Metaphysical Mayhem

Metaphysical Mayhem continues!

Rutgers University will be hosting a five day metaphysics summer school for graduate students, running May 19th-23rd, 2014, and featuring Karen Bennett, Shamik Dasgupta, Laurie Paul, Jonathan Schaffer, and Ted Sider.

All local (NY/NJ area) graduate students are invited to attend.
Non-local graduate students must apply to attend, by sending the following to by January 10, 2014:
• A single page cover letter
• A curriculum vitae
• A writing sample on any topic in metaphysics
• A brief letter of recommendation (which need be no more than one paragraph), sent from a professor familiar with your work

Applicants will be notified by February 1, 2014. Housing and possibly some limited financial support will be available for non-local graduate students.

Three Updates

I haven’t updated this for a while, have I? So it’s time for some updates.

Social Epistemology Workshop

Last weekend I was at a workshop on social epistemology at Arche. Miriam Schoenfield presented this great paper. I did a paper that was somewhat derivative of Jennifer Lackey’s work on generative testimony. (Well, perhaps more than somewhat – I’ll post it if I decide I really had anything interesting original to say.) I had to miss some papers so I could come back to America to work. But I did hear two interesting papers by Alvin Goldman and Jennifer Lackey on group belief. And I was wondering if anyone had defended the following idea for how to define the beliefs of a group in terms of the beliefs of the group members.

First, use some kind of credal aggregation function to get a group credence function out of the individual group member credences. This could be arithmetic averaging, or (better) it could be one of the more complicated functions that Ben Levinstein discusses in his thesis. Second, draw out one’s favourite theory of credal reductionism to define group beliefs in terms of group credences. My favourite such theory is interest-relative, and it’s possible that some propositions could be interesting to the group without being interesting to any member of the group, so this view wouldn’t be totally reductive.

This approach seems fairly simple-minded, but it does seem to avoid some of the problems that arise for other views in the literature. Hopefully I’ll get some time to read Christian List and Philip Pettit’s book on Group Agency, and see how the credence-first approach compares to theirs.

Rutgers Young Epistemologist Prize – 2015

From Rutgers.

This will be the ninth bi-annual Young Epistemologist Prize (YEP) to be awarded. To be eligible, a person must have a Ph.D. obtained by the time of the submission of the paper but not earlier than ten (10) years prior to the date of the conference. Thus, for the Rutgers Epistemology Conference 8-10 May, 2015, the Ph.D. must have been awarded between May 8, 2005, and November 10, 2014.

The author of the prize winning essay will present it at the Rutgers Epistemology Conference and it will be published in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. The winner of the prize will receive an award of $1,000 plus all travel and lodging expenses connected with attending the conference.

The essay may be in any area of epistemology. It must be limited to 6,000 words (including the footnotes but not the bibliography). Please send two copies of the paper as email attachments in a .pdf format to:

One copy must mask the author’s identity so that it can be evaluated blindly. The second copy must be in a form suitable for publication. The email should have the subject: “YEP Submission.” The email must be sent by 8 pm (EST) on November 10, 2014. The winner of the prize will be announced by February 16, 2015.

By submitting the essay, the author agrees not to submit it to another publication venue prior to February 16, 2015, and agrees i) to present the paper at the Rutgers Epistemology Conference, ii) to have it posted on the conference webpage, and iii) to have it published in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.

All questions about the Young Epistemologist Prize should be sent to

UK Visa Rules

Sadly, it seems relevant to post another reminder about recent changes to UK Visa rules. Since 2012, it is impossible to (successfully) apply for a UK work visa if you have worked in the UK any time in the past 12 months. This will affect a lot of people who have rolling part-time positions in the UK. But what I hadn’t realised is that it is also hurting people moving between full-time jobs in the UK. And that’s a much more serious concern.

So in case you need (or will need) a UK work visa, and your would-be employer hasn’t kept up with all the visa changes that the Lib Dem/Tory government has brought in, it is very important to be aware of this rule.

I very much hope that the rule will be scrapped after the 2015 election; it seems to be causing harm without any obvious benefit. But I don’t think it would be a good idea to plan around that. For one thing, Labor might not win, or at least not win in their own right. (And I think we should act as if the Liberal Democrats are supporting policies that the government they partially constitute has introduced.) For another, new governments are often sadly tardy in fixing mistakes of the past governments, so even a Labor win doesn’t mean things start getting better that week. So even if your current UK visa expires after 2015, I’d start thinking about what you plan to do next, assuming that you can’t apply for another visa without a 12 month gap in employment.


