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Sam Duncan

My paper on Kant's theodicy, "Moral Evil Freedom, and the Goodness of God" was rejected by the Philosophical Review and the "Journal for the History of Philosophy" before the British Journal for the History of Philosophy accepted it. And let me tell you one set of comments on that paper from the JHP were nasty, childish, and personal, and they repeatedly said I should give up on the paper and "should not be encouraged." They actually turned out to be quite helpful in that in responding to the one actual substantive criticism the referee made I actually wrote another paper on Kant's claims about radical evil. That one landed in the Southern Journal of Philosophy right off the bat, but I've struggled more with all the rest. I submitted my paper "The Nature of the Emotions and the Ethics of Non-therapeutic Psychopharmacology" to six journals over the course of two years before Public Affairs Quarterly accepted it. My experience with that one at some points was particularly disheartening. At two journals I had one positive and one bad report, at another the editor rejected it despite one referee report recommending conditional acceptance and another recommending an r and r, and at one other I got an r and r that I think I responded to pretty well but still got a rejection. So I guess the message is keep plugging away. Also, another message I've got for everyone PAQ, BJHP, and SJP are very well run journals even if none of them have quite the wow factor of Ethics or Phil Review. I'd also add Ergo to that list. I just got a rejection from them, but with some helpful comments that gave me some new faith in a paper I was about to give up on.

Axel Gelfert

I talked to a fellow philosopher recently who has upwards of a dozen or so papers, approximately half of which are in top-10 journals. He claims that every single paper got rejected at least 6 times -- and yet many of them were subsequently accepted (with sometimes minimal revisions) by top journals. - I myself don't have the patience to deal with the same paper half a dozen times, so it's been a while since I submitted something to a top-10 journal. In a few cases, when I felt strongly about the merits of a paper of mine, I did give it a try, though. For example, my paper "Coverage-Reliability, Epistemic Dependence, and the Problem of Rumor-Based Belief" was rejected by PPR, Philosophical Quarterly, American Philosophical Quarterly (within under 2 hrs, because, according to the editor, the paper contained 'too many references'...), before finally getting accepted by Philosophia (after three rounds of revisions). In another instance, a paper I wrote on "Hume on Curiosity", following a call for papers for a special issue, was rejected by The European Legacy and Philosophical Quarterly, before finding a happy home at the British Journal for the History of Philosophy (where it was a runner-up for last year's Rogers Prize). So it looks to me that papers can move 'up', 'down', and 'sideways' -- which seems to be consistent with the hypothesis that, once a paper meets a certain standard, getting it published in a well-regarded journals is essentially a lottery.

Derek Bowman

If this is the common experience, what exactly is the point of peer review in philosophy? To ensure that only those with the time to submit over and over again are able to get published? Is this a good use of scholarly time and resources for author, reviewers, and editors?



First, I don't think submitting over and over again is very time consuming. Editing over and over again can be, but I take it that many people have the lottery experience w/ publishing when all they're doing is changing which journal they submit to.

Second, given the non-objective nature of good philosophy, it's hard for me to picture a world in which a paper's being publishable means it gets accepted on the first or second try. Given the varying conceptions of good philosophy, it's not surprising that a good paper may take a while to land.

Chike Jeffers

The first paper I ever submitted to a peer-reviewed journal was submitted to The Monist. It was rejected but there were no critical comments - the editor of that special issue explained the competition was simply tough. Then it got rejected by Philosophy & Social Criticism, again without critical comments but with reference to a backlog. Finally I got critical comments along with rejections from Social Theory & Practice and from The Philosophical Forum. The STP rejection came with a review that fixated on a single paragraph but I am glad, because I improved that paragraph before sending it out again. The PF rejection was, in my view, offensive (a misreading and belittling of my point in ways that suggested to me that the reviewer was a terrible fit for reading work about race and colonialism). Finally, at a point at which I had already gotten other papers accepted, this paper got into the Southern Journal of Philosophy.

Then there's my paper on political philosophy in an ancient Egyptian text that I sent to Political Theory, got a rejection, and then sent to the Journal of Political Philosophy and got the quickest rejection I've gotten so far (something like half a day). I then decided to look into journals doing history of philosophy but I wanted to know if it was worth my while to submit. I wrote to the Journal of the History of Philosophy and to Philosophy East and West, knowing that one specializes in Western thought, one in Eastern thought, both do some Islamic... and the word from the editors in both cases was not to bother submitting. I still have no idea whether it was a good idea to have asked. In any case, I sent it to the British Journal for the History of Philosophy and they not only sent it out for review but got Egyptologists involved in the review process, which was helpful. After a couple of rounds of revision, it was accepted and has since then appeared on these two lists of open access articles:

The last story I'll tell is of my most highly-ranked publication thus far. I sent it to Social Theory and Practice and it was rejected without even being sent out for review. I then sent it to Ethics, where it was accepted (and though there were lots of comments from reviewers and associate editors and I was encouraged to revise in response to those, this was not even a revise-and-resubmit!). So even though this last story is not about trying a number of places before finding a home, I think it's a good example of the wisdom of not being deterred from aiming high by previous rejection.

Olga Louchakova-Schwartz

I just found this blog, and it is amazing! I am a beginning author in philosophy, but before, extensively published in neuroscience and psychology (consciousness research). I thought I am well familiar with the publishing process: in both science and psych, one can reasonably pre-assess the level of one's paper and expect a relevant review. I did have one experience with very innovative paper being rejected due to conflict of interests for the reviewer, but except for this one glitch, everything was "by the rules". Now, publishing in philosophy feels like throwing dice - just a month ago I got a rejection from Philosophy East and West (where I published before) on a paper which was very benignly commented upon by several readers in private review. Well the journal had a change of editor...but never in my life (I published 200+ peer reviews papers and am an editor myself)I received such lunatic reviews! in fairness, one of them was quite OK; but the other two were so remotely related to the agenda of the paper that I thought they were written in sleepwalking. The problem was not history- they got most of the history part OK-but the absense of any familiarity with philosophy albeit archaic logic, or any capacity of analysis beyond simple comparison. Maybe the journal is transitioning...But thanks for all the posts, folks - I guess rejection qoes with the field.


Olga: thanks for telling your story. Sometimes scholars in our discipline really don't believe how abysmal, corrupt, and often arbitrary the philosophy publishing endeavor can be . (And yes, sometimes the process works well, too.) Whenever this comes up people defend bad reviewers by pointing out that they don't get paid or any employment credit for reviewing. Well, okay, but the same is true of other disciplines and on the whole they still manage to be mostly responsible, and far quicker, than in philosophy.

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