The Philosopher’s Annual – 2019 Edition

The Philosopher’s Annual aims to identify “the ten best articles published in philosophy each year.” It’s an aim that’s “as simple to state as it is admittedly impossible to fulfill,” say its editors, but that has not stopped them from producing 39 volumes so far. The most recent one, for articles published in 2019, has just been compiled.


[Jim Lambie, “Zobop (stairs)”]

Here are the ten articles included in it:

The list is the result of nominations from roughly 70 philosophers who suggest articles for consideration for one of the top ten slots (with these nominating editors sometimes soliciting suggestions from people they know via email or social media). The nominations are then assessed by the editorial team of Philosopher’s Annual: Patrick Grim (Michigan, Stony Brook), Laura K. Soter, Angela Sun, and Calum McNamara (Michigan).

The nominating editors this year were: Jc Beall, Ned Block, Ben Bradley, Liam Kofi Bright, Lara Buchak, Tyler Burge, Victor Caston, David Chalmers, Andrew Chignell, Roger Crisp, Helen De Cruz, Cian Dorr, Adam Elga, Branden Fitelson, Graeme Forbes, Aaron Garrett, Michael Glanzberg, Alexander Guerrero, Alan Hajek, Ned Hall, Elizabeth Harman, Gary Hatfield, Benj Hellie, Christopher Hitchcock, Des Hogan, Simon Huttegger, Brad Inwood, Simon Keller, Tom Kelly, Niko Kolodny, Jennifer Lackey, Marc Lange, Brian Leiter, Ernie Lepore, Neil Levy, Martin Lin, John Marenbon, Colin McLarty, Jeff McMahan, Shaun Nichols, Paul Noordhof, Rohit Parikh, Derk Pereboom, Richard Pettigrew, Duncan Pritchard, Greg Restall, Geoffrey Sayre-McCord, Barry Schein, Mark Schroeder, Laura Schroeter, Stewart Shapiro, Ted Sider, Scott Soames, Roy Sorensen, Katie Steele, Eric Swanson, Johan van Benthem, Mark van Roojen, Sergio Tenenbarum, Peter B. M. Vranas, Eric Watkins, Sam Wheeler, Gideon Yaffe, Jose Zalabardo, Kevin Zollman

You can view previous volumes of Philosopher’s Annual here.

UPDATE (9/25/20): The Philosopher’s Annual website has been updated with the new edition, including links to the articles.

(via Patrick Grim)

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5 months ago

Although these are all certainly impressive articles, I do wonder about the various sociological factors that play a role in the nomination and selection process of the Philosopher’s Annual whenever I see their yearly list is put out. In particular, I wonder about why the selection has been more-or-less dominated by the same cohort of journals year after year since at least 2000. For example, someone who glanced at the past 20 or so volumes of the Philosopher’s Annual would like conclude that, with few exceptions, all of the very best work in moral and political philosophy was being published in either Ethics or PPA. But while these are both excellent journals, they obviously do not have a monopoly on cutting-edge value theory publications. Similarly, the Philosophical Review (and Nous to a lesser extent) seems to be over-represented relative to other generalist journals of similar quality, especially given that they publish relatively few articles per year. Report

5 months ago

The 2018 volume included articles from the Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy (JESP), and the Journal of Political Philosophy. That 20% of that year’s articles were published in value theory journals other than Ethics and PPA suggests that the latter don’t exactly exhibit a monopoly among value theory articles… Report

Reply to  Al
5 months ago

Point taken, but I think its a bit early to tell whether the 2018 volume is anything more than an exception that proves the rule. Here is a list of the number of value theory articles selected from each journal for inclusion in the Philosopher’s Annual since 1999.
Ethics: 13
PPA: 9
Nous (including Philosophical Issues): 6
Philosophical Review: 2
Journal of Political Philosophy: 2
Mind: 2
Journal of Philosophy:1
Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy: 1
Law and Philosophy: 1
A Mind of One’s Own: Feminist Essays on Reason and Objectivity: 1
Legal Theory: 1
Phil Imprint: 1

Out of 41 publications, articles in Ethics and PPA account for 54% overall, and 81% of the selections that come from journals specializing in value theory. Again, while these journals no doubt have a consistent track record of publishing ground-breaking work, when I look at these statistics I can’t help but feel as though there is probably a lot of equally good moral and political philosophy being simply overlooked in any given year.


5 months ago

I decided to take an hour this morning to tally up the distribution of journals in the PA. Do with it what you will. (Note: I’ve counted recurrent collections among the journals, since they’re more like that than ordinary edited collections.)

Philosopher’s Annual List (1978-2019)

56x JPhil
41x PhilReview
35x Noûs
24x Mind
23x PPA
21x Ethics
15x Philosophy of Science
14x PhilStudies
9x Journal of Philosophical Logic
9x Journal of the History of Philosophy
8x Philosophical Perspectives
7x PPR
7x Synthese
6x PhilImprint
5x Analysis
4x AJP
4x Erkenntnis
4x Review of Symbolic Logic
3x APQ
3x CJP
3x Faith and Philosophy
3x Linguistics & Philosophy
3x Philosophical Issues
3x Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society
2x Archiv
2x BBS
2x EJP
2x Journal of Political Philosophy
2x Oxford Studies in Epistemology
2x Phronesis
2x PPQ

