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08/09/2023

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Dan Weiskopf

"Objectionable" usually means "distasteful, problematic, offensive," but here I am guessing the OP means "open to objections," which is more neutral. I'd choose a word that doesn't invite this confusion.

In any case, OP, I don't see why you shouldn't submit a response. My first publication was a long and highly critical review of a book by Jerry Fodor, followed up by a coauthored response to another of his papers. Both of those were when I was a graduate student. I doubt either of them had any negative effect on my career. It's no different from writing a paper that raises the same criticisms but isn't framed by the journal as a direct reply.

Daniel Weltman

I would say OP's concerns are not compelling. Feel free to publish the reply.

But do keep in mind that actually you can't publish a reply: the journal can. You can write a reply, and hope it gets published. If it doesn't, you'll have a paper you spent a lot of time on that you probably can't publish anywhere else. That might not be the best use of your time.

I am very pro-reply; I've had a bunch published and I hope to have a bunch more published. But I've written many more than have gotten published, and a lot of that effort was maybe not the best use of my time.

Reply

When I was in graduate school one of my peers published a reply piece to an article by a reasonably well established author, in the journal SHPS. This proved to be very good for my peer. He secured a job quite quickly. Over the course of his career he has not been a high volume publisher, but this early intervention led to one tenure track offer his first year out, and then another his second year out.
I can think of another quite well established philosopher who was told by a professor in graduate school that he should address one of his critics - this too paid off.

Bill Vanderburgh

The counter-argument to the point about potential wasted effort is that a reply is a lot less potential wasted effort than a full paper. This sounds like a good way to get a first publication, go for it.

Wrong question?

I wouldn't worry too much about annoying the relevant senior figure. Honestly, they're as likely as not to be happy to (a) see discussion of their work, and (b) potentially get a quick publication responding to your reply.

You touched on one larger worry (that if the original journal rejects your reply, the paper might not place anywhere).

Potentially a larger worry is that reply papers do not carry as much prestige as you might want them to, so this might not be the best path to getting a tenure-track job if it takes a lot of time to write.

That's not to say you shouldn't publish the paper, but I wouldn't treat the senior scholar's potential consideration as the decisive factor here.

Perhaps you could consider writing a larger, non-reply piece incorporating some of the same ideas?

Chris

My first publication, during my Master's, was a reply to a paper by a fairly senior figure. My supervisor and another faculty member in an unrelated area both encouraged me to write and publish it, and doing so had no bad consequences that I know of. (The other faculty member, a highly research-active full Professor, made a similar comment to Bill's above: that it was a good way to get a first publication, or something along those lines.)

academic migrant

It's really worth thinking about developing the reply into a standalone paper. Response pieces risk having limited venue. Think about justifying the paper's existence independently. Does it make a good contribution to your field? If it does, then it may be worth a bit more of your time.

Emma

I've never met a philosopher who would be annoyed at anyone writing a thoughtful response to their work. Go for it - it will probably also be a fairly quick way to get a publication.

UK Postdoc

I haven't yet seen anyone suggest to discuss the reply with the author of the original paper. I believe that most philosophers, even senior ones, don't mind a friendly email with a couple of questions about someone's paper. This serves two purposes: (1) it allows one to ensure that the reply does not misunderstand the original paper, and that any 'obvious' responses to the reply are covered; (2) it will make the original author feel like they've had a fair chance to have a fair hearing.

Of course, there are also reasons against this practice, especially against sharing the entire reply. For one, it means that the original paper's author cannot blindly peer-review the reply. But as far as I am concerned, a 'pre-discussion' is both a diplomatic course of action and will likely lead to a better reply paper.

brushed off

UK Postdoc
There is a risk of contacting a person who has author a piece you plan to publish a critical reply to. First, if they are a senior figure, they may perceive your reaching out as some sort of grasping for free help, when they are over burdened with supporting their own grad students, etc. I was really brushed off by someone from Rutgers, despite the fact that one of his peers told me he had said something good about me and my work. And I was also just competed brushed off in the hallway of an APA when I tried to talk to another giant, who is now at Columbia. I'd say, just try and publish the piece.

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