Favorite Articles Off The Beaten Path
Many of you could probably list the names of 50+ academic philosophy journals off the top of your head.
Yet there are a great many more philosophy journals than the ones we’ve all heard of, and there’s certainly some excellent philosophy published in them. The thing is, given prestige effects, our limited time, citation snobbery, and the snowballing of attention and neglect, we are not hearing about them as much as we should.So I thought it might be eye-opening and fun for you all to share articles you really like that were published in lesser-known journals. Some of these may be pieces that have since come to be well-known and widely anthologized, and whose obscure origins have themselves become obscured. But many of them, I suspect, will be articles that most of us have not heard of before, so this brings with it the excitement of learning about something new.
Guidelines: I’ll leave it to each of you to interpret “lesser-known journals” as you like, but don’t pick your own articles, otherwise this thread will be devolve into a much less useful and less interesting forum for self-promotion. Include a link to the article or the PhilPapers entry for it, if you can.
Alright, let’s hear the about those treasures you’ve found off the beaten path…
Very low hanging fruit:
Maybe doesn’t fit the rules but I suspect widely neglected nonetheless:
Thanks. I myself would not have thought of Philosophy (the journal of the Royal Institute of Philosophy) as “lesser-known,” but there you go.
The article I was thinking of that prompted me to put up the original post (which I’ve mentioned here before) is “Human Extinction and the Value of Our Efforts” by Brooke Alan Trisel, which appeared in 2004 in The Philosophical Forum, but I refrained from mentioning it in the post because I wasn’t sure that journal was sufficiently off the beaten path.
I suppose this discussion could end up being interesting not just for the articles themselves, but also for getting a sense of which journals people think of as “lesser known.” So I’d encourage people to go with their gut on that, rather than calibrate their judgments to what journals they see others posting about here.
(I had been thinking about the Trisel article, by the way, after seeing this NYT piece about the meaning of the end of the universe.)Report
Fair enough. I agree that Philosophy is widely known, but also contains work that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. The Langton is arguably not like that, whereas I think the Millar is (despite 80 cites). But the post was mostly caused by the desire to plug that Lawrence paper.Report
Don’t know if Manuscrito counts as off the beaten path…
One of the most significant and philosophically-weighty results in physics is Bell’s theorem and the observation that quantum mechanics violates the theorem. This result was published by John Bell in 1964 in an obscure journal called Physics, Physique, Fizika that went out of print in 1968.
Also, a lot of substantial philosophical and foundational discussion following Bell’s theorem was published in an “underground newsletter” called Epistemological Letters. In particular, its pages carried a philosophically consequential exchange between John Bell and Shimony, Horne, and Clauser (incidentally, Clauser was a winner of the 2022 physics Nobel); this exchange was reprinted much later in Dialectica.Report
For the most part, I discover articles by keyword search/category on philpapers, and then tracing citation patterns on google scholar. I don’t pay much attention to the venue. I read the abstract and if it seems relevant to my project then I’ll read it. If I start reading it and it seems good I’ll read it more closely, if it seems bad I’ll skim it. Even most bad papers will contain some interesting insights, or set you off on a path that might otherwise not have occurred to you. It’s good to have some bad arguments to respond to/correct in your paper. With the internet, venue seems less relevant.
I’d like to add: if Plato or Nietzsche tried to submit something to a “top journal,” I’m pretty sure it would get desk-rejected. Though I think there is a correlation between “top journal” and “good paper” it seems pretty loose. Egos, personal preferences of editors, arbitrary stylistic criteria, intense attention to repairing roof-tiles on the Rawlsian sky-castle, etc. I have had papers where the first time around it’s rejected very quickly with the tone of “filled with elementary mistakes! do not darken our door”, then send to another journal of similar “rank” and the comments are deliriously positive. The lesson I draw is that philosophers have no clue what they are talking about (not a criticism). Reading a philosophy paper is a very personal, almost hallucinatory experience: I sometimes wonder if all the papers that I’ve had accepted were accepted because the reviewers read too much into them, as if I intended to make all these clever conceptual moves when really I was just bungling through fences that were invisible to me.Report
Agreed! It is a pretty hallucinatory experience!
I have to admit that my perception of journal prestige does impact my reading choice substantially. But I often simply guess the rank than checking it out. Somehow, I ended up believing that SHPS was a tipsy top journal, so I was thrilled after getting a long-prepared paper accepted there. Well, then I got a rank of mediocracy on my research that year at my pretty mediocre institution (no offense) 😀 (I find this rather amusing now. But I still don’t know the prestige rank of that journal or many others!)Report
I suspect what’s going on there is that Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics (SHPMP) really did have a pretty good reputation, whereas SHPS never had a very good reputation. Now SHPMP has been absorbed into SHPS due to the infinite wisdom of Elsevier and that creates reputational confusion.
