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Specialization, Technicality, and the Production of Philosophy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 30/11/2020 - 11:00pm in

Adrian Moore, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oxford and Tutorial Fellow at St Hugh’s College, Oxford, as well as co-editor of the journal Mind, makes some observations about academic philosophy today.

[photo by Paul Koudounaris]

In a recent interview with Clifford Sosis (Coastal Carolina) at What Is It Like To Be A Philosopher?, Professor Moore comments on the “intense specialism” characteristic of philosophy today:

It’s easy to understand why. Academics in general, and philosophers in particular, need to make their mark on their profession in order to progress, and the only realistic way that they have of doing this, at least at an early stage in their careers, is by writing about very specific issues to which they can make a genuinely distinctive contribution. I can understand this. But it doesn’t stop me from lamenting it. It’s bad enough, in my view, that there is as much specialism in academia as there is, as a result of which philosophy itself gets pursued without due regard for other disciplines. But the sort of specialism that we’re talking about here—specialism within philosophy—means that there’s a danger that it will end up not being pursued at all, in any meaningfully integrated way. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not denying the need for specialists. Nor am I denying that much of the specialist work that gets done in philosophy these days is excellent. It’s just that I think we need generalists too, people who are interested in looking at the bigger picture, people who are interested in making sense of the many different kinds of sense that the specialists make; and I think it’s less and less easy for philosophers to contemplate doing that sort of thing. It’s relatively easy for me, because I’m a geriatric and I don’t need to worry about job security or career prospects. But it’s not at all easy for younger people in the profession, or those trying to get into it. And when I have graduate students who are inclined to generalism I find myself torn between encouraging them and warning them.

Interestingly, Professor Moore notes that the increased technicality of some of today’s philosophy can be seen, in a way, as opposing increased specialization:

Philosophy has become more and more specialized. Analytic philosophy has also become more and more technical. There are articles in ethics that look like articles in mathematics. In some ways I welcome this increase in technicality, because in some ways it’s an antidote to the increase in specialization… I said earlier that I was sorry that philosophy gets pursued without due regard for other disciplines. Often the increase in technicality results from bucking that trend—for instance, when philosophers of language take account of work in linguistics, or when people working in social and political philosophy take account of work in economics, or, for that matter, when ethicists take account of work in mathematics.

Yet technicality can sometime be an indicator of narrowness:

In other ways I find the increase in technicality as disturbing as the increase in specialization, because it’s another aspect of the tendency to ignore the bigger picture. (I don’t think you can properly think about the bigger picture in technical terms. I won’t say any more now about why not. That’s a huge issue in its own right.) When an article in ethics looks like an article in mathematics, it’s always worth taking a step back and asking, ‘What does this have to do with the place of ethics in our lives? How does this help us to make ethical sense of things?’ Again, don’t misunderstand me. I’m not claiming that, when we take that step back and ask those sorts of questions, there are never any good answers. Technicalities are sometimes very helpful, for instance in combating confusions that are preventing us from seeing anything at all—whether the bigger picture or some smaller picture—with any clarity. But the technicalities are then just a means to an end. When they become an end in themselves, the step back is liable to draw a blank.

When Professor Moore is asked what his first move would be were he named “king of philosophy,” he turns to the quantity of philosophy produced, noting the increased pressure to publish:

A lot of academics complain about this pressure. And one of the most common complaints is that it results in a lot of bad work. But whenever people say this, I find myself thinking, ‘If only…!’ It’s much worse than that. It results in a lot of good work. It would be great if we could be confident that most of what was being churned out was rubbish that could be comfortably ignored. But no! What’s being churned out is material that really does deserve other people’s attention—even though nobody stands any chance of consulting more than a tiny fraction of it, indeed even though nobody stands any chance of consulting more than a tiny fraction of what’s directly relevant to their own interests.

More to the point, it’s material that could have been distilled into something both briefer and of higher quality. I remember reflecting on this with a colleague once. She agreed with me, and then she said, ‘Think how much better it would be if there weren’t some minimum number of publications that we were supposed to produce in each six-year period, but a maximum—two, say—with penalties imposed whenever anyone produces more! Think of the care that would be devoted to the production of each person’s two outputs, the time and effort that would be invested to make sure that they were really significant pieces of work. Think of the time that would be freed up for us to read one another’s publications.’ And she was surely right. So I’m going to say that, if I were king of philosophy, my first move would be to impose significant penalties on anyone who published more than two journal articles or one monograph in any six-year period.

Readers who can see the appeal of that may be a fan of the proposal for “slow philosophy” by Jennifer Whiting (Pittsburgh).

You can read the rest of the interview with Professor Moore, interesting throughout, here.

The post Specialization, Technicality, and the Production of Philosophy appeared first on Daily Nous.

How to Publish a Journal Article in Philosophy: Advice for Graduate Students and New Assistant Professors (guest post)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 21/11/2020 - 5:15am in

In the following guest post,*  Eric Schwitzgebel, professor of philosophy at the University of California, Riverside, shares his “possibly quirky advice” about publishing in philosophy journals.

A version of the post first appeared at The Splintered Mind.

[Jean Shin, “TEXTile” (detail). Click image to see full work.]

How to Publish a Journal Article in Philosophy: Advice for Graduate Students and New Assistant Professors
by Eric Schwitzgebel

My possibly quirky advice. General thoughts first. Nitty-gritty details second. Disagreement and correction welcome.

Should You Try to Publish as a Graduate Student?

Yes, if you are seeking a job where hiring will be determined primarily on research promise, and if you can do so without excessively hindering progress toward your degree.

