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I felt the sort of anxiety the letter writer notes with my first publications, but it's gone away.

I agree with a lot of what Marcus said, but I'll also note: with me anyways, not a lot of people are reading my papers, and when they read them, they often don't read them very closely. So the small mistakes or places to jump on that I was (irrationally) worried that people would jump on right after I published my papers - none of that has really happened.

But more importantly, I also just don't think that the work I got out there is bad, and that we should believe that making it through peer review is a sufficient condition for "good enough", whatever that is exactly.

a philosopher

I also agree with Marcus, but I'll add a point. You should think of publication as adding to a conversation, not the final word. So long as you're adding to the conversation in positive ways, mistakes are just part of the ride. The aim isn't to set in stone the definitive account. And if you look at all the great works in philosophy, this is what they do. They say interesting things, but they also make mistakes. More importantly, they move the conversation forward. Let other people catch your mistakes and move the conversation forward more.

A second quick thought: my impression is that we have rather high and strict standards in philosophy, compared to other fields. For example, people in other fields happily (and often) post conference drafts, slides, preprints, etc --- and often in very rough form. They do the sorts of things I've seen many philosophers recommend their graduate students not do: publicly post (e.g., on their website or on a repository) stuff that's only half-baked. I think this is good, and that we philosophers should do more of it. Two reasons: 1., it gets the conversation moving faster, and that was the point all along; 2., it already happens, albeit a more hesitantly and impermanently, via conferences and colloquial. If you're comfortable giving a talk at the APA, I really don't see why you wouldn't want to disseminate that same material more broadly.

And to do some axe-grinding ... these weird standards and hangups we have in philosophy about sharing work also seem tied to our stupid standards for refereeing. Given how people advise against making public (e.g., on a website) all but your best work, it's no surprise that they referee papers based on a standard of "being convinced" or "no mistakes".


My eighth publication just appeared in print. I feel the same post-publication anxiety, just as keenly as the first time. But, notably, I don't feel it nearly as strongly when I go back and read something I published a few years ago. I am simultaneously ashamed of the philosopher I currently am and surprisingly impressed by the philosopher I used to be.

"How do you deal with it?"

I mainly deal with it by promptly moving on to the next project. (This is easier as a professor/parent than it was as a relatively less busy grad student.) I can't bear looking at the paper I just published. So I don't.

"What do you tell yourself?"

I tell myself that (1) I have to publish to keep up this obscenely pleasant professorial lifestyle and (as Marcus remarks) that fact has little to do with the quality of what I publish, and (2) ultimately my published work is an offering to those who can benefit from it while pursuing their own philosophical journeys, not a particularly good reflection of how well my own philosophical journey is going. (NB that you can buy (2) whether or not you buy (or fulfill) "a philosopher"'s 'adding to the conversation' standard.) And, because of my experience rereading my first couple of publications, I've recently been more able to keep a straight face while telling myself that, inductively, (3) the new publication is probably actually pretty good and I'm just not currently in a position to appreciate that fact. With that said, (1+2) definitely still helps me sleep at night more than (3).


I don't worry about this, because *every one* writes bad work sometimes. Moreover, it just has not been my experience that someone will, (1)read a paper, (2) think the paper is bad, and (3)therefore be convinced that the author is a horrible philosopher who shouldn't be in the profession. The first two happen a lot. I just have never seen it devolve into the third. Sure, the profession has a lot of people, all sorts of people, so I guess this has probably happened at some point. But really, I think it's exceptionally rare. In general, both people inside and outside of academia pay far less attention to you than you realize. Most people are mostly focused on their own life, their own career, those close to them, and how *they* appear to others. They just don't have time to get all huffy about some random junior philosopher who publishes a "bad" paper (not saying your paper is bad, of course, but just that it wouldn't matter if it was.)

Erec Smith

I just published a book in which I pull no punches about critiquing the current scholarship of anti-racism in rhetorical studies. (No, it isn't philosophy, but I think your opinions would still be relevant.) I know for a fact that people had already decided to hate the book before it was published. I also think this book will be scrutinized more than any other publication out there because I prefaced it with some rather frank public criticism of anti-racist initiatives in the field. So, even if the book is "good" (a well-reasoned, well-researched critique meant to start a dialogue on activist methodology) it will be treated by many as the worst thing they've ever read. (I had people contact my institution trying to get me fired in mere anticipation of the book.) How does one deal with that? Cancel culture is real. (By the way, I am a person of color, so my critique of some anti-racist methodologies are especially hurtful to many people.)


Erec- you can hope you that have a supportive department. But otherwise, outside of official organized conferences, interviews, etc. - I would not engage with anyone who doesn't seem open to argument. Besides that, all you can do is, write, speak, and behave in a way that is kind, professional, and polite - always, no matter how angry people get at you. That is all you can do. There are no guarantees. Many of the people who are hostile toward your work sincerely believe they are in the right.


I have a lot of faith in the refereeing system. Of course it is not perfect. But the fact that two experts who I do not know think that a paper of mine is worth publishing leaves me feeling quite secure in my paper. Of course, the published paper may have flaws. But I do not doubt that it has merit as well. So I do not have the experience that the person discussed has. Perhaps I have a slight immunity, because I study refereeing and publication practices.

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