Last week I was very lucky to be at the 14th (by my count) Bellingham Summer Philosophy Conference. The organisers, especially Ned Markosian, do such a fantastic job of running a conference. It really should be a role model for other conferences. (And in some places it is.)

There isn’t a wikipedia page for the BSPC yet. I thought about setting one up, but I wasn’t quite sure what to say.

At the conference I presented the latest incarnation of Running Risks Morally. I got really valuable feedback, which will be incorporated into the paper. This incorporation will be made much easier by the fact that I have some lists of the questions that were asked. That was in part because I arranged for this, and in part due to unexpected acts of kindness.

And that got me thinking – it would be great if more conferences arranged for there to be someone at each session who took notes on what was being said. This could be useful to the person who is revising the paper, and useful to the participants who want to look back at what was being said. The job would be a little like the minute-taker that Arche used to have at project meetings. It’s not the most fun job ever, but it’s not impossibly hard. I did it at one session at BSPC, and some people naturally take detailed notes. Even if conference organisers don’t want to raise this into a formal position, I highly encourage anyone who is in a conference session where one of their colleagues or close friends is presenting to take as many notes as they can about what goes on in the session.

Update on Journal-to-Journal Citation

In the previous post, I mentioned some problems with Web of Knowledge. It might be best to say what these are more explicitly. (I’m grateful here to work Neil Levy did.)

  • Web of Knowledge doesn’t include ‘early view’ articles on a journal website, and is a little slow to update on recent issues.
  • Web of Knowledge doesn’t survey at all some journals, especially newer journals. (The most notable absence I’ve found so far is Philosophers’ Imprint, but obviously there are many others.)
  • Web of Knowledge, by design, doesn’t cover citations in edited volumes.
  • Web of Knowledge isn’t great for citations of things it doesn’t track cites in. So it isn’t great for citations of things in either newer journals, or edited volumes. Note that there aren’t many such articles in the Healy list; it would be interesting to see whether that’s a consequence of gaps in Web of Knowledge. I haven’t found an article that’s missing but should be there, but I haven’t looked hard. (I did check one article. But for all its citations, Epistemic Modals in Context hasn’t turned up much in the big 4 journals.)

That said, Web of Knowledge is not bad for citations in top journals of articles in top journals, provided you allow for some lag time. And that’s why I’ve focussed on journal-to-journal citation.

I’ve had some requests for looking at other relatively general journals. I actually wasn’t originally that interested in them; I was interested in the specialist journals, and wanted the more general journals as baseline. But for interest, here are the numbers for PPR.

Journal of Philosophy: 31
Mind: 41
Philosophical Review: 34

Brian Leiter summarised the data as saying these three journals cite other journals not a lot. I think that’s half-true; these three journals cite other journals with similar missions (e.g., Philosophical Studies, or Philosophy and Phenomenological Research) plenty. What they don’t do is cite the specialist journals, even ones on issues that I would have thought were pretty important parts of philosophy, such as feminism and legal theory.

One last data point about self-citation, because I really want to drive home the point that this isn’t something distinctive to the top journals. The number of articles in Philosophical Quarterly that cite other articles from 2000-2013 in Philosophical Quarterly is 106. Over the same period, it cites the Journal of Philosophy 14 times, and Philosophical Review 11 times. This is in part because, like Mind, Philosophical Quarterly has an active, and very good, discussion section. (One that I’ve been happy to publish in.) It is also in part because it has established itself as a home for certain discussions (especially about anthropic principle type reasoning), and these articles cite the leading articles in this discussion, which of course are in the Quarterly. There’s nothing particularly nefarious going on here, it’s part of running a good journal.

How often do journals cite other journals?

I’ve been playing around with the data about citation patterns in top journals of recent articles, and I started to think that a lot of it was very noisy. So I was looking for ways to aggregate the data that would be revealing. I decided to look at how many times recent articles, that is articles from 2000 onwards, from different journals were cited in each of the ‘top 3’ philosophy journals – Journal of Philosophy, Mind and Philosophical Review. A few disclaimers before I start.

  • This data is all from Web of Knowledge, with all the problems that entails.
  • The number of articles in each of the top 3 journals in the time period in question is 489 in Journal of Philosophy, 1589 in Mind, and 672 in Philosophical Review, though most of those in Mind and the Review are book reviews. (I thought previously that book reviews in Mind and the Review were treated differently by Web of Knowledge. That was a mistake.)
  • I’m not including Nous in this because Web of Knowledge treats Philosophical Issues and some years of Philosophical Perspectives as special issues of Nous, and separating out those from genuine issues of Nous is too hard for me to do with any accuracy.
  • The counts below are of how many articles in each of the top 3 journals cite any article from the ‘source’ journal published in 2000-2013. In practice, this undercounts how many times the top 3 journal cites the source journal, since of course an article might cite multiple articles from the 1 source.

