“Sleeping Beauty” Papers in Philosophy (updated)


“Sleeping Beauty” papers “lie dormant for years before experiencing a sudden spike in citations as they are discovered and recognized as important.” A recent article in Nature discussed scientific papers that have slumbered for decades, as well as a way of assigning a “beauty coefficient” to papers.

The coefficient, B, is “a value based on the number of citations a paper has received and how long after publication it gained them. A paper that accrues citations linearly over time scores 0, but one that languishes for 100 years before rising to fame could score higher than 10,000.” According to the article, the scientific paper with the highest B was published in 1906, and did not “awaken” until 2002 (it’s “‘Concerning adsorption in solutions” by H. Freundlich).

Are there sleeping beauty papers in philosophy? (I mean, of course, besides that paper of yours from a few years back that no one has cited…yet.) Which have slumbered the longest? Who was their “prince”?

Perhaps the initiative at Ethics to revisit articles from its first one hundred years will awaken more beauties.

UPDATE (6/27/15): Kieran Healy (Duke) uses his data-wizardry to find some sleeping beauty papers in philosophy. His dataset contains contains 2760 articles—all of the articles published in the Journal of Philosophy, Mind, Nous (including its supplements), and the Philosophical Review between 1990 and 2014. His analysis, which includes the creation of a graph depicting the citation growth curves for the articles with 30 or more citations, discovered four plausible candidates for sleeping beauties.  The graph is below. To learn which papers are the sleeping beauties, head on over to Healy’s site. Thanks, Kieran!

Healy growth curve sleeping beauty philosophy

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