The Curious Case of a Quickly-Published Article


The article was submitted to a peer-reviewed philosophy journal on January 8th, accepted on January 24th, and published online on February 7th. 

That is turnaround time for an academic philosophy article that one can usually only dream of. But was this a lucky and luckily-fast outcome of the normal peer review and editorial process at the journal? Or was it special treatment of some sort or another? Or was it a mistake?

The journal in question is Philosophia, edited by Asa Kasher (Tel Aviv University), and published by Springer.

Browsing over various new articles at the journal, the submission-to-online-pre-issue-publication timing seems relatively ordinary (a look at five recent articles gives a normal timeline range of 5 to 19 months).

So the 1-month timeline for this paper is pretty unusual. But that’s not the only thing unusual about it. There’s also:

  • the paper’s subject matter: pronouns for transgender persons
  • the paper’s complete lack of citations
  • the fact that the paper was written under a pseudonym.

The paper is “A Dilemma Regarding Gendered Pronouns.” Author “Jill Malry” writes in the abstract:

My goal in this short paper is to introduce a dilemma regarding the pronouns ‘ she ’ , ‘ he ’ , and their various declensions. This dilemma arises from the practice, common in the English speaking world and especially the USA, of letting people choose their own pronouns.

The paper was brought to my attention by some philosophers a few weeks ago. It seemed odd that a paper would make it through peer review so quickly, especially a paper with no citations whatsoever, and on such a controversial subject.

Curious, I asked Professer Kasher about it. He replied that the publication of the paper at the time was a mistake. According to his records, the paper was “still under consideration.” He said he would look into it and get back to me.

That’s a strange mistake to happen at a journal. Have you ever heard of an academic manuscript getting accepted, typeset, and published by accident? Aren’t you curious about what step in that process happened by accident? And how?

But okay, mistakes happen, and I put it aside.

A week later, the philosophers who initially let me know about the article wrote to tell me it was still available as one of the “online first” published articles Philosophia.

Again, I thought, that’s strange. But these are challenging times, and it wouldn’t be all that surprising if the correction got displaced by something more pressing; or perhaps the editorial team isn’t in control of what shows up on the publisher’s website, and Springer hasn’t been responsive.

So I wrote again last week to Philosophia‘s editor, asking for an update. I also asked whether this had happened with any other manuscripts.

No reply yet. Just continued mystery.


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Robert
Robert
1 year ago

An article was published by accident and then redacted in Medicine, Healthcare, and Philosophy. Not sure why but wouldn’t want to submit there after seeing that this happened. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11019-018-9832-3?fbclid=IwAR0o_khO7YdGvy6328HlUDISOIwzz89gLtEpVzaMZXQ4tuFUDpW5bR884kwReport

Cordelia B
Cordelia B
1 year ago

This is a remarkably amateurish paper and its publication, let alone its publication in these circumstances, certainly represents a disservice to the journal. Ignoring the fact that there is already a voluminous literature on the matter of trans people and their pronouns (probably the most outstanding recent examples of which are in my view by Katharine Jenkins & Robin Dembroff) of which the author appears to be entirely ignorant, the argument is simply incoherent. As a trans woman, I do not identify with, choose or inform others of my pronouns. Rather, others infer from my appearance that I am a woman, because I have had a female-typical rather than male-typical balance of hormones in my body for some time, which has modified my appearance accordingly. When I inform others that I am trans, which I do with close friends & partners, they are generally rather surprised. My experience is not at all uncommon and I find it bizarre that one of the recurring themes in the less accomplished ‘gender critical’ literature is taking as some sort of a priori presupposition that there exists some monovalent attribute called ‘biological sex’ (rather than the multiple sexes recognised in biological literature, e.g. chromosomal, phenotypical, reproductive, anatomical, etc.) which is immediately legible to strangers by sense-perception alone. As it happens this is not only an indefensible idea but it is also one which disintegrates upon the slightest familiarity with trans people.Report

ehz
ehz
Reply to  Cordelia B
1 year ago

I am not sure that I see why the argument is incoherent. Assuming what follows “the argument is simply incoherent” in your comment was meant to support this claim, I am not sure how it does so.

You write that you “do not identify with, choose or inform others of [your] pronouns”, but I don’t see how that clashes with anything in the paper. The paper seems to object to “the practice, common in the English speaking world and especially the USA, of letting people choose their own pronouns”. I gather from your comment that you are not one of those choosing their own pronouns. That is fine. But that does not mean there is no such practice.

You write that “one of the recurring themes in the less accomplished ‘gender critical’ literature is taking as some sort of a priori presupposition that there exists some monovalent attribute called ‘biological sex’ (rather than the multiple sexes recognised in biological literature, e.g. chromosomal, phenotypical, reproductive, anatomical, etc.) which is immediately legible to strangers by sense-perception alone.” Again, I don’t see how that clashes with anything in the paper. As far as I can tell, the paper does not rely on any such premise. It makes no mention of people’s appearances or inferring someone’s sex by sense-perception alone.

To be fair, I think the argument in the paper is bad. Its central move seems to be this: letting people choose their own pronouns conflicts with using the same pronouns to refer to nonhuman animals based on biological sex, thus we must abandon one or the other. To my mind this is very weakly supported in the paper, and this is where I think the argument fails. But I also find your comment troubling. You dismiss the paper as “simply incoherent” without any effort to engage with its content. This is unfortunate.Report

Chloe TB
Chloe TB
Reply to  ehz
1 year ago

My understanding of Cordelia B.’s comment is not necessarily that she never chose to use a particular set of pronouns for herself, but that on the vast majority of days of her life, she does not perform the positive action of choice regarding pronouns when interacting with others.

What I mean is that the only way for the article author to know that someone has “chosen” a pronoun is when either that person explicitly says so, or corrects someone who addresses them with incorrect pronouns. Suppose you are trans and you have an interaction with the author; if the author were to address you correctly, using the pronouns that you go by, you would have no reason to signal your choice of other pronouns by providing correction. Unless the author had previous knowledge that you were trans, they would no reason at all to believe you had made a choice in the first place.

The vast majority of people who make arguments in line with this author’s views are not thinking about the trans people who they didn’t “clock;” they are thinking about the ones who corrected (and perhaps embarrassed) them.Report

nousacceptance
nousacceptance
1 year ago

Philosophia as the leader of a country: “We declared war and committed our troops by mistake. We meant that the peace treaty is under review, and we are still discussing it.’ Report

Joe
Joe
1 year ago

That is a preposterously poor paper. Let’s hope there’s a very good explanation coming… though why it wasn’t even desk-rejected in the first place is a mystery. No references? How can something not be desk rejected when it has no references?

And of course, let’s not pretend that this kind of weirdly preferential turnaround time doesn’t occur at even the most prestigious journals… https://ibb.co/XL2XC7qReport

Nicolas Delon
Nicolas Delon
Reply to  Joe
1 year ago

Singer’s paper was part of a special issue, if I’m not mistaken. So it was probably invited and then perhaps refereed independently of the regular submission process. The dates you see don’t mean much I think.Report

Clement
Clement
1 year ago

One might argue that the use of an undeclared pseudonym is enough to warrant retraction. Report

Caligula's Goat
Caligula's Goat
1 year ago

I’ll go ahead and say that, in 99.99% of cases, if a paper in the last thirty years lacks citations then it’s not part of the academic conversation and should not be published. Tyron Goldschmidt notwithstanding 🙂

That Philosophia would publish what’s obviously a not-ready-for-prime-time paper which arguably didn’t go through peer review is a bad look for the journal. Honestly, and without sarcasm, for shame Philosophia! For shame! Report

Matt
Matt
1 year ago

That’s nothing. This paper was published before it was received: https://content.sciendo.com/view/journals/disp/4/31/article-p271.xmlReport

Miroslav Imbrisevic
1 year ago

I note that all of the commentators so far are hiding their identities, just like the author of the paper – if that name really is a pseudonym.Report

fed up grad student
fed up grad student
Reply to  Miroslav Imbrisevic
1 year ago

Of course we’re also not purporting to offer peer-reviewed and publication-ready arguments on an important and heavily worked-over philosophical issue, but I guess that little detail is irrelevantReport

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  Miroslav Imbrisevic
1 year ago

I’m happy to say under my own name that this is exceptionally weird.Report

Cordelia B
Cordelia B
Reply to  Miroslav Imbrisevic
1 year ago

Hi, I wrote one of the comments which you are referencing. You may have noticed that I mentioned that I am trans, and that I do not publicly disclose my status as trans. I transitioned in my teens and do not want to expose myself to the harassment that nearly every public trans academic to have written on gender has received from the ‘gender-critical’. To write with my real name on gender and refer to my experience, which I do not do, requires me to disclose something which I consider to be between me and those to whom I am intimate, rather than me and everyone to Google my name. In marked contrast, the person who wrote this paper just appears to have written a poor paper, one I feel comfortable saying is in most circumstances, but particularly these, unfit for scholarly publication. I do not think publicly outing one’s self as trans versus being publicly outed as having written a bad paper are really comparable situations.Report

Kate Norlock
1 year ago

This is odd indeed, although it probably is a mistake and one that current events might be preventing folks from attending to. Justin, if you want to cast your contact net more widely, you might want to shift to emailing someone on their About page, perhaps the first one:
Contact the journal
Submission-related enquiries
Queries about submission issues, peer review process, or the status of your manuscript should be sent to Sheryl Ramos ([email protected]).