That said, here are the data. I’ll leave commentary on the data for another time, because they are interesting enough on their own. I would be very interested in hearing in the comments for suggestions for other journals that might suitably be analysed this way.

Citing Journal
Source Journal of Philosophy      Mind      Philosophical Review
Journal of Philosophy 74 33 26
Mind 19 177 24
Philosophical Review 24 32 48
Philosophical Studies 57 56 35
Philosophical Quarterly 14 32 11
Australasian Journal of Philosophy 16 20 15
Ethics 15 16 12
Philosophy and Public Affairs 10 3 3
Philosophy of Science 21 8 10
BJPS 14 14 8
Linguistics and Philosophy 6 13 13
Mind and Language 12 15 5
Journal of Philosophical Logic 3 16 2
Journal of Symbolic Logic 1 3 1
Hypatia 0 0 1
Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 1 2 2
Law and Philosophy 1 0 0
Legal Theory 1 1 0

UPDATE 7/12: I’ve added some more thoughts in a new post.

Three Links

  • Ergo, a new open-access philosophy journal, is now accepting submissions. I’m really happy that so many people have put so much work into getting this started, and that University of Michigan is hosting it. (Go Blue!) I’ve got at least 3 papers almost ready to send to them, and I hope this will make it much easier for people to send more of their papers to open-access venues.
  • Christy Mag Uidhir (one of the many people behind Ergo) has some data about active faculty in aesthetics at top philosophy departments. I do worry that it is hard to measure from the outside how active aesthetics is at various departments. Aesthetics was more central to the research program at Rutgers than I had expected – as can now be seen in the work Gabe Greenberg is doing. And it is very active here at Michigan, although we have no active faculty who have published particularly recently in aesthetics. (Ken Walton is emiritus, but still around a lot, Dan Jacobson hasn’t published an aesthetics paper for a while, but is active on student committees and will probably publish in aesthetics again, etc.) But the data is still useful to have.
  • And Steve Elliot (Arizona State) made this nice spreadsheet of highly cited journal articles via Google Scholar, which is a useful complement to the Healy data that has been much discussed in recent weeks.

Self-Citation within Journals

One of the things to look for when doing citation searches is self-citations. If Joe Bloggs’s 1999 masterpiece has lots of citations, but it turns out that’s only because Bloggs has been citing Bloggs 1999 in everything he writes, then it isn’t clear that citation counts are measuring impact correctly. For that reason, many measures of citation exclude self-citation by authors. There are complications with this, especially with co-authored pieces. (If a paper by Stanley and Williamson cites Stanley and Szabo 2000, is that a self-cite? Should it be, given the rationale for excluding self-cites?) But overall I think it gives a better measure of citation impact.

We can ask the same question about journals. How much is the work in journal X being cited overall is a different question from how much it is being cited elsewhere. To get a sense of how big an issue this is, we can look at how frequently the journals publish articles citing other articles in that very journal. And that’s what I did. The table below counts how many articles in each of the big 3 journals cite articles published in the big 3 journals from 2000 to the present.

A few caveats before the table. I’ve taken this from Web of Knowledge, because I couldn’t figure out how to do the same thing with Google Scholar. I haven’t included Nous, partially because I’m lazy, and partially because of technical challenges. Perhaps most importantly, Web of Knowledge includes book reviews in Mind as articles, but not book reviews in Philosophical Review. That means the raw number of articles in Mind is much greater than in the other 2. (Roughly 600 articles in Mind, versus under 200 in Philosophical Review, and 350 in Journal of Philosophy.) That said, here’s the table.

Source\Citing Journal J Phil Mind Phil Review
J Phil 74 33 26
Mind 19 177 24
Phil Review 24 32 48

As you can see, journals cite themselves a lot. The huge number in the middle in part reflects Mind’s love of discussion notes, replies to discussion notes, and so on. (And in part reflects the odd fact that book reviews in Mind are counted in Web of Knowledge.) But don’t let that distract you too much; every journal is like this to some degree.

Of course, this is what you’d expect if the journals specialised. If article authors think that discussions about conceivability and possibility go to Philosophical Review, about conditionals go to Mind, and about the nature of function go to Journal of Philosophy, and they think that on the excellent ground that that’s where such articles in the past have gone, then of course those articles will end up citing largely other articles from the same journal. (This fact, that people send articles on X to places that have recently published on X, I think explains the bulk of the data.)

