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Shane J. Ralston


I like your ideas, especially the book symposium journal idea. It sort of reminds me of Philosophy in Review, but more interactive. If you're serious about it, I'd be game for helping. Contact me.

I would be in favor of pushing journal editors to give scholars a right of reply, meaning that if someone who writes an article containing an interpretation of your theory or argument seriously distorts it (straw person?), you have a right to respond to them in print (or maybe in a special online forum the journal has created for that purpose).

I have only once insisted that I had such a right. Bob Talisse had written a paper that appeared in Metaphilosophy. I thought his account seriously mangled my original argument. I wrote to the editors of Metaphilosophy and told them why I thought I should be allowed to respond. They were nice enough to acknowledge my request. Their message went basically like this: you can write a response but we won't guarantee that it will be published. Maybe they were just saying that what I would write would be subjected to peer review. But what it seemed like they were saying is, you're not good enough to publish in the pages of our journal, so if you think you're going to sneak something in its pages as a response, then you're dreadfully wrong.

I never wrote the response. Why waste my time if what I write will probably be rejected because I'm not among the pedigree of scholar they'd expect to publish in their journal? The elitism of academic philosophy strikes again!


You certainly do not have a right to have whatever you write published in a journal, even as a response piece. But, given the account you gave, it seems the journal was open to reviewing a response piece by you. So this is not elitism. That is a very serious charge and it should be made cautiously, and with adequate evidence supporting the claim.

Trevor Hedberg

Based on some recent email exchanges I have had with other members of the profession, there are already plans for a journal focused on book discussion. A journal known as Syndicate Philosophy is slated to launch before the end of 2016 and will serve as the philosophical parallel to the religious studies journal Syndicate Theology. From Syndicate Theology's website:

"Syndicate uses recent publications in theological studies as a point of departure for addressing and engaging open questions in contemporary theology and ethics. It is not a book review journal. It is not a standard peer-review journal. It is not a 'theology and culture' journal that seeks to make theology relevant to broad audiences. It is an online forum for scholars to comment on each other’s work and explore big ideas outside of the highly scripted spaces of contemporary academics."

Assuming Syndicate Philosophy adopts a similar structure, the entire journal will revolve around book symposiums. Hopefully, its upcoming launch will help fill this gap in the profession.

Marcus Arvan

Hi Shane: I'm glad to hear that you like some of the ideas! As I recently wrote on this blog, I would *love* to start a journal someday. I just don't think I have the time and resources to do it at the present time. Hopefully in a few years that will change. Perhaps I will shoot you an email if/when that time comes, to see if you are still interested. :)

In terms of a "right to respond", I think it's an interesting idea--but I worry that giving authors such a right (without approval through peer-review) might be counterproductive. Why shouldn't an author's response have to pass peer-review, convincing reviewers and journal editors that the response in, in fact, a good one? I take it that your concern is that, when it comes to low-prestige authors, reviewers and editors might have biases *against* publishing such reviews. Still, I'm not sure that the "cure" you are suggesting would be an improvement. How about something weaker: namely, an editorial commitment--by reviewers and editors--to give author replies to critique a fair hearing regardless of whether an author is high prestige or low prestige?

Also, like 'anti-elitest', I'm not sure from the account you gave that there was elistism at work here. I don't think it would have occurred to me, if I were in that position, that there might be something untoward about the editors' response--as I think I would just assume that of course all submissions have to be peer-reviewed. Was there any particular reason (beyond them saying it would be peer-reviewed) why you thought your reply wouldn't have been taken seriously (by reviewers and the editors) had you submitted it? I'm not trying to be hostile. I'm just curious why you thought that it seemed like they wouldn't give your piece a fair hearing!

Justin Caouette

Hi Marcus,

I think all of these suggestions are very good!

I have a piece where I respond to an argument in Phil Review but am having a hard time finding a home for it because Phil Review does not do review pieces. I find this practice odd, especially at top journals. If the journal sees themselves as providing an avenue to share top notch research wouldn't they also want to provide space to engage with that scholarship? If it's important, then why not allow for responses?

Hear is another proposal: have a quarterly response issue where the journal produces ONLY responses to previous work done *in that journal*. If all journals (or most) did this then this would promote a practice that lends itself to close engagement at *that journal* by those who have published there as well as spike citations to work already sitting stagnant. It's similar to your (C) proposal but for journal articles instead of books.

In any event, something should change. It's a mess.

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