Publication-related enquiries
Queries about accepted manuscripts in production or post-publication corrections should be sent to Jill Mortillero ([email protected]).

Other editorial enquiries
Any other queries about the journal or presubmission enquiries should be sent to Cristina Dos Santos ([email protected]).Report

E
E
1 year ago

2020 isn’t even half over and Philosophia has now published or accepted for publication at least three papers arguing against trans-inclusive views of gender.

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11406-020-00181-x
https://philpapers.org/rec/BOGSIP-3
https://philpapers.org/rec/BOGEAFReport

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  E
1 year ago

But the other two look perfectly unremarkable from a scholarly point of view: published after the normal timescale, reference to referee comments in the text, extensively referenced. I’ve no idea whether they’re good papers – it’s not my area, and in any case I didn’t do more than skim them – but they don’t share the weirdness of this case.Report

E
E
Reply to  David Wallace
1 year ago

Right. Didn’t mean to imply that all three papers are weird in the same way. However, I do think something’s gone awry when a generalist journal earns a reputation for being very welcoming to a particular set of views. Report

Skeptical
Skeptical
Reply to  E
1 year ago

Not if almost all other journals are known to be exceptionally unwelcoming.Report

Skeptical
Skeptical
Reply to  Skeptical
1 year ago

To be clearer, if there is a lot of good work defending a set of views which are anathema to almost all journals, a journal willing to publish good work without restriction is more likely to end up publishing defenses of such views.Report

Cordelia B
Cordelia B
Reply to  Skeptical
1 year ago

Quite to the contrary, the trans-exclusionary side of this debate has recently seen publication by non-experts on precisely this matter in Philosophical Studies (Alex Byrne) and Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society (Kathleen Stock). These publications I find even more remarkable given neither of these philosophers had previously published anything on the subject of philosophy of sex/gender, and given that the matter of trans pronouns was confined mostly to specialist feminist philosophy journals before the recent growth of ‘gender-critical’ philosophy. The burden of proof has certainly not been met for the argument that all other generalist journals are unusually unwelcoming to this viewpoint.Report

Skeptical
Skeptical
Reply to  Cordelia B
1 year ago

That seems to me extremely thin evidence that generalist journals are unwelcoming to the view at issue (which I don’t agree is “trans-exclusionary”). I believe Stock’s paper was invited, but you might ask Byrne and Bogardus about their experiences attempting to publish.Report

Cordelia B
Cordelia B
Reply to  Cordelia B
1 year ago

I am merely falsifying the view, the one you proposed in your earlier comment, that generalist journals are ‘exceptionally unwelcoming’ to the trans-exclusionary side of this debate. I am not advancing any alternative theory of my own and so I am unsure what evidence you would ask me to supply. As for the phrase ‘trans-exclusionary’, I am using it to refer to the fact that these views propose gender categories which exclude trans people from the categories in which they believe themselves to reside. From what I know of Bogardus and his work, I do not believe he would call himself ‘gender-critical’, and I cannot think of another moniker to use which unites Bogardus, Stock, Byrne & the pseudonymous author of this article other than language you would likely find even more loaded.Report

A Paul O'Gee
A Paul O'Gee
Reply to  Cordelia B
1 year ago

I have a quick question: Do you think in general that one cannot contribute to some literature on some topic unless one is already an established expert on that topic? I ask because I’m trying to figure out why it’s relevant that Alex Byrne is a “non-expert” or why you think that a non-expert writing on a new topic is “remarkable”. It seems like you bring up those features of Alex Byrne to impugn his work. Yet the work of a graduate student who publishes on a topic that is left mostly to specialists who publish in specialist journals would not be impugned because a graduate student is “non-expert who has never published on the topic before”, right? Report

Cordelia B
Cordelia B
Reply to  Cordelia B
1 year ago

I do not think a non-expert writing on a new topic is ‘remarkable’, or that Alex Byrne is generally ‘non-expert’ in philosophy–you have moved my phrases around in odd ways to make me say things I do not. I do, think, however, that it is remarkable that one of the rare publications in a very highly-regarded generalist journal on a topic on which there is much existing literature in specialist journals by specialists was by someone who has not previously published on the topic. Of course Byrne is welcome to publish what he wishes and his writing on the topic is not ipso facto remarkable. I was making a point that to me seems highly suggestive that there is no bias in generalist journal editorial policy against philosophers without background on the philosophy of sex/gender successfully publishing ‘trans-exclusionary’ stances, which I would conjecture describes this paper, and Bogardus, as well.Report

JTD
JTD
Reply to  Cordelia B
1 year ago

The claim that Alex Byrne is a non-expert seem dubious to me. One of his research specializations is philosophy of language and his Philosophical Studies paper is essentially applied philosophy of language. That seems like sufficient expertise to me. By contrast, he doesn’t have a research specialization in political philosophy, so I would agree that he is a non-expert if he wrote a paper in that field.

The non-expert claim is repeated a lot in these debates and there seems to be a few confusions going on in how it is used. One is neglecting the fragmentation of expertise that occurs in many research topics. For example, people sometimes say that climatologists are the “true” experts when it comes to the science of climate change. They may be the most important experts, but there are many areas of specialization that are relevant to the science of climate change, such as glaciology, petrology, astrophysics, and statistics. For certain narrow questions in the science of climate change an astrophysicists or statistician has more relevant expertise than a climatologist. It should be obvious to everyone how this often applies in philosophy as well.

Another way expertise claims are misused is when expertise is defined too narrowly. You don’t need to be an expert in Marxism to write a critique of Marxist political philosophy or to compare certain kinds of Marxist philosophies. You only need a general expertise in political philosophy. Someone who had mainly published on communtarianism or liberalism would not be stepping outside their field of expertise if they wrote an article on analytic Marxism. If a group of Marxist philosophers started deriding discussions of Marxism offered by non-Marxist political philosophers on the grounds that they were written by non-experts we would rightly be suspicious. Report

E
E
Reply to  Skeptical
1 year ago

JTD: “The claim that Alex Byrne is a non-expert seem dubious to me.”

Then you should read Dembroff’s response to Byrne, which makes plain just how much Byrne’s piece suffers from not engaging the literature. Don’t take my word for it. Read the response.

JTD: “One of his research specializations is philosophy of language and his Philosophical Studies paper is essentially applied philosophy of language. ”

Which makes one the central arguments of Byrne’s paper, his “The Dictionary Says ‘Woman’ Means ‘Adult Human Female’, So Women are Adult Human Females” argument, all the more galling. Report

Alex Byrne
Alex Byrne
Reply to  E
1 year ago

Since my name has come up, perhaps I can add a couple of things. First, I’m not an expert in anything. I have, however, read about ten times as many papers on sex and gender than I ever did on the philosophy of language, for what that’s worth. Second, I also recommend reading Dembroff’s reply, carefully comparing Dembroff’s reconstruction with what I actually wrote. And readers can quickly confirm that the dictionary plays a minor role in the overall argument. Report

E
E
Reply to  E
1 year ago

It’s encouraging to hear that you view the Dictionary Argument as a minor one.

Since you’re reading and replying, I’ll take this opportunity to ask: Which of your arguments are you more keen on? Can’t be the ‘girl’ argument, since that’s another Dictionary Argument. Is it one of the epistemic arguments involving Mitochondrial Eve or the role reversal argument, both of which beg the question? How about the argument that relies on the Serano quote, which in that very same quote, also contains evidence against what you say?Report

Justin Kalef
Justin Kalef
Reply to  E
1 year ago

Two points, both meant to apply generally:

1) If there is good reason to think a given area of study fails to be primarily objective and truth-seeking, the need to engage with the literature produced by that area is negated.