If you’re looking for an alternative to SHPMP now it’s no more, try Philosophy of Physics, https://philosophyofphysics.org/journal/
Wait, as someone who is a junior person working in general philosophy of science, it’s news to me that SHPS “never had a very good reputation.” My impression was that SHPS, at least Part A, has had a pretty darn good reputation in general philosophy of science! Obviously it’s not quite to the level of PS or BJPS, and maybe not even quite the reputation of Synthese’s philosophy of science either, but certainly I would have thought SHPS’s reputation was up there? Maybe: above ISPS and Erkenntnis for general philosophy of science and on a par with EJPS?
To my mind, some of the most well-regarded papers in the last 10-15 years in (say) the literature on modeling and scientific representation, or on perspectival realism, etc., were published in SHPS Part A.
This feels important to know about as a junior person, so I’m wondering if I can get your honest thoughts, David. Thanks.Report
As the last (ever?) EiC of SHPS A – I am as sad about the merging of the three journals as David – I tend to agree with TT PhilSci. As I recall, it was long in the first quartile in HPS in terms of impact factor. There are also some classic general philosophy of science papers in SHPS A – e.g., Ladyman on structural realism and Chakravartty on semi-realism – and it was a special venue for work at the interface of history, philosophy, and sociology of science. (It grew from Cambridge HPS, which is hardly lacking in prestige.) I would say now that EJPS (which has done really well despite its young age) and Erkenntnis are on roughly the same level as SHPS A at its best. But any comparison is awkward because the scope of these journals is so different. The integration of disciplines was often a lot better in SHPS A; sometimes what has passed for history of science in BJPS or POS has been far worsel, although some work there, especially in technical/formal areas, has typically been superior. Overall, anyway, I think it’s sad that people have to worry about these issues. (Incidentally, some of my most cited stuff is in obscure places. By publishing in different places, you reach different people… And it’s been fun for me to see my ideas get picked up in many different disciplines. I’m not sure how much help they’ve been though! :p)Report
I was probably being a bit hasty (and also channeling impressions from colleagues, since for the most part I don’t publish in general HPS).
What I meant to convey was that SHPMP had a really high reputation in philosophy of physics (I describe it in references and tenure letters as “the highest-ranked journal to publish work too technical for BJPS or PhilSci”) and SHPS doesn’t have that level of reputation – so the merging of the journals is causing problems, certainly in Phil phys. But it’s a perfectly solid place to publish and I didn’t intend to convey otherwise (though rereading my post, I can see how it reads that way – apologies).Report
I would like to follow up on Darrell’s assessment of SHPS. I conducted a studied that identified the journal as one of the six most influential journals in which to publish philosophy of science. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10670-010-9214-6
The six most influential were: Phil Sci, BJPS. J.Phil, Synthese, Erkenntnis, and SHPS.
As Darrell notes, SPHS also has a distinct character, publishing articles that integrate history of science AND philosophy of science (at least more frequently than the other five).Report
Just to echo what Darrell and TT PhilSci have said: I don’t know the (avg.) quality of technical/formal papers in SHPS but (from what I know) it is one of the only (and best!) places for HPS papers (HOPOS is another, but that is much more history focussed and Archive for History of Exact Sciences even more so). BJPS and Phil of Science (and even EJPS, Synthese, etc.) rarely publish articles on historical figures or on the history of (philosophy of) science.
All this to say entirely depends on what you want to publish and the audience you’d like to reach. As far as historically informed philosophy of science or if history (of philosophy) of science, I consider SHPS top-notch.Report
I got interested in how stark the rarity of history (of philosophy) of science articles in BJPS/PhilSci vis-a-vis SHPS is. Skimmming through the titles and abstracts of the last 4 full issues of BJPS and PhilSci, I can only identify one article in each: an article about the botanist Tsvett in BJPS (https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/10.1093/bjps/axz037) and an article about Newton in PhilSci.
Compare this to SHPS where just in the last 2 full issues, I can identify 5 articles: history of genetics (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0039368122001765), history of Bell’s theorem (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0039368122001753), Mach views on thought experiments (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0039368122001807), Newton and Rutherford on evidence (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0039368122001789), and history of cognitive map hypothesis (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0039368122001856). And this not counting special issues and book symposia!Report
David: that makes sense. SHPMP might have been the journal I read most, resulting in that impression. Glad that we have PhilPhys now–thanks.
Don’t want to hijack the thread with irrelevant topics, but I also have a pretty mixed feeling about Foundation of Physics, which I started with a bad impression but not sure anymore.Report
FP is complicated because it’s a physics journal, indeed one of the very few physics journals receptive to ‘foundations’ work. Historically in physics it’s had a very checkered reputation, partly because of general anti-foundations animus, mostly because it did publish a lot of really embarrassingly bad work (along with occasional gems). Since Carlo Rovelli took over as editor there has been a systematic attempt to rehabilitate it; it remains to be seen how successful that will be, though I’m somewhat optimistic.
