Hey Did You Know Logical Pluralism Is “Connected to Homosexuality”? (updated with a statement from the editors of Synthese)

Or that it is like a “sexy young woman that 1 day will be a not so attractive old lady?” Neither did I. But that is what Jean-Yves Beziau (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) claims in The relativity and universality of logic,” a paper published in Synthese that is currently making the rounds on social media (and discussed here). The passage is so incredible in its weirdness that I doubt anyone would believe a mere transcription, so here is a screen shot of the relevant bit:

Beziau logical pluralism copy

This of course would have been just as weird had the asserted connection between homosexuality (or political correctness, or sexy young women) and logical pluralism taken to be a point in favor of logical pluralism. Synthese editors, what happened here?

UPDATE: I have contacted Otávio Bueno, an editor of Synthese, who has told me he will be consulting with the other editors before issuing a response. I have also sent an email to Beziau asking him for a response. I haven’t heard back yet, but given the different time zones that is not unreasonable. I’ll update the post when I hear more.

There has been some speculation that the article is a hoax, along the lines of Alan Sokal’s infamous pranking of Social Text. I doubt that is the case, but either way, though I presented this story with levity, the fact that this article was published is highly objectionable. That a journal with Synthese’s reputation is publishing work like this raises a number of questions:

  • What is the level of editorial oversight in general at Synthese and other journals?
  • This article appeared in a special issue. What is the actual level of editorial oversight regarding special issues of journals? Are articles in special issues at Synthese (and elsewhere) peer reviewed? (see Update 2, below)
  • Was this article actually refereed? What is the actual relationship between peer review and editorial decisions at Synthese and elsewhere?
  • This bizarre article has been available online for 22 months. What does it say that that only now it is being discussed?
  • Is the opportunity cost of special issues worth it? Think of all of the articles that Synthese rejected in order to make room in its publication schedule for this issue and ones like it.

(A previous discussion of journal practices is here.)

UPDATE 2: A reader forwards Synthese’s instructions for special issues:

– Guest Editor submits the Special Issue Proposal Form to one of the journal’s editors in chief (via e-mail). This form can be downloaded via the link on the right side of this page

– A minimum of 2 Editors in Chief have to accept the proposal as fitting the scope of Synthese to be accepted

– Guest Editors arrange external peer review via Editorial Manager (set up via Springer) and are responsible for the content of the papers they accept. Accepted papers for the Special Issue typically have received at least two final positive recommendations by reviewers

– Completed Special Issues, including a brief editorial introduction by the guest editors, are subjected to a second peer review of the Editors in Chief of Synthese, focusing on the quality of the review procedure (the usual review standards apply to Special Issues)

* Submissions to special issues are restricted to those who have made previous arrangements with the relevant guest editor(s).

Please note that articles including impolite tone, personal attacks, libel, defamation, grossly unfair criticism, or deliberate misrepresentation are excluded from all issues of Synthese. If there is a possibility of an appearance of any of these in any of the articles included in the proposed Special Issue, such an article must be flagged by the Guest Editor, and if it passes the external peer review (of content) it must be given to the Editors in Chief for an additional review and a vote.

The guest editor for the special issue in which Beziau’s article appeared is Gergely Székely (Alfréd Rényi Institute of Mathematics).

UPDATE 3 (1/21/16): The editors of Synthese have asked me to post the following:

We are truly sorry about any offense caused by the special issue article published in Synthese. We are strongly committed to feminist and LTGB values. We take full responsibility for every article of published in Synthese, and are committed to learning lessons from every problem that arises. We are now looking into the problem, and although we would like to react as soon as possible, we also want to do a thorough investigation and discuss this with all concerned.

Thank you very much for your concern and patience.

Otávio (Bueno), Gila (Sher) and Wiebe (van der Hoek)
Editors-in-Chief, Synthese

UPDATE 4 (1/21-24/16): Others thoughts on the matter:
No More Free Labour by Me for Synthese” by Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa
In Defense of Journal Editors Who Make Mistakes” by Catarina Dutilh Novaes
When Journal Editors Reject; or further reflections prompted by the latest Synthese debacle” by Eric Schliesser

UPDATE 5 (1/24/16): Jean-Yves Béziau has written to me to say that he is aware of the controversy and is preparing a public reply, which I plan to post here when it is ready.

UPDATE 6 (1/29/16): Jean-Yves Béziau has issued a reply.

UPDATE 7: You’ve got to be kidding.

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