Most Cited Articles from Philosophy Journals

In my last post, I expressed some surprise at which articles were turning up a lot in the citations. So I got to wondering what other surprises would be in store if I looked at the data some more. It turns out my view of what’s been making a splash was a bit of a way from reality.

I used the Web of Science database, restricted to the Arts & Humanities to find the most cited journal articles over various time periods from philosophy journals. I don’t think this list is complete; it doesn’t seem to include Philosophical Topics, for example, which might explain why “Shifting Sands” isn’t any list here. And I searched manually for philosophy journals from the lists of most cited articles over various periods.

This last step involved a lot of contentious decisions. I used a very narrow definition of a philosophy journal. Excluded were Behavior and Brain Science, Journal of Pragmatics, Language, Linguistic Inquiry, Journal of Consciousness Studies, Critical Inquiry, Cognition, Signs, Feminist Economics (which has a philosophically important and widely cited Nussbaum article), Trends in Cognitive Science, and several others. I included Mind and Language, and Linguistics and Philosophy, though I could see a case for excluding them too.

The citation counts Web of Science gives are much lower than you might be used to if you use Google Scholar. In general they are about 1/3 to 1/4 the size. But I think they are more reliable; they don’t include references to drafts, lecture notes, etc.

Although I’ve been fussy about what articles were in philosophy journals, I included all citations. So some of these articles pick up a lot of their citations from outside philosophy. That said, here are the lists. I’m going to list the categories 1993-1999, 2000-2002, 2003-2005, 2006-2007, 2008-2009 and 2010-present. You might like to guess which you think the most cited articles from each of those periods will be before peeking at the lists.

Published 1993 – 1999
375 – The Extended Mind – Clark and Chalmers (Analysis 1998)
332 – Elusive Knowledge – Lewis (AJP 1996)
302 – What is the Point of Equality? – Anderson (Ethics 1999)
250 – Solving the Skeptical Problem – DeRose (Philosophical Review 1996)
188 – Limits to health care: Fair procedures, democratic deliberation, and the legitimacy problem for insurers – Daniels and Sabin (Philosophy and Public Affairs, 1997)
173 – On Conditionals – Edgington (Mind 1995)

Published 2000 – 2002
336 – Thinking about Mechanisms – Machamer, Darden and Craver (Philosophy of Science 2000)
154 – On quantifier domain restriction – Stanley and Szabo (Mind and Language 2000)
146 – Context and Logical Form – Stanley (Linguistics and Philosophy 2000)
142 – Pragmatics, Modularity and Mind-Reading – Sperber and Wilson (Mind and Language 2002)
134 – The Skeptic and the Dogmatist – Pryor (Nous 2000)
126 – Knowing How – Stanley and Williamson (J Phil 2001)

Published 2003 – 2005
134 – Intentional Actions and Side Effects in Ordinary Language – Knobe (Analysis 2003)
99 – Ethics and Climate Change – Gardner (Ethics 2004)
96 – Against Narrativity – Strawson (Ratio 2004)
83 – A Plea for Monsters – Schlenker (Linguistics and Philosophy 2003)
82 – Why be Rational – Kolodny (Mind 2005)

Published 2006 – 2007
103 – Religion in the Public Sphere – Habermas (European Journal of Philosophy 2006)
78 – Moral responsibility and determinism: The cognitive science of folk intuitions – Nichols and Knobe (Nous 2007)
73 – The concept of intentional action: A case study in the uses of folk psychology – Knobe (Philosophical Studies 2006)
71 – Vagueness and grammar: the semantics of relative and absolute gradable adjectives – Kennedy (Linguistics and Philosophy 2007)
59 – The strategy of model-based science – Godfrey-Smith (Biology and Philosophy 2006)

Published 2008 – 2009
43 – Knowledge and Action – Hawthorne and Stanley (J Phil 2008)
42 – Nonindexical Contextualism – MacFarlane (Synthese 2009)
37 – The Folk Concept of Intentional Action: Philosophical and Experimental Issues – Machery (Mind and Language 2008)
36 – The Unreliability of Naive Introspection – Schwitzgebel (Philosophical Review 2008)
35 – The instability of philosophical intuitions: Running hot and cold on Truetemp – Swain, Alexander and Weinberg (PPR 2008)
33 – Moderate structural realism about space-time – Esfield and Lam (Synthese 2008)
33 – Generics: Cognition and Acquisition – Leslie (Philosophical Review 2008)

Published 2010 – Present
41 – Epistemic Vigilence – Sperber et al (Mind and Language 2010)
28 – Monism: The Priority of the Whole – Shaffer (Philosophical Review 2010)
19 – Embodied Cognition and Mindreading – Spaulding (Mind and Language 2010)
16 – An agent-based conception of models and scientific representation – Giere (Synthese 2010)
16 – Ontological realism: A methodology for coordinated evolution of scientific ontologies – Smith and Ceusters (Applied Ontology 2010)

Some of that didn’t surprise me too much. Jason Stanley gets a lot of citations, contextualism is a big deal, being in the Philosophical Review is good for citations, and so on. But 336 citations for a paper about mechanisms! And look at the 2003-2005 list. Apart from perhaps the Kolodny, I’m not sure I would have guessed any of them, and none of them (apart from Kolodby) I suspect are close to turning up in Kieran Healy’s data about the ‘top 4’ journals.

Lesson 1: It’s easy to be wrong about what people are talking about, if you try to generalise from personal experience.

Lesson 2: Lots of non-philosophers read philosophy journals. This is useful for journal editors to remember.

Lesson 3: If you confine the search to recently published papers, and look at all journals not just the ‘top 4’, the representation of women goes from bang-head-into-desk appalling to merely catastrophically bad. Progress, I guess. (Just over 10% of the papers I listed had only female authors, and just over 80% had only male authors.)

NB: A lot of this was done by hand, and I’m sure I’ve made mistakes. I’ll update this with corrections as they become apparent!

One Reply to “Most Cited Articles from Philosophy Journals”

  1. It’s very interesting that you’ve never come across the ‘MDC’ mechanisms paper. In philosophy of science it’s a phenomenon! It kickstarted a huge research programme (sometimes called the ‘new mechanistic philosophy’) that always seems to occupy a substantial portion of the programme at any phil sci conference I attend. A lot of people are working in this area, and all of them cite the ‘MDC’ paper more or less automatically, regardless of whether or not the claims in that paper are being discussed explicitly.

    However, this programme proceeds largely in isolation from the rest of analytic philosophy. So in some ways it’s unsurprising, though still interesting, to see that this whole phenomenon is off the radar of philosophers in more central areas of the field.

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