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Richard Y Chappell

"Being unsure, reviewers tend to err on the side of caution and rather reject something that could be interesting than accept something that doesn't work."

I wonder why this is viewed as the "cautious" option? Little harm is done by accepting a paper that turns out to be a flop: folks will presumably just ignore it. By contrast, the profession is significantly impoverished if a really interesting, novel paper is denied the light of day. So I'm inclined to think that false negatives are a much greater problem than false positives.

Assc prof

By the end, I don't understand why you think the paper is a hard sell. At various points, the following reasons are hinted at:

1. it's long
2. the argument might not work
3. it's not an entry into a pre-existing debate
4. your identity isn't known to the editors/reviewers

1 is a good reason for its being a hard sell: publishing takes up space and the bar should be higher for longer pieces. 2 is also a good reason. 3 is less clear, but there are more and more journals willing to take on papers that are not entries into existing debates (Ergo, JAPA, Imprint, etc.). I'm not sure I understand 4. I agree that much important philosophy has been personal--I entered philosophy by way of Kierkegaard--but I'm not sure this requires that the reviewers know the identity of the author. Almost anything personal that is essential to the content of the paper seems capable of being understood without knowing the identity of the author.

Helen De Cruz

Assc prof: I don't think triple blind is a problem per se. I prefer to handle papers in this way. When I was executive editor for a journal with double blind peer review, I kept on second-guessing myself--we had a lot of papers by grad students, and I didn't want to be biased against them. So I would send out their papers also if I didn't think were very promising, in part because I thought it's important to give them at least an opportunity, or learn from the review process. But then they got review reports that were very negative, so I think a desk rejection was probably better to signal the paper isn't in good shape yet. (Obviously, there were very many good papers by grad students too, and we could successfully usher many through the peer review process). At least with triple blind I don't need to second-guess my own biases, which is in part why I don't even try to guess at the author's identity.
What I was hinting at is that the process of triple-anonymous treats papers as these isolable units of pure philosophical truth, and that's just not a right way to conceive of philosophy. When we know the author's identity, we can better see how a paper at least thematically fits in their overall work (when I read a paper in a journal by an author I know, that's how I read the paper, a very different process from the peer review).


I think, Richard, that people generally worry a lot about rigor and the possibility of publishing a paper that does not meet our standards of rigor. Since philosophy is so diverse in its methods (arguably more diverse than any other discipline) we rely on multiple cues to judge whether a work is worth publishing, and I think that one of these things maybe (elusively) whether it's rigorous. It's harder to judge if a paper isn't firmly embedded in an ongoing debate. I remember Jason Stanley talking long ago about how he published papers in a book that had a hard time getting accepted into journals, I think maybe collected in Knowledge and practical interests.
So maybe our methodological diversity is one other reason why we don't want to take chances, thereby risking on missing our on great papers (I'm sad to say the paper I talk above in the main post is not that--it's just a fun quirky idea that's not going to shape the field in any way, if it sees the light of day. But sometimes fun and quirky also is worth publishing, we'll see!)


I have had a paper desk rejected numerous times over the last year that I would classify as a hard sell, and I knew this from the beginning. Yet when I send it on to acquaintances, or have presented related ideas at conferences, everyone seems to love it. I am fairly certain mine is a case of editors not knowing who to select for referees, or perhaps they think the idea is too “literary” for a philosophical journal—I motivate via an example from literature. I wrote this paper in part after reading Korsgaard’s lament at the state of philosophical writing in some recent address she gave (I forget where). I thought, ok, let’s see editors put their money where their mouth is with all this talk of wanting fresh papers; papers that don’t seem to care about making a small move; papers that are more essayistic than formulaic. So far, I got nothing. Seems I’ll eventually revise this and just craft it more in line with the analytic journal aesthetic. But yeah, feels to me like a lot of this talk for wanting new writing is just public apologetics.

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