2) If a given area of study manifestly combines activism with inquiry, and if there are few if any dissenters from core ideological points within a discipline, or if scholars are attacked or have their work pulled from publication under pressure of a petition, then there is good reason to believe that that area of study fails to be primarily objective and truth seeking. Report

fed up grad student
fed up grad student
Reply to  E
1 year ago

The point isn’t that you should always and everywhere engage with the literature for its own sake The point is that, in the case of philosophy of gender specifically, people are parachuting in and raising all of these supposedly devastating objections that people have actually been puzzling over and offering solutions to for decades. That’s why, in the case of philosophy of gender specifically, ignorance of even the broad strokes of the preceding literature is arrogant, disrespectful, and disqualifying.Report

Justin Kalef
Justin Kalef
Reply to  E
1 year ago

Hi, Fed Up Grad Student.

I think I understand your motivation for saying that, but I don’t think it leads us to a good set of general philosophical norms.

Take, for instance, the question of God’s existence or of mind/body dualism. The famous philosophers who raised doubts about the traditional answers to these questions were up against a significant body of scholarship that went back for centuries. How would things have progressed if the religious philosophers could have dismissed the new philosophical moves out of consideration simply by pointing to the mountains of philosophical work created by traditional Christian philosophers and saying ‘You haven’t engaged adequately with this literature! We religious thinkers have been thinking about these questions for centuries, and there are things so clear that no Catholic, Protestant, Muslim or Jew would even bother to doubt them: be silent and learn them!”?

To accept norms like this would tilt the field steeply in favor of intellectual conservatism.

Actually, there is a vast historical literature supporting the opposite of what trans activist scholars believe. That trans scholarship found a place in the university at all is only possible because the intellectual community did what it ought to do: to be prepared to consider the force of new arguments on their own merits, without assuming that the weight of (quite possibly biased) prior literature must be mastered first. If someone comes in with a seemingly cogent argument whose premises are plausible, then that argument deserves consideration. If there’s already a clear response to that argument, then someone should produce that response and deal with the argument — *not* wave at ‘the literature’ and say ‘The response to you is in there, somewhere’.

To allow those sorts of moves would grind inquiry to a halt. The advocates of all sorts of ideas from gun rights to conspiracy theories to creationism have their literature. I’m sure they, too, might wish we would all read that literature thoroughly before arguing for gun control or evolution. But should we give in to that? I don’t see how things could work if we did.Report

fed up grad student
fed up grad student
Reply to  E
1 year ago

I think the field should be intellectually conservative, in the sense that we shouldn’t value the kind of “brilliant, off-the-wall innovation” that comes from shooting from the hip and not citing anybody.

Your analogy with 18th-century materialism strikes me as inapt. For one thing, it seems to me (I’m not an early modernist, so maybe I’m wrong here) that those figures *were* in conversation with their theist, dualist opponents, responding directly to counterarguments and so forth. Again, I don’t really know, so maybe I’m wrong about this. So let’s say that they did totally ignore their would-be interlocutors, and overlooked philosophically serious objections embedded in the theistic philosophical tradition. If that’s so, they should be judged wanting from our perspective as contemporary philosophers – we shouldn’t be imitating them in that respect.

This does *not* entail the “be silent and listen” stance, nor the “The response is in there somewhere” stance. It seems like you’re imputing those views to me because you’re skeptical of the philosophical seriousness or quality of the existing literature on gender and trans issues – or, more specifically, skeptical that the issues raised by folks like Byrne and Bogardus have been addressed in that literature. I can’t help you there, since such skepticism is plainly unwarranted. But I’m pretty sure Dembroff’s most recent paper gives several (non-exhaustive) examples of the oversight of existing coverage of these issues.

For the record, I do agree that it is not helpful to just say “the literature” rather than rehashing the responses that exist there. Obviously the fact that disagreements still persist about this is evidence that earlier work on gender and trans issues hasn’t reached a wide enough philosophical audience, and in some cases this may have to do with writing style, being published in venues not usually consulted by philosophers, and so on. So we’re going to need to rehash the arguments for a mainstream philosophical audience (and I think, by the way, that Dembroff and Barnes, among others, have already done a huge chunk of the work necessary for that, and am awaiting the publication of responses to their arguments). I’m *just* arguing that, ceterus paribus, it is justified and sensible to take issue with people not engaging with the literature.Report

E
E
Reply to  E
1 year ago

Justin,

The familiar “read the literature” claim that you often find in these online discussions is not being made here. Stop thinking about this exchange through the lens of those previous exchanges and take what’s being written here at face value. I implored JTD to read Dembroff’s response to Byrne because Dembroff’s response very clearly lays out the literature-related problems with Byrne’s piece. Since you can’t even be bothered to read the 5 page paper that started this whole thread, I’ll give you one example from the exchange between Dembroff and Byrne.

Byrne pulls a quote from the trans author Serano to provide evidence that ‘woman’ means ‘adult human female’. But Dembroff points out that in the _very same Serano piece_ ‘woman’ is elsewhere not used with that meaning! Byrne only focuses on the part of the quote that supports his view. Can’t you imagine how incredibly frustrating this would be to the more serious participants in these debates, people who have spent their entire careers writing about this stuff (and not, say, the metaphysics of color)? Report

Justin Kalef
Justin Kalef
Reply to  E
1 year ago

Hello, Fed Up Grad Student and E.

Perhaps we don’t have a substantive disagreement on the right norms here. That would be good! My position is that people should be welcome to present whatever arguments or objections they like, even if they haven’t read all the literature. If someone makes a blunder because he or she hasn’t read a wonderful and decisive argument or objection that was published elsewhere, then that should be pointed out by the reviewer or by readers. This would present a good occasion for everyone involved to hear, once again, the powerful argument for the case in question and see that the argument really is as strong as it’s said to be.

E, it isn’t that I can’t be bothered to read a 5-page article. I don’t have access to it from this computer (I tried following Justin W’s link).

You say that Byrne commits a massive blunder in what he has written on the subject, and that Dembroff points it out. I’ll leave it to Byrne to respond to that charge if he wants to, and reply instead to what you say you want me to draw from this example: that it must be very frustrating for people who have spent so much time working on these areas to have to raise arguments that should be well known to those familiar with the literature, or otherwise to have to deal with what are perhaps very ignorant objections.

No, to be honest, I don’t see it! If someone takes the time to comment publicly on something I’ve studied a great deal, and commits a major error that I can demonstrate, I’m always glad to be able to deploy the great argument once again in front of a new audience. Clearly, if that is going on, the argument is not yet widely-enough known, and it advances the discipline for it to be repeated yet again. And really, how hard is it on one to win a debate by being able to pull out a decisive argument?

If the argument is not that decisive, though, well… there I can understand the annoyance. But that seems to be annoyance at something that’s beneficial to philosophy.Report

fed up grad student
fed up grad student
Reply to  E
1 year ago

“No, to be honest, I don’t see it! If someone takes the time to comment publicly on something I’ve studied a great deal, and commits a major error that I can demonstrate, I’m always glad to be able to deploy the great argument once again in front of a new audience.”

Of course, in those cases – as far as I know – you aren’t a trans person whose interlocutors are implicitly (or explicitly) accusing you of conceptual confusion by being trans. So I’m not surprised you don’t see the frustration.

Also, the charged nature of gender and trans issues aside, I’m surprised you don’t find blatant cherry-picking annoying, just because it’s easy to refute. I know I sure do.Report

E
E
Reply to  E
1 year ago

“Clearly, if that is going on, the argument is not yet widely-enough known, and it advances the discipline for it to be repeated yet again. And really, how hard is it on one to win a debate by being able to pull out a decisive argument?”

First, there’s nothing to be proud of in showing that some scholar isn’t upholding standards of scholarship. Second, I’d wager that, no, the discipline isn’t being advanced on the whole. Most people, including, I might add, yourself, as you said so above, aren’t even going to read the exchange between Byrne and Dembroff. Instead, they’re going to read about the exchange, and think things like, “Well, a distinguished MIT professor defends the view in print, so the arguments for it can’t be THAT bad,” when many of them are in fact that bad.

It should not be controversial that scholars should be scholarly. I find it amusing that out of everyone, it’s the feminist metaphysicians that are the ones here doing as Williamson instructed all of us to do when he wrote, “Must Do Better”.Report

Paul
Paul
Reply to  E
1 year ago

“Obviously the fact that disagreements still persist about this is evidence that earlier work on gender and trans issues hasn’t reached a wide enough philosophical audience, and in some cases this may have to do with writing style, being published in venues not usually consulted by philosophers, and so on.”

Surely the persistence of disagreements owes itself not to people being unfamiliar with the work you refer to, but to the basic point that philosophical debates are typically interminable. Report

Justin Kalef
Justin Kalef
Reply to  E
1 year ago

To Fed Up Grad Student: I don’t yet know what cherry picking you refer to. You make another point, though: “Of course, in those cases – as far as I know – you aren’t a trans person whose interlocutors are implicitly (or explicitly) accusing you of conceptual confusion by being trans. So I’m not surprised you don’t see the frustration.”

