Philosophical Perspectives

It might be behind paywalls for many of you, but the latest Philosophical Perspectives is out. The number of papers by friends (and writers) of TAR is impressively large. I worry a bit that the paper Andy and I wrote for it looks a little slight in such august company. We’re the Page 2 to their, perhaps. (Of course in the off season I only read page 2, so take the analogy how you like.) But it’s impressive company to be in. And I think the paper we wrote is basically correct, even if it isn’t quite as deep as some of the other contributors.

106 Replies to “Philosophical Perspectives”

  1. Because several people now have asked me about this privately, I think I’ll point out what’s probably obvious to many people by now who have looked at the new issue of Philosophical Perspectives. The new issue (I’ve now read it cover to cover) contains some good papers. It also seems to signal a rather dramatic shift from past Philosophical Perspecitives issues.

    The lineup is, to try to put this delicately, “noticeably different” from what one would expect from a journal that “aims to publish original essays by foremost thinkers in their fields”. To exaggerate only slightly, this issue seems more dedicated to work by young East Coast philosophers who may or may not specialize in ethics.

    I’m not saying that Philosophical Perspectives shouldn’t include work by people not quite so established in the discipline: it should. Presumably it makes good sense to have a mix of contributors by career stage. Some of the younger contributors to this issue have already established themselves (in their other writings in ethics) as some of the best young people working in the field. To name a couple names though not to attempt a full list: Elizabeth Harman and Kieran Setiya.

    It also seems entirely fine to have a paper or two by good philosophers working “out of field” in ethics (though one danger here is that the contribution simply re-invents a wheel already invented in the ethics literature that the author, not working in ethics, doesn’t follow).

    But one might have expected that there’d be at least one paper in the issue from distinguished senior faculty at the leading ethics departments (eg, Michigan, Chapel Hill, Harvard) and that good mid-career people would be invited to contribute before even top notch graduate students.

    And one also would have thought that, though some great young and/or “non-ethics” people would be sprinkled into the issue, the issue would be centered around the work of leading senior people. There are fine and expected contributions by people I at least think of (am I wrong) as among the best “younger senior” people — Chang, Dreier, Norcross, Wedgwood. But the issue is overall quite thin on established senior scholars and this is an unfortunate break from Phil Perspectives’ past.

    Here’s a take home question: how many of the contributors to this issue have published important books in ethics or at least important articles in ethics in leading refereed journals. Hint at an answer: more than one might guess unless one keeps up with these things. (As I said, many of the younger contributors are quickly making names for themselves). But not as many as one would expect from a journal allegedly publishing the best work in the field. Take home assignment #2: make a list of natural and likely contributors conspicuously absent from this issue.

    Perhaps invitations to leading senior figures to contribute to this issue were declined at a rate much higher than in the past. If so, that’s unfortunate, because Phil Perspectives has been a top publication venue for some time now. It would be sad if it loses that status.

  2. In a review published in Ethics (Jan 1995) concerning Philosophical Perspectives, vol. 6: Ethics (1992), I wrote: “I was easily able to think of more than a dozen extremely influential moral philosophers who did not contribute to this volume. None of the contributors to the volume teaches outside the United States…. The editor of the volume is not a moral philosopher, so a list of potential authors was presumably formulated in consultation with members of the editorial advisory board of the series, three of whom are moral philosophers. Two of those three contributed papers to the collection, as did four of their colleagues from their home department. In my mind this raises the question of why all the papers (indeed, any of the papers) are solicited. What is the advantage of this over publicly soliciting papers for blind review? … The only explanation would seem to be that this method saves the editor and his advisory board a good deal of work. … I hope it does not seem improper to raise these questions in a journal devoted to ethics.”

  3. As I wrote to Fritz earlier this morning, it seemed to me PP always had some element of cronyism to it — as do most such by-invitation endeavors. But Fritz still seems right that things seem now to have changed, and rather dramatically.

  4. I have to admit that I got a queasy feeling when I read the “perspectives” table of contents. I feel like cronyism is something that philosophers must be aware of, especially since we dont have the kind of objective standards that the sciences have. I feel that the young philosopher who is out of the loop might have been harmed by the unfair advantage given to others.

  5. Prof. Klagge — actually, I vaguely remember your review of the previous Ethics issue of Phil Perspectives. And I agree that there was at least some kind of possible problem back then. The current problem looks much worse to me (and to a good many people who have privately emailed about it but prefer not to say anything in public). I think one can easily do responsible invitation only publications. I think most issues of Philosophical Perspectives over the years have been great and have included reasonable and in some ways balanced lists of contributors. The other Nous-affiliated publication “Phil Issues” seems quite good too. This current issue of Phil Perspectives seems especially problematic in the ways I suggested (and in some ways that I did not comment upon but others have).

  6. If one is trying to mold a collection in a certain way, or to cover certain specific issues, (some?) invitations can be useful. But when the only (announced) purpose is “to publish original essays by foremost thinkers” in the field, I don’t see the justification.

  7. Fritz made many points in the original post, and I’m not sure which in particular different people are agreeing with. So let me just note one point that I (partially) agree with and one point that I don’t.

    I agree there could have been more papers by senior people in the volume. Though Gardner and Raz are pretty big names. But adding a Peter Railton (or insert your favourite established ethicist here if for some odd reason you don’t like Railton) would have made it better. Agreed.

    But I don’t think the number of young people in the volume is a bad sign. (I’m ignoring the issue of my co-paper here just to avoid self-interested worries. Though maybe that’s just what everyone is complaining about.) Most of those papers were the standout chapters of the best ethics dissertations that have come out in recent years. Dissertations that have led to jobs at top (in some cases very top) research institutions. I think it’s perfectly fine for PP to publish those kinds of papers for two reasons.

    First, it’s a lot harder to get good job offers on the basis of a dissertation than it is to get a paper from the dissertation published. So there’s no quality reason to not publish these papers. Or more precisely, since this is the salient comparison, there’s no quality reason not to publish these pieces rather than whatever is in the top drawer of people who have published in good journals in the past.

    Second, many top journals establish and keep their reputation by publishing just these kinds of papers – the best chapters of top dissertations. Phil Review is the most obvious example. It’s not dropping PP’s standards to do what Phil Review does.

    But maybe those weren’t meant to be the main complaint. The thread strangely moved from an initial complaint that we should have had more papers by the great and the good, to a concern that it was too insiderish. These concerns seem to pull in completely opposite directions to me. There’s hardly a more exclusive club in the world than the club of established leading philosophers. Adding half a dozen Michigan, Harvard and Chapel Hill full professors to the contributors list wouldn’t exactly make it look like a more inclusive publication. (Making it blind refereed might do that, but it’s not a blind refereed journal. It’s more like a book, and books are rarely blind refereed by their editor.)

