hiring process, the ten-year process, the politics around conferences, etc" necessarily of themselves signify this move toward rigidity, for the rigidity is not simply within the social system which constitutes academic philosophy, but in what academic philosophy actually concerns itself with, and that is surely increasingly inward looking and of little relevance to anybody outside the academy. Aside from the odd exception like myself who has found himself, accidentally as it were, excluded from academic debate, who in the non-academic world would care whether they can access academic philosophy journals? I know several non-academic people of a very philosophical turn of mind, indeed people who would think of themselves "philosophers", and deservedly, and they have flirted with some of the papers in current academic journals and very rapidly given up in disgust.  Who exactly does academic philosophy think its philosophy is for, or pertinent to?


2011-09-06
Peer-reviewed publications

Folks,

Just a related thought from someone who has published, etc., but never came close finding a real job.

I wonder if the very large excess in philosophy job seekers over openings (surely due in part to reliance on adjuncts and temps) isn't impeding good new ideas. When there are a great many more applicants than jobs, hiring committees are free to select from a range of equally well- qualified applicants those whose work they can readily evaluate and whose interests, views, and values they share. There is a strong natural tendency to do this in any case.

But when there are fewer jobs than applicants, committees may be forced to consider well qualified but somewhat unorthodox applicants. (Could a young, unknown Wittgenstein, without endorsement by Russell, find a job in any contemporary department that was not, of course, already massively shaped by his influence?).

This systemic hiring bias would influence tenure, promotions, and peer review practices. It would also produce a cyclic effect, with periods of narrow orthodoxy and decline in interest followed by periods of expansion and innovation. It's too soon to tell, of course.

I wonder how many departments are even aware of this issue?

gph





2011-09-06
Peer-reviewed publications
Reply to Greg P. Hodes
"When there are a great many more applicants than jobs, hiring committees are free to select from a range of equally well- qualified applicants those whose work they can readily evaluate and whose interests, views, and values they share."

Ah, you attempt to apply elementary free market economics to academia?  Courageous.  Beware the consequences.

I do seem to recall some hiring committee discussions in which it was decided that certain otherwise highly qualified candidates would not be considered because the (over 25-member) department already had two "analytic" philosophers.  (Many years later, one of those candidates was actually hired by that very department.)  And I have seen someone very close to me fail to get an academic job despite excellent credentials, significant teaching experience, and a publication record in some of the "best" journals -- primarily because (in at least a few instances, though not all) she didn't have the correct "orientation".  In honesty, however, some departments are rather firmly oriented in one direction or another, and some are not.  I have no idea what the genuine figures on this are, and I doubt that anyone else does.

But how would this situation be addressed?  Perhaps by the elimination of the gushing outflow of new Ph.D.s in philosophy?  By eliminating Ph.D. programs?  That idea will not go over well.  Besides, there are already too many milling around.

Here is another factor (that is almost never discussed with any seriousness):  tenure.  Another reason there is so little "turnover" in philosophy (more generally, academic) positions, and hence fewer open positions at any given time, is because of tenure.  Once you're in, you're in.  Not conducive to change, is it?  I have NEVER been in favor of tenure and have always felt that it did more harm than good.  Yes, I know all the arguments for it.  I've just never felt that any of them (or the aggregate of them) is compelling.  I confess that I took tenure when the opportunity arose, but then I walked away from it a few years later.  It was never something I genuinely valued, but perhaps that's a personal quirk.  However, it definitely is one of the major forces for stagnation in academia, and I think we have all seen its effects.

Again, it appears so often that people don't in general really want things to be different.  They just want things to be different for them.  Otherwise, they want things to be the same. :-)


2011-09-07
Peer-reviewed publications
Reply to Gary Merrill
GM: "Here is another factor (that is almost never discussed with any seriousness):  tenure.  Another reason there is so little "turnover" in philosophy (more generally, academic) positions, and hence fewer open positions at any given time, is because of tenure.  Once you're in, you're in.  Not conducive to change, is it?  I have NEVER been in favor of tenure and have always felt that it did more harm than good."

Well, you do have your radical side after all, don't you? But this is a sticky subject. Compared to the main subject of this forum, peer-reviewed journals, it is much more difficult to isolate the effect of tenure in philosophy from its broader social situation. Journals in each field can operate in ways that make the most sense for that field, and if the peer review system in philosophy is not working well it can be changed without necessarily challenging the system used, say, in the hard sciences or in creative writing journals. Consider how differently creative writing journals operate: they often pay for accepted submissions; they offer writing competitions with substantial prizes and publication; in quite a few, submissions are judged by a single editor/founder while others are judged solely by students in writing programs. Philosophy journals rarely follow any of these practices. (There are a few competitions, but it is the exception and they are not run like the ones in creative writing journals.)