That said: precisely because it’s a physics journal I wouldn’t recommend that any (untenured) philosopher publish in it, unless their paper really is a physics paper that wouldn’t be publishable in a philosophy journal.Report
Thank you for soliciting this valuable list. I’d like to add to it “The toolbox of science” by Cartwright, Shomar, and Suarez. It came out in 1995 in Poznan Studies for Philosophy and was tricky to locate. But it was such a pithy statement of non-theory-centric instrumentalism, that it became heavily cited nevertheless. Glad to see this scan on Philpapers https://philpapers.org/archive/CARTTB-3.pdfReport
I confess I have been reading Boris Johnson’s Voting for Ancient Greece, which I excitedly thought was about voting in ancient Greece – he should apply to Joel’s business? I fear these paper databases are soon enough like broken toys and, despite their misdeeds, eventually I shall be blamed.Report
Many classic papers in philosophy of language and formal semantics, like Stalnaker’s “Assertion,” Grice’s “Logic and conservation,” Lauri Karttunen’s “Discourse referents,” and many many more were first published in Syntax and Semantics, which was published by the Academic Press. Syntax and Semantics appears to have been shuttered sometime around 2000 when Elsevier acquired the Academic Press, and it can often be challenging to find pdfs of many of those classic papers as a result.Report
I’d like to plug the Polish journal _Filozoficzne Aspekty Genezy_, if only because they actually pay their referees. (!)
Alex Rosenberg also has a nice recent piece in there; see https://bibliotekanauki.pl/articles/2083939.pdfReport
Although they pay the referees and authors, they do so by being funded by an anti-evolutionary, “intelligent design” foundation “En Arche” and they clearly promote and proliferate pseudoscientific ideas. I wouldn’t go near them as an author, referee, or reader.Report
Oh wow, thanks for the info. Surprising that they published Alex Rosenberg!Report
Pigden, Charles. (2010). “Letter from a Gentleman in Dunedin to a Lady in the Countryside,” in C. Pigden (ed.), Hume on Is and Ought, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 76-91.
I’ll preface this by saying that phil science is not my area so I could be wrong about how off the beaten path this journal is but Elgin’s “Fiction as Thought Experiment” which was published in Perspectives on Science is just wonderful.
I’d also add that the article where L.A.Paul first presents her version of the problem of transformative choice was in Res Philosophica. No knock to Paul’s book, which is a nice bit of philosophy, but I find the version of the problem here more convincing. (Mostly because it’s not as tied to rational choice theory). Res Philosophica also published some nice replies to the piece in the same issue. Barnes’s is particularly good.
Finally, well this one feels like cheating to me since I don’t think the journal obscure but Jim Cargile’s paper on Pascal’s wager is just a fantastic article, and I’ve also heard people give credit to other philosophers for his points here which just won’t do. ( And if you’ve ever met Jim you’ll note quite a bit of his impish sense of humor comes through in the essay.)
I am a bit surprised at what people regard as obscure journals. Here is one for you: Filosofia Unisinos. Paulo Pirozelli’s article “The structure of scientific controversies: Thomas Kuhn’s social epistemology” is a real gem. It is a very insight analysis of a dimension of Kuhn’s view that is often misunderstood. It deserves to be read by anyone interested in moving past the one dimensional Kuhnian view that critics love to focus on.Report
In 2001, the Croatian Journal of Philosophy published an article by Matthew Clayton which is still, in my view, on of the best work on (Rawlsian) fair equality of opportunity:
Not much a fan of Davidson’s work, but a fair number of his classics appeared in anthologies that are today pretty obscure, before being reprinted in his collected essays (eg. “How is Weakness of Will Possible?” in Feinberg’s Moral Concepts).
I suspect this is pretty common: (senior) folks who pass on the (often egregious) journal referee process and put their stuff in invited collections, some of which are off the path. Pieces in journals may often attract more attention than those in collections, but in some cases, the invited pieces fare well.Report
Over the years, many great papers have been published in Philosophic Exchange — from Roderick Chisholm’s “Is there a Mind-Body Problem?”, to Peter Singer’s “All Animals are Equal.” One of my all-time favorites is a paper on Nietzsche by Bernard Reginster — “Nietzsche’s New Happiness: Longing, Boredom, and the Elusiveness of Fulfillment.” We ask speakers to give a talk that is accessible to a general audience, and Reginster managed to do that. The result is a wonderful, profound, insightful paper.
I find Velleman’s Against the Right to Die to be one of the best articles on euthanasia (along with the better known A Right of Self-Termination?).
Andrew Levine, ‘Fairness to Idleness: Is There a Right Not to Work?,” Economics and Philosophy 1995 https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/economics-and-philosophy/article/abs/fairness-to-idleness-is-there-a-right-not-to-work/9C365A2435683B7B2AF06BEC23DE4E18Report