    One last point on the direct cronyism charge. PP is published out of Rutgers. Rutgers representation in the volume, either in the form of current Rutgers faculty, current students, or alums, consists of a paper by Ruth Chang (who has been explicitly mentioned as one of the people who should be in this kind of volume) and Ryan Wasserman. Most of the other people who are the (presumed) subjects of complaints are graduates of and/or faculty of Rutgers’ primary rivals. From a distance some of these big departments might collectively look like the Borg, but that’s not how they look up close, or even from 300 miles away. From where I set these departments look more like, well, competitors. If the Rutgers people really wanted to use PP for advancing their pet professional interests, promoting the competition is a very odd way to go about it.

  8. “it’s not a blind refereed journal. It’s more like a book”—No respectable publisher would publish a book collection of papers that had so little unity of purpose. It is much more like (4 issues of) a specialty journal, without blind refereeing.

  9. No respectable publisher would publish a book collection of papers that had so little unity of purpose.

    Maybe no respectable publisher would, but plenty of actual publishers publish plenty of conference proceedings (or things that are more or less conference proceedigs) that have a rather disjunctive theme. Does it follow that no actual publishers are respectable? I hope not!

  10. Like Keith I agree with the general drift of Fritz’s remarks; however, I have two small reservations.

    “But one might have expected that there’d be at least one paper in the issue from distinguished senior faculty at the leading ethics departments (eg, Michigan, Chapel Hill, Harvard)”

    Joseph Raz is not a distinguished senior faculty member at a leading ethics department? Go figure.

    “It also seems entirely fine to have a paper or two by good philosophers working “out of field” in ethics (though one danger here is that the contribution simply re-invents a wheel already invented in the ethics literature that the author, not working in ethics, doesn’t follow).”

    I found the operative assumption here—that if you are not an “expert” in the field then you do not follow the literature—somewhat chilling. There are plenty of people who actively follow the literature in some area even though they do not publish in it. It is all too easy to exaggerate the authority of “expertise” especially if you fail to recognize that attributions of expertise is largely determined by sociological facts about the profession rather than by the knowledge and experience of the individual.

  11. I certainly didn’t assume that no one who isn’t an expert in the field doesn’t follow the relevant literature. I am no expert in ethics and yet I follow the literature very closely.

    What I was noting was that some of the contributions by people who at least aren’t known for their work in ethics (this might have been their first ethics publication) seem to indicate that they don’t follow the literature — I judge this from bibliographies that fail to connect with standard discussions of the issues under discussions in the paper. In some cases the authors write as if they’re making new points when anyone who follows the ethics literature (expert or not) will know the points are not new.

    But of course Mark is right about Raz (“exception that proves the rule” comes to mind….).

    As for Brian’s points about younger people — well, I agreed that publishing some papers by top notch young people, especially those who work in ethics is quite fitting for an ethics issue of Phil Perspectives. I named a few names and did not attempt an exhaustive list. But I do find it odd that none of the good young ethics people who have taken jobs out West, for instance, managed to get included.

    Also – I didn’t say much of anything about the appearance of cronyism, although the Syracuse and other personal ties are pretty obvious to anyone who knows anything. Last I checked I am a friend of the a fair number of the involved parties. I haven’t heard the suggestion that it was a “Rutgers” thing from anyone. So I don’t see any reason to respond to that. Worries about “friends and family” favoritism needn’t be departmentally based.

  12. But I do find it odd that none of the good young ethics people who have taken jobs out West, for instance, managed to get included.

    That’s not true, I think. Hieronymi is at UCLA and Hussein is at Stanford, and I’d count both of them as young people. Maybe we are talking about different groups of young people here, or different degrees of youth.

  13. I mean one’s who have established themselves with peer-reviewed publications in leading journals already (in the way, eg, Setiya and Harman have).

  14. I’m assuming that the quotation Fritz gives is accurate, and that PP “aims to publish original essays by foremost thinkers in their fields”. Though I agree with some of what Prof. Klagge has written here, I disagree with his statement that inviting papers is a bad way of achieving that aim —

    But when the only (announced) purpose is “to publish original essays by foremost thinkers” in the field, I don’t see the justification.

    If that’s your goal, what could be better than inviting papers from the foremost thinkers in the field? (It may or may not be a good way of getting the best papers possible on the topic, but it sure seems a good way to get papers from the foremost thinkers in the field.) And in the past, Perspectives usually did a decent job of getting papers from at least many of the leading thinkers in the field in question. (I have 3 old PP volumes on my shelf, 2 on epistemology & 1 on Phil. Religion, and they seem to do pretty well on that score.) There were always several leaders missing, but I don’t know whether that’s b/c they weren’t asked, or if they refused.

    This new volume seems to do much worse in terms of that stated aim. In response to Brian, the complaint isn’t that this is part of some Rutgers conspiracy to gain some advantage on its competition. But it does seem the list of contributors is not a very likely outcome of an attempt to achieve the stated goal. But I should note that I have no information about who was invited but declined.

    If the line-up we have before us isn’t the result of an effort to achieve the stated aim (& maybe that stated aim just needs to be revised), what does explain how it came about? Well, it is dangerous to speculate, & it was perhaps irresponsible for me to insert the term “cronyism” into the debate. But Brian himself in his original post remarked about how many of his friends were in the issue, and believe me, he was not the only one to notice. There have been a lot of rumblings about the philosophico-social circles people move at least seeming to have a lot to do with the selections. But again, we should remember that that may be affecting not so much who was asked, but who accepted.

  15. I mean one’s who have established themselves with peer-reviewed publications in leading journals already.

    Now I’m not sure who even satisfies the description you have in mind. I.e. young (untenured?) person out west with an established ethics publication profile. Rachana Kamtekar does, though most of her work in progress is on ancient rather than ethics, so she’s hardly an obviously contributor. But there’s hardly a massive pool of people out west being dissed. (The Midwest could well be a different matter, I’ll agree.)

    This does feel like we’ve quickly gone from complaining about who the GM chose to be the #1 starter to complaining about who he chose to be the 25th man on the roster. Putting me in a volume like this is a bit like having Deion Sanders as your fourth outfielder, I guess. (I was going to say Michael Jordan, but for that analogy to work MJ would have to be worse at basketball and better at baseball.)

  16. My central observation/complaint remains the same: I’m not the one shifting the discussion to the 25th person on the roster. My point was and is:

    1. of course it’s great to have a few contributions from talented young people and those who don’t work centrally in ethics.


    2. In the past the issues have been built around contributions from leading senior people in the field and strong mid-senior people. This issue radically departs from that approach (and in some ways that don’t look so healthy).

    3. I don’t think this is a good development.

  17. OK, I agreed at the top it should have had another ace or two, so that’s a big picture issue. I misspoke and it was right to correct me. I was running my views together with the views of the PP management. My bad.

    What prompted it was that the last back-and-forth was over whether we should be publishing the second or first ethics paper by young west coast ethicists, and that looks like a 25th man dispute to me. But it’s not the only thing one might disagree with PP about.

