Journal to Begin Featuring Short Philosophical Essays


Res Philosophica, a quarterly academic philosophy journal which normally accepts submissions up to 12,000 words long, has started a new feature that aims to publish “bold, experimental, and original papers that convey a philosophical idea compellingly in the space of fewer than 3,000 words.”

The “Res Phil Shorts” series arose in response to the observation that there are “few outlets for short-form philosophy, especially in academic journals” (see here, for example). The series will consist of one essay published in each issue of the journal, with free online access to the essay for three months.

Here’s what the editors say they are looking for:

We will consider short essays in any philosophical tradition. This includes but is not limited to analytic philosophy, the history of philosophy, continental philosophy, pragmatism, and less commonly taught (non-western) traditions. We want authors to be innovative both in style and in argument, without being weighed down by lengthy literature reviews or exhaustive replies to potential objections…

The ideal length is between 1,500 and 2,500 words… No replies, critical reviews, book reviews, discussion papers, etc. The short essay must be able to be read as a standalone work, including by people who are not immersed in the debate…

Style is an integral element of a philosophical essay. The reviews and decision process will take style into account. Many styles are possible: terse and analytical (e.g., Quine), fluent and simple (e.g., Russell), muscular and elegant (e.g., James), dreamy and ironic (e.g., Zhuangzi), lush and bold (e.g., Cavendish)… Think of Montaigne’s view that philosophy is “the painting of thought” (“la peinture de la pensée”). Note that you do not need to be a native English speaker to have a wonderful style. We welcome essays in English by speakers of any language(s). 

You can find out more about Res Phil Shorts and its submission guidelines here.

(via Helen de Cruz, editor of Res Philosophica)

 

Warwick University MA in Philosophy
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M.G. Piety
M.G. Piety
6 months ago

Awesome. Shorter articles is just what the profession needs. Thanks Res Philosophica!

Roman Altshuler
Roman Altshuler
6 months ago

Great. No one needs 12,000 word papers. But why fill each issue with a bunch of those and only ONE short paper?

Cecil Burrow
Reply to  Roman Altshuler
6 months ago

I hope the answer is that they are just trying it out, and will be willing to increase the number of short papers per volume if they get enough high quality submissions.

Helen De Cruz
Reply to  Roman Altshuler
6 months ago

We will only have 1 short paper per issue, so 4 per year. This is in part due to procedural reasons. I’m editor of Res Phil now, but this is max for a term of 6 years so that cautions me to make very big changes, especially since the journal has been running since 1925, we’re the oldest philosophy journal in the US to my knowledge (though we did have a name change Modern Schoolman -> Res Philosophica). Secondly, I want to see how it goes. Hopefully we get a good number of submissions and we can make great selections. I also, unrelatedly, think that a paper of 12,000 words can be great and sometimes you need 12,000 words to spell something out (we go longer than many other journals). But it’s bizarre that so many journals have homed in on the 10k (+ or – 2k) as the ideal length to explore a philosophical idea. I like to have many different lengths and formats. I think short is very underexplored. I might consider, in the further future, making a full journal of short papers only but that would need to be a new journal and not Res Philosophica. It’s a dream–I love short-form philosophy. But we’ll see how this goes and logistics of new journals are always tricky!

V. Alan White
Reply to  Helen De Cruz
6 months ago

Analysis could use a cloned sister. I’ve only published twice in it, but those are my most treasured.

Daniel Weltman
Reply to  V. Alan White
6 months ago

I’ve always taken Thought to be pretty much a cloned sister of Analysis.

Helen De Cruz
Helen De Cruz
Reply to  V. Alan White
6 months ago

Well we hope it is not just an Analysis clone bc we accept works in any tradition not only analytic philosophy, though analytic is certainly also welcome. We’re also not a full short paper journal. I might try to found one a few years from now, depending how this one goes!

Gorm
Reply to  Helen De Cruz
6 months ago

The Journal of Philosophy has been published since 1904.

Neil Levy
Neil Levy
Reply to  Gorm
6 months ago

Here’s a paper from the first issue of Phil Review (1892).
https://www.pdcnet.org/phr/content/phr_1892_0001_0006_0613_0624

the oldest journal
the oldest journal
Reply to  Neil Levy
6 months ago

According to ChatGPT, “The “Journal of Speculative Philosophy” is often considered the oldest philosophy journal in the United States. It was founded in 1867 by William Torrey Harris”.

Aeon J. Skoble
Reply to  the oldest journal
6 months ago

According to ChatGPT, “
Please don’t do that. ChatGPT makes stuff up when it doesn’t know, so saying “according to ChatGPT” doesn’t actually work as documentation.

Matt L
Reply to  Aeon J. Skoble
6 months ago

Here’s what wikipedia (a more reputable source!) says on this particular topic:

An unrelated journal by the same name was established in 1867 by William Torrey Harris of St. Louis, Missouri, becoming the first journal on philosophy in the English-speaking world.[1][2] The journal ceased publication in 1893, but the name was revived in 1987 at the Pennsylvania State University with the founding of the Journal of Speculative Philosoph

the oldest journal
the oldest journal
Reply to  Matt L
6 months ago

yes, I’ve checked this information.