A couple of years ago, I was on a search committee for a new tenure-track Assistant Professor at U.C. Riverside, in epistemology, philosophy of action, philosophy of language, and/or philosophy of mind. We received about 200 applications. How do you, as an applicant, stand out in such a crowded field? I noticed three main ways:

  1. Something about your dissertation abstract or the first few pages of your writing sample strikes a committee member as extremely interesting — interesting enough for them to want to read your whole writing sample despite having a pile of 200 in their box. Of course, what any particular philosopher finds interesting varies enormously, so this is basically impossible to predict.
  2. Your file has a truly glowing letter of recommendation from someone whose judgment a committee member trusts.
  3. You have two or more publications either in well-regarded general philosophy journals (approx. 1-20 on this list) or in the best-regarded specialty journals in your subfield. (Publications in less elite venues probably won’t count much toward making you stand out.)

A couple of good publications, then, is one path toward getting you a closer look.


  • Publication is neither necessary (see routes 1 and 2) nor sufficient (if the committee doesn’t care for what they see after looking more closely).
  • If you spend a year postponing work on your dissertation to polish up an article for publication, that’s probably too much of a delay. The main thing is to complete a terrific dissertation.
  • If you’re aiming for schools that hire primarily based on teaching, effort spent on polishing publications rather than on improving your teaching profile (e.g., by teaching more courses and teaching them better) might be counterproductive.
  • Some people have argued that academic philosophy would be better off if graduate students weren’t permitted to publish and maybe if people published fewer philosophy articles in general. I disagree. But even if you agree with the general principle, it would be an excess of virtue to take a lonely purist stand by declining to submit your publishable work.

What Should Be Your First Publication?

Generally speaking, you’ll want your first publication to be on something so narrow that you are among the five top experts in the world on that topic.

Think about it this way: The readers of elite philosophy journals aren’t so interested in hearing about free will or the mind-body problem from the 437th most-informed person in the world on these topics. If you haven’t really mastered the huge literature on these topics, it will show. With some rare exceptions, as a graduate student or newly-minted assistant prof, publishing an ambitious, broad-ranging paper on a well-trodden subject is probably beyond your reach.

But there are interesting topics on which you can quickly become among the world’s leading experts. You want to find something that will interest scholars in your subfield but small enough that you can read the entire literature on that topic. Read that entire literature. You’ll find you have a perspective that is in some important respect different from others’. Your article, then, articulates that perspective, fully informed by the relevant literature, with which you contrast yourself.

Some examples from early in my career:

a. the apparent inaccuracy of people’s introspective reports about their experience of echolocation (i.e., hearing sounds reflected off silent objects and walls);
b. ambiguities in the use of the term “representation” by developmental psychologists in the (then new) literature on children’s understanding of false belief;
c. attempts by Anglophone interpreters of Zhuangzi to make sense of the seeming contradictions in his claims about skepticism.

These topics were each narrow enough to thoroughly research in a semester’s time (given the tools and background knowledge I already had). Since then, (b) has grown too large but (a) and (c) are probably still about the right size.

The topic should be narrow enough that you really do know it better than almost anyone else in the world and yet interesting enough for someone in your subfield to see how it might illuminate bigger issues. In your introduction and conclusion, you highlight those bigger framing issues (without overcommitting on them).

The Tripod Theory of Building Expertise

Now if you’re going to have a research career in philosophy, eventually you’re going to want to publish more ambitiously, on broader topics — at least by the time you’re approaching tenure. Here’s what I recommend: Publish three papers on narrow but related topics. These serve as a tripod establishing your expertise in the broader subarea to which they belong. Once you have this tripod, reach for more general theories and more ambitious claims.

Again, from my own career: My paper on our introspective ignorance of the experience of echolocation ((a) above) was followed by a paper on our introspective ignorance of our experience of coloration in dreams and a paper on the weak relationship between people’s introspective self-reports of imagery experience and their actually measured imagery skills. Each is a small topic, but combined they suggested a generalization: People aren’t especially accurate introspectors of features of their stream of conscious experience (contra philosophical orthodoxy at the time). (N.B.: In psychology, critiques of introspection generally focused on introspection of causes of our behavior, not introspection of the stream of ongoing inner experience.) My work on this topic culminated in an broad, ambitious, skeptical paper in Philosophical Review in 2008. These articles then were further revised into a book.

Simultaneously, I built a tripod of expertise on belief: first, a detailed (but unpublished) criticism of Donald Davidson’s arguments that believing requires having language, relying on a “dispositional” approach to belief; second, a dispositionalist model of gradual belief change in children’s understanding of object permanence and false belief; third, a discussion of how dispositional approaches to belief neatly handle vagueness in belief attribution in “in-between” cases of kind-of-believing. These culminated in a general paper on the nature of belief, from a dispositionalist perspective.

Imagine a ship landing on an alien planet: It sets down some tiny feet of narrow expertise. If the feet are a little separated but not too far apart, three are enough to support a stable platform — a generalization across the broader region that they touch (e.g., empirical evidence suggests that we are bad introspectors of the stream of experience; or dispositionalism elegantly handles various puzzles about belief). From this platform, you hopefully have a new, good viewing angle, grounded in your unique expertise, on a large issue nearby (e.g., the epistemology of introspection, the nature of belief).

Writing the Paper

A typical journal article is about 8000 words long. Much longer, and reviewers start to tire and you bump up against journals’ word limits. Much shorter, and you’re not talking about a typical full-length journal article (although some journals specialize in shorter articles).

Write a great paper! Revise it many times. I recommend retyping the whole thing from beginning to end at least once, to give yourself a chance to actively rethink every word. I recommend writing it at different lengths: a short conference version that forces you to focus efficiently on the heart of the matter, a long dissertation-chapter version that forces you to give an accurate blow-by-blow accounting of others’ views and what is right and wrong in them. Actively expanding and contracting like this can really help you corral and discipline your thoughts.

Cite heavily, especially near the beginning of the paper. Not all philosophers do this (and I don’t always do it myself, I confess). But there are several reasons.

First, other scholars should be cited. Their work and their influence on you should be recognized. This is good for them, and it’s good for the field, and it’s good for your reader. If you cite only a few people, it will probably be the same few big names everyone else cites, burying others’ contributions and amplifying the winner-take-all dynamics in philosophy.

