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Peter Finocchiaro

A rich post, Helen, and I think I agree with most of what you say. But I'm having a hard time grasping some parts of your argument. As I see it, a journal article has a telos and that telos isn't something like "be rich and a delight to read". So I still look at papers that say they have multiple theses as defective qua journal articles even if they are not defective qua intellectual stimulus. I take all of this to be compatible with your resistance to salami publishing, which I share.

So is the disagreement about the telos of a journal article? I don't quite understand why you want a *journal article* to play the role that you articulate here. How about instead de-emphasizing the journal article as the main form of philosophical output and instead promoting other forms of philosophy whose telos is more in line with providing a rich but less efficient presentation of philosophical ideas -- or, in the other direction, make more "bite-sized" pieces of philosophy that don't require as much labor as a typical journal article?


Re: Peter

I guess I don't see why we should have such a strong, restrictive view of what journal articles are for. And we DO have strong reasons, at least for the time being, to do what we can with the journal article, since sociologically speaking it plays such a crucial role in the profession. Better to experiment with how far the journal article can be pushed than to face the uphill climb of getting colleagues to respect your "other forms." What COULD "Modern Moral Philosophy" have been, for example, but a journal article? And articles like it in ambition (if not always so successfully realized, of course) were not so uncommon before.

I don't think anyone would say that the primary purpose of a journal article is to "be rich and a delight to read," but right now it's having those features seems to be a mark against it. The journal article should aspire to be a relatively rigorous contribution to human knowledge/wisdom, I think. Single-thesis focused articles can of course do that, but they aren't the only things that can.

Mark van Roojen

I'm generally sympathetic, in that I miss the kind of ambitious papers that many of us read when we were first doing philosophy, even while I understand why we don't get many of those any more.

You could blame referees, but I don't think that is the primary driver of the phenomenon. I have refereed a lot and also edited some, and not all that many papers of that sort have crossed my desk. I think it has more to do with the incentives now present in academic philosophy. There is every reason for especially untenured people (but also for those wanting to move) to run with their first publishable idea, even if it could be combined with another idea for a richer and better paper. We have adopted norms that require more papers for tenure and promotion. As a field we don't value a second paper presenting an idea from a slightly different but not wholly different angle as much as it seems to me we used to. You can get scooped if you wait. Journals have lowered the number off words they want in a paper so that there are fewer venues for longer work. And there is so much to read that time pressure makes one less likely to read a longer piece of work.

Unfortunately, I don't think that we as a profession have as much control over this as we should. Tenure standards at most places come from above and are enforced by college and university P&T committees with no experience of comparable research. The commercial aspect of journal publishing has more and more influence on how journals are run. The pressures of the job market are not getting better, and are largely a function of the economics and politics of higher education.

Still I think it is worth pointing out that we've lost something along the way, and for trying to foster whatever vestiges are left.


> One thing that struck me in re-reading it is how it would be hard to publish a paper with this scope today.

I know this will be an unpopular opinion, but I'd be okay with an unblinded journal that published articles only by figures so established they have nothing to gain. I think papers like this would get published if the authors were known. This is perhaps why the original Philosophy and Public Affairs articles, before the journal was blinded, are so very exceptional.

academic migrant

Just mentioning, Ergo has publications and a blog. I think it is a decent model.


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