A Mind of One’s Own: Feminist Essays on Reason and Objectivity (edited collection)
Between Logic and Intuition : Essays in Honor of Charles Parsons (edited collection)
Cognitive Science
Consciousness (edited collection)
Deontic Modality
Hanna Arendt: Twenty Years Later (edited collection)
History of Philosophy Quarterly
Is Oberservation Theory-Laden? A Problem in Naturalistic Epistemology (a whole book or a section from a collection? I can’t tell.)
Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy
Journal of Logic, Language, and Information
Journal of Philosophical Research
Journal of Symbolic Logic
Kant’s Moral metaphysics: God, Freedom, and Immortality (edited collection)
Kant’s Philosophy of Physical Sciences (edited collection)
Kant’s Transcendental Deductions (edited collection)
Knowing Our Minds: Essays on Self-Knowledge (edited collection)
Law & Philosophy
Legal Theory
Logic, Language, and the Structure of Scientific Theories (edited collection)
Logique et Analyse
Meaning and Method: Essays in Honor of Hilary Putnam (edited collection)
Metametaphysics: New Essays on the Foundations of Ontology
Metaphysical Grounding (edited collection)
Minds and Machines
Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science
New Essays on the Apriori (edited collection)
Nietzsche and Morality (edited collection)
Oxford Handbook of Metaphysics (edited collection)
Oxford Studies in Metaphysics
Perspectives on Science
Philosophia Mathematica
Philosophical Explorations
Philosophy of Science Association Proceedings
Probability and Causality (edited collection)
Proceedings and Addresses of the APA
Propositions and Attitudes (edited collection)
Race (edited collection)
Reason and the Christian Religion: Essays in Honor of Richard Swinburne (edited collection)
Reasoned Faith (edited collection)
Social Philosophy and Policy
Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
The Divine order, the Human Order, and the Order of Nature: Historical Perspectives edited collection)
The Foundations of Analytic Philosophy (edited collection)
The Royal Institute of Philosophy
Themes from Kaplan (edited collection)
Time and Cause (edited collection)

Bharath Vallabha
5 months ago

Respect to the authors and their work. Following comment not meant to deny that.

What is the point of this list? Boggles my mind that the nominating editors – wonderful philosophers and no doubt wonderful people – spend time doing this. Whether they intend it or not, a perfect example of institutional power play. Academic philosophy is a vast array of traditions, projects, niches, groups with different priorities, etc (no, not just the social justice kind of diversity, but plenty of diversity among European traditions, religious, etc.), bound together with family resemblences. Where do the people involved in this get off even thinking they can speak to what are “the 10 best articles in philosophy”? Sheer institutional laziness. To people afflliated with it and those recognized, it gives a nice buzz. But is that buzz worth it when it makes lots of people feel crappy, because their ways of doing philosophy are nowhere in the vicinity of this list? I don’t understand. The nominating editors already lucked out. They mainly have the good jobs in a crappy time, and when things are getting worse. Why do they need the extra bonus of giving what they like to read the glow of “recognized as the best”? And why do the thousands of other academic philosophers who are not in the circles of these nominating editors put up with this, and let this kind of thing color the conversation space?

Maybe I am wrong, and I am in a small minority who feels like this. If so, apologies. Or maybe I am just confused. Still my questions are genuine, not meant in a snarky way.Report

Professor Apricot
Professor Apricot
5 months ago

My thoughts exactly, Bharath. Thank you for articulating them so clearly and forcefully.
I will add that as philosophers we do at times tend to publically express disdain for non-philosophers who consider the sheer numbers of people who support a view to be evidence for that view’s merit. Report

Richard Y Chappell
5 months ago

Given the sheer volume of publications out there — even restricting one’s attention to only the “top” journals — I find curated lists like this helpful. If anything, I wish there were more of them! I’d encourage those concerned about the parochialism of this list to band together with a bunch of like-minded philosophers and produce their own competing lists of “most-highly-recommended articles”.Report

A Non
A Non
Reply to  Richard Y Chappell
5 months ago

You find curated lists helpful. Ok. There’s nothing wrong with that. But no one is saying that curated lists shouldn’t exist. The complaint here regards passing the list off as “the top ten best articles in philosophy”, and the blind arrogance involved in doing so. Even “most-highly-recommended articles” is pushing it: they’re the *most* highly recommended??? How did you count ‘most’? Who’s doing the recommending? You want to make a list like this, call it what it is: “the articles that me and my circle of friends liked the most”. Or at the least, “the articles we recommend”.Report

Reply to  A Non
5 months ago

I personally don’t find curated lists helpful. And there is obvious merit to the parochialism complaint (perhaps it should be called the “friends of Michigan” award). Nonetheless, I agree with Richard that making several of these awards is probably a better way to address the problem than abolishing this one. Other academic disciplines have several dozen of these kinds of awards, giving out hundreds of individual awards each year. As a result, Deans are used to seeing them on CVs and thus their rarity in philosophy can disadvantage our discipline. I’ve heard of a Dean looking at a philosophy CV and thinking that the candidate cannot be that strong despite their reasonable publication record because they have a low citation rate and no special awards for any of their papers. Of course, the Dean did not understand what is typical in philosophy in each of these respects and was just extrapolating from what is typical elsewhere.

Within the corporatized university, different academic disciplines often find themselves in a zero-sum game. Unfortunately, if we don’t want to be the losers, philosophers need to play the games that the other disciplines play and adopt some of their otherwise unappealing practices. Report