Second, it establishes your credibility. It helps show that you know the topic. Your great command of the topic shows in other ways too! But the reader and the journal’s reviewers (who advise the editor on whether to accept your article) will feel reassured if they can say to themselves, “Yes, the author has read all the good recent literature on this topic. They cite all the right stuff.”

Third, one of the ways that journals select reviewers is by looking at your reference list. Your citations are, in a way, implicit recommendations of other experts in the field who might find your topic interesting. Even if you disagree with them, as long as you treat them fairly and respectfully, reviewers are generally happy to see themselves cited in the papers they are reviewing. Citing helps you build a pool of potential reviewers who might be positively disposed toward your topic and article.

Your introduction and conclusion help the reader see why your topic should be of broad interest among those in your subfield. The body of your paper lays out the narrow problem and your insightful answer. Keep focused on that narrow problem.

If the topic is narrow enough that your friends can’t imagine how you could write 8000 words about it, while you are expert enough that it’s hard to imagine how you could do it justice in only 8000 words, that’s a good sign.

Choosing a Journal

You needn’t write with a particular target journal in mind. Just write a terrific philosophy article. (Lots of professors have circulating draft papers on their websites. Typically, these are in something pretty close to the form of what they submit to journals. Use these as models of the general form.)

In choosing a journal, you probably want to keep in mind three considerations:

i. Prestige of the journal, either in general or in your subfield.
ii. Response time of the journal (some data are available here) and possibly other editorial practices you care about, such as open access or anonymous reviewing.
iii. Fit between the interests of the journal’s readers and your article.

(Wow, I’m really digging threes today!)

On iii, it can help to note where recent work on the topic has been published. You also want to consider whether your topic is more likely to be appreciated in a specialist’s journal.

On i vs ii: Here you need to think about how much time you have to see the paper through to publication. If you’re near the job market or tenure, you might want to focus on journals with quicker response times and less selective journals that are more likely to say yes. You might not want to wait a year for Journal of Philosophy to very likely tell you no. I recommend creating a list of six journals — one aspirational journal that’s a bit of a reach (if you have enough time), three good journals that you think are realistic, and two fall-back journals you’d still be happy to publish in. When that rejection comes, it’s easier to cope if your backup plan is already set. Acceptance rates in the most elite philosophy journals are small, and bear in mind that you’re competing with eminent scholars as well as graduate students and assistant professors.

I usually figure on about two years between when I first submit a paper and when it is finally accepted for publication somewhere.

Submit to only one journal at a time. This is standard in the field, and editors and reviewers will be seriously annoyed if they discover you’re not heeding this advice.

Preparing Your Manuscript

Once you’ve chosen your journal, prepare your manuscript for submission to that journal by creating an anonymized version in a boring font with abstract, keywords, and word count, and any other advice that the journal lists on its webpage under its guide for authors. (One exception: You needn’t spend all day formatting the references in the required way. As long as the references are consistently formatted, no one really cares at the submission stage.)

Boring font: Unless there’s some reason to do otherwise, I recommend Times New Roman 12, double spaced.

Anonymized: Remove the title page and your name. Remove revealing self-references, if any, such as “as I argued in Wong (2018)”. You can either cut the reference, cite it in the third person (“as Wong (2018) argued”), or cite it anonymously “as I argued in [Author’s Article 1]”. Remove other compromises to anonymity, such as acknowledgements.

First page: Title, then abstract (look at the recent issues to see how long abstracts tend to run), then maybe five keywords (these don’t matter much, but look at a recent issue for examples), and word count including notes and references (rounding to the nearest hundred is fine).

Second page: Title again, then start your paper.

Have page numbers and a shortened version of the title in the header or footer.

If your article has notes, I recommend formatting them as footnotes rather than endnotes for the purposes of review, even if the journal uses endnotes for published articles. It doesn’t matter much, but most reviewers like it better and it makes your scholarly credibility just a little more salient up front.

All of the above, of course, would be overridden by contrary instructions on the journal’s website.

If you’re attaching to an email or submitting through a portal that asks for a cover letter, the cover letter need not be anything long or fancy. Something like:

Dear Prof. Lewis:
Attached please find “A Tactile Refutation of Duomorphholismicism” (about 8000 words), intended as a new submission to Holomorphicism Studies Bulletin. The article has been prepared for anonymous review and is not under consideration for publication elsewhere.
[Your Name]

Referee Reports

Your article will probably either be desk rejected by the editor or sent out to reviewers.

Desk rejection is a relatively quick decision (within a few weeks) that the article is outside of the scope of the journal, or doesn’t meet the journal’s standards or requirements, or is unlikely to be of sufficient interest to the journal’s readers.

If your article isn’t desk rejected, it will be sent to one or two, or sometimes more, reviewers. Reviewers are chosen by the editor based on some combination of (1) does the editor know of the person as a good scholar working in the field, (2) is the person reasonably likely to say yes, (3) has the person written decent referee reports in the past, and (4) if 1-3 don’t bring anyone immediately to mind, the editor might skim the references to see if any names pop out as potential reviewers. Reviewers receive an email typically containing the title and abstract of the paper and asking if they are willing to review the paper for the journal. If the reviewer doesn’t reply with a yes or a no within a few days, they will probably get a nudge. If the reviewer declines, they will typically be asked if they could suggest a few names of other potential reviewers. Refereeing is thankless work, and it can take a lot of time to do it well, and it doesn’t benefit the reviewer professionally very much — so sometimes it can take several weeks for editors to find suitable reviewers.

In philosophy, reviewers will usually be given at least two months to return a referee report (a few journals try to be faster). The referee report will have a recommendation of “accept”, “revise and resubmit”, or “reject” —sometimes with finer-grained distinctions between accept and R&R such as “accept with revisions” or “minor revisions”. It is rare to get a straight acceptance in your first round of submission. What you’re shooting for is R&R.

