Short Journals

There is a very interesting thread over at Leiter’s place on places to publish discussion notes. The thread has been bouncing around a little bit, but it’s all interesting. I have four quick things to add.

First, the answer to the question “Where should I publish my 1000-1500 word piece on why X’s journal article contains a mistake, if the journal X’s article was in won’t publish the reply?” is “On a blog”. There just isn’t any need to dead-tree publish many of these reply pieces. I mean, I could send out a fancy version of my post the other day on Ned Hall’s theory of causation, but I think it’s better for everyone to just have that reply be where it is. If I have something more substantive about causation to say that relates to Ned’s work, I’ll put the example in that paper, and if I don’t, well it’s got enough publicity already.

Second, the answer to the question “What if my reply to X’s article is as long as X’s article?” is “Make it shorter”. In general Philosopher Makes Mistake is not newsworthy. If the mistake is worth going over at that length, then it better be a fairly common mistake. And in that case your article shouldn’t just look like a response to X, and it should be publishable anywhere.

Third, if X is Tim Williamson, then ignore the first two points and send the article to any journal you like, because they’ll all publish quality papers on the details of Williamson’s work. See my CV for a medium sized, but still vastly incomplete, list of places that publish Williamsonania.

Fourth, I agree entirely with the comments in the thread over there that a competitor to Analysis would be worthwhile. If I weren’t already editing two journals I’d volunteer to edit the thing. But I think a US-based, monthly, electronic journal that published pieces up to, say, 3000 words, with a focus on original work but which was happy to publish responses to pieces published in prestigous places elsewhere, would be a valuable addition to the profession. (Maybe I’d even submit some of these blog posts!)

One of the thoughts in the thread over there was that we should recruit OUP to publish it. I love OUP, and I’d be happy to see them do this. But I don’t think it is necessary. As the University of Michigan has shown, top libraries can publish their own e-journals. I’d say having a successful journal adds just as much prestige to a department as a decent hire. And it is probably cheaper. So I’d like to see some top-line department step up to the plate and pony up the funding and support for such a journal.

5 Replies to “Short Journals”

  1. Other than what immediately follows ‘first’, this all sounds good. But I wonder whether blogs can really take the place of journals or similar fora for those of us who don’t have the kind of reputation that is oh-so-helpful in getting others to read one’s blog. Thus, for example, If I, as a lowly graduate student, devise a 1,000 word response to an article in J Phil or Phil Studies or some such, and post it to my blog (if I had a blog), no one reads it; if, on the other hand, one of the TAR posters posts such a response here, it gets wide exposure.

    So to the extent that the profession relies on blogs exclusively for these kind of response pieces (a view that I’m not, of course, attributing to you here), it makes it much easier for established philosophers to have their work widely distributed, and more difficult for those who are less well known. And that, I take it, is one of the things that the practice of blind-review is supposed to prevent or at least ameliorate.

  2. But I don’t think the journals help a great deal, at least not at this level.

    It’s true that top journals like Mind and the Review have a wide enough readership that anything they publish will get widely read.

    But that’s not what is at issue here. We’re talking about small, response-only, papers. They won’t get read just because they’re published. They’ll get read by people who think that they look interesting. And I don’t think they’ll look that much more interesting in a journal than on a blog. More the point, that stage isn’t blindly refereed.

    Having said all that, the barriers to entry to blogs aren’t that high. Lots of people post to Certain Doubts and PEA Soup, and they get widely read. There have been various grad student blogs that were widely read. (Fake Barn Country was particularly successful while it was going.) It’s still a pretty easy field to get noticed in, a lot easier than journals I’d say.

  3. That all seems more or less right, and informative as well. Thank you.

    Quickly, though, the remedy that I mean to suggest wasn’t necessarily more official printed journals, but rather fora that have some journal-like virtues, such as some approximation to blind review (or some other appropriate filtering and de-personalizing mechanism), but some blog-like virtues, like relative informality, speed, etc. Also, for those of us in the very early parts of our career, it’s nice to get things on the C.V., which (so far as I know-please correct if I’m wrong here-) still can’t be done by posting to blogs. Something like an edited online journal might grant otherwise identical discussion pieces a veneer of respectability not possessed by blog posts.

    But I don’t think we’re in any real disagreement here, anyway, at least as to policy- it looks like the kind of thing these considerations suggest would be similar to the proposed Analysis competitor.

  4. Here’s another possibility, with an obviously social flavor. If you have a reply to a particular paper, you first send your reply to the author of the article. This should be done with care, following all the maxims of Grice, of course. It may then be possible to pen a joint piece which can be published in the original venue. Editors should like to do this because it shows that their journals put correctness above anything else.

  5. In linguistics there is the journal Snippets, whose editorial policy states:

    The aim of Snippets is to publish specific remarks that motivate research or that make theoretical points germane to current work. The ideal contribution is the ideal footnote: a side remark that taken on its own is not worth lengthy development but that needs to be said. One encounters many short comments of this kind in the literature of the seventies. We feel that there no longer is a forum for them. We want Snippets to help fill that gap.

    Philosophy could do with such a journal. If it has one, I don’t know of it…

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