A reader writes:
I was wondering whether you would consider making a post about philosophical reading habits at the Cocoon. Over the course of my doing philosophy, but recently in particular, I've come across recommendations from philosophers to publish one's material in venues that people actually read. For example, a referee writes on a recent Cocoon thread, "Of course, there are good papers in lower tier journals, and poor papers in very selective journals. But on the whole selective journals publish better stuff, and it is more likely to get read. And, at the end of the day, you want your work read." But this recommendation presupposes that philosophers in general consume articles in a way that is so different from the way I consume articles that I thought it could be useful to have a thread about it. The statement seems to presuppose that philosophers in general only consume articles that are printed in a handful of select journals (the top general journals?), whereas I consume just about any article that seems relevant to my research or interests at the time regardless of venue. Do most philosophers really only read stuff delivered to their mail/inbox? That seems unscholarly, to put it mildly.
I'd like to thank the reader for bringing this up, as I think it is an important issue.
Personally, I've heard more than a few philosophers openly say that they read only a relatively small number of top-ranked journals, with the usual justification being time constraints (viz. "there is only so much one can read"). I've also seen more than a few philosophers only cite articles from highly-ranked journals and fail to cite relevant articles from lower-ranked journals (which seems to me to be based on a mistaken view of what citations are for: they should not be conceived as "honorific" of good work, but as citing recent work on the topic, giving credit where credit is due).
I'm inclined to think, as busy as we may be, that neither of the practices just mentioned are defensible. Yes, of course, most of are strapped for time. Still, it doesn't take a ton of time to at least skim new works in your areas of focus posted to philpapers and cite them if they are relevant, even if those works are in lower-ranked journals (I'm incredibly busy, but I read whatever comes up in my areas on philpapers all the time). Indeed, it seems to me that we owe at least that much to our colleagues. Even if top-ranked journals tend to publish better work than lower-ranked journals (which is something we can always debate), work should not be ignored simply because it appears in the latter. That, indeed, seems to me unscholarly.