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Friday, July 27, 2007

Peer-Review in Decline

"The well-known people are going to cut back on their publishing in top journals because they don’t need the peer review anymore. They can get attention to their work without it"

Via Adventures in Ethics and Science and Semantics, etc. I just learned about this article from Inside Higher Ed, which discusses the recent decline in publications in peer-reviewed journals by authors from top economics departments. Elizabeth Redden, the article's author, suggests that the reason for the decline is that better publication venues are available to top economists: home-pages, on-line data-bases, blogs, to mention just a few. Bypassing peer-review is a quicker way to recognition than waiting for slow referees and journal backlogs. According to Redden it sometimes takes 3 years for an article to make it into print in a peer-reviewed journal.

I am not sure whether there is a similar decline in publications in peer-reviewed philosophy journals by top philosophers. It certainly seems that high-powered philosophers often choose to publish their work in non-peer-reviewed places. In philosophy, however, publication on home-pages, blogs and on-line data-bases does not seem to have had any effect on how many peer-reviewed articles are published. Non-peer-reviewed volumes, guest-edited journal issues, and conference proceedings are the main competition.

Well-known philosophers are more frequently invited to contribute to non-peer-reviewed volumes than less well-known people, and if one no longer needs to prove oneself in the field, it is probably tempting to bypass refereeing and journal backlogs entirely. As Ellison, the author of "Is Peer-Review in Decline?", says to Redding, "The well-known people are going to cut back on their publishing in top journals because they don’t need the peer review anymore. They can get attention to their work without it". While Ellison is primarily interested in the status-quo in economics, his point extends to philosophy.

One might, however, fear that an absence of top philosophers in refereed journals will set the tone in the profession. If top-people do not publish in peer-reviewed journals, peer-reviewed articles might be perceived as second-rate. On the anecdotal side, a friend of mine who wanted to shift horses mid-career once asked a top philosopher in his new field which journals were most prestigious. Surprisingly the answer he received was "None. Don't publish in journals. If you are good enough, you will be invited to publish your work elsewhere". This, certainly, is an unfortunate attitude. Peer-reviewing is, after all, the most objective way of determining what should appear in print.

Moreover, as Adventures in Ethics and Science points out, building one's reputation is not the only reason for publishing. Hopefully the communication of knowledge is still an honorable aim. And journal publication is one of the very best ways of communicating knowledge. While very few journal articles are read by more than a few people, they are visible and easily accessible. Articles in book volumes and conference proceedings are much harder to find, unless you simply buy the book or the proceedings. When the book goes out of print after a few years it can be almost impossible to find. Webpage publication, of course, can to some extent make up for the public inaccessibility of one's work. Still, lots and lots of non-refereed publications simply are not publicly available. You cannot go to JStor or some other publicly available datebase to download a book contribution.

So if one aims at communicating knowledge and having one's work read in 10+ years, it seems worthwhile to send at least some of it to journals. Of course, the ideal situation would be one where all work was available online on open access but peer-reviewed sites. This way we could avoid journal backlogs, difficulties tracking down non-peer-reviewed articles and the high cost of subscriptions. The only time that would pass between submission and publication would be the time it would take the referees to finish their job and the editors to make a final decision. For now, however, peer-reviewed journal publication still seems a worthwhile enterprise.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Strawsonian Definite Descriptions

Though I am definitely still a Russellian with respect to definite descriptions, I thought that Peter Lasersohn's "The Temperature Paradox as Evidence for a Presuppositional Analysis of Definite Descriptions", which I just read, made a quite convincing case for a Strawsonian treatment. I won't go into his reasons for preferring a Strawsonian treatment to the Russellian alternative but I do want to make a couple of remarks about Lasersohn's take on the Strawsonian approach.

The Strawsonian view is considered implausible by Millians because Millians naturally assume that if definite descriptions refer, then they contribute an individual to truth-conditions. So, 'the president' would contribute Bush to truth-conditions, which is quite implausible. Lasersohn's approach, however, allows for a more natural referential treatment of definite descriptions. The rough idea is that 'the' takes the intension of its argument and returns an extension at the world in question. So for the case of unembedded occurrences of 'the president', 'the' takes the intension of 'president' and returns Bush at the actual world. This version of the Strawsonian approach is considerably more plausible than the Millian version of the view. Add to this Lasersohn's very convincing arguments for adopting the Strawsonian approach and we have a very strong competitor to the Russellian stance.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

I have often wondered the same thing

The Google Search function is a great resource for philosophers of language. Just realized that, contrary to what many thinkers have argued, 'wonder' does indeed select determiner phrases with a question meaning in natural language. Here are some search results:

(1) I’ve often wondered the same thing.
(2) Ever wondered the answer to any of these questions?
(3) Ever wondered the "right" way to describe swordfights?
(4) Stratford wondered the time line.
(5) If you've ever wondered the value of partner programs from software/hardware companies, let me give you my perspective from the front lines.
(6) Geisenberger wondered the price range.
(7) Hopkinson wondered the height of the tallest building in this neighborhood.