True, I’m not trans, as far as I know (I find the newer definitions of ‘gender’ so confusing that it’s difficult for me to tell). But it’s quite common in philosophy for others to say things that imply one is conceptually confused about things one takes to be an essential part of who one is. Religious people are told that their self-conception as ensouled bodies is nonsense even in principle. Atheists and agnostics are told that they aren’t even capable of reasoning if they don’t believe in God, and that they can’t possibly be moral. I think we’ve all experienced things like that. Is that exactly the same as having someone doubt one’s ideological commitments on trans issues? No, because no two things are exactly the same. But where does the argument go from here? Is your position that only trans people, or non-trans people who have a prior commitment to agreeing with mainstream trans ideology, should be permitted to contribute to the philosophical discussion? If so, then I don’t understand how the result can be a genuinely philosophical discussion. Whatever one can affirm in a philosophical discussion, one must be able to deny. Do you disagree?

To E: I take your point: since there are vastly more philosophical articles than there is time to read them all, none of us are in a good position to judge the status of most of the philosophical disputes. You say, because of this, that people will come to think, on the grounds that professor at a highly respected philosophy department continues to engage in a dispute with someone else, that the position held by the professor from the respected department is probably at least somewhat philosophically viable. I think you’re right about that.

But I don’t know what you’re suggesting as a better alternative. Is the suggestion that nobody should be permitted to publish in a field unless he or she can demonstrate deep familiarity with that field as a whole? If so, who will make that judgment? Suppose a bunch of activists with a very strong ideological commitment mark off a field of study for themselves, and use it to produce a discourse that never comes to question its core ideological doctrines. That discourse then becomes the ‘literature’ on the topic. Now journal editors pick people from that discipline — again, mostly or entirely activists, few or none of whom doubt the core doctrines — to determine whether a given article is up to snuff. If an article is critical of all the literature, or if the literature is deeply flawed because it has failed to doubt some core doctrines of the movement, it will now be very easy for the activist-reviewers to report back that the article has not engaged adequately with the literature even if it has in fact utterly demolished a core claim in the literature. We all know that activists in the service of a certain cause tend to dismiss objections much too quickly: being able to gesture to the literature, or being unable to doubt the core doctrines behind the literature, could make that very easy. And then we would have a way for the activists behind a movement to block any criticism of their core ideology from appearing in print.

Considering that all this is meant to be philosophical, that seems far worse than the chance that someone will think a position or objection is probably viable when it isn’t.
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David Mathers
David Mathers
Reply to  Skeptical
1 year ago

At the very least, the burden of proof is on those who claim journals are unwelcoming to prove it. Same goes for those insinuating there was something untoward about Philosophia publishing several articles in the other direction of course, but in that case we have evidence of odd behaviour around one of the papers, so suspicion is a bit more warranted. Report

David Mathers
David Mathers
Reply to  David Mathers
1 year ago

My own intuition for what it’s worth is that while there are very loud voices in philosophy that take extremely strong stances on trans issues and regard any work that takes the other side as presumptively illegitimate, there is likely a much larger pool of people who are less invested. Report

Alex Byrne
Alex Byrne
Reply to  David Mathers
1 year ago

In reply to E, this is probably not the place to debate whether my paper has any merit. Happy to do that elsewhere. If I’m wrong I would very much welcome corrections. But I didn’t mean to disavow the dictionary argument. I like all my arguments! The positive case in the first part is complemented by the objections to contrary arguments in the second part. The second part is much more important than the first. And an argument does not “beg the question” simply because someone who is determined to dispute the conclusion will also dispute either the reasoning or the premises.Report

E
E
Reply to  Alex Byrne
1 year ago

“an argument does not “beg the question” simply because someone who is determined to dispute the conclusion will also dispute either the reasoning or the premises.”

I didn’t say or assume so. Nor did I read your piece with any “determination to dispute the conclusion of your arguments”. But I will admit that I was caught off guard by the fact that the first argument of your paper has the same structure as the structure of the arguments I see from some of my intro students: “The OED defines ‘justice’ as…, therefore…”.

“The positive case in the first part is complemented by the objections to contrary arguments in the second part.”

Thanks for clarifying. Report

Alex Byrne
Alex Byrne
Reply to  David Mathers
1 year ago

This is a reply to E upthread about the Serano quote. As I said, this isn’t the place to have a debate about whether my arguments are any good. (E — I would be delighted to do that over email or in some other forum. I am quite open to changing my mind.) But: the relevant premise (about the appropriate interchangeability of ‘woman’ and ‘female’ in certain contexts) has nothing do with Serano — the quotation from her is just used to illustrate the premise. And Dembroff does not say anything about the “the _very same Serano piece_ “. I think you have Dembroff’s footnote 25 in mind, but that is about some quotations I give later in the paper, not the Serano quotation. (I also disagree with the claims in that footnote, and for that matter everything else in Dembroff’s paper, but that’s another story.)Report

E
E
Reply to  Alex Byrne
1 year ago

” I think you have Dembroff’s footnote 25 in mind, but that is about some quotations I give later in the paper, not the Serano quotation.”

That’s right. I misremembered the relevant footnote. Sorry about that. I do wonder what you think about the charge of cherry picking to which I’m alluding. I mean, it’s hard to imagine that you’re not familiar with the fact that there are entire communities that don’t use gender terms in the way your view predicts. Report

Cordelia B
Cordelia B
Reply to  David Wallace
1 year ago

I do not publish in this literature but I keep up with it fairly avidly. Although I think both of Bogardus’ papers have issues, neither are patently unfit for publication, as I would argue this one is; both are at least in conversation with the recent literature on the matter. However, I do think that the fact a general-interest journal has published quite so many papers advocating a very particular non-consensus view on a fiercely-debated issue and none that I can find advocating for any of the widely-supported alternative views may say something about editorial policy.Report

Skeptical
Skeptical
Reply to  Cordelia B
1 year ago

As the Bogardus papers are quite good, setting aside the current (likely) error, I think it says the following about editorial policy: “We consider work on its merits.”Report

Cordelia B
Cordelia B
Reply to  Skeptical
1 year ago

To me the publication of two adequate works representing one viewpoint on a topic, one very poor work representing the same viewpoint, and no works at all representing alternative viewpoints on that topic seems very far from suggesting ‘we consider work on its merits’. Report

Skeptical
Skeptical
Reply to  Cordelia B
1 year ago

Our differences of opinion are likely influenced by our views about the quality of the Bogardus papers and about the background biases against such views in other generalist journals. (I have no view on the quality of the paper prompting this entire discussion.)Report

JTD
JTD
Reply to  Cordelia B
1 year ago

“no works at all representing alternative viewpoints”. Very likely, such works have not, to date, been published in Philosophia because none of publication standard have been submitted. This might be true because works with these viewpoints are generally being published in more high-prestige journals than Philosophia. For evidence of bias at Philosophia, we would want to see several cases where authors had submitted high-quality articles arguing for these views to Philosophia and had them rejected. Report

AD
AD
Reply to  Cordelia B
1 year ago

To be clear, Philosophia has published *2* papers on this subject recently, and *1* by accident. This is not remarkable in the slightest. Report

AD
AD
Reply to  David Wallace
1 year ago

Bogardus’s papers are extremely good! He convinced me to reject the sex-gender distinction.Report

E
E
Reply to  AD
1 year ago

Was it his argument in the “Some Internal Problems…” paper implying that non-mainstream uses of ‘woman’ in (say) trans communities are literally unintelligible or disrespectful to members of those very communities, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that did it for you?

Or perhaps it was his bold rejection of the is/ought gap, in response to an argument that employed it as a premise, in his “Evaluating Arguments…” paper, that really sold you?

I suppose that I, too, would be convinced by arguments against trans-inclusive accounts of gender, if, like Bogardus and Byrne, apparently, I’ve never used the word ‘woman’ or ‘man’ in a conversation with a trans individual.

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AD
AD
Reply to  E
1 year ago

Part of it is just seeing how silly the reasons are that people give for thinking sex and gender are distinct, which his paper goes over. I found myself having a similar thought to Bogardus while reading Dembroff’s argument: surely a professional philosopher wouldn’t make such a silly argument. But there it is.

Anyway, why do you think Bogardus and Byrne haven’t used the word “man” or “woman” in conversation with someone who is trans? Seems like a pretty silly assumption to make.Report

E
E
Reply to  AD
1 year ago

“I found myself having a similar thought to Bogardus while reading Dembroff’s argument: surely a professional philosopher wouldn’t make such a silly argument. But there it is.”