  18. In fact, few actual publishers publish proceedings of philosophy conferences any more (without a subvention), and unifying theme is one of the primary desiderata.

  19. a few basic facts:

    (a) three very senior ethicists pulled out at the last minute because their papers were not going to be ready for months

    (b) many senior ethicists at Michigan and Harvard were asked to contribute and said they were too busy (6 in total I recall), as well as senior ethicists at Notre Dame, Stanford, Yale and other places.

    (c) I happen to think that it is a good thing to get really good young philosophers more involved in phil perspectives, and especially to take advantage of the growing significant female philosophical talent in the field.

    (d) it is true that a few of the papers by young philosophers were included because i was personally impressed by them. i stand by those judgments.

    (e) now that the transition phase is over, i plan to rely a good deal on the newly formed editorial board, who have explicit instructions to find and recommend good papers, so as to reduce the burden and biases that that would inevitably accrue to my having all of the responsibility in that connection.

  20. Thanks for sharing that information and those insights John.

    As I indicated in my initial comments, the issue and lineup was a striking departure from Phil Perspectives past issues (and no one has disagreed with that). Lots of “declines” from major figures of course at least partly explains the relative absence of such people.

    And everyone agrees that good young talent (and mid-career talent, and senior talent) should be represented in this top journal. No disagreement from anyone on this point.

    I refrained from speculating about what else might have been involved in particular selections because I had no idea. I continue to refrain from such speculation (others have speculated about various things and I’m in no position to judge so I won’t).

    Reasonable minds can differ (and apparently do) about some of the papers but that’s philosophy I suppose. Looks like some re-invent what were central debates in the 1980s and 1990s without seriously engaging what (I think) most would think is mandatory literature, but perhaps I’m wrong about this.

    One thing I have no doubt about: Phil Perspectives has an editor with a proven record of success. In working with your board as you indicate, I would think that a successful future is assured (but, I know, who cares what Fritz thinks anyway…)

    Here’s to Phil Perspectives, past and future – cheers.

  21. Though I work in ethics I’m not likely to look at this volume, because like James Klagge I don’t see the point. (And by the way, I loved his 1995 review of the earlier Philosophical Perspectives.) The question isn’t whether this volume is achieving its stated purpose, but whether that purpose is worth pursuing at all. There’s some justification for an invited volume on a specific theme, especially one that’s newly emerging, though even there it’s arguable that it would be better if the papers appeared in refereed journals. But what’s the justification for an invited volume with as amorphous a theme as “ethics”? Of course, an issue of a journal can range just as broadly, but it will have been refereed, which means blind review will have been applied to each paper directly and, if the journal is doing its job properly, the editorial process will have been demonstrably fair. But neither of those is the case with an invited volume, which inevitably brings with it the danger of cronyism.

    By cronyism I don’t mean that editors are intentionally doing something devious; I’m sure they sincerely think the people they’re inviting to contribute are first-rate. But who they think is first-rate is limited by who they know about, and who they know about is often pretty limited. And even when they do know a little about many people, they know much more about people in their coterie, and hence are better able to judge their first-rateness. The result is often something like the skewed contributor list of this volume, as described in the above posts.

    Set aside the issue of old folks and consider just the young philosophers. How likely is it that an objective selection of the best young ethicists would have the geographical distribution described for this volume? Pretty close to zero. If you went to a publisher and said you wanted to publish a volume on Well-Connected East Coast Moral Philosophers, you’d be laughed out of the building. And in fact the distortion is especially troubling at this junior level.

    Philosophers at this level are trying to get first jobs, tenure, and, if they do well, the chance to move up to a better second job. Some, especially those at less prestigious departments, are doing it the hard way: busting their hump submitting papers to refereed journals and waiting 6-12-18 months to get a response. And then some others with the right connections get nice invitations to contribute to volumes like this. (Of course those others are also submitting to journals, but they get the extra of the nice invitations, with the extra boost to their careers.) The blind review part of philosophy, when it’s not also infected, as it sometimes is, by cronyism, is democratic and egalitarian — the values moral and political philosophers say they accept. But a significant other part of the discipline operates in an essentially aristocratic way. Volumes like this one contribute to a system in which the rich — in pedigree and connections — get richer and the poor struggle on. They’re the Bush tax cuts of the philosophical world.

    (Yes, I’ve contributed to invited volumes, though I think always on specific themes. And I try to keep a significant portion of my writing for blind-review journals.)

  22. I was trying to do a count of how east-coast-y it was, and I ran up against some problems we’ve discussed on TAR many atime before, namely where the coasts are located. But just for fun, here’s the geographic breakdown, by current location.

    East Coast (inc. upstate NY) – 9
    (NYC area – 4, Boston area – 2, Upstate NY – 2, DC area – 1)
    England – 3
    South – 2
    West – 2
    Midwest – 1
    Australia – 1
    Pittsburgh – 1

    If you count Pitt as part of the East Coast that number obviously goes to 10, which less obviously makes it a majority. If you don’t count upstate, and frankly it doesn’t feel like you’re part of the great East Coast elite up here, it goes to 7. From what John said, it sounds like if you look at the original invite list the numbers are even more balanced. (And presumably no one thinks there should have been quotas – when one Michigan person declines another Michigan person is automatically invited.) Any way, I don’t think describing it as an East Coast collection is particularly accurate, when at most a bare majority of contributors are there.

  23. i think Tom’s worries are well worth thinking about

    as i’ve said above, i am hoping to do something to offset them by making heavy use of the new editorial board. i am also inclined to institute some kind of submission and review option, at least for a portion of the volume, though Blackwell has to approve any changes to the structure of the thing. same goes for the idea of more narrowly focussed topics — that risks affecting sales numbers! while that is not what i care about, it is naturally of concern to the publisher. also, any choice of more narrowly focussed topics risks reflecting my personal views on which topics really matter. anyway, anyone with suggestions is more than welcome to email them to me.

  24. John:

    I think the worries about “cronyism” are in principle well-taken, but a little bit overblown here.

    First, there are all sorts of journals out there. I think it’s fine for some journals to work by invitation only, as long as not all journals do.

    I think it’s perfectly alright as one form of publication among others to invite both some younger people who are on the rise and some more establish figures to publish in either a tightly focussed or a loosely focussed collection.

    Fritz’s original worry was that the roster wasn’t distinguished enough. Indeed he sort of tacitly dissed my own junior colleague Nadeem by implication in his response to someone who pointed out that two junior people from out West were included in the issue. Here’s the exhange I have in mind.

    Fritz said: But I do find it odd that none of the good young ethics people who have taken jobs out West, for instance, managed to get included.

    To which, Brian responded: That’s not true, I think. Hieronymi is at UCLA and Hussein is at Stanford, and I’d count both of them as young people. Maybe we are talking about different groups of young people here, or different degrees of youth.