This datum, of course, has intrinsic interest. But what's the broader impact? Well, some thinkers have argued that determiner phrase complement clauses cannot be interpreted as concealed questions, because if they were, we should expect 'wonder' to select determiner phrases as complements. As 'wonder' does select determiner phrases as complements, determiner phrase complement clauses can (just maybe) be interpreted as concealed questions. Needless to say I was thrilled to discover this.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Reasoner 1 (4)

The Reasoner Volume 1, Number 4 - August 2007

Table of Contents
1. Editorial - David Corfield
2. Interview with Brendan Larvor - David Corfield
3. Conceivability, Possibility, and Counterexamples - Anand Jayprakash Vaidya
4. A Counterfactual Account of Essence - Berit Brogaard and Joe Salerno
5. Knowledge, Truth and Justification in Legal Fact Finding - Déirdre M. Dwyer
6. The Principle of Agreement - John L. Pollock
7. A Note on Kripke's Puzzle about Belief - Cristian Constantinescu

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Feminist Philosophy and Separatism

In the comment section of this post an anonymous commenter raised the problem of separatism in feminist philosophy.

[Lemmings:] Another peculiarity: there were only 3 men in the audience, and one of them probably wouldn't have gone if I hadn't twisted his arm. One wonders whether male philosophers think female philosophers should solve this problem on their own.

[Commenter:] Alternative explanation: people mistakenly thought that only women were invited. Believe it or not, and if I didn’t misunderstand, this is the way it was for the session of the Society for Women in Philosophy in the recent Joint Session in Bristol. Apparently some women in philosophy do think that only women in philosophy are to care about women in philosophy!
I replied that one does not need an invitation to APA sessions, and that most APA members ought to know this. But the separatist attitude characteristic of many feminists is bound to spill over into feminist philosophy. Feminist philosophers has an interesting discussion of this problem. Jender admits that when someone pointed out to her that the editorial board of Hypatia consists almost exclusively of women, she was tempted to respond that this was as it should be given that the majority of feminist philosophers are women. But she quickly realized the problem with this sort of reply (just substitute 'Nous' for 'Hypotia', 'analytic' for 'feminist' and 'men' for 'women'). Furthermore, separatism may backfire when it comes to mainstreaming feminist philosophy. As Jender puts it:
People are more likely to know and respect journals they read. They are more likely to read journals in areas they work in. If men feel unwelcome in feminist philosophy, they’ll be unlikely to read feminist journals. With philosophy’s male/female ratios, how can we possibly hope to mainstream feminism and get widespread respect for feminist work if most of the profession feels sealed out of feminism
'Sealing out' men also perpetuates old stereotypes. In a couple of the departments I have been in, it is simply taken for granted that the women in the department will attend to all gender-related business. So while it is considered obvious that a significant number of men will partipate in the selection of job candidates, it is simply assumed without argument that meetings with the equal opportunity office etc. later in the process will be attended to by the women in the department. It is also very rare to see any men participate actively in institutes for women and gender studies. This is rather surprising given that the issues discussed at those places ought to be close to everyone's heart. Part of the problem, of course, is that the stereotyical feminist is a woman. Needless to say, this stereotype is very unfortunate. As a feminist just is someone who advocates the rights of women to have equal opportunities to those of men, everyone who thinks women have a right to be treated as equals ought to call themselves 'feminists' and ought to partake in activities related to feminism.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Live Footage of Bertrand Russell

Thanks to Eric Wiland for sending the link.

Philosophers' Carnival # 50

... is here.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Feminism According to the Man on the Street

"Feminists are just militant angry women trying to get their way in the world."

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Feminist Philosophy at Mainstream Journals

One commenter at the SWIP listserve noted that as an editor of a mainstream journal she didn't receive any submissions on feminism. Surprising? Well, as Feminist Philosophers point out, many feminist philosophers who have no trouble getting non-feminist work published in mainstream journals find it exceedingly hard to get their feminist work published in the same journals. Eventually they give up and send their work elsewhere.