Bogardus doesn’t call Dembroff’s argument “silly”, so I’m not sure why you think he thinks it’s silly, nor why you think you’re in the same company as him in this regard. Indeed, some evidence that Bogardus doesn’t think Dembroff’s argument is silly is that Bogardus spends time trying to refute it. Silly arguments are not refuted in this profession – they’re ignored or dismissed in a note.

Moreover, Dembroff’s argument, at least on Bogardus’s interpretation, is a classic Leibniz Law style argument: Being a man has normative features that being male doesn’t, so the properties aren’t identical.

But you know what is silly? Claiming in response to Dembroff’s argument that, get this, being a man DOES have normative features, including such normative features as, I hope you’re ready for this, “males ought to protect those in their care”. And what else is silly is not even considering the most glaringly obvious response to this claim, which is that being male doesn’t, on its own, without supplementation from some extra purely normative principle, have this normative implication.

Talk about silly arguments.

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Unleash the Archers
Unleash the Archers
Reply to  E
1 year ago

The issues here are complicated but I believe fn. 20 is a response to your objection, E.

I agree with you that Dembroff’s arguments aren’t silly. However, neither are Bogardus’.

I do think Dembroff’s response to Byrne was not very good. (I also found Dembroff’s closing insinuations about Byrne’s motives and character unfortunate). Report

AD
AD
Reply to  E
1 year ago

“Silly arguments are not refuted in this profession – they’re ignored or dismissed in a note.”

Google “Eliminative Materialism.”Report

Josh
Josh
Reply to  E
1 year ago

Yeah, Bogardus really buried the lede here. I’m way more interested in his (never explicated!) solution to the is-ought gap than I am in his views on arguments for the sex-gender distinction. Report

Tomas Bogardus
Reply to  E
1 year ago

Dear E,

Thank you for reading my work, and thank you for your comments. 🙂

About “Some Internal Problems withe Revisionary Gender Concepts,” you seem pretty skeptical of my conclusion that revisionary gender concepts are either incoherent/viciously circular or trans-exclusive. I attempted to show this with some particular examples in the paper, but if you tell me about your favorite revisionary/ameliorative definitions, perhaps we could see if we obtain the same result?

With regard to “Evaluating Arguments for the Sex/Gender Distinction,” you seem concerned about my “bold rejection” of the is/ought gap, in particular my claim that, if all I know about someone is he’s an adult male human, I’m in a position to know, from the armchair, just by reflecting on my concepts, that he ought to protect those in his care (and be kind and generous, not be enslaved, etc.). I take it you disagree.

Maybe I’m just a little old fashioned, but I do think that *everybody* (including males) should protect those in their care, and I do think that, if all I know about someone is he’s an adult male human, I’m in a position to know, from the armchair, that he shouldn’t be enslaved. Do you disagree? If so, what further information would you need in order to know whether or not he should be enslaved?

And, yes, I myself am a pretty skeptical of the alleged is/ought gap. (I take it I’m in pretty good company on that throughout the history of philosophy!) But—and here’s a pretty crucial point that I probably should have emphasized more in the text, though it can be found in footnote 21—even if you’re a big fan of the is/ought gap, you should be concerned about Dembroff’s argument.

You characterize Dembroff’s argument like so: Being a man has normative features that being male doesn’t, so the properties aren’t identical. If you check out my footnote 21 in that paper, you’ll see the worry: while sounding pretty supportive of the is/ought gap when stating the argument, it seems to me that *Dembroff* actually needs it to be possible to cross that gap, in order for that first premise to work (“Being a man has normative features”). Dembroff seems to think it safe to infer prescriptive conclusions from purely descriptive statements, namely descriptive statements involving gender terms like “man” and “woman.”

So, in order for Dembroff’s argument to work, it sure looks we need to be able to cross that is/ought gap (“This is a man, therefore he should…”). If you think that gap is unbridgeable, well, that’s a problem for Dembroff’s first premise, no? So that’s the dilemma: if the is/ought gap really can’t be bridged, Dembroff’s first premise is false. But, on the other hand, if it can be bridged with respect to gender terms like “man” (so that the first premise is true), it’s hard to see why it can’t be bridged with our concept of an adult male human. Which of course is exactly what the traditional definition would predict, that whatever goes for (our concept of) a man goes for (our concept of) an adult male human.

Again, thanks for sharing your thoughts and feedback. I really appreciate it. 🙂Report

Soon to be unemployed VAP
Soon to be unemployed VAP
1 year ago

I tend to think that all of my papers have been published by mistake. Report

Jessica MacIntosh
Jessica MacIntosh
1 year ago

This reads very much like it was translated into English.Report

Jessica MacIntosh
Jessica MacIntosh
Reply to  Jessica MacIntosh
1 year ago

Or not written by an Anglophone.Report

SCM
SCM
Reply to  Jessica MacIntosh
1 year ago

The horror! An article published in an Israeli journal written by someone whose first language might not be English! And they even make claims about English! Are people even allowed to do philosophy if they’re not sufficiently Anglophone? How would modus ponens even work in another language?Report

Jessica MacIntosh
Jessica MacIntosh
Reply to  SCM
1 year ago

I don’t appreciate you applying any value judgements to what I wrote, especially negative ones. I didn’t say that it was bad to be non-Anglophone or to have work translated. I didn’t claim that non-English speakers can’t do philosophy. I hope you aren’t a professor, SCM. This is a really bad look for a professional philosopher or any academic.
I was responding to the comments calling the paper particularly bad. I wondered if part of the problem people had with it with it was the way it was written. It just reads to me like the author has either English as a second language or is a non-native English speaker, which would account for the weird phrasing. I said nothing at all about the quality of the argument, or that I thought non-English people shouldn’t write papers in English. I should have added that part, and not left myself open to such bad faith attacks from anonymous commenters.
Me? I would have asked IF I was applying judgements to work originally written in another language, or by a non-native English speaker before I set the sarcasm dial to 11 and spammed the Outrage button.
Report

Jessica MacIntosh
Jessica MacIntosh
Reply to  Jessica MacIntosh
1 year ago

Duh. “..like the author had the work translated or is a non-native English speaker”, is what I meant to write.Report

SCM
SCM
Reply to  Jessica MacIntosh
1 year ago

Except not one of the comments you say you’re responding to said anything remotely related to the quality of the English the paper is written in. People said the argument was incoherent and the scholarship dubious.
There’s enough bigotry in this world from EFL-speakers about the quality of argumentation and scholarship of ESL-speakers being related to their grasp of English without you implicitly adding to it.Report

Franz Huber
1 year ago

I don’t find a turnaround time of more than two weeks for a paper of five pages to be alarming. This 28-page paper was accepted within 48 hours: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11098-006-9057-9Report

Still a fan of that paper
Still a fan of that paper
Reply to  Franz Huber
1 year ago

This paper is a part of a special issue of Phil Studies from the Pacific APA. The way that this issue typically works is that the papers are refereed/chosen from a combination of invited sessions and submitted symposia and colloquia. This paper did not undergo ordinary peer review (though it was peer-reviewed, in some sense), and that is quite clear from what issue it is a part of. So… I don’t think this is a good example of what you are trying to show. Report

Miroslav Imbrisevic
1 year ago

What is wrong with this paper? Here are the responses in this thread: 1. A quick turnaround time – that says nothing about the quality. 2. A complete lack of citations – again, this says nothing about the quality of the argument. Citations could easily be added. 3. It is ‘remarkably amateurish’, ‘preposterously poor’ – in what way? 4. The paper was written under a pseudonym – considering the toxicity in feminist philosophy at present, this doesn’t surprise me. This is also not a marker for lack of quality. 5. There is lots of literature on the subject – does anyone specifically deal with Malry’s dilemma? 6. The ‘argument is incoherent’ – in what way? 7. If a paper lacks citation it is ‘not part of the academic conversation and should not be published.’ – if the paper is highly original (Suits: The Grasshopper) it can dispense with (most) citation; cf. the ancients. 8. It’s weird – not really a philosophical term. 9. The writer is not a native speaker of English – aptly dealt with by SCM. — If this really is such a poor paper, why not punish it with silence, why not let history decide? That’s what we normally do in philosophy. If a text is poor, it will be ignored or used for undergraduate teaching (some good texts might be re-discovered later though) – it’s sink or swim. Remarkably, when it comes to trans issues people are quick to vilify, slag off and to demand retraction (Leninism?). An example: I’m in a philosophical file-sharing group. Recently, a trans philosopher requested a paper (by a highly regarded academic, an emeritus professor) about transgender athletes which had just been published in a philosophy of sport journal. She asked for the paper in this way: “Does anyone have this terrible paper?” – judging, without having read it.Report

Avalonian
Avalonian
Reply to  Miroslav Imbrisevic
1 year ago

Well, since you’re curious and since others might be influenced by your vaguely conspiratorial tone, let’s begin with the big one: the author argues that if we use pronouns to refer to gender identity in humans, we must stop using gender pronouns to refer to animals by sex. That is the second horn of the alleged “dilemma”, the big payoff for the person waiting to find out what’s wrong with our newer practice wrt pronouns. But then, in the very final paragraph, the author concedes that words can in fact incorporate a great deal of context-sensitivity or linguistic variability. But this is so *obviously* the thing to say about this second horn that one wonders what the point of the paper could possibly be.