But tenure - is it feasible that tenure should apply differently to philosophers than to scientists or poets? This doesn't seem to make sense. It is an institutional benefit, and can't really be adjusted on the basis of discipline. The reason I raise this is that I think tenure is important to protect academic freedom. This occasionally has direct implications for philosophers who go against the grain, but more generally it protects the flow of ideas throughout the arts and sciences.

Nevertheless, at a minimum I agree with you that its conservative impact should be recognized, like the lifetime appointment of Supreme Court justices. Maybe you keep the tenure system, but you limit the ability of the old guard to influence hiring, curriculum, etc. That will not be a perfect solution, because sometimes the old guard is more willing to take chances than the new guard. But it might keep the most reactionary tendencies in check.

2011-09-09
Peer-reviewed publications
We haven't even noticed that our discussion turned into a kind of philosophical /or metaphilosophical/ work, one like Plato's dialogues, and just as non-reviewed as those are, which I personally consider the most important. The only difference is that unlike Plato's dialogues, this one is co-authored by the participants of this forum. )

The discussion has helped me to somewhat finalize my views on the issue, which you can see following this link, or just here, on PhilPapers.

A.H.

2011-09-10
Peer-reviewed publications
Just two quick points.

First, I have spent significant time over the past three or four years thinking about "metaphilosophical" work and issues (first in ontology, and then more broadly).  So I was well aware that this was a major current in this thread.  I have more to say on this, but not until I have spent the requisite time and effort on formulating it.  It is not something I want to do in bits and pieces.

Second, beware of associating "pseudo-philosophers" with "loving wisdom" (as you do in "Welcomed and Unwelcomed Philosophies").  This is a significant distortion.  If you actually look at the historical record, you will see that Plato, in particular, attacks the sophists for being pseudo-philosophical precisely because they lose focus on wisdom while pretending to teach it.  Similarly for Isocrates ( a sophist himself), Xenophon, and Aristotle.  I'm afraid you have the history wrong here.  At the same time, when you look at the details of the criticisms of pseudo-philosophers (such as the sophists) offered by these philosophers, you will see that the phrase "regardless of how much scientific or poetic his or her work is" appears not be be compatible with their views.  In their criticisms of the sophists, for example, Plato, Isocrates, Xenophon, and Aristotle are explicit in basing these criticisms on very explicit standards.

Sorry, but you've really got this wrong -- at least in terms of the genuine history of philosophy.


2011-09-10
Peer-reviewed publications
Reply to Gary Merrill
Gary, I am too far from associating "pseudo-philosophers" with "loving wisdom", I am afraid I am misunderstood here.

I just mean that if one suggests that there are two kinds of Philosophy, and the first of them is the genuine one, practiced by professional, scholarly philosophers, whose works are welcomed in reviewed publications, so nothing remains but to allow that those practicing the second one, whose works are unwelcomed in those publications, are themselves "pseudo-philosophers", in fact wasting time on Philosophy just for the sake of their "love of wisdom".

So that is not my assertion as you claim, but the consequences in case of allowing that there are two kinds of Philosophy.

2011-09-10
Peer-reviewed publications
Whatever view you are trying to express here, any attempt to enlist the likes of Plato (or similarly Aristotle, Xenophon, Isocrates, et. al.) to support your view that genuine philosophy lacks (or should lack) standards is seriously misguided.  These were the "philosophical establishment" of their day, and they aggressively pressed their standards (explicitly expressed) as defining the line between what is philosophy and what is not.  More than that, their conclusion was not just that the non-philosophers had merely strayed from the true path of the love of wisdom, but that they had knowingly and intentionally done so and were morally culpable and to be condemned for this.  At least you don't typically get that sort of response in contemporary referees' reports.  At least I've never seen a report that suggested my paper was actually deceitful, self-serving, and evil.  Perhaps others have.

I have to confess that it is still unclear to me exactly what view you want to take.  But you have been quite explicit on more than one occasion in holding that there are no standards that can or should be enforced in determining what counts as philosophy (or perhaps what counts as good philosoohy).  If that is indeed the way you want to go, then I think that perhaps you should look considerably further along the time line for historical support and similar views -- say the 19th and 20th centuries.  I don't believe it is to be found among the ancients.

2011-09-10
Peer-reviewed publications
Reply to Gary Merrill
"Whatever view you are trying to express here, any attempt to enlist the likes of Plato (or similarly Aristotle, Xenophon, Isocrates, et. al.) to support your view that genuine philosophy lacks (or should lack) standards is seriously misguided."