Of course, there is something of a vicious circle here, which needs to be broken. One commenter notes that she thinks feminist philosophers should keep trying. Why? Because it will help to mainstream feminist philosophy:

those of us with secure jobs have something of an obligation to keep trying the mainstream journals (as long as this remains compatible with our sanity!). Getting papers in them will help to mainstream feminist philosophy, which really needs doing.
There is definitely the issue of mainstreaming feminist philosophy. There is also a different issue which wasn't mentioned in the post. Mainstream journals tend to send submitted articles to former journal contributors for refereeing. If few feminist philosophers publish in mainstream journal, one might suspect that even if submitted work on feminism is sent to very experienced and perhaps even sympathetic referees, such work may not always be refereed by the most qualified people working in the area.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Paperback Editions

A couple of books of interest to epistemologists, now in paper:

Vincent Hendricks, Mainstream and Formal Epistemology, Cambridge University Press, 2006, winner of Choice Magazine Outstanding Academic Title 2006.

Jon Kvanvig, The Value of Knowledge and the Pursuit of Understanding, Cambridge University Press, 2003.

According to the book catalogue, both will appear in paperback in fall 2007.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Happy Birthday, Lemmings!

Yup, it's his first birthday (and a store where you can buy "tasty" beverages and foods to go). Instead of a gift he's got a new outfit. I decided he shouldn't look like an old newspaper anymore. So I've added some stars and stripes (o.k. just kidding -- but I've added some colors which may change depending on my mood). Fortunately, the new outfit can be undone. So if I get too many boo! emails, we can always go back. Thanks to contributors and everyone who's sent me links, comments and suggestions this past year.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Interpreting Phrases in Philosophy Papers

Ever wondered what philosophers really mean when they speak in obscure phrases? Use this list to achieve better understanding.

"Although there are no definite answers to these questions ..."
My original hypothesis was wrong, but I still want to get published.

"Additional work is required to establish principle P."
I was unable to conjure up any genuine counterexamples to principle P.

"Of great theoretical and practical importance"
It is interesting to me or else I want it to be interesting to somebody with money who can fund some release time from teaching.

"It has long been known that ..."
I don't know the original reference.

"It is believed that ..."
I believe this (and either no one agrees with me or else I didn't consult anyone).

"It is generally believed that ..."
I believe this and at least one other person agrees with me.

"This example was originally due to NN"
NN came up with it in a bar at 3 a.m. in the morning at the last APA meeting. And if it doesn't work, I don't want to be blamed.

"I do not think the proposal succeeds"
And I have no reason to think it doesn't succeed.

"Nothing of substance hinges on this simplification"
I don't know how to deal with more complex cases.

"I know of no decisive evidence against theory T"
I know of plenty of evidence against it but in philosophy no evidence is decisive.

"I have no knock-down objections to principle P but I do have a couple of worries about it"
I have no evidence against principle P, just a couple of nitpickings that are not going to lead anywhere.

"I hope nevertheless that a more unified account will emerge from these considerations."
I have no new results to report but I need to get tenure so I will offer a better way to word some well-established principles.

"This view is not as counterintuitive as it first appears."
This view is counterintuitive, alright, but I am going to try to convince you that it is not.

"The aim of this paper is to show that NN's original theory is flawed"
NN has since revised his theory. But my counterexamples undermine only the original proposal.

"NN is therefore vulnerable to the criticism that P."
NN presented a knock-down objection to my theory at the last APA meeting; now, I'm going to show him who's the boss.

"Virtually everything that has just been said carries over to the case at hand."
You work it out. I am not sure how to.

"NN's brilliant insight that ..."
NN is a friend of mine who is considering me for a position in his department, and he proposed that ...

(HT: Dr. Free-Ride, who offers an interpretation of scientific phrases)

Save the Internet

Matt Bell brought this site to my attention. The site is devoted to the protection of network neutrality. What is network neutrality? Save the Internet explains:

Network Neutrality — or "Net Neutrality" for short — is the guiding principle that preserves the free and open Internet.

Put simply, Net Neutrality means no discrimination. Net Neutrality prevents Internet providers from speeding up or slowing down Web content based on its source, ownership or destination.

Net Neutrality is the reason why the Internet has driven economic innovation, democratic participation, and free speech online. It protects the consumer's right to use any equipment, content, application or service on a non-discriminatory basis without interference from the network provider. With Net Neutrality, the network's only job is to move data — not choose which data to privilege with higher quality service.
If you want to help protect network neutrality, sign Save the Internet's petition, or simply check out the site.

Monday, July 09, 2007

New Semantics Journal

Kai von Fintel and David Beaver recently announced that they are going to start a new semantics journal called Semantics and Pragmatics. S & P will be open access, which means that there will be free online access to published articles. von Fintel and Beaver have also started a new blog devoted to the project. Speaking of which, Beaver just reported that S & F has been officially accepted as an "affiliated journal of the Linguistic Society of America as part of their eLanguage initiative". So, if you're working in semantics, there are now two respectable open access journals where you can send your work, the other being Philosophers' Imprint.