It’s also what you’d expect if either (a) editors demanded that authors recognise their perceptiveness in what they had previously chosen to publish by citing it well, or (b) authors believed that editors demanded this, whether or not they do.

And it’s also what you’d expect if editors of journal X were aware that a paper previously published in X was relevant to some new article, and properly insisted on it being cited, while they were not as aware of (or not as insistent about) relevant literature in journals X and Y.

Figuring out which of these three explanations – or others – is correct is for another time. I just wanted to note the data.

One last point. I started to do this because I’d been asked whether the odd data in the previous post (about the Journal not citing some classic papers in recent philosophical semantics) was part of a broader trend of the Journal not citing recent literature as much as the other top journals do. I don’t think this data alone either confirms or disconfirms that hypothesis. It’s true that the Journal cites the other top 2 journals at a lower rate than either Mind or Phil Review cite the other top 2 journals. But it’s not by much, and this could be a consequence of the Journal having (either because of editorial policy or submission patterns by authors) a different range of topics than the other top 2.

How Journal of Philosophy is Different

Three of the most important papers in the philosophy of language/semantics overlap in recent years are:

  • Dorothy Edgington, On Conditionals, Mind 1995
  • Jason Stanley and Zoltan Szabo, On Quantifier Domain Restriction, Mind & Language 2000
  • Jason Stanley, Context and Logical Form, Linguistics & Philosophy 2000

Between them they have nearly 1500 Google Scholar cites, and nearly 500 Web of Knowledge cites. They appear in Kieran Healy’s dataset 57 times between them. You might suspect that would mean that they would have to appear prominently in all four of the journals Kieran looks at. You’d be wrong.

According to Web of Knowledge, those papers have been mentioned, between them, exactly once in the Journal of Philosophy. In Jason Turner’s Ontological Pluralism there is a mention, in passing, of the Stanley and Szabo paper. The other 56 citations in the Healy dataset come from the other 3 journals he looks at.

According to Google Scholar, things have recently gotten better. There has been one more citation of one of these papers. In Andreas Stokke’s Lying and Asserting, published in the next-to-most-recent issue of the Journal, there is a mention, among a list of dissenters from radical contextualism, of Stanley’s Context and Logical Form. I assume that’s too recent to make the latest update to Web of Knowledge. (Neil Levy pointed out in comments to the previous post that Google Scholar often gives more accurate citation counts than Web of Knowledge. He’s right, especially about recent publications, and that prompted the search which led to this paragraph. Thanks Neil!)

But that’s it. There are no papers, at all, from the tradition of formal philosophy of language that Stanley and Szabo are writing in who cite their work in the Journal. There is no one at all who cites Edgington. By contrast, her paper has been cited in Mind at least 15 times that I found, and I possibly didn’t find all the cases.

Obviously any journal will have areas it thinks are less interesting, or less important, than other journals do. That’s a good thing. But I think this particular gap in the Journal‘s coverage of philosophy is unfortunate.

How the Top 4 journals are different

If you look at which philosophers have made the most impact by publishing in refereed philosophy journals over the last 10 years, it is easy to conclude that the one with the most impact, across academia, is Joshua Knobe. He not only has some very highly cited articles, he has a lot of articles that are cited many times. Indeed, his Web of Knowledge h-score for the last decade is, I believe, 11, which is nearly as good as some journals.

The only place Knobe’s impact doesn’t show up is in the Top 4 philosophy journals. He’s been cited 5 times in Journal of Philosophy, twice in Philosophical Review (both in the last year), 4 times in Nous (twice in his own articles), and never in Mind.

That’s not because he is only getting cited outside philosophy. He has 20 citations in Philosophical Studies, 19 in Mind & Language, 9 in Analysis, 8 in PPR, and so on. It is something very distinctive about those four journals that means work like Knobe’s isn’t getting cited there.

h-scores of Philosophy Journals

A quick and dirty (and probably inaccurate) count of the h-scores of various philosophy journals over the last 10 years (i.e., for papers published 2004 and later). This is the largest n such that the journal has published at least n articles cited at least n times since 2004. (I thought this might be relevant to this poll.)

Mind & Language – 24
P&PA – 19
Philosophy of Science – 18
BJPS – 18
Philosophical Studies – 18
Ethics – 18
Journal of Political Philosophy – 17
Nous – 16
PPR – 16
Linguistics & Philosophy – 16
Phil Review – 15
JPhil – 14
Mind – 14
PQ – 13
AJP – 12
Economics & Philosophy – 11
Erkenntnis – 10
Monist – 7
APQ – 8
CJP – 7
Journal of the History of Philosophy – 7
Review of Metaphysics – 3