Philosophy & Public Affairs to Publish New Article Types

Philosophy & Public Affairs (PP&A) will be welcoming submissions in a range of forms besides the traditional academic article that has dominated its pages during its 51-year history, according to editor-in-chief Anna Stilz (Princeton) and review editor Nico Cornell (Michigan).

The new publication types include “Critical Exchanges,” which involve “the dual submission of pairs of articles in dialogue with each other on a specific issue of public concern or a matter of current debate in ethics or political philosophy”:

Critical Exchanges provide an opportunity for two scholars with different perspectives on an issue to develop their ideas in conversation with one another. The two articles should be submitted at the same time, and they should be flagged in our submission system as a “Critical Exchange.” Critical Exchange articles should meet our formatting guidelines for submitted articles and should normally be under 12,000 words per contribution.

The journal is also, like Res Philosophica, welcoming shorter articles which they’re calling “letters”:

Some ideas are fruitfully developed in very short format. Philosophy and Public Affairs welcomes submission of “Letters,” short articles of 4,000 words or less. Letters should develop a single argument and need not contain as extensive a set of references and bibliographic apparatus one would expect in a full-length article. Short article submissions should be flagged as “Letters” in our submission system, and should conform to our normal formatting guidelines.

Additionally, the editors are hoping to encourage the submission of more “review essays,” which the journal has published in the past, but not much:

Over the years, Philosophy and Public Affairs has periodically published long review essays about new or recent books, or about emerging literatures that are likely to be of interest to our readers. Many essays we published in the past were extremely important contributions to the field in their own right, and we hope to revive our practice of publishing review essays. 

We expect that contributors will strive for essays that have more in common with original philosophical articles than with conventional book reviews. For example, rather than provide a comprehensive overview of a book’s contents, a review essay might articulate a philosophical position, either critical or constructive, in response to a central idea or theme in the book, or explore important philosophical implications (broadly defined) flowing from the book’s empirical findings or hypotheses. Just as a review essay will not necessarily provide a comprehensive overview of a single book, a review essay might bring together multiple recent works united around a central idea, theme, or emerging set of findings. Subject matter might include recent developments outside philosophy that deserves philosophical attention. Consistent with the more ambitious intellectual scope of review essays, we anticipate these essays will be roughly the length of typical articles in the journal. In general, 7000-9000 words is a good target. Anything longer faces a progressively higher burden of proof that the argument of the piece justifies (and requires) the additional length.

I asked Professor Stilz a few questions about the “Critical Exchanges.”

Are the critical exchange pieces refereed together, by the same referee?

Yes, I would expect this would normally be the case.

Are the authors expected to/allowed to discuss each other’s article?


Are there special citation rules for these kinds of submissions so as to maintain anonymous review?

The pieces should be submitted as a pair, and cross-references should refer to “Redacted 1” in place of the name of the first author, and “Redacted 2” in the place of the name of the second author.  The title of the paired paper can be freely referenced.

Is it possible that only one of a pair of submissions gets accepted?

If the Associate Editors find only one paper promising and think it would work as a freestanding article, they are free to encourage the author to resubmit it in revised form as a stand-alone article.

She adds that, as this is something new, “there will be some kinks to work out.”

You can read more about the new article format submission guidelines here.


Beyond the Ivory Tower. Workshop for academics on writing short pieces for wide audiences on big questions. Taking place October 18th to 19th. Application deadline July 30th. Funding provided.
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Daniel Weltman
11 months ago

Love it! I hope more journals follow suit, because writing something in a relatively unusual format is kind of risky when you have a limited number of venues to submit to. The more journals that publish this sort of stuff, the more sense it makes for someone to write these sorts of things.

Michael Prinzing
11 months ago

Good! I like both of these new options. Building dialogue directly into the format is really cool (much like “adversarial collaborations”), and we desperately need more venues for short philosophy papers.

(A journal [that shall remain nameless] once desk rejected a paper I submitted because it was too short—not because it made too minor of a contribution or wasn’t properly developed, but literally because there were not enough words…)

Joona Räsänen
11 months ago

Nice. I wonder if the rejection rate for ‘letters’ and ‘critical exchanges’ will be around the same as for normal articles (98 % or so).

Matt L
11 months ago

I’m very much in favor of journals trying out new things, so am, in principle,in favor of these new things. I do worry a bit about both the “critical exchanges” and “review essay” bits. In both of these (Much less with the “letters”, I think) the opportunity cost of writing these and then submitting them to P&PA would have to be pretty high, assuming they are reviewed in normal ways and are not solicited or semi-solicited with a somewhat different standard of review. That’s becaus their format would tend to make them, at best, not easy to submit to other journals, and given that the acceptance rate at P&PA is so low, it wouldn’t seem like a good use of one’s time for the vast majority of people, even among the people who might otherwise consider submitting to P&PA. So, I worry that it will be hard to get enough good “normal” submissions.

My impression is that most of the time articles like this, when they appear in journals, are either solicited or at least semi-solicited, and that they then are subject to a somewhat lower standard of review. (I have been on the reviewing side of this sort of thing for some journals – not P&PA – and, for somewhat different types of projects, the submitting side.) The Review Articles I’ve read in P&PA in the past have typically been very good and useful, but I’d be extremely surprised if they were not solicited. I don’t think there’s anything wrong, per se, with journals having solicitied or semi-solicited papers, with appropriate standards of review, but do think it’s important that it’s clear that this is happening when it happens. I’d be happy to be proven wrong, but I’ll be surprised if these options turn out to be useful or common ones w/o some degree of solicitation, and if that’s so, I hope it will be clear.