Call for Papers: Context, Perspective and Relativity

Context-Dependence, Perspective and Relativity in Language and Thought

Paris, Ecole Normale Supérieure, November 9-11, 2007

Keynote Speakers:

James Higginbotham (USC)
John MacFarlane (Berkeley)
John Perry (Stanford)
François Recanati (CNRS)
Jason Stanley (Rutgers)
Robert Stalnaker (MIT)

Submissions are invited for 30 min. talks. Only half a dozen slots are available for submitted contributions. Submissions should be sent in the form of an extended abstract (800-1000 words) to: Submission deadline: September 5, 2007.

Notification of acceptance: September 25, 2007. Authors of accepted contributions are responsible for their own travel and accommodation arrangements. (A list of hotels will be provided.) There are no registration fees.

The conference is sponsored by Institut Jean-Nicod and by Ecole Normale Supérieure (Department of Philosophy and Department of Cognitive Studies).


François Recanati (CNRS/Institut Jean Nicod)
Isidora Stojanovic (CNRS/Institut Jean Nicod)
Neftali Villanueva (Institut Jean Nicod)

Second Call for Papers: The Iowa Philosophical Society Meeting

Call for Papers: The Iowa Philosophical Society Meeting

When: Saturday, Oct.20, 2007
Where: Coe College in Cedar Rapids, IA

Keynote Address by Paul Boghossian (NYU)

Papers should be prepared for approximately a
20 minute presentation. Submission deadline: Sept. 15, 2007.

Send abstracts of approximately 300 words to:

John Lemos at, or you may send them by regular mail to:

John Lemos
Dept. of Philosophy
Coe College
Cedar Rapids, IA 52402

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Announcement: Hintikka Conference

The Epistemology and Methodology of Jaakko Hintikka - a symposium in Hintikka's honor

November 16-17, 2007.
Roskilde University, Denmark

Sponsored by PHIS – The Danish Research School in Philosophy, History of Ideas and History of Science

Jaakko Hintikka's philosophical writings are some of the most lucid, enlightening and influential of the 20th century philosophy. They range from his pioneering work in epistemic logic over his interpretations of important historical figures like Aristotle, Descartes, Kant and Peirce, to his work on the philosophy of science and logic. A common denominator for his writings across the board is his special take on inquiry in both epistemological and methodological terms. In November 2007, Hintikka's collected papers on epistemology, entitled Socratic Epistemology, will be released with Cambridge University Press and what better occasion than this to reflect upon the epistemology and methodology of Jaakko Hintikka.

Invited Speakers

Adam Didrichsen
Vincent F. Hendricks
Jaakko Hintikka
Stig Andur Pedersen
Ahti-Veikko Pietarinen
Robert Stalnaker
Frederik Stjernfelt
Tim Williamson

The symposium is organized in such a way that there will be ample time for questions and answers, and thus the meeting furnishes a unique opportunity for PhD-students to get a thorough introduction to an important branch of contemporary philosophy.

Saturday, November 17
09:30 – 10:00
Registration / Coffee
10:00 – 11:30
Jaakko Hintikka
11:45 – 13:15
Vincent F. Hendricks
13:15 – 14:00
14:00 – 15:30
Robert Stalnaker
15:30 – 16:00
16:00 – 17:30
Adam Didrichsen

Sunday, November 18
09:30 – 10:00
10:00 – 11:30
Stig Andur Pedersen
11:45 – 13:15
Frederik Stjernfelt
13:15 – 14:00
14:00 – 15:30
Tim Williamson
15:30 – 16:00
16:00 – 17:30
Ahti-Veikko Pietarinen

Program and Organizing Committee
Vincent F. Hendricks
Frederik Stjernfelt
Stig Andur Pedersen

UPDATE: Note that the dates for the symposium are November 16-17, 2007, NOT November 17-18, as originally announced.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Some Links

Thom Brooks reports that the ESF, who recently published a new ranking of philosophy journals, has no plans to produce "journal rankings in other areas, such as the social sciences". As Thom notes, this is odd, if the aim is to give weight to such rankings in decisions about funding for grant proposals.

Brian Frances has an interesting post on second-order logic and Godel's first incompleteness theorem.

Michael Cholbi is curious to know from readers how the American Philosophical Association's Committee on the Teaching of Philosophy can "help its members as teachers".

Ivana Simic has opened a discussion of The Cautious Man Problem over at The Florida Student Philosophy Blog.

Joe Salerno has a new human rights and atrocities page.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Women in Philosophy Wiki

Noelle McAfee has created a women in philosophy wiki. If you consider yourself a woman in philosophy, you can add yourself to the list. Students and job seekers are welcome.

(Via Feminist Philosophers)