Think about it: the words “man” and “woman” don’t even get applied to animals in English… isn’t this enough to show that that gendered pronouns are probably not going to have the same meanings or play the same linguistic roles when we move between the two levels? “He’s a grown up human” implies a man, “he’s a grown up cat” does not, so we already know that the pronouns have different meanings for humans and animals.

Our incredibly smart grad students get papers desk-rejected for far more trivial errors and omissions, their career prospects are hurt and their confidence damaged. Darn right we’re going to be upset when we see papers like this zooming through the editorial stages, if indeed that is what happened here. You’re right that discourse on these issues is not always ideally fair or open, but this is not a hill for someone with that concern to die on.Report

Jane Doe
Jane Doe
Reply to  Avalonian
1 year ago

I haven’t read the paper and don’t mean to defend it, but I don’t understand Avalonian’s objection. Presumably, the idea in the paper is that ‘he’ is the version of ‘it’ we apply to biologically male things (as opposed to things with a masculine gender), and ‘she’ is the version of ‘it’ we apply to biologically female things (as opposed to things with a feminine gender). (A corresponding view might be that ‘man’ refers to adult biologically male humans, and ‘woman’ refers to adult biologically female humans.) So I don’t understand what the point about ‘man’ and ‘woman’ has to do with anything. ‘He’s a grown up human’ implies ‘He’s a man’, since ‘he’ implies male and ‘man’ applies to grown up male humans. Am I missing something? I’m not trying to defend this position, I just don’t understand this objection.

I understand the original objection: that ‘he’ and ‘she’ are context sensitive and apply to gender for humans and sex for everything else. I agree that that’s a consistent position, but of course we can always get out of counterexamples by drawing distinctions: the question is whether the distinctions are tracking anything. My reading of Avalonian’s comment was that the part I didn’t understand was supposed to be motivating the distinction, so I do think that second part is important.Report

Avalonian
Avalonian
Reply to  Jane Doe
1 year ago

I am wary of getting sucked into this discussion; I want to stress that the point is that the *paper* should have been exploring these issues, and not me on this blog. I also want to stress that I am not a philosopher of language; the argument I gave is not one that requires any special familiarity with that field.

BUT since it might be helpful for everyone, including me, here’s what I was thinking. I was not merely stipulating a “consistent position” to evade a counterexample. I was arguing for that position: that gender pronouns in English do not have the same meanings when used for animals and humans. The argument, more fully spelled out, is this: meaning (in context) is partly given by inference-tickets, by what can be legitimately inferred from the use of a word in a statement. So if the meaning of “he” were the same when applied to animals and humans, then you could infer basically the same set of things from uses of “he” in those contexts. But you cannot; you cannot infer from “he’s a grown up horse” that the horse is a man. This likely is explained by one deeper, glaring difference: uses of gender pronouns wrt animals do not activate any inferences about their gender roles or expectations, which words like “man” often signal. So this is plainly a case in which the same lexical item (“he”) actually has different meanings in these different contexts. That is not a “horn” of any dilemma, it is just a plain linguistic fact, and not something that requires us, in the author’s words, to “creat[e] a new word, one that sounds a lot like the old one.”

Anyway, even if something is wrong with my argument, I want to stress that the resulting discussion is one that properly occurs between competent referees and authors, not one that ought to occur after a paper on an important social issue has already been published.Report

Josh
Josh
Reply to  Avalonian
1 year ago

Also, when we do have gendered terms for animals (bull, rooster, doe, etc.) it is because our normative and behavioral relationships to those animals varies by the animals sex. There is no word for female octopus.Report

Jane Doe
Jane Doe
Reply to  Josh
1 year ago

My response to Avalonian seems to have been eaten (when I try to post it again it gets flagged as a duplicate comment!). But I don’t think Josh’s claim is plausible: https://animalcorner.org/animal-names/
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David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  Miroslav Imbrisevic
1 year ago

This is not a hill to die on, whatever your views on contemporary politics in feminist philosophy. Whatever the scholarly norms might have been in Athens millenia ago, the paper is way outside the scholarly norms of conventional philosophy. I can see glaring places where it needs to be citing the literature and I don’t remotely work in this field. So that complete lack of citations is at least prima facie evidence to wonder if there’s been some sort of process failure. Is it conclusive evidence? I guess not, but it doesn’t matter, because the editor of the journal told Justin that it had been published online by mistake, and that *is* conclusive evidence.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  David Wallace
1 year ago

conventional ->contemporary, sorry – typo.Report

Dale E Miller
1 year ago

It might be worth pointing out that depending on the software used and the choices made, the dates that journals show aren’t necessarily representative of the actual process. A year or two ago the publisher of the journal that I edit started including submission and acceptance dates on published articles, without having consulted with me. The date that they used for submission was that for the “production file,” the final pre-typeset version which includes the author’s name. That is to say, what they called the submission date was actually a later date than that of the paper’s being accepted, let alone its being initially submitted. So it suddenly appeared that we were accepting everything after two or three days. I was able to head this off pretty quickly. Obviously that doesn’t seem to be the case here, since in general the dates on this journal’s papers make sense. The only thing that I can say about this case is that the editor almost surely has no ability to remove the paper but will have to ask the publisher to do it. So the fact that it isn’t happening quickly shouldn’t automatically reflect on the editor.Report

Peter Kalef
Peter Kalef
1 year ago

How did this come to your attention, Justin W.? Were you just out on patrol, looking for irregularities of any kind in the publication process to report to everyone, when this struck you as strange and you set out to investigate whereupon, finding nothing more so far, you thought you’d bring us in on the investigation of possible wrongdoing?

Nothing to do with the topic or the position taken on it — you would have done the same if the paper were on metaphysical grounding, or on the actual topic but taking a different position? Or is the idea that this view in particular is morally suspect, and that journals that publish papers that defend it should receive scrutiny we wouldn’t apply if the polarity were reversed?

And you not only tell us the name of the journal, which makes sense, but also the name of the editor. No, more than that, you provide a link to the editor’s personal homepage, just in case… what?

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David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  Peter Kalef
1 year ago

Justin standardly links to the professional webpage of philosophers he mentions in Daily Nous. And he needed to tell us that the editor is Asa Kasher because he tells us about having written to the editor. Yes, I suppose he could have kept that anonymous, but it would have been deeply weird to do so, since the editorship of Philosophia is a matter of public record and takes less than five seconds to find on Google.Report

Justin Kalef
Justin Kalef
Reply to  David Wallace
1 year ago

I’m not so sure about this, David. The discipline’s integrity, reputation and purpose depend on its playing by fair rules, and being seen to play by fair rules. So one trick I always try to remind myself to try is the simple one of reversing the polarities.

Let’s try it in this case. Imagine that some gender-critical Daily Nous readers were to write to Justin W. about an article, *in favor of* the doctrines favored by the most vocal and powerful representatives of the trans community. They feel the article is very shoddy and that it seems to have been rushed through publication. These people also point out that the same journal has published two other articles in support of the orthodox trans viewpoint, and they say that these articles, too, are appallingly bad, because (among other things) they fail to engage with the abundant literature produced by gender-critical philosophers.

Suppose Justin W. follows up on this by contacting the editor, who tells him that the article was not yet meant to be published. But Justin W., imagine, is not satisfied, and writes a post implying that the journal might have violated professionalism because of a secret agenda of promoting trans ideology. In that post, he mentions the journal’s editor by name and then goes farther and adds an embedded link to the editor’s personal page.

If that happened, would you still feel the same way? I mean, sure, anyone who wants to *could* look up the name of an editor of a journal that’s suggested to have violated professional norms; and with a bit more Googling, one *could* find out where that editor works. But wouldn’t it be a bit odd to put that right in people’s faces, unless one wanted to increase the chances that unhappy readers might take things further and add pressure in whatever ways they saw fit?

