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12/10/2021

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Hypocrite who might still publish in Aeon someday

My impression is that Aeon is one of the more desirable and popular places to publish public philosophy. However, I am often shocked by the low quality of the arguments in Aeon pieces. While they do publish lots of good pieces, they also seem to publish stuff that is provocative and makes for good clickbait but would never hold up under peer review. And I'm not talking about convenient oversimplifications for a general audience here - I'm talking straight-up bad arguments and misleading or false claims. So sometimes Aeon ends up functioning as a laundering service for getting lousy, harebrained philosophical ideas into the mainstream. In short, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth that I don't really get with some of the other venues mentioned in the OP. That's just my impression, but I would guess that other members of the profession share it as well...
And, to one of the other questions in the OP: public philosophy should definitely be listed as its own category on the cv, not lumped in with peer reviewed publications.

Sam Duncan

This is just my personal reaction so take it with several good shakes of salt... I don't see how it could hurt. In fact, I think that publishing somewhere like one of those magazines might well help at a teaching focused school like mine. I'd avoid any venue with an overt political affiliation or agenda though. Having an article in say Jacobin or Reason would hurt you with some folks. It would probably help with some others, but I think the risk/reward ratio here skews decidedly toward risk. Honestly, though I think you'd get the most bang for your buck if you could get something published in a more widely known public venue like the Atlantic or even Slate or Salon. Don't overestimate how plugged in to the webosphere most working philosophers are. I suspect half my full-time colleagues don't know what Aeon and Nautilus are. And remember that at most schools admin gets a say in hiring and they are even less up on philosophy specific public venus. I'd bet you my next paycheck at just about any odds you choose that my dean isn't aware of these magazines. I'm not at all sure how one goes about publishing in the Atlantic (I imagine the website only articles are a lot easier to get accepted than the ones in the magazine) or Salon or Slate but it might be a thing worth looking into. (If anyone reading knows I'd like to hear. Heck that might be a good thing for someone to do a post on). You might also consider op eds in places like the WaPo or NY Times if your work has an angle that's newsworthy.

Evan1

This is an issue of type vs. amount when it comes to public philosophy on CVs. So the lesson here is some public philosophy at politically neutral venues are okay or positive if one supplements them with majority of peer-reviewed researches.

But again, public philosophy and peer-review research aren’t the only things that matter since teaching competence is also a factor at many schools. It’s probably best to look at the CVs of the professors hired at your department to get an idea of what they’re looking for.

Evan1

Sorry, by “your” I mean departments you desire to work at or similar to your current one.

Helen De Cruz

As someone who has written a fair bit of public philosophy (including when I did not have a TT jo), here are some thoughts. One thing to keep in mind as an early-career person is that it's a whole skillset to write public philosophy that isn't easily gained from academic writing. You need to turn off the urge to address all sorts of objections (there's no space to do it), you need to write very clearly and jargon-free.

And all that sucks time away from publishing other stuff. That's not a reason not to do it! But it's not an "easy" road. You need to think carefully how you're going to incorporate public philosophy into your work as a developing philosopher.
I pitched a few times to big-name venues without success (except for once a personal rejection from Washington Post). I was once very lucky with a piece (co-signed and co-written with a bunch of people) on a refugee case in the UK for The Guardian.

For the rest I have stuff in Aeon, The Conversation, the APA blog, The Philosopher's Magazine, and my own blog, mostly. I've stopped pitching to big-name venues as I don't think they want my stuff and it's yet another hoop to jump through (your mileage may, of course, vary).

What I currently publish in is sufficient for a public philosophy profile. For my piece on awe in Aeon, I got so many emails! A conservationist at a national park, a retired chemistry teacher, a novelist, even a climate scientist colleague of my sister asked "Could this person by any chance be related to you" (we have the same unusual surname). This was very gratifying. I have a book contract with Princeton University Press (advance contract) in part thanks to this piece. So while some commenters might be right in saying a piece in the NYT or Salon is much more widely read than Aeon, Aeon is still significantly read and widespread, and the format is great (you get 3-5 k). I look forward what The Raven will look like when it comes out.

Moreover, I have no problem with the fact that a lot of my public philosophy is just read by other philosophers, such as on the APA blog. That's often exactly the audience I wish to reach (e.g., the blogpost on alternating virtual and in-person conferences).

G

I feel that at my R2 state school, people understand public philosophy more as "publicly engaged" philosophy. While it is good to publish articles in public philosophy magazines, people like seeing philosophers giving talks at public libraries/bookstores, writing for the local newspaper, organizing activities at the local K-12 schools, introducing philosophy at some interdisciplinary centers/institutes, etc.

This is just my own observation though.

Bill Harrison

As far as questionable public philosophy venues are concerned, I would add daily-philosophy.com. 1000-word Philosophy is good, with rigorous editors reviewing submissions and recommending revisions.

TT

There is better and worse public philosophy, as well as more or less prestigious places to publish it. But two quick points. First, I doubt the correlation between the two is that strong. Second, I want to push back against the idea that public philosophy should be become just another measure of prestige used to doll out credit. Yes, the market is terrible, and so I understand the need to look just about everywhere for an advantage. But one of the points of public philosophy--I think--is to do philosophy outside of the rat race that is academic philosophy.

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