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Douglas W. Portmore

My initial and tentative thought is that authors should ignore reviews that they take to be unfair, uncharitable, or otherwise incompetent. The thought would be not to dignify such reviews with responses. Thus, I think that an author should engage with a review only if (and, perhaps, only to the extent that) he or she thinks that its criticisms have merit and, so, are worth engaging with. Books should speak for themselves, but authors should feel free to engage with criticisms as their ideas evolve and/or change in light of them. So, it would be good for authors to clarify what was indeed unclear and to address objections that were not adequately addressed in the book. But I don't see much point in the author pointing out where a reviewer went wrong and failed to read the book with sufficient care or charity. Leave it to others to come to that conclusion on their own.

Elisa Freschi

Personally, I did answer to all the reviews I received, but for one (because it was published on a private google group and the author refused to republish it on a forum where I could have engaged with it). I think I, their authors, and the readers can learn a lot through a sincere effort to engage in a discussion and I am willing to try even when the reviewers are not particularly charitable.

On the blog I moderate (Indian Philosophy Blog) we also publish reviews and invite authors to respond to them. This (unusual) experiment has yield so far very interesting results (less nasty reviews and more insightful discussions), see for instance here.

Robert Gressis

There can be a lot at stake with reviews. If a review is published in a high profile outlet (like NDPR) and is a very poor review (let's say it includes demonstrably false claims), then this can bias people against buying the book, because many people will read the review to see what's in the book. And that, in turn, can harm the author, which you mentioned above, but it could even harm the philosophical community at large (because if the book is good and is more widely read, then it may correct certain widespread misconceptions).

Part of the problem, though, is that book reviews aren't generally seen as important contributions, so book reviewers don't have as much incentive to get things right. Add to this the fact that people don't generally respond to book reviews, and you have even more incentive to not do your due diligence.

On the other hand, we don't want a world where almost all book reviews are extremely kind for fear of offending the authors of the books. And worst of all would be a world where big-wigs can criticize less established authors with impunity, whereas less established authors can't criticize big-wigs for fear of negative consequences on their careers.

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