We all know that people who write or publish work on this topic are taking a risk of getting targeted by rather nasty online mobs. If philosophy is going to make room for the investigation of these issues at all — and I agree that it should — then it seems to me that we should take special care, when discussing things like this and especially when suggesting possible violations of professional ethics, to keep the focus on the arguments and evidence and away from anything apt to spill over into a mobbing or other needless partisan pressure. To be clear, I hardly think Justin W.’s decision to publish the author’s name and contact information is the worst thing in the world. It’s just something that, all things considered, I think it might be good to be circumspect about.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  Justin Kalef
1 year ago

Yes, I’d feel exactly the same way. (The valence shift doesn’t make much difference to me, though; I don’t have a very settled view on trans issues in philosophy, and my highest-profile interventions on the matter – over the Tuvel affair – have the opposite valence to this case.)

I’d add:
(i) Justin’s post links to the journal editor’s professional website, hosted on his university’s server and consisting almost entirely of links to his professional output; it’s not a personal website in the usual sense. Webpages like that are supposed to be public: they’re adverts. Linking to them on a widely-read professional website is a courtesy and a positive thing.
(ii) while I am not unsympathetic to the issue of inappropriate pressure being exerted against members of the profession for inappropriate reasons (and have been very vocal on that matter many times on this site to that effect) I am really skeptical that there are significant numbers of readers who would put pressure on Professor Kasher via finding his details on this post, but would not do so if they had to spend the literally five seconds required to determine those details themselves. (The search term ‘philosophia editor’ returns the editor’s name and affiliation immediately.)Report

Justin Kalef
Justin Kalef
Reply to  David Wallace
1 year ago

Well, David, I’ll take your word for it that you’d feel exactly the same way. But a further question is: would this post have even appeared if the article had argued in the other direction? And would it have happened if the topic had been a different one?

I suspect we all agree that papers are sometimes published that aren’t all that good. We’ve probably all read some article or other that made us think, “What’s gone wrong with the review process that dreck like this is getting printed?” I’m not referring to the article in question here: I haven’t read it, and maybe it really is just awful. I don’t know. Anyway, very weak articles get published sometimes. What happens? Do we normally see a big post about it here on Daily Nous when a crappy paper on mereology comes out? Not that I’ve seen. Do we see special investigations into what led to the terrible article going into print? When it turns out there was an clerical error at the journal and a piece is published too early, do we normally get all the details about this, with insinuations made about a lack of professionalism? I can’t say I remember that having happened before.

And then, for some reason, Alex Byrne’s article is brought into the discussion and attacked. As Alex says, nothing wrong with debating the merits of his arguments — we’re philosophers, after all — but why in this thread?

Also, criticism is being raised against supposedly poor arguments made on one side of these issues. But there have been far more articles published, I think, arguing the other side. Are *none* of those articles worthy of sharp criticism or even outright dismissal? If we’re bringing in Alex Byrne as a new target in the thread, why aren’t we also bringing in the writers and publishers of allegedly substandard articles on the other side? Maybe that happens in other threads. But I don’t remember seeing any.

The message I think we get from all this seems to be this: if you edit a journal that publishes anything on these issues, prepare to be raked over the coals and to have your name brought into it if the articles come down on the wrong side of certain issues, but don’t worry at all if the articles reach the right conclusions. And if you argue against the orthodox view, even in a completely different journal, prepare to have your name brought up in these attacks just because of the position you’ve taken.

Maybe I’m wrong and this isn’t what’s going on. But I think a number of people have that impression, and it seems to me that we should take pains to ensure that that impression is not given. Otherwise, it’s hard to see why we should trust the quality of the work. Most philosophers tend to steer clear of work that could get them in trouble. If it comes to be reasonably believed that you get a free pass for publishing shoddy work on one side but get specially singled out on a prominent blog for publishing shoddy work on the other side, it’s not hard to see how the quality of scholarship will be affected.Report

Spencer Jay Case
Spencer Jay Case
Reply to  Justin Kalef
1 year ago

Hi David,

It’s true that it’s easy to Google the editor’s name and contact info, but I don’t think that makes including it insignificant (also, someone below posted emails for others associated with the journal). If you’re handing out political pamphlets urging people to complain to their senator, it would clearly be better for the pamphlets to include that information right there, even if it’s a Google search away.

That’s because (a) many people won’t do that one small extra step and, more importantly I think, (b) putting the information there conveys you’re seriousness about the need to contact him. And if it’s to complain to the senator about his own conduct, then it also sends a message to other public officials: you, too, will be named and contacted if you make whatever bad decision we’re objecting to.
Report

Nicolas Delon
Nicolas Delon
Reply to  Spencer Jay Case
1 year ago

But editors are people too, and they have names. Like David, I would find extremely weird not to mention them by name. Report

Neil Levy
Neil Levy
1 year ago

I have no opinion on the paper (which I have not and will not read). But I don’t find the turnaround time problematic. Many people think that many more straight acceptances and fewer R&Rs should be given. If that’s right, we would hope that such turnarounds would be quite common. While median time to returning report is (far too) long, it’s not all that unusual to get a report in a day or two. David Chalmers once said his policy was to decline a review request or to respond to the request with a report attached. While few of us have his level of ability (and some have much less time), I’d hope people try to follow his lead to the extent they can.Report

Remi Okeke
Remi Okeke
1 year ago

We may need to investigate if robots are already serving as editors in Philosophia. This Covid19 era may also signal the time for novel application of artificial intelligence. Report

Matthew McGrath
Matthew McGrath
1 year ago

I know from personal experience that in some cases the submission date listed at the top of an article is actually the date the author submitted a revision. This happened in the case of a recent paper of mine — the paper underwent two rounds of revision over a period of a year, but from the dates listed it looks as if the whole submission-to-acceptance process took only two weeks. I don’t know how common this is or whether it applies in the case under discussion.Report

Miroslav Imbrisevic
1 year ago

Avalonian, if anyone is adopting a ‘conspiratorial tone’ (by he way, is that your real name?) it is the editor of Daily Nous: ‘The Curious Case of a Quickly-Published Article’. Justin admitted that he was acting on a tip-off from one of his ‘deep cover’ agents (see Peter Kalef’s perceptive post). A conspiracy must be afoot at the journal Philosophia. Somehow gender-critical feminists got Thomas Bogardus (with two papers in Philosophia) and Alex Byrne (with a paper in Philosophical Studies) to do their bidding, and – shock, horror – there is another paper in Philosophia on gendered pronouns. Now their opponents in feminist philosophy are shaking in their boots. Something had to be done – Justin W. to the rescue. To all the conspiracy theorists: Happy hunting!Report

Avalonian
Avalonian
Reply to  Miroslav Imbrisevic
1 year ago

Sure, fine, whatever, forget the conspiratorial claim. I’ll give you the claim that Justin is being conspiratorial. Justin is in his basement wearing a tin-foil hat trying to broadcast coded radio messages to fellow trans activists in order to co-ordinate a secret underground response. There, we agree on that issue.

Of course, there’s still the issue concerning, you know, the paper. “What is wrong with this paper?” you asked, apparently unwilling or unable to investigate for yourself. And now I’ve taken time out of my day to tell you. Do you admit that the paper should never have been published, that it doesn’t meet basic academic standards? Report

Miroslav Imbrisevic
Reply to  Avalonian
1 year ago

The issue here was the blanket condemnation of a paper without giving any good reasons, apart from formal complaints and platitudes – resulting in demands for retraction (were these people trained in the Soviet Union?). The initial comments struck me as wholly unphilosophical (see my post from May 27th), there was no critical evaluation, just condemnation. As I said in that post, there is no need for moral panic – let history decide. You ask: “Do you admit that the paper should never have been published, that it doesn’t meet basic academic standards?” Well, “do you admit” is an unfortunate turn of phrase – better: “do you agree?”. Hmm, “basic academic standards” sounds formalist to me. Some people in this thread really got hung up about the lack of citations. There is a lot of mediocre stuff being published, with a lot of citations. But that isn’t necessarily the fault of the authors, it has to do with the publish-or-perish attitude of university administrators. I’ll say this for Malry’s paper – she had an original idea. And that is hard to find these days. Of course, like any other paper, it can be criticised. For example, English actually has remnants of grammatical gender terms: countries are feminine, as are cities, ships, the sun and the (Catholic) church. If you go back far enough (Old English or Old High German – after all, English is a Germanic language) you will find more nouns with feminine or masculine genders. It would be interesting to investigate – empirically – how German (or French, etc.) speakers experience the difference between grammatical and natural gender terms (die Brücke; die Katze; die Frau). Up until the 70s British philosophers would have been fluent in German and/or French (Austin, Strawson, Anscombe, Berlin). Unfortunately, many universities have dropped the foreign language requirement and, as a result, we are surrounded by a lot of monoglots. For this reason I welcome the change in perspective in Malry’s paper. Once the Mists of Avalon have cleared, and if you still want to know what I think about pronouns – then see here (but I’m warning you, there are no citations): https://miroslavimbrisevic.wordpress.com/2019/10/28/queer-language-lessons-the-confusion-over-my-pronouns/Report

Chloe TB
Chloe TB
1 year ago

I know that philosophers are not wont to consider things like the extended perlocutionary effects of their publications on new generations of philosophers …

But if anyone cares to know, I am a trans woman and an alum of one of the APA’s diversity summer institutes, and dialogue like this within the profession is why I didn’t pursue grad school in philosophy.Report

jinjer
jinjer
Reply to  Chloe TB
1 year ago

Why, exactly, did dialogue like this prevent you from pursuing grad school? If you are willing to do so, elaborating would be helpful.Report

Justin Kalef
Justin Kalef
Reply to  Chloe TB
1 year ago

Chloe TB, I’m not sure we need to ignore perlocutionary effects to get here.