Matt L
Reply to  the oldest journal
6 months ago

I’d guess I’d not call a journal that existed for a bit but stopped publishing more than 100 years ago “the oldest journal” in the US – maybe the “earliest” or something (just like I’d not say that Philadelphia is the “oldest capital of the US”, but rather was the first, or the earliest, or something. Not that this really matter. For what it’s worth, I’m glad to see this experiment and hope the nit picking by me and others doesn’t distract from it.

Older Journals
Older Journals
Reply to  Helen De Cruz
6 months ago

The Philosophical Review has been published since 1892.
Pacific Philosophical Quartely has been published since 1920 (though has also changed its name)

Helen De Cruz
Helen De Cruz
Reply to  Older Journals
6 months ago

Yeah sorry I should’ve checked that before putting that comment up there (I was traveling so did not bother to check) we are still pretty old, but not the oldest

Brian Weatherson
Brian Weatherson
Reply to  Helen De Cruz
6 months ago

I don’t think journals have “homed in on the 10k (+ or – 2k) as the ideal length to explore a philosophical idea”. I suspect most journals would prefer considerably shorter papers than that. It’s that *authors* have homed in on that; if you don’t explicitly list a word count, that’s where the papers come in.

See also job market writing samples, where if you don’t specify a word length, you usually end up with things in the 12-15k range. This is coming from authors, not journals.

On The Market
On The Market
Reply to  Brian Weatherson
6 months ago

I can only speak for myself, but part of the reason I’m aiming for 8-10k per paper is that it opens up the widest range of potential publication venues. So even journals with no limit typically get papers in this range from me.

This is because I had one hell of a time getting a 12k range paper placed after my first choice rejected it. I spent an inordinate amount of time getting it down to 10k, so now I’m aiming at that from the outset.

So I figure there might be a bit of a back-and-forth here in terms of setting standards.

Last edited 6 months ago by On The Market
Neil Levy
Neil Levy
Reply to  Brian Weatherson
6 months ago

I suspect reviewers have a lot to do with paper length. There’s an expectation of rejection or the requirement to add some sort of attempt at rebuttals of other views.

Roman Altshuler
Roman Altshuler
Reply to  Helen De Cruz
6 months ago

I guess here’s the worry–or at least, a worry: writing an article, even a short one, is a time commitment. It looks like one’s chances of getting a short article published in RP are low, since only four will be published per year. On the other hand, I know that if I write such an article and it isn’t published, there are virtually no other venues to submit it. At the moment, this seems to act as a disincentive to putting a lot of work into writing short articles. Hopefully, other journals will also start publishing them, since an incentive to writing short articles would be preferable.

Helen De Cruz
Helen De Cruz
Reply to  Roman Altshuler
6 months ago

Yes i hope more journals will adopt/try out this idea!

Ben Saunders
Ben Saunders
6 months ago

Did they not previously accept short submissions?

In my experience, few journals have explicit lower limits. If the only guide is ‘up to 12,000 words’ then I would have thought that already includes pieces of 2,000.

Still, I do think it’s good to highlight shorter pieces. I agree that there’s definitely room for more of these in the discipline.

Shorter Papers Please!
Shorter Papers Please!
Reply to  Ben Saunders
6 months ago

While few, if any, journals have explicit lower limits on words, there is certainly an implicit expectation among reviewers that papers will be longer.

Shorter papers are a different beast than longer papers. They can’t just be shorter versions of longer papers, as they don’t have space all the responses to what “x’s” might say. They also don’t have space for tons of lit reviews.

Both responses and lit reviews are arguably emphasized more, at the moment, by reviewers than the actual arguments in a paper. Often short papers are reviewed like long papers.

So having an explicit category for short papers should do some good in getting reviewers to not treat short papers like long papers.

Helen De Cruz
Helen De Cruz
Reply to  Ben Saunders
6 months ago

Yes we have discussion pieces and you can go short too with a regular article. There is no minimum. But my worry was that a short regular article will be subject to the norms that we usually employ, that is, a fully referee proofed paper but for these Shorts I want to see something different, hence the instructions for reviewers are also different.

Ben Saunders
Ben Saunders
Reply to  Helen De Cruz
6 months ago

I’m glad to hear that reviewers will be briefed appropriately. I have experience of publishing a short paper in another journal that explicitly published both long and short pieces. I remember one reviewer raising objections that I thought inappropriate to a short format paper – and, thankfully, the editor agreed with me.

Helen De Cruz
4 months ago

Update: it’s end of October now so we’ve been going for a bit over two months with Res Phil Shorts. I asked our editorial coordinator Christy Pogue to compile stats for us (remember, we are triple-anonymous so I cannot see the demographics etc of the authors):

So far, we have had 34 submissions, of which we rejected 29 and accepted 1. 4 are awaiting a verdi

More detailed breakdown: of the 34 submissions, 23 were desk rejected, and 11 were sent out for full review (we find two reviewers per piece).

Each piece is read by the editor, associate editor, and occasionally an additional desk reviewer (a SLU faculty member) so it needs to clear a fairly high bar of at least 2 people finding it promising enough to send out. Reviewers receive specific instructions so they do not review it as if they would a long piece (you can see these on our website). Reviews tend to be quick because reviewers can be short, especially in the case of rejection. In the case of accept, we expect them to be able to advocate for the piece.