    To which Fritz responded: I mean one’s who have established themselves with peer-reviewed publications in leading journals already (in the way, eg, Setiya and Harman have)

    I have to say that I find this not quite tacit dissing of my colleague in a public forum tasteless and somewhat offensive and, moreover, completely undeserved. Indeed, I think John showed extremely good judgment in inviting Nadeem to contribute. He’s a brilliant guy.

    More generally, I can see nothing wrong with people using perhaps not widely shared slightly “insider” knowledge of who is doing what to give bright younger people a platform that would otherwise go to the same suspects as these things always do. It’s a little strange to hear a charge of cronyism bandied about as a criticism of an attempt to open things up to some new voices.

    You get kind of a different complaint about cronyism from others like Tom Hurka. He seems to accept that it is good to let new voices be heard. But he complains that, noentheless, you can’t legitimately open an invitation only journal to new voices, because that would amount to choosing some over others in ways not necessarily or fully reflective of comparative merit. It’s as if he thinks something like “why should x be invited to contribute, when y would have written a better paper.”

    But it seems to me that that worry would be well founded only if publication in invitation only journals were the modal form of publication for younger people. I just don’t see any reason to think that because some people are invited and other perhaps equally deserving people are not that. therefore, no one should be invited and it should all be done with blind referees.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think blind refereeing when done right is a good thing, a very good thing. But jeez, why can’t a many different sorts of journals, operating on many different models, co-exist??

  25. Since I have invited Nadeem to contribute to a collection of papers I’m co-editing on “Nietzsche and Morality” for OUP, and I’ve invited him twice to conferences in Austin, I trust I can respond to Ken’s comments without being accussed of publically dissing anyone.

    I do not think that Fritz has criticized Nadeem (or Pamela) in pointing out that, unlike Kieran Setiya and Liz Harman, they have not yet jumped through the hurdle of publishing in demanding peer-refereed journals, which is one (but only one) measure of accomplishment our profession employs. I took Fritz’s point to be something like the following (he will correct me if I’m getting it wrong): if you are going to invite junior folks to publish in non-refereed, but high-profile, high-prestige fora, then one ought to invite junior folks who have already survived the conventional obstacle course of peer-refereed publication.

    One might well disagree with Fritz about this principle, but there are no grounds I can discern for “offense” or grandstanding about tastelessness.

  26. I basically don’t see any basis to Fritz’s main concerns about the latest issue of Philosophical Perspectives (PP). Fritz’s main concern is that the contributors aren’t quite eminent enough: they don’t include quite enough of the “big names” that he expects to see published in the pages of PP. At some points, however, he also hints at another objection: viz. an objections to the quality of the papers that are included in this issue of PP. But he chooses not to make this his central objection.

    Frankly, I don’t think that any objection to the volume other than the objection to the actual quality of the papers in the volume has any force at all.

    The objection that the volume doesn’t contain enough contributions by “big names” seems to me obviously without force. So what if this issue doesn’t contain many papers by the great and the good, by the grandees, the grand panjandrums and nabobs of contemporary philosophy? We all know that famous philosophers often produce strikingly mediocre work. We should welcome the publication of first-class work by any philosophers, even if they haven’t yet acquired an eminent reputation.

    The charge of “cronyism” might seem more serious. But in my view, even if it were true (and in view of John’s recent posts to this web site, it clearly seems that it is not), it still wouldn’t show that the volume wasn’t thoroughly worthy of publication. E.g. consider periodicals like the New York Review of Books (and many other journals in the history of letters, such as the journals that were founded by Schiller and other 18th- and 19th-century literary figures). These journals are more or less obviously vehicles for a group of friends to publish each other’s work. But so long as the quality of the published work is reliably high, these journals are clearly worth publishing, and readers may quite rationally look forward to the next issue, confidently expecting another interesting and thought-provoking issue.

    Let me finally record my confidence in John as an editor: I firmly believe that he will reliably choose extremely high-quality papers for inclusion in PP; any doubts on that score should be allayed by consideration of his own impressive talents as a philosopher and as a judge of philosophical work, and by the calibre of those whom he has included in his editorial and advisory boards. Tom Hurka may choose not to read PP; that is his choice — no one can read every worthwhile paper that is published. But I find it hard to imagine that I will give up reading it now that John is editor.

  27. The “basic facts” that John lists, esp. a, b, and e, of course, help a lot.

    Since this discussion began, I’ve received a lot of e-mails, mostly from younger philosophers, who are very worried about how authors are going to be selected for these by-invitation venues, including Perspectives, in this new age that has recently dawned. Though the e-mailers have been thanking me for pressing the issue, they ought to know that I have been part of the problem, and deserve to be a target of their complaints, so I will be addressing this not as a righteous prosecutor, but as a guilty defendant.

    One reason this issue has touched such a nerve is that it goes beyond Perspectives, because the editors there also edit (or co-edit) Oxford Studies series (which I believe – I ought to know – are annuals), one in Metaphysics and one in Epistemology. With so many of the top invited publication slots every year being decided by such a small group of people (though the reliance on the boards that John mentions can help with this), extra care should be taken to avoid biases. Was such care taken?

    With respect to John’s© — I happen to think that it is a good thing to get really good young philosophers more involved in phil perspectives — many of the folks who seem most worried (at least those who have contacted me) themselves tend to be young philosophers, who presumably agree with John that it’s a good thing to get younger philosophers involved. They’re just very worried about how it’s decided exactly which younger philosophers get in. It sure looks as if connections with the editors helped a lot, and the worried folk out there are hearing no denials of this.

    So, here’s where I’m guilty. I’m on the editorial board for the Oxford Studies in Epistemology. When the main editors sent the proposed list of contributors for the first volume, asking what we on the board thought, I told them what I believed and still believe to be the case: They had a great line-up there, and it should make for a super volume. I liked the significant number of younger philosophers included, and knew that they were all extremely good. Now, I also knew of several great younger epistemologists who weren’t included, but I didn’t really think twice about that. They can’t all get in, and the ones who were chosen were excellent, so I had no complaints at all. I said it was a great line-up — which I still believe.

    But now that my consciousness has been raised on these issues, I’m worried that not enough thought was given to whether various connections to some “in group,” rather than an honest attempt to discern which younger epistemologists were the most deserving, was driving the choices. I, for one, so far from taking great care to counteract the possible effect of biases, gave the matter almost no thought at all. Again, I want to stress (esp. since our host here, Brian W, will again be included in OSE, at least acc. to the most recent list for OSE that I saw) that the younger epistemologists chosen were all excellent. But, looking back on it, what I should have said was that though I liked the fact that there were so many younger epistemologists included, and though the ones included were excellent, here are some other potential excellent choices… And I should have raised the worry that personal connections seemed to be playing a role.