After the reviewers complete their reports (sometimes requiring several rounds of nudging by the editor), the editor will make a decision. For the most selective journals, split decisions typically but not always go against the author (e.g., if Reviewer 1 says R&R and Reviewer 2 says reject, the editor is likely to reject). It’s generally considered good practice for journals to share anonymized referee reports with the author, but not all journals do so.

If you are rejected with referee reports:

Remember your backup journal, already chosen in advance with this contingency in mind! Read the referee reports and think about what changes you might want to make in light of those referee reports. If the reports seem insightful, great! If the reviewers missed the point or seem totally uncharitable, maybe there are some clarifications you can make to prevent readers from making those same interpretative mistakes at the next journal.

Don’t linger too long, unless the referee report really causes you to see the issues in a new way, sending you back to the drawing board. In most cases, you want to sling a revised version of your paper to the next journal within a few weeks.

If you get an R&R:

Read the referee reports very carefully. Note every criticism they make and every change they suggest. Your revision should address every single one of these points. You can rephrase things to avoid the criticisms. You can mention and explicitly respond to the criticisms. If the reviewer recommends a structural change of some sort, consider making that structural change. In general, you should make every change the reviewers request, unless you think the change would make your paper worse. Depending on how purist you are, you might also consider making some changes that you feel make your paper just a little worse, e.g., clunkier, if you think they don’t compromise your core content. If you think a recommended change would make your paper worse, you need not make that change, but you should address it in a new cover letter.

You should aim to resubmit a revised version of your paper within a couple of months of receiving the referee reports. (If you send it the next day, everyone knows you didn’t seriously engage with the reviewers’ suggestions. If you send it ten months later, the reviewers might not remember the paper very well or might not still be available.)

Your new submission should contain a detailed cover letter addressing the reviewers’ suggestions, alongside the revised version of your paper. My impression is that at most journals a majority of papers that receive R&R are eventually accepted. Sometimes it requires more than one round of R&R, and rejection after R&R is definitely a live possibility. To be accepted, the reviewers and editor must come to feel that you have adequately addressed the reviewers’ concerns. The aim of the cover letter is to show how you have done so.

In my cover letters, I usually quote the reviewers’ letters word for word (block indented), inserting my replies (not indented). If they have praise, I insert responses like “I thank the reviewer for the kind remark about the potential importance of this work” (or whatever). For simple criticisms and corrections, you can insert responses like “Corrected. I appreciate the careful eye.” or “I now respond to this concern in a new paragraph on page 7 of the revised version of the manuscript.”

For more difficult issues, or where you disagree with the reviewer, you will want to explain more in your cover letter. It might seem to you that the reviewer is being stupid or uncharitable or missing obvious things. While this is possibly true, it is also possible that you are being defensive or your writing is unclear or you are not seeing weaknesses in your argument. You should try always try to keep a tone of politeness, gratitude, and respect — and if possible, think of misreadings as valuable feedback about issues on which you could have been clearer. I try to push back against reviewers’ suggestions only when I feel it’s important, and hopefully on at most one substantial issue per reviewer.

If there’s a strongly voiced objection based on a misreading, this should be handled delicately. First, revise the text so that it no longer invites that misreading. Be extra clear in the revised version of the text what you are not saying or committing to. Then in the cover letter, explain that you have clarified the text to avoid this interpretation of your position. But also answer to the objection that the reviewer raised, so they aren’t left feeling like you ducked the issue and they aren’t left curious. In this case, your response to the objection can be entirely in the cover letter and need not appear in the paper at all. (You might or might not agree that the objection would have been fatal to the position they had thought you were taking.)

Generally, the revised paper and the reply to reviewers will go back to the same reviewers. Typically, a reviewer will recommend acceptance after an R&R if they feel you have adequately engaged with and addressed their concerns (even if in the end they don’t agree), they will recommend rejection if they feel that you didn’t engage their concerns seriously or if your engagement reveals (in their judgment) that their original concerns really are fatal to the whole project, and they will recommend a second round of R&R if they feel you’ve made progress but one or two important issues still remain outstanding.

Some people add footnotes thanking anonymous reviewers. In my view it’s unnecessary. Everyone knows that virtually every article contains changes made in response to the criticisms of anonymous reviewers.

After It’s Accepted

  • Celebrate! Yay!
  • Put it on your c.v. as “forthcoming” in the journal that accepted it. Yay!
  • Keep your eye out for page proofs. Some journals give you just a few days to implement corrections after receiving the proofs, and it’s not uncommon for there to be screwy copyediting mistakes that it would be embarrassing to see in print. You can also make minor wording changes and corrections during proofs. Journals discourage making big changes at this stage, such as inserting whole new paragraphs, though if it’s important you can try to make the case.

Discussion welcome.

The post How to Publish a Journal Article in Philosophy: Advice for Graduate Students and New Assistant Professors (guest post) appeared first on Daily Nous.

Philosopher Revealed as Serial Plagiarist (multiple updates)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 12/11/2020 - 2:55am in

A researcher specializing in medieval philosophy has plagiarized the writings of a number of scholars in several of her published works, according to an editorial in Vivarium, an academic journal of medieval and early-modern philosophy.

The philosopher, Magali Roques, currently holds the position of “chargée de recherches” (research fellow) at Le Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), which, according to a source, is “the highest and most demanded position you can get as a junior academic in France.”* She previously held fellowships at the University of Hamburg and the University of Helsinki. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Tours.

Vivarium has retracted three of her articles:

(The last of these was co-authored; the journal explicitly notes that the contribution of the co-author has not been called into question.)

The instances of plagiarism were first brought to the attention of the journal this past summer by Pernille Harsting, who previously played a role in uncovering the massive plagiarism of Martin W.F. Stone (who also worked in medieval philosophy) over a decade ago. During the journal’s investigation, Roques came forward and admitted to plagiarizing.

