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06/14/2012

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Argo

it sounds like what matters in publishing papers is that editors and reviewers like the paper, not the actual contents. perhaps I am still blinded by the former standards - work out every detail (sounds admirable, really!), but I can't see how this "less is more" approach can be superior in any way but perhaps only saving space. if it is to avoid some not really important nitpicking, then sad is the whole affair where such nitpicking is considered a prospect fine enough for pursuit.

Marcus Arvan

Argo: The approach is contrary to my nature (I want to get all the details down and done), but I'm beginning to appreciate the point of journal standards. People like you and I, we want to take big, bold steps. But wrong steps can be embarrassing. Journals and reviewers want each paper to take small (but important) steps. This can be frustrating, but I see the sense behind it. Academics and scientists are by nature conservative. Big bold, intricate steps are easier to take in books, after one has shown that the small initial steps are promising. Anyway, it is what it is. We might like the standards to be different -- but I, for one, am sick of running into brick walls. I want my paper to get out there. If I have to walk before I can run I will walk.

Robert Seddon

Of course, not every reader has abundant tolerance for papers that refine the ideas of earlier papers: e.g. http://crookedtimber.org/2005/10/04/journals-and-political-philosophy/#comment-106823 on Pettit. So perhaps one should walk but not saunter; but then again, the comment refers to published work...

Kyle Whyte

Once again this seems like a weird dimension of philosophy that isn't necessarily present in precisely the same way in other fields. I'm thinking of some sciences where there is a distinction among perspective articles, review articles, and full-blown research articles. Perhaps philosophy needs some distinction between the two sorts of articles that Marcus is talking about, especially given that it seems we probably value both kinds, and it's unfortunate the publishing world may just value the one.

Kyle Whyte

I would also add, and sorry to press the science connection, that Marcus' account seems to track the role of the introduction, literature review, and other initial sections of science type articles. Some of my work is really social science and I publish in social science journals. Having gone through the review and publication process quite a few times, at this point, I can see how what Marcus says is true. The introduction/literature sections of the articles I've worked on, or reviewed, are really supposed to persuade the reader to accept the entire set up and purpose of the paper, in the most general sense possible. A lot of work goes into doing this right, and reviewers see it as the main thing to target if they want to reject the paper. The discussion section at the end is where you describe the more controversial conclusions you may want to make, but leaving that for the very end makes it so that it's clear you're aware that your results do not necessarily justify these conclusions and that they are really supposed to be the subject for further work and hypotheses. So there's no illusion that you're presenting these as the entire purpose of the paper, even if, personally, that is true.

David Morrow

Although I'd never thought about it before (or really followed it), this advice makes sense to me. Reviewers and editors are often looking for reasons to reject a paper. The more details you give, the more chances the reviewer has to find such a reason.

There's a less cynical reason, too. When one philosopher reads another's work, he or she rarely thinks that it's *exactly* right. In order to fit the view/argument into their own perspectives, different people usually need to fill in the details differently. If a paper fills in the details as the author would, it may not fit as well with the reader's ideas, and it's more work for the reader to excise the expendable details than it is to fill in the blank spaces. So in some ways, a less detailed paper might be more philosophically helpful to the reader.

So, by all means, get all the details down. But delete them before you send the paper to the journal, because the details that work for you won't work for everyone else, even if the "big ideas" do.

Marcus Arvan

David: I think that's exactly right. I think your "less cynical reason" is more or less what Andy had in mind. I hope I didn't imply a more cynical reading. I certainly didn't mean to!

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