    Anyway, in the future, in light of John’s point (e) (which he made wrt to Perspectives, but I imagine would also be relevant to his other editing), what I hope to do is send the editors my sense from poking around the journals of which younger epistemologists have been putting out excellent work, and perhaps others on the board will have ideas about this as well. There are some younger epistemologists out there who have put great epistemology papers into even the very top refereed journals, and have developed an excellent publication record. I want it to be the case, and I want to do my part to make it the case, that even those who are not in some “in group,” but who do develop an excellent publication record in epistemology will be noticed, and will be given a shot at such things as invitations to Oxford Studies in Epistemology. (Similar points also hold for some not-so-young under-appreciated epistemologists.) I’m confident that John, who himself published his way to the top, would promote such a goal, and all the worried people out there can take comfort from his point (e) that future issues should be better in terms of their worries about bias. Indeed, I’m confident that all the editors involved (in Perspectives and the two Oxford Studies series mentioned) are of good will and will want the selection procedure to be as fair as possible.

  28. I think all of these conversations are important to have, since they are important for our profession. But one assumption that I find tendentious in the above critique of PP that I’m hearing is the the assumption that ‘peer review’ is a blind refereeing process that reflects meritocracy. Some of us try to evaluate papers this way (I like to think I do, as I’m sure you do too). But I don’t think it’s the norm, or even close to a norm.

    The first problem is new. There is no more blind refereeing. If you know enough about the field to be competent enough to referee a paper, you usually know who wrote that paper. Even if you don’t, you can find out by typing the title into google, and surfing the person’s web page — a temptation that I regularly try to resist, sometimes without success.

    The second problem is old. There are many senior figures that I know of (from reading their referee reports or their tenure reviews of candidates) whose policy is to accept a paper (or praise a candidate) only insofar as that paper or that candidate promotes that senior figure or his views. Special resentment is reserved for younger figures whose work has attracted attention. I don’t think this is unique either to philosophy, or to this generation of senior people. I fully expect myself to be a younger-generation-despising, my-generation-was-so-much-smarter-claiming senior person in a number of years as well (in fact, I’m very much looking forward to it). Many leading journals are in thrall to respected senior figure referees who are bad actors in this regard.

    Third, many of us have the experience of writing papers that end up being quite influential, but which had a hard time getting into leading journals (again, this is an area-dependent matter). It’s hard for me, as a philosopher of language, to think that getting into a leading journal correlates with anything other than pleasing some entrenched senior figures, when very few of the most influential papers in the philosophy of language of the past five to ten years have appeared in them (e.g. Delia Graff’s “Descriptions as Predicates”, which justifiably won the APA article award for best article in the past n years, appeared in Phil Studies). In philosophy of language, the leading journals regularly publish the papers written by the oldest and most well-entrenched senior figures — but these aren’t always the papers making the largest impact.

    Fourth, certain leading journals (depending on the editor) tend to ‘like’ certain authors. They know when these authors submit, and they’re more likely to accept their papers. I’ve seen this happen numerous times. I don’t think that this is irrational, but it’s certainly not ‘blind refereeing’.

    In the new age, when information flows quickly, and people post their papers over the web, the mark of success is not convincing a friend to publish your paper (whether that friend is a ‘blind’ referee or not). It’s having your paper make a discovery that advances our common subject matter, or generates a new and interesting literature. It takes a while to figure out whether a paper has done that — I think the tenure clock is probably too short. But it seems to me increasingly likely that the only way to intersubjectively judge the merit of a philosophical work is to see its effects over time on our community. Has it generated a literature? Is the literature it has generated illuminating (where ‘illuminating’ doesn’t just mean — does it shed positive light on the evaluator’s contributions).

    It is no wonder, given the situation, that we young people turn to our own venues. Perhaps the latest issue of PP goes too far in advancing the causes of younger philosophers. But it’s not clear it isn’t a perfectly reasonable response to the current state of things.

  29. When I posted my comment I didn’t know who the editor of this volume was — see how much I follow things? — and didn’t mean any disrespect to John. As Keith says, he’s someone who got to the top the right way. And my concern was less this particular volume than the larger phenomenon of invitation-only journals and edited volumes and, beyond that, what Keith has talked about elsewhere, the excess influence of institutional affiliation and pedigree in the philosophical world. People who aren’t in the select institutions have a very tough time getting their work read or even published, and we as a profession — especially in a branch like ethics that likes to talk about justice and fairness — should be worried about that.

    Set aside the East Coast issue — though you can have the relevant connections if you used to teach in an East Coast department or did your PhD in an East Coast department — and look just at the institutional prestige of the contributors. What’s the lowest Leiter rank of a contributor’s department? Pretty high, I think. (Wisconsin seems to be the lowest. And the turndowns by people at Michigan and Harvard hardly affect the point.) Would it be reasonable to conclude that people in yet lower-ranked departments are pretty unlikely to be invited to contribute to a volume like this, or at least that the Leiter rank of one’s department is a strong causal contributor to being invited? And how fair is that at the junior level, when lots of talented people are through no fault of their own at less prestigious institutions? (Not that it’s much better when the same old established farts get the invitations. That’s the very rich getting richer — maybe the real Bush tax cuts.)

    Ken asks why there can’t be lots of types of journals. Well, the existence of the invitation-only journals isn’t cost-free. The people who get to contribute, especially at the junior level, are in competition with other junior people for attention, prestige, second jobs, etc., and get an undeserved extra boost in that competition from their institutional affiliation. (Ask the losers in the competition how they feel about it. They might have a different perspective than someone at Stanford.) Likewise in connection to readers: how many people in ethics with limited time will decide to read this nice volume of PP rather than scan the journals where less well-placed people’s stuff appears? And how much will that widen the gap between the haves and the have-nots?

    It’s in principle possible for an invitation-only journal to avoid these problems. It needs an editor who rigorously scans the journals for good work by less well-connected philosophers and isn’t subject to cognitive biases favouring those he’s better acquainted with. But who has the time or psychological capacity for that, and what’s the point if there already are fine refereed journals? (It was always my impression — I hope not mistaken — that David Lewis published most of his work in regular journals rather than in invited volumes. I thought that was a real mark of integrity.)

    In the interests of disclosure: for ten years I was an editor of the Canadian Journal of Philosophy, which each year publishes a Supplementary Volume of invited essays. But I was against those Volumes: I wanted to cancel them but the other editors disagreed. And the CJP Volumes were on much more focused topics than just ethics or epistemology and, because of that, had a wider institutional range of contributors. (The narrower the topic, the fewer potential contributors there are, and the less the likelihood of filling them from just prestige institutions.) But, yes, John, those narrower volumes didn’t sell especially well, except when they caught a hot topic just on the rise. And that’s pretty hard to do.

  30. I can really appreciate Professor Hurka’s concern about the fairness and justice in philosophical publishing, but the example may seem not very illuminating:

    “It was always my impression — I hope not mistaken — that David Lewis published most of his work in regular journals rather than in invited volumes. I thought that was a real mark of integrity.”