In their article about the retractions, the editors, Christopher Schabel (Cyprus) and William Duba (Fribourg), write about the negative effects of plagiarism and the reasons for publicizing it:

We do not enjoy performing our duty. For marginal fields such as those served by Vivarium, we have seen from experience that the damage wreaked by plagiarism extends to institutions, bringing vulnerable positions, departments, and institutes to the attention of administrators eager to let the rationale of collective punishment direct the evisceration of budgets in Social Sciences and the Humanities. Our colleagues in adjacent fields will seize upon public cases of misconduct as an opportunity to reallocate scarce resources in their favor, thereby ensuring that those who previously lost out to plagiarists in competition for fellowships and positions lose out once again. Yet we believe that it would be worse for the field were we to ignore the accusations, cast doubt on the charges, and claim that the damage done were minimal… 

[T]he practice of academic stealing is constantly evolving alongside the countermeasures deployed to catch it, and making public the methods and techniques used in contemporary cases of unattributed copying should help future editors and scholars identify the cases that we collectively missed.

They then proceed to provide detailed evidence of the plagiarism, providing side-by-side comparisons to Roques’ articles with the works from which she stole material. Here are two of the several examples they provide:

The editors write that Roques’ plagiarism “extends far beyond the pages of Vivarium.

In light of this investigation, other writings by Roques have been called into question. One work elsewhere, “Ockham on the Parts of the Continuum,” originally accepted for publication in Volume 5 of Oxford Studies in Medieval Philosophy, has been withdrawn, and sources say that other retractions will be announced soon.

The authors revealed to have been plagiarized by Roques so far include: Jonathan Barnes (Geneva), E.J. Lowe (deceased),  Susan Brower-Toland (Saint Louis), Can Laurens Löwe (Purdue), Cecilia Trifogli (Oxford), Stephen Read (St. Andrews),  Norman J. Kretzmann (deceased), Paul Spade (Indiana), Simo Knuuttila (Helsinki) and Anja Inkeri Lehtinen (independent), Paloma Pérez-Ilzarbe (Navarra), Niko Strobach (Münster), Edith Sylla (NC State), Ludger Jansen (Münster, Rostock), Glenn Kessler (Virginia, Maine), and the writers of the Wikipedia entry on “nominalism“.**

* Update 1: the original version of this post mistakenly identified Roques as a post-doc at CNRS; she instead holds a permanent research position, and this has been corrected in the body of this post. The source for this information adds, “this makes the whole story even more shocking as she was, I think, the sole philosopher recruited by the CNRS for a junior position last year.” (This is struck through because it was contradicted by a commenter.)

**Update 2: This list originally included not just the author of a chapter from which Roques plagiarized but also the the three editors of the volume in which the chapter appeared; that was a mistake and those editors have now been removed from the list.

Update 3 (11/13/20): I added another screenshot of the plagiarism detailed by the editors of Vivarium.

Update 4 (11/13/20): Another article by Roques has been retracted: “The Identity Conditions of Matter According to William of Ockham,” which was published in Volume 6, Issue 2 of Epekeina in 2015. A brief retraction notice is here. The retraction notice includes neither the name of the author nor the reason for the retraction, but I have received a report from a reliable source that includes an annotated version of the article detailing multiple instances of plagiarism. Authors plagiarized by Roques in this article include: Marilyn McCord Adams, Richard Cross, Mauro Dorato and Matteo Morganti, Steven French, Peter King, David P. Lang, Cynthia MacDonald, Armand Maurer, L. Nathan Oaklander, Claude Panaccio, and Robert Pasnau.

Update 5 (11/15/20): An article by Roques published in the journal Archives d’histoire doctrinale et litteraire du Moyen Age in 2018, “Must the Relation of Substantial Composition Be a Mode? William of Ockham’s Answers,” has been retracted. There is no explanation provided for the retraction, but it is listed as such on the issue’s table of contents.

The post Philosopher Revealed as Serial Plagiarist (multiple updates) appeared first on Daily Nous.

British Society for the Philosophy of Science Launches Open Access Book Publishing

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 07/11/2020 - 12:38am in

The British Society for the Philosophy of Science (BSPS) has launched a new program to publish open access philosophy of science monographs.

BSPS Open aims to publish “landmark, cutting edge works that represent the full breadth and diversity of the philosophy of science.” The monographs it publishes will be “beautiful, freely downloadable” files with print-on-demand versions available for purchase. It will be a so-called “platinum” open access service, in that it charges fees to neither readers nor authors. It will publish works “on the basis of merit alone, and not on an author’s ability to pay a fee.”

The publishing initiative is headed by editorial chair Helen Beebee (University of Manchester), and editors-in-chief Bryan Roberts (London School of Economics) and David Teira (Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia). (The editorial board is listed here.)

It is supported through fundraising, print-sales, and a partnership between the BSPS and the University of Calgary Press.

You can learn more about BSPS Open here.

The post British Society for the Philosophy of Science Launches Open Access Book Publishing appeared first on Daily Nous.

Author Interview: Q and A with Dr Phillipa K. Chong on Inside the Critics’ Circle: Book Reviewing in Uncertain Times

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 30/10/2020 - 11:29pm in

In this author interview, we speak to Dr Phillipa K. Chong about her recent book, Inside the Critics’ Circle: Book Reviewing in Uncertain Times, which takes readers behind the scenes of fiction reviewing, drawing on interviews with critics to explore the complexities of the review-writing process within a broader context of uncertainty.

Q & A with Dr Phillipa K. Chong, author of Inside the Critics’ Circle: Book Reviewing in Uncertain Times. Princeton University Press. 2020.

Q: In Inside the Critics’ Circle, you draw on interviews with 40 critics to explore their experience of fiction reviewing. What can we gain from better understanding the process of writing book reviews?

A typical book review is maybe 700 words and tells you what a critic thinks about a book.  But it doesn’t really tell you anything about how that critic arrived at such conclusions. This is an important part of the story because what the average reader confronts in the final ‘print’ version of a book review is the product of a longer chain of decisions and judgments that go beyond whether an individual critic likes a book.