Is there such an attempt in my article, Gary? I mentioned the ancients only in two contexts, and I will cite them:

"After all, suppose that a philosopher is the reviewer of a paper by his opponent: it’s absurd, isn’t it? Democritus vs. Plato, Locke vs. Descartes or Leibnitz, Marx vs. Hegel or Kant… What standards would each of them have to follow in order not to get slammed by his reviewer, empowered to make decisions on the value of their work? Fortunately for Philosophy, they escaped such a fate..."

"During the discussion, I mentioned the examples of Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, I would add here the ancient Greeks, whose works are like poetic writings rather than scientific papers..."

That is all I wrote about the ancients.

As to their aggressive criticism and pressing their standards, here I would underline one very important thing: they were not the judges of other philosophers, reviewers, making decisions on the fate of their works, they were their critics and opponents. I think the difference is obvious.

Preventing one's works from being available to the philosophers' community for further discussion and, why not, criticism - that is what I oppose.

Please have a look at this very discussion: there was indeed criticism as well as aggression in it, but the discussion takes place and goes on, and nobody has hindered it so far. So that is what I want.

As to your assertion regarding the 19th and 20th centuries, I completely agree with you, indeed they were the centuries of democracy and pluralism in Philosophy, the lack of which we experience nowadays.

Thank God for Internet which I think will change many things in the 21st century with regard to Philosophy, too...





2011-09-10
Peer-reviewed publications
I'm sorry if I misinterpreted you.  I confess to having a difficult time at parsing many of your statements and identifying connections or lacks of connections within and between paragraphs.

I do have a continuing concern that in this thread a rather loose approach has been taken to appealing to various episodes in the history of philosophy and science, and in drawing conclusions (or solace) from this.  Galileo is an example since he seems to be held up as someone who had to struggle mightily to get his material published.  But this is not in fact the case, and at least some of of his work was actually reviewed and "pre-approved" by Urban II who encouraged the publication of The Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems.  (Subsequent to this there certainly were some "missteps" by Galileo of a strategic nature, and Urban fell victim to court intrigue and concerns for his own position.   But Urban had definitely approved versions of the book and Galileo was then surpirsed at the resulting backlash when it was published.)  Similarly, it is more than a bit peculiar to characterize the writings of "the ancient Greeks" as "more like poetic writings than scientific papers" -- especially if you want to include Aristotle and his followers in this (and others as well).  Perhaps you meant to include only some of the "ancient Greeks", but it is this sort of lack of clarity that makes following the points and support offered for them rather difficult.

2011-09-10
Peer-reviewed publications
Anton - Thank you. For what it's worth that's about the most sense I've ever heard spoken on the topic, I found the post very informative. Your point about scholasticism and its causes had not occured to me before. It explains something about the current situation in professional philosophy that has been baffling me for a long time. I've been putting it down to some sort of blindness, causes unknown, and it hadn't occurred to me that it might be a fossilized administration exerting a bias on what gets published as part of a well-known evolutionary process, 
 

   


 

2011-09-10
Peer-reviewed publications
Reply to Gary Merrill
OK, you are one of the 1,244 subscribers of this forum. Let the other 1,243 subscribers make their own opinions on all this, I am sure they will somewhat differ from yours. I think I have nothing to add to what I have already stated on this issue. I just cannot explain and rewrite every word I have already written, sorry.

2011-09-12
Peer-reviewed publications
Reply to Gary Merrill
Gary,

Thanks for your thoughtful remarks. Well, I think eliminating tenure might make matters worse, since it and its community college analogue seem to be all that prevents the near total elimination of full time faculty in favor of adjuncts, at least at non-prestige institutions. (As you probably know, adjuncts already teach more than half the credit hours) But I would encourage those who do have tenure to make more courageous use of it, both as intellectuals and as influential members of the academic community.

Of course, I don't have a solution. But those who in a position to do so might suggest that two members of hiring committees be asked to review the applications of those not chosen for the first, "long list," actually read some of their paper, and, somewhat in the spirit of advocating the un- orthodox, identity any exeptionaly talented candidates who might bring something new and important to the department. (Perhaps this would be better done while the initial decisions are bking made.)

This may be only a "futile gesture," but we can't know until it is tried. Even a discussion of such a proposal would be help raise consciousness.


gph

When K.U. (where I did my work) was entering a period when it would be replacing a considerable number of retiring faculty, I offered to bet a lunch that when all was said and done, not a single candidate from a non-prestige department (much less K.U. itself!) would even be considered for interviewing. No takers. None were.