    As we know, Lewis published many of his papers in the AJP, and his connection with the Australasian circle is also well-known. If he had chosen to publish some of his work in invited volumes, this might have saven the journal space for others.

  31. My error: in saying Wisconsin was the lowest-ranked department of a contributor to this PP I was forgetting Syracuse and people whose PhDs were from Syracuse (Norcross, Rachels). But — sorry, John — the Syracuse connection is another prominent feature of this volume. If you set it aside, Wisconsin seems the lowest-ranked contributor’s department. (There’s one contributor whose full-text article doesn’t give her department.) And the worry is that this is an all-too-typical feature of invited volumes.

    Also, in checking the full-text articles for the authors’ institutional affiliations, I couldn’t help noticing that the Egan/Weatherson piece cites an article of mine — and gets its main point exactly wrong. (It says that, like Julia Driver’s book, my article treats character as good only because of its consequences. But the whole point of the article, and of the book to which it relates, is to show how within consequentialism understood so as to include, say, G. E. Moore virtuous acts, feelings, and traits can be good in themselves.) Now this error is entirely trivial and I’m sure doesn’t affect the main argument of the piece. But (1) how reassuring is it about the level of scholarship in the volume? And (2) wouldn’t a trivial error like this have been corrected in the process of review at a refereed journal?

  32. In response to Jing Zhu (two comments above): I think Prof. Hurka is right here. If Lewis had published papers mostly in by-invitation venues, that might have “saved more journal space for others,” but what would that journal space be worth? It’s in many ways much nicer to publish by invitation. The threat we face (& I’m not claiming it’s a particularly new threat) is that all the big-shots who are able to get all the nice invitations they could want will abandon the refereed journals — and the prestige will move more to invited publications along with them. It’s hard enough as it is to get those making hiring decisions, etc., to take a good publication record in refereed journals seriously as a mark of success!

  33. It was suggested earlier that there’s some tension between the two claims:

    (i) PP should have more countributions from well-established big-shots

    (ii)PP should have more contributions from people at below-top-20 departments.

    Here’s how I understand the tension. Presumably we’re all agreed that the primary goal is the publication of excellent philosophy. The sort of people who think (i) is a good way to get excellent philosophy published, one would think, are likely to reply to (ii) by saying, “Look, there’s a high degree of correlation between the quality and quantity of someone’s work and where that person has a job.”

    I take it that John has tacitly accepted (i) and provided a good explanation. As for (ii), first, do people think that this issue of PP really differs from previous issues in this respect? And could those (if any) who complained about (i) and also agree with (ii) explain their rationale?

  34. Brian, not Ken, gets it right regarding my quick remarks about the “West Coast” philosophers Ken thinks I have tastelessly insulted, “dissed” and who knows what else. I’d have thought Ken knew me better than to accuse me of such a thing but I guess I’m wrong about that (I’m sorry to learn that Ken’s opinion of me isn’t what I thought it was).

    I should add, because Ken is now claiming that I’m tasteless and… that I have not tried to insult or in any other way question anything at all about John as editor. I hope and trust that John knows this. Anyone who has bothered to ask me (for whatever reason) over the past 15 years what I think of John knows how highly I think of him – (should I supply copies of the minutes that are available?).

    I have made rather obvious observations about the current issue compared with past issues of Phil Perspectives and I have expressed a negative opinion about the most obvious differences. My observations are, as a friend and distinguished editor sometimes puts it in philosophical conversations, “the data” – obvious to anyone who takes a look. Reasonable minds apparently differ about the negative opinion I expressed about the changes. Big shock for a philosopher to find disagreement….

    Brian W seems to think that the remark about “East Coast” is hard to make out (not part of “the data” perhaps). Well, the initial observation that prompted the remark was this: there’s a whole lot more “MIT / Syracuse and a certain East Coast social circle” than one would predict from chance. I assume that as one “broadens the pool” to include younger people one would begin from a fairly large pool of good PhDs from, eg, leading ethics departments and good young PhDs from a variety of schools already establishing themselves with strong publications in the field.

    If Ralph doesn’t see even the hint of a problem in comparing the current issue to past issues then I suspect he has a lower opinion of large number of senior and mid-senior figures who apparently didn’t fit into the plan for this issue or who declined to participate. I did say a few general things about a few of the papers and I think a careful read by Ralph and others will confirm my general observations. But because I’m not as tasteless as Ken seems to think I’m of course not going to use this forum to name the papers I think are problematic in the ways I suggested.

  35. Fritz:

    I still think you are a swell guy and fine philosopher. But I do slightly resent your not so tacitly singling out my junior colleague in the way you did. I know you didn’t intend to single him out, but the flow of the conversation between you and Brian had that effect. The last thing junior folks need (especially at a place like Stanford) is a prominent person like yourself openly calling into question their worthiness to be in an espeically prestigious journal in a public forum.

    As to to the principle of inclusion/exclusion that you apparently endorse, I simply don’t see any basis at all for questioning the inclusion of people like Nadeem in a journal like PP. Work needs to be judged by its current actual content, not by the general pedigree of its author. Your principle seems to place pedigree over content.

  36. Tom, I think you’re right about David Lewis — although I also agree with what Jason said about blind reviewing not being very blind (I said the same thing over at, which would be an href except that TAR no longer accepts them in comments). But I don’t see your point about institutional affiliation. At first it appeared that you were talking about the institutions where the authors are now employed, but now I think you meant the institutions that granted their degrees. There are lots of Syracuse, MIT, and Princeton PhDs — also Oxford D Phils — but that doesn’t seem surprising to me. It’s a little surprising that Nadeem is the only Michigan PhD, and, hmm, Pamela is the only one from Harvard. (I think. Did I miss anyone?)

  37. I think in terms of gender, ethnic, generational, and intellectual diversity, John edited a fantastic PP. I’m sorry that many of you older, distinguished, white males feel that these younger, female, and colored philosophers did not jump though enough hoops to be welcome into your own little version of the in-crowd, but maybe there is a change in the intellectual culture of philosophy. I know it seems threatening but you’ll have to learn to accept it, just like we had to learn to accept your game, the very game that you now deride.

    The exclusionary politics of publishing cuts many ways…its easier to find it in others than in looking in the mirror. I applaud Keith DeRose in this respect.

    And read these papers. Many of them are excellent, even deserving of Philosophers Annual!

  38. Ken said (in response to Fritz):

    “As to to the principle of inclusion/exclusion that you apparently endorse, I simply don’t see any basis at all for questioning the inclusion of people like Nadeem in a journal like PP. Work needs to be judged by its current actual content, not by the general pedigree of its author. Your principle seems to place pedigree over content.”