Let’s start from the beginning: when review section editors are deciding whether a book should be included for review in their pages. Readers may be surprised to learn that these decisions are not primarily driven by identifying high-quality books, but more prosaic concerns like the buzz surrounding an author or whether an editor can think of a suitable critic to review the book. Similarly, while critics do consider the strengths or weaknesses of the books they review, they revealed that what they put in their reviews is also guided by a sense of professional self-preservation and ideals of good cultural citizenship. Much of the story of book reviewing is what doesn’t get included as much as what does appear in reviews. And you only get that from probing the broader process of reviewing before you get to the final form.

 Q: You describe book reviewing today as taking place within a broader context of uncertainty. What do you mean by this and how does it manifest for reviewers?

Many words have been used to describe professional book reviewing. ‘Decline’ and ‘demise’ come up frequently in conversations about the rise of amateur book reviewers and dwindling book coverage. But I describe book reviewing as characterised by uncertainty to emphasise how so much of how critics operate, the reactions reviews provoke and the future of book reviewing are unsure and unpredictable. The book details how reviewers proceed in spite of, and in response to, these uncertainties.

The first two chapters examine how critics undertake the crucial task of book reviewing, which is determining whether a book is worth reading. Critics describe a fastidious process which includes multiple readings: many critics approach the book as a regular reader would (what one critic called a ‘civilian’ reading), before subjecting the work to a more critical analysis in a second round of reading. Critics also emphasise the imperative of being able to justify their assessments using conventional evaluative criteria and representative excerpts.

Yet, every critic I interviewed had the experience of seeing their carefully considered judgments publicly contradicted by other critics’ reviews. This is tied to the accepted subjectivity of taste. One reviewer wrote a scathing review of a book that went on to win the Booker Prize. Another reviewer praised a book that was so universally loathed by other reviewers that it causes him embarrassment to recall it more than ten years on. To say reviewing is uncertain doesn’t mean that critics feel out of their depths or insecure in their judgments. Indeed, many critics feel very sure of their literary assessments – even after reading reviews that may go against their own. But this feeling of certainty does not change the fact that how the critical consensus will judge the final quality of a work may diverge from your own opinion. It is because of critics’ inability to predict the final quality of a book that I characterise reviewing as high in epistemic uncertainty, just one of several types of uncertainty that critics must navigate in their work and that I explore in my book.

Q: You found that reviewers experience particular anxiety when it comes to writing negative reviews. What are some of the concerns that reviewers have and how do they navigate these?

I truly believe that critics want to like the books they review. Think about it: ideally you would read a book that you think is just magnificent, then you get to write about this great book and share this enthusiasm with other readers through a positive review, delighting the author and their publicist. Everyone wins: the critic, the reading public and the author under review.

But disappointing books are unavoidable and reviewing them presents multiple challenges. Critics must slog through the book, which they might just put down if they weren’t being paid to read it. Critics take up precious review space telling readers about a book they do not think is worthy of readers’ attention. And they risk alienating themselves from the author-under-review and even burning professional bridges with those affiliated with the project.

Many reviewers are themselves working authors. I describe the situation of critics as a switch-role reward structure, where the reviewer today can easily be the reviewee tomorrow. The consequences of this are laid bare by one critic who reflected that: ‘giving a bad review to a fellow fiction writer is [risky]. If that fiction writer is ever on a panel, a jury for an award—they’re not going to vote for your ass.’ It is true, of course, that negative reviews can be respectfully done and even spark productive discussion. And many authors and industry professionals take them in stride. Still, critics encounter additional reputation and professional risk and uncertainty when they write negatively about someone’s work.

Critics revealed ways they make writing negative reviews slightly more palatable. This includes critics inserting details about the plot or the broader context or career of the author into the final review to crowd-out more overt evaluative statements about the book. Some critics choose to emphasise what other readers might appreciate about the book, even if they did not particularly enjoy the novel themselves. While some critics felt no qualms about writing a ‘hatchet job’, the vast majority I spoke with expressed a preference for muting their criticisms to reduce the potential harm to both the author under review, in the form of hurt feelings, and themselves, in the form of future retribution!

Q: In the book you discuss the lack of diversity in publishing, which perpetuates gender, racial and other inequalities in coverage and reception for both authors and reviewers. Is this something that critics considered and felt able to challenge through their own practice?

In general, I think most critics recognised that reviewing could improve when it comes to diversity and inclusion. But it wasn’t clear how and if individual reviewers should figure into that improvement. For the majority of reviewers, the push for greater diversity in publishing felt beyond the scope of their work. Critics are hired on a freelance basis to write about a single book. And their focus remained trained on reading that specific book and ensuring it is evaluated fairly. In essence, these critics don’t see their actions as connected to big structural issues like diversity.

In contrast, other reviewers see the outsized attention given to some authors and used this to steer their reviewing practices. Specifically, I found that some critics (primarily women) explicitly asked not to review books written by women – especially first novels. Why? Because these critics know how difficult it is for women to get published, to get reviewed and the impact it can have on their career. And they didn’t want to be put in a position where they might have to write a negative review of a woman’s book in light of these challenges. These critics may have noble intentions, but de facto create a situation where there are fewer willing reviewers for books by women, which, ironically, can make it harder for women’s books to get reviewed.

Both groups of reviewers recognise that there is a problem in reviewing (and publishing more generally). But neither had a straightforward understanding of how they could contribute towards a solution – including whether they had the power to effect any change, or if it was their responsibility. The point I make in the book is that these are not really individual responses at all. They are a consequence of the informal way book reviewing is organised, which inhibits a sense of group identity and efficacy.

Q: Given the pressures surrounding book reviewing today, do you believe it will remain a resilient practice?