More generally: there is some view, P, that has been argued for. There’s some group of people, G1, who are so constituted that the mere fact that anyone in the discipline has published an argument for P makes them feel so devalued that they don’t want to do philosophy any longer.

Okay, but what about people who feel the same way about not-P? There are some women in philosophy, for instance, who feel marginalized and disrespected and, ultimately, harmed because of what they see as the harmful social effects of the very views you feel should not be called into question. How are we to adjudicate the issue of the competing perlocutionary effects? It seems that, at the very least, we will have to figure out which claim, if either, is stronger. But how can we do that if our concern about perlocutionary effects prevents one side from making its case fully?

And then there are some other perlocutionary effects that get to the very essence of the philosophical enterprise: the effect, for instance, of condemning people for publishing work that questions or contradicts a certain view. It doesn’t take much of that to effectively shut down open and genuine philosophical inquiry, especially in an oversaturated job market.

It seems to me that if we are to consider perlocutionary effects, we should consider all of them and weigh them against each other. Do you have general suggestions for how to weigh these against each other?Report

David Mathers
David Mathers
Reply to  Chloe TB
1 year ago

I find this kind of comment frustrating, not because I have no experience with stigma, but because I do, but I put a huge amount of emotional effort into being as objective* as I can be. I have an Asperger’s diagnosis, from when I was young. This is literally described as a “disorder”, and quite stigmatized, so I’m pretty sensitive about it. Now, when researchers say negative things about people like me, I feel genuinely upset and threatened, sometimes extremely so. And I’m fine with people getting angry about prejudice generating genuinely shoddy research on people on the autistic spectrum, furthermore, I think that genuine scientific contributions can be made by people on the spectrum suggesting more positively valenced readings of data from research on us. I think we *sometimes* have knowledge from “lived experience” that it genuinely helps scientists to consult. But despite all that, I try very hard not to get angry with, or even simply disbelieve, negative generalizations about people like me *just because they are upsetting*. Maybe this is melodramatic self-dramatization, but I feel like I’m doing the right thing by doing this, at some emotional cost. So I find it quite annoying when other people assume that other people’s research should be beholden to their feelings, just because they belong to a stigmatized group, because I feel like while I’m doing the right thing, at some (emotional) cost, they are avoiding the costs by cheerfully and openly doing the wrong thing.

*(Please, no one pretend that they don’t understand that this is not equivalent to believing that perfect objectivity is humanly possible, or that emotions never perform a positive rather than negative epistemic role.) Report

Chloe TB
Chloe TB
Reply to  Chloe TB
1 year ago

I am going to try to respond to David M., and Justin K., altogether below. Direct responses are preceded by the commentator’s handle. I will respond to Jinjer separately since their question seems to be more personal and subjective to me.

Let me first point out that I haven’t said that articles such as this should be censored; I have simply said that the acceptance of such views within the profession had the effect of dissuading me specifically (but, yes, also other trans people I’ve met) from furthering their education in philosophy. The academic body must decide how it feels about giving precious journal pages to articles that negatively impact the diversity of the profession. It does not follow logically to equate such statements with calls for censorship.

Now, as many others have pointed out, some would consider the quality of the article to be dubious. I’m not interested in further debating that when there are others here who are much more qualified to do so, but I can’t help thinking that excluding *any article* from publication is a form of censorship in its own right, and a journal which published all submissions without regard to their quality in order to avoid censoring would be rather indistinguishable from the r/philosophy subreddit.

DAVID M., I commend you for pursuing your career in academia despite the presence of such negativity and exclusion towards autistic people within the profession and society at large. I have trans and gender nonconforming friends who also chose academic careers despite these setbacks and I admire them greatly. At the time that I chose to abandon my pursuit of a career in philosophy I just did not have the constitution to persist like you have. All else that I can say in response is that the right thing for you and the right thing for me are not the same.

JUSTIN K., I see no need to declare variables since I will not be following my response with a formal proof. Let’s just call G1 “minority individuals who are dissuaded from pursuing philosophy due to professional adversity and exclusion” (of course, as David M. pointed out, experiences of adversity and exclusion are necessarily subjective). I believe that my G1 is sufficiently similar to your G1, so I will not defend it further here. On the contrary, let’s call P “academic arguments that contribute to adversity towards minority individuals.” My P is more specific than your P (“some view”) because decisions to abandon career aspirations don’t usually arise from disagreement with any view that someone disagrees with.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I don’t understand where your confusion about how to “adjudicate” such exclusions in publishing comes from. The existing system of peer-review should already be a sufficient means to this end. The fact that it was not sufficient in this case is one of the things that makes the article’s publication “curious.” I believe that a lack of diversity in peer-review panels is one of the reasons why articles like this get published. We rightfully expect peer-review to filter out racist, sexist, xenophobic discourse (et al.), but this hasn’t always been the case and even today it still isn’t *always* the case. Take, for example, the infamous 2013 Harvard Kennedy School dissertation entitled “IQ and Immigration Policy,” which argued in part that “… new Hispanic immigrants will have low IQ children and grandchildren.” The repugnance of this argument is largely uncontroversial, but there are certainly those who are equally offended by the argument that this is not the case. Most of us call those people “racists.” Now, I’m going to back up a little bit and refer back to your definition of P “some view,” which is sufficiently vague as to include arguments such as this one. Now I am not equating this argument with that which is the subject of this Daily Nous blog post, but if you were to say that the exclusion of this “P” would constitute some unfair censorship, then I am afraid our views of fairness are too fundamentally different for us to possibly come to an agreement about how one would properly adjudicate such publishing decisions.Report

Justin Kalef
Justin Kalef
Reply to  Chloe TB
1 year ago

Thanks for the reply, Chloe TB.

It seems from what you say that our disagreement might stem from different understandings of the nature and purpose of academic research. You say, “We rightfully expect peer-review to filter out racist, sexist, xenophobic discourse (et al.), but this hasn’t always been the case and even today it still isn’t *always* the case.”

I *don’t* expect peer review to filter those things out (though in a few extreme cases, I might expect *censorship* to filter it out). I only expect proper peer review to filter out bad reasoning or incorrect or unsupported factual claims.

My belief that the general range of views in the profession is at least somewhat more reasonable than the views of laypeople who haven’t given much thought to these matters depends on my belief that the peer review system doesn’t also remove articles supporting undesirable beliefs. If I believed, for instance, that peer reviewers make a practice of removing articles arguing for moral fictionalism, I’d no longer think I have good grounds for doubting moral fictionalism.

Terms like ‘racism’, ‘sexism’ and ‘xenophobia’ are now applied so differently, and so loosely by some people, that I don’t think we’d be in a good position to trust anything at all published on the matter if peer reviewers were policing that sort of thing rather than confining themselves to the arguments and evidence. Maybe you think the trade-off would be worth it, because you hold the value of not offending people much higher than some of us do. Fair enough; but then what’s the purpose of philosophical research at all? I thought it was that we could all try to seek the truth on various topics through reasoning together after considering all the strongest points from both sides. If we’re not doing that, then what are we doing in philosophy?Report

Chloe TB
Chloe TB
Reply to  Chloe TB
1 year ago

Correct me if I’m wrong, but the response I just posted is gone, and I assume it was removed. The irony of this is breathtaking.Report

Gray
Gray
Reply to  Chloe TB
1 year ago

I can still see your response to David M. and Justin, and I assume others can as well. Sometimes it takes a little while for new comments to show up. Report

Chloe TB
Chloe TB
Reply to  Gray
1 year ago

I stand corrected! Thank you.Report