    It seems to me that this still misses the point that several people are worried about. If we want to judge pieces based on “current actual content,” then this pushes us strongly in the direction of blind-review. If we move to an invited-pieces model, then we are already making judgments on the basis of something other than “current actual content” (since, after all, invited papers are typically written for the journal after the invitation has been issued). So, some kind of “pedigree” is already in play.

    Given this, I take it that the question Fritz is concerned with is what kind of pedigree should count here:

    a. Pedigree established by past publications in blind-reviewed journals.
    b. Pedigree established in some other way.

  39. Profs. Warfield and Leiter,

    No doubt is was the apparent jibe in:

    “none of the good young ethics people who have taken jobs out West… managed to get included”

    that Ken is (rightly) taken aback by. The most natural reading has the adj “good” ruling out the two people who otherwise do satisfy the description. Perhaps Fritz just wasn’t being careful, but his “I only meant…” post could have contained a whiff of apology. Tasteless or careless? Well, take your pick.

  40. Whichever “Barry” that is seems strangely confident that those with various complaints are “old distinguished white males” (is that me?) and that we haven’t read the papers (is that me too?). Comedy.

    Ken – I’m all for judging work by current content. Is your idea to allow submissions and then blind referee? PP isn’t refereed (as you surely know).

    And as you’ll recall, my views about who to include were fairly pluralistic (or so I thought): include some young people of great promise, include strong mid-level people, include perhaps a couple of papers from distinguished philosophers working “out of main area”. My observation was that past issues had done these things while, reasonably enough, centering the issues around the works of leading senior figures. Is this too much to expect from what is clearly one of the best publications (affiliated with an obviously top 4 journal Nous?).

  41. Gotta love anonymous postings….

    I’m responsible enough not to run around insulting people whose work I barely know (in one case) and whose work I know only from this one new paper (in the other case). I have it on good authority that both Professors Hieronymi and Hussein are very good philosophers. I’m happy to apologize to them, to Ken, to “babybeluga” and to others. The exchange with Brian W that some have now found “tasteless” was a quick exchange. In clarifying my meaning I should have paused to carefully formulate the principle that I thought was understood from my earlier post (instead of simply responding quickly and apparently misleadingly in the way that I did).

  42. Fritz:

    Apology accepted.

    PS. I hope you understand that I’ve got to look out for my junior colleagues. Things are hard enough for them at our institution, as it stands.

  43. What’s the Big Deal?

    Well, the above has been a pretty hefty discussion. I’ve also been involved in a parallel hefty meta-discussion about the above by e-mail with many correspondents who, for fairly obvious reasons, reasonably believe it would be a mistake for them in their professionally vulnerable positions to contribute to the above public discussion. In an attempt to close this all up (at least for me), I’d like to quickly summarize what my correspondents have been telling me. Most of the communications have centered around either or both of two related themes.

    First, there are arguments supporting the charge that there seems to be a hefty dose of cronyism behind the choice of PP contributors. Some correspondents were annoyed and frustrated by my writing, “it was perhaps irresponsible for me to insert the term ‘cronyism’ into the debate” (12/8, 1:20 PM), arguing that that is exactly what most needs to be discussed. And folks seemed positively incensed by this statement from a comment above: “…even if it [the charge of cronyism] were true (and in view of John’s recent posts to this web site, it seems clearly that it is not…)” (12/8, 10:13 PM). To quote a particularly succinct correspondent, a typical reaction to this was: “WHAT?!!!!!!” Well, what a typical reaction really consisted of was some such expression of amazement, followed by an account of the connections between some of the contributors to the volume and the editors, together, at least often, with lists – some of them quite long – of worthy young moral philosophers not similarly connected, who, it was claimed, seem equally or even more qualified for inclusion than some of those who were included. Well, I don’t want to go into that here. First, ethics isn’t my field. But, more importantly, I would find such a discussion distasteful, especially since I think & trust that just about everybody is willing to just grant that connections with the editors played a large role in determining this line-up (though not, of course, wrt every contributor), whether they think that’s proper or not. Which leads us to the second main theme…

    Well, I guess what’s most important for me to convey here is that my correspondents to a person feel this is a very big deal, and there’s a tremendous amount of frustration with statements in the public discussion to the effect that it isn’t, like this one: “I think the worries about ‘cronyism’ are in principle well-taken, but a little bit overblown here. First of all, there are all sorts of journals out there…” (12/8, 8:02 PM). What’s vital to consider here is what I, reflecting communications I had already received, wrote above: “One reason this issue has touched such a nerve is that it goes beyond Perspectives, because the editors there also edit (or co-edit) Oxford Studies series (which I believe – I ought to know – are annuals), one in Metaphysics and one in Epistemology. With so many of the top invited publication slots every year being decided by such a small group of people (though the reliance on the boards that John mentions can help with this), extra care should be taken to avoid biases” (12/8, 10:52 PM). Again, I don’t want to get into a game of who-was-where-when; I again trust that most will simply grant that an extremely large proportion of the top slots for invited papers, every year, are now going to be controlled not just by a very few people, but by people who are all from a certain fairly well-defined philosophical social group. (Many of my correspondents have tried to characterize the group in question, some of them conveying the names they have for the group, citing, among other things, URLs where I might go to see pictures of the some of the folks in question chumming around with each other. That’s precisely the sort of thing we should just skip, I think, since I trust everyone will just grant the point in question, anyway. And if I’m wrong about that – if anyone does want to question the claim – I, for one, still don’t plan on going into the details.) Of course, having friends in the profession is a very nice thing. And exploiting such connections might be an efficient way for some editors to produce some good collections of articles. And if this were just a question of a book or two being produced in that way, I don’t think anybody would be all that worried. But in the actual circumstances, I hope everyone can understand the worries of those who have so far been excluded, and who fear that connections they don’t have will continue to play a large role here, year after year. As those who have read my comments elsewhere know, I’m especially worried about very talented philosophers who are stuck in bad jobs. And, as you may have assumed, many of my correspondents fall into that category. But even junior faculty in very good departments can and do worry about this matter, and some of them are among my correspondents. I’ll close with a quotation from one of them, made right after highlighting my statement about how the matter extends well beyond Perspectives, and which does a nice job of explaining some of the reasons why many of my correspondents think this is important:

    “I wanted to just drop you a line about this ongoing discussion on TAR—first, to say that I appreciate your consciousness being raised about this issue, and to expressing both clearly and publicly that there is a real issue for one’s consciousness to be raised about. And, second, I wanted to mention another reason why a junior person who may/may not be out of various loops might be concerned. It is true of course, as many of the posts have been arguing, that there are lots of other avenues for publication for junior folk. (The implication seems to be: So what if these “in-crowd” types get invited to submit to PP, etc.? There are other journals.) Well, here’s the worry. Come tenure time, we all know that we will be compared, rather explicitly, to other members of our age-field cohort. If the “in-crowd” members of that cohort are systematically preferred when it comes to invitations to submit to venues like PP (and preferred on the basis of them being in the “in-crowd”), then there is a non-trivial chance that there will be a perceived difference by at least some of the letter writers in importance/talent/productivity between members of the in-group and the out-group that might not be based on the facts. For those of us who like having jobs this causes a bit of anxiety.”