Book reviewing has survived digitisation. Still, there are lingering questions about the cultural place of reviewing. What is the value of professional reviewers? And what counts as a review? The words ‘review’ and ‘criticism’ do a lot of work. In the book, I distinguish between four distinct types of writing about books that can be grouped under the umbrella of reviewing. Each has different audiences and concerns. And even within the single genre of journalistic newspaper reviewing, reviewers report a mix of goals: providing a summary of the book; reporting on noteworthy books; publicising books; recommending books; and even entertainment (i.e. providing a good read), among others.

But there are so many other ways that these goals can be achieved. If a reader is looking for book recommendations, they might benefit more from consulting the profiles of readers with similar tastes via Goodreads than a single review in the Guardian. If a publisher wants to publicise a book, then a solid social media campaign could be effective. And if someone just wants to read about literature, they might be better served by long-form essays in a literary magazine rather than a typical 500-word review.

In this context, I think a major challenge book reviewing faces is clarifying and grappling with what it uniquely brings to the discussion of books.  I personally think that there is unique value that comes from book reviewing’s organisational ties to news journalism.

Q: In light of that, did your research reveal any tensions between the demands of academic reviewing and more journalistic approaches?

It’s funny you ask because I just accepted my first academic book review assignment. And as I am working through it, I can’t help but hear the voices of all the people I interviewed for the book in the back of my head. I’m not sure if that will make the final review I produce better or worse. But the process is very meta.

I think there’s a lot of value in comparing academic and journalistic approaches. It wasn’t a focus of the book, but I plan to compare and contrast each phase of my experience writing an academic book review with what my critics told me on Twitter. Interested readers can follow it here: @chongsoc

Q: Given the uncertainties and anxieties bound up in book reviewing, are there strategies book review editors could adopt when it comes to supporting reviewers?

Since the book has come out, a few review editors have come to me asking how they can help make their pages more equitable. And I’m thrilled to offer my expertise to anyone interested in reflecting on their practices. Towards that end, my new work traces diverse authors’ (in terms of race, gender, sexuality and region) perspectives on each stage of the publishing process. This includes how individuals decide they want to be writers, how they come up with a book project, working with editors, getting reviewed and – for some authors – become reviewers themselves. It is my hope that once I have come to grips with the diversity of experiences of publishing, I’ll be able to offer more wide-ranging insights back to the industry.

Regarding review anxiety, I think it’s useful to normalise and accept that anxiety is intrinsic to the review process for many. It’s tough work. And I don’t think that anyone who works in book reviewing will find anything truly surprising in the book. It puts in black-and-white what many critics have likely discussed informally or know implicitly. But what the book does offer is an empirical portrait of how critics’ attempts to cope with the epistemic, social and institutional uncertainties of reviewing can directly shape their reviews. And the question that remains is which types of anxieties, or uncertainties, we think should be shaping our review coverage. It is my hope that the book can provide a shared vocabulary for review editors and individual critics to reflect on this question.

Note: This interview gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics. The interview was conducted by Dr Rosemary Deller, Managing Editor of the LSE Review of Books blog.

Banner Image Credit: New York Times Book Review, Cover and Many Comics Inside, June 3, 2001 (Daniel X. O’Neil CC BY 2.0).

In-text Image One Credit: Back issues of London Review of Books (B.R. Sherwood CC BY NC 2.0).

In-text Image Two Credit: Pile of books (Ginny CC BY SA 2.0).


Reframing America’s Role in the World: The Specter of Isolationism

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 21/10/2020 - 12:56am in

The United States today suffers from illnesses both literal and metaphorical. Restoring the nation to good health and repairing our democracy must necessarily rate as paramount concerns. Continue reading

The post Reframing America’s Role in the World: The Specter of Isolationism appeared first on

Undergraduate Philosophy Journals Database

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 13/10/2020 - 5:56am in

Do you know undergraduate philosophy students who might be interested in publishing their work?

Ashley Denney, academic department administrator in the Department of Philosophy at George Washington University, has compiled information about undergaduate philosophy journals and organized it on a publicly-accessible spreadsheet.

It includes journal names, descriptions, submission information, and web addresses.

If you have material to add to the database, you can email it to Ms. Denney or request edit access from her.

You can view the database below or at its own site, here.

The post Undergraduate Philosophy Journals Database appeared first on Daily Nous.

Dialexicon: A New Student-Led Philosophy Initiative

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 29/09/2020 - 6:00pm in

There’s a new “platform for high school students to learn, discuss, and contribute to philosophical thought and writing.” 

Created by students in Canada, the project is a journal and website, Dialexicon, which seeks to publish “exceptional philosophical essays written by high school students.”

According to its website, Dialexicon came into existence after its creators “noticed a lack of accessible philosophy resources for high school students.” It aims “to share the voices and philosophical opinions of youth with a global audience, to provide a forum for youth to discuss philosophy with other engaged youth.“

The project is sponsored by the University of Toronto Mississauga Philosophy Department and the Philosophy Foundation UK, among others.

The journal is now accepting submissions from high school students around the world. According to one of Dialexicon‘s board members:

High school students are invited to submit a 900 to 1200 word philosophy paper on one of the four prompts listed on the website, all of which tackle pressing current events. Submitted papers will undergo a multiple-round review process, with papers being reviewed by a team of 15+ university philosophy faculty, graduate students, and international debate coaches. The deadline for submissions is November 1, 2020. The top submission will receive a $500 cash prize, and the winning submissions will be published in the Dialexicon Journal, with the profiles of the winners featured on the University of Toronto Mississauga Philosophy Department’s website. This is an excellent opportunity for high school students to hone their philosophical essay-writing skills, to potentially receive publication in a professionally adjudicated journal, and to receive a prize.

If you are a philosophy educator, we would greatly appreciate it if you could share this opportunity with any high school students who may be interested in submitting. As well, if you are interested in becoming an adjudicator or are affiliated with an organization or department that is interested in becoming a sponsor of the journal, do not hesitate to send us an email. For all questions or comments, please contact We respond to all inquiries within 48 business hours, and look forward to hearing from you!

There’s more information at the Dialexicon site.

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A Norm for Self-Citation (guest post by Colin Klein)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 24/09/2020 - 10:25pm in

“How to self-cite without giving away your identity? I’ve seen two ways of doing it over the years. One is great, and one is really frustrating. We should all stop doing the frustrating one.”

The following is a guest post* by Colin Klein, associate professor of philosophy at Australian National University.

[Jan van Eyck, “Portrait of Arnolfini and his Wife” (detail)]

A Norm for Self-Citation
by Colin Klein

Philosophers like to cite themselves. Reviewing standards in philosophy are extremely fussy about preserving anonymity of authors. This sets up a conflict: how to self-cite without giving away your identity? I’ve seen two ways of doing it over the years. One is great, and one is really frustrating. We should all stop doing the frustrating one.

Suppose my draft says “As I argue in Klein (2015), pains are imperatives”. To anonymize this, I could do two things:

1) “As Klein argues in his (2015), pains are imperatives”
2) “As I argue in my [Author paper], pains are imperatives”

The job of a reviewer is to determine whether a paper is fit for publication. Part of that job is determining whether the citations adequately support claims that are made. Option (1) lets me check the citations. That’s the good option. Option (2) doesn’t. Option (2) thus fails to give the minimal information a reviewer needs to do their job. That’s the bad option.

This is not hypothetical. I’ve seen some amazing things asserted using the mechanism of (2). Load-bearing claims. Preposterous claims. Without taking the author’s word on it (hint: I don’t), such papers are dead in the water.

You can do (1) poorly, of course. If I wrote “As Klein argues in his brilliant, under-appreciated 2015 masterpiece…” then you might have a clue to who I am. But you shouldn’t write like that anyway. If you’re writing in a small subfield, you might worry that that (1) gives clues to my identity. (How many people cite my 2015 uncritically? I suspect just me.) But neither (1) or (2) will help there: that’s a deeper problem about trying to preserve anonymity in small fields.

Indeed, that leads to a related problem with (2). If you know the topic, you’re going to wonder “Gee, this person writes about imperatives and pain, they should at least slag on Klein as part of due diligence.  Then you go to the bibliography and there’s no Klein. You might think that the author has overlooked an important part of the literature. Or you might readily—even inadvertently—infer that you’re dealing with a Klein manuscript. So (2) actually makes it easy to inadvertently reveal your identity. Again, I speak from experience here.

So here’s a proposal for a norm:

i. Are you self-citing because the thing you’re citing actually adds to the philosophical discourse? If so, treat it like any other citation, and remove information from the body of the draft’s text that suggests you are citing yourself.

ii. Are you self-citing to establish that you are one of the authors who believes the thing, thereby staking out philosophical turf? You can probably get by with just putting in a third-person citation. But if you worry, then don’t put a citation at all. Add it in the final stages if it gets accepted. The reason we care about anonymity in reviewing is that we ought to be able to evaluate the quality of a paper without knowing who wrote it and whose philosophical career will be advanced by its publication. So staking your claim can come after review.

iii. Are you worried because you’re responding to somebody who is attacking you and it’s really hard to write in the third person about yourself without giving away clues to your identity? Honestly, I think editors need to step up here and admit that this happens and there’s no sensible way in which these kinds of papers can preserve anonymity. But in any case, there’s nothing you can do, so you might as well do (1), because (2) is going to make your paper unreadable.

iv. Are you self-citing for some other reason? Don’t. There are no other good reasons.

Discussion welcome.

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The Philosopher’s Annual – 2019 Edition

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 14/09/2020 - 4:00pm in

The Philosopher’s Annual aims to identify “the ten best articles published in philosophy each year.” It’s an aim that’s “as simple to state as it is admittedly impossible to fulfill,” say its editors, but that has not stopped them from producing 39 volumes so far. The most recent one, for articles published in 2019, has just been compiled.


[Jim Lambie, “Zobop (stairs)”]

Here are the ten articles included in it:

The list is the result of nominations from roughly 70 philosophers who suggest articles for consideration for one of the top ten slots (with these nominating editors sometimes soliciting suggestions from people they know via email or social media). The nominations are then assessed by the editorial team of Philosopher’s Annual: Patrick Grim (Michigan, Stony Brook), Laura K. Soter, Angela Sun, and Calum McNamara (Michigan).

The nominating editors this year were: Jc Beall, Ned Block, Ben Bradley, Liam Kofi Bright, Lara Buchak, Tyler Burge, Victor Caston, David Chalmers, Andrew Chignell, Roger Crisp, Helen De Cruz, Cian Dorr, Adam Elga, Branden Fitelson, Graeme Forbes, Aaron Garrett, Michael Glanzberg, Alexander Guerrero, Alan Hajek, Ned Hall, Elizabeth Harman, Gary Hatfield, Benj Hellie, Christopher Hitchcock, Des Hogan, Simon Huttegger, Brad Inwood, Simon Keller, Tom Kelly, Niko Kolodny, Jennifer Lackey, Marc Lange, Brian Leiter, Ernie Lepore, Neil Levy, Martin Lin, John Marenbon, Colin McLarty, Jeff McMahan, Shaun Nichols, Paul Noordhof, Rohit Parikh, Derk Pereboom, Richard Pettigrew, Duncan Pritchard, Greg Restall, Geoffrey Sayre-McCord, Barry Schein, Mark Schroeder, Laura Schroeter, Stewart Shapiro, Ted Sider, Scott Soames, Roy Sorensen, Katie Steele, Eric Swanson, Johan van Benthem, Mark van Roojen, Sergio Tenenbarum, Peter B. M. Vranas, Eric Watkins, Sam Wheeler, Gideon Yaffe, Jose Zalabardo, Kevin Zollman

You can view previous volumes of Philosopher’s Annual here.

UPDATE (9/25/20): The Philosopher’s Annual website has been updated with the new edition, including links to the articles.

(via Patrick Grim)

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