  44. Keith’s long post raises lots and lots of issues. I don’t want to get into all of them by any means. But I think one thing needs to be said to all the anxious junior folks out there, in departments weak and strong. Its sort of off topic a bit, but it addresses an underlying issue. Plus I hasten to add that I can’t, of course, speak for every department, only my own, (and the several others of which I have been a member).

    My point is that if colleagues and referees are at all judicious, discerning, and fair minded then good work speaks for itself, no matter where it manages to be published, at tenure time. That may sound too optimistic, even pie-in-the-skyish. But I believe it on the basis of what is quickly becoming lots of years of experiences hiring and firing people.

    Of course, I am not saying that the venue in which one publishes doesn’t matter. But a good paper in a less visible venue is still a good paper. A mediocre paper in a highly visible venue is still, well, a mediocre paper. True, the good paper in a less visible venue has less of a chance of being noticed, responded to, built upon. And those sorts of things do matter. I readily admit that. They matter tremendously to the “impact” of one’s work.

    Still, when it comes time for tenure, one hopes that the referees will actually read the work and judge the work by as I put in another post its current actual content, not the pedigree of the journal in which it happened to find space.

    To a remarkable degree, in our own tenure cases our referees have pretty much done that. Indeed, the care they have taken with the work we ask them to evaluate is truly, truly impressive. They have sometimes utterly trashed work that has appeared in the most visible of places and have sometimes extensively praised work that has appeared in rather obscure places. We even send out unpublished work in progress. And people actually read and evaluate it — they evaluate it as work in progress and so look for different things in it.

    I’m not saying that none of the issues about cronyism matter or that there aren’t such things as in groups and out groups. Actually — back on topic for one minute — it struck me that this issue of PP was refreshing because so many new voices were being heard from. I like that as a general practice. I guess some people are upset by the principle of selection of the new voices that get heard. And there are issues there. But in general its a healthy thing to give platforms to younger folks that are mostly reserved for older folks, even if it means choosing among them.

    But I don’t want to get into that. I’m trying to say something about professional anxiety that’s both realistic and optimistic.

    Again, I believe that good work will find its place somewhere or other eventually. Of course, it won’t necessarily be the ideal place or in short or even reasonable order. (Just to speak from personal experience, I once had a paper that went through three revise and resubmits at a certain prestigious British Journal only to be finally rejected after about 20 months total of the refereeing process and this all happened just as I was nearing my tenure decision.)

    But I do think that there is enough judgment, discernment and fair-mindedness out there that when good work is actually brought to the attention of those who function as the gatekeepers to tenure, they mostly do read the work and judge the work by its current actual content.

    Again, I don’t deny that placement in the right journals can give a tremendous boost to a career. One of the reasons for that is that many senior philosophers are, shall we say, a bit lax when it comes to scouring the journals, especially the lower tier journals for work in their fields. So, of course, the whole business is far from perfect.

    It’s partly because of those imperfections that I always urge my junior colleagues to be relentless networkers. Why? because those same senior people who don’t religiously read what’s in the journals do attend conferences and do form impressions of people on the basis of talks heard and conversations had. If you convince someone of the quality of your mind in a face to face encounter that is likely to effect the way they evaluate your written work just a bit when it finally does reach their attention.

    Sorry to ramble off-topic a bit. I just wanted to address the anxiety about the so-called “in crowd.” Being in the in crowd as a junior person certainly helps, but it’s no substitute for good work. Being in out crowd probably “hurts” in the same measure. There is probably no way to make the phenomenon of the “ins” and “outs” entirely disappear, people and institutions being what they are. I do not think that even requiring all journals to do blind-refereeing (even if we had the power somehow to do that) would even do the trick — though again, I think blind refereeing is a very good thing.

    Call me naive, if you want. But I’m getting too old and have been through too many tenure cases to think that a fair assessment.

  45. To John Hawthorne: Pay no attention to this thread. The ethics volume is terrific! — It’s a great collection that philosophers will use and refer to for years to come.

  46. To John Hawthorne: Pay no attention to this thread. The ethics volume is terrific! — It’s a great collection that philosophers will use and refer to for years to come

    Thus speaks a man with no personal connection to the authors, and thus no worries about cronyism (if we overlook the fact that his daughter was a contributor).

  47. I don’t know who anon is (though I do know they’re posting from a University of Melbourne computer) but I think it’s pretty cowardly to make anonymous attacks like this. Though given that it would be, to put it mildly, a rather difficult case to make on the merits that Liz Harman shouldn’t be in a volume like this one, perhaps the cloak of anonynimity is well worn.

    In any case, I’m pleased Gil liked the volume, and that his quote ended up in boldface 🙂

  48. Its clear that Elizabeth deserves her place in the volume. It’s equally clear, though, that it’s not appropriate for Gil to defend the volume against charges of cronyism, given his personal connection.

  49. Prof. Harman does not say if he means his ovservation that the volume is “terrific” to be the support for his claim that this thread should be ignored (as I understand it, Ralph W made this sort of suggestion earlier). Perhaps he does, or perhaps the “terrific” claim is an independent claim and he has left his reasons for thinking the thread should be ignored unstated.

    If the “terrific” claim is the support for the claim that the thread should be ignored, it doesn’t provide good support for that claim, even if it’s true. Some of the worries well worth thinking about are worries about who is being selected (and on what basis) for inclusion in what is likely the profession’s leading “invitation only” journal.

    There are many ways one could select or screen contributors that would be both completely unacceptable and yet quite likely to result in “terrific” volumes. One could, for example, issue invitations only to excellent philosophers between the ages of 30 and 50 (or 50 and 70). One could issue invitations only to excellent philosophers from PhD programs starting with letters in the second half of the alphabet. One could issue invitations only to excellent philosophers who live in New Jersey. The fact that any of these procedures would likely result in a terrific collection doesn’t mean that questions about the method of selection should be ignored.

    [In an attempt to head off misunderstandings and associated and usually anonymous insults in reply, I am not saying and don’t think I’ve ever said that those selected for this volume were selected in a clearly unacceptable way – as I’ve noted, I have no idea and won’t speculate. My initial observations were about the striking differences between this lineup and a typical Phil Perspectives lineup].


    About Ken Taylor’s interesting post on tenure and junior anxiety —- as Ken knows, tenure and promotion work very differently at various sorts of institutions and work quite differently even at institutions that seem to be of the very same type. One’s anxiety level really ought to be tied pretty closely to one’s knowledge of one’s home institution’s approach to tenure/promotion issues and to one’s knowledge of whether one’s work is measuring up to local standards.

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