Philosopher’s Annual – 2022 Edition


The new Philosopher’s Annual has been compiled.

[based on Geoff Myers, “Black + White Numbers”]

This volume—the 42nd—covers the literature from 2022. 

The publication aims to “select the ten best articles published in philosophy each year—an attempt as simple to state as it is admittedly impossible to fulfill.”

The selections are:

  • James Allen (Toronto), “Radicalism and Moderation in the New Academy” from Phronesis
    A dispute in the form of rival interpretations of Carneades arose in the New Academy about whether the wise person is permitted to form (mere) opinions. One party rejected opinion; the other defended it. Because the terms enjoy a certain currency, the positions are here labelled ‘radical’ and ‘moderate’ respectively. This essay tackles the question whether and how they differed. It argues (a) that the disagreement was less about human epistemic capacities than about the standards and aspirations against which they should be measured and (b) that Cicero, our principal source, was a consistent adherent of the ‘radical’ party.
  • Elizabeth Barnes (Virginia), “Gender without Gender Identity: The Case of Cognitive Disability” from Mind
    Growing efforts are being made to highlight the importance of gender identity to gender categorization. Philosophical theories of gender have traditionally focused on gender role—the social norms, obligations, and positions that others impose on you based on perceived gender. But the experiences of trans, non-binary, and gender nonconforming people have shown that an exclusive focus on gender role is inadequate for theorizing gender. We also need to consider a person’s relationship to gender categories and gender norms. Two people might both be perceived by others as women, but while one thinks of herself as a woman the other thinks of themself as genderqueer. And this difference in gender self-identification is not merely a difference in personal feeling. A gender nonconforming woman and a genderqueer person—even if they are treated similarly by others—will often experience and navigate gender norms and roles quite differently, and this difference matters to a full understanding of gender. In what follows, I am by no means attempting to dispute that gender identity is an important aspect of gender and gender categorization. Rather, I’m going to argue that we shouldn’t swing the pendulum too far the other way. It’s become increasingly common, in both popular and philosophical explanations of gender, to claim that gender identity uniquely determines one’s gender, that is, that gender categorization is solely a matter of gender self-identification. That, I’ll argue, is too strong. While gender identity matters, it isn’t the sole determinant of gender.
  • Richard Bradley (LSE), “Impartial Evaluation under Ambiguity” from Ethics
    How should an impartial social observer judge distributions of well-being across different individuals when there is uncertainty regarding the state of the world? I explore this question by imposing very weak conditions of rationality and benevolent sympathy on impartial betterness judgments under uncertainty. Although weak enough to be consistent with all the main theories of rationality, these conditions prove to be sufficient to rule out any heterogeneity in what is good for individuals, to require a neutral attitude to uncertainty on the part of the social observer, and to require that both individual and social betterness be strongly separable.
  • Sarah Buss (Michigan), “Personal ideals and the ideal of rational agency” from Philosophy and Phenomenological Research
    All of us have personal ideals. We are committed to being good (enough) friends, parents, neighbors, teachers, citizens, human beings, and more. In this paper, I examine the thick and thin aspects of these ideals: (i) their substance (to internalize an ideal is to endorse a particular way of being) and (ii) their accountability to reason (to internalize an ideal is to assume that this is really a good way to be). In considering how these two aspects interact in the ideal of rational agency, I address two philosophical debates that are generally conducted in isolation of each other: (i) debates over the anti-ideal of normative “fetishism” and (ii) debates over whether acting for a reason is acting “under the guise of the good.” In the final two sections of the paper, I further explore the relations among the thick and the thin. I note the role that coherence constraints play in the process whereby our ideals gain determinacy. At the same time, I argue, our ideals constrain the possibility and desirability of coherence. This has implications for a third debate: the debate over the possibility of moral dilemmas.
  • Eddy Keming Chen (UC San Diego), “Fundamental Nomic Vagueness” from The Philosophical Review
    If there are fundamental laws of nature, can they fail to be exact? In this paper, I consider the possibility that some fundamental laws are vague. I call this phenomenon fundamental nomic vagueness. I characterize fundamental nomic vagueness as the existence of borderline lawful worlds and the presence of several other accompanying features. Under certain assumptions, such vagueness prevents the fundamental physical theory from being completely expressible in the mathematical language. Moreover, I suggest that such vagueness can be regarded as vagueness in the world. For a case study, we turn to the Past Hypothesis, a postulate that (partially) explains the direction of time in our world. We have reasons to take it seriously as a candidate fundamental law of nature. Yet it is vague: it admits borderline (nomologically) possible worlds. An exact version would lead to an untraceable arbitrariness absent in any other fundamental laws. However, the dilemma between fundamental nomic vagueness and untraceable arbitrariness is dissolved in a new quantum theory of time’s arrow.
  • Karolina Hübner (Cornell), “Representation and Mind-Body Identity in Spinoza’s Philosophy” from the Journal of the History of Philosophy
    The paper offers a new reading of Spinoza’s claim that minds and bodies are “one and the same thing,” commonly understood as a claim about the identity of a referent under two different descriptions. This paper proposes instead that Spinoza’s texts and his larger epistemological commitments show that he takes mind-body identity to be (1) an identity grounded in an intentional relation, and (2) an identity of one thing existing in two different ways.
  • Yoaav Isaacs (Baylor), John Hawthorne, and Jeffrey Sanford Russell (USC), “Multiple Universes and Self-Locating Evidence” from The Philosophical Review
    Is the fact that our universe contains fine-tuned life evidence that we live in a multiverse? Ian Hacking and Roger White influentially argue that it is not. We approach this question through a systematic framework for self-locating epistemology. As it turns out, leading approaches to self-locating evidence agree that the fact that our own universe contains fine-tuned life indeed confirms the existence of a multiverse (at least in a suitably idealized setting). This convergence is no accident: we present two theorems showing that, in this setting, any updating rule that satisfies a few reasonable conditions will have the same feature. The conclusion that fine-tuned life provides evidence for a multiverse is hard to escape.
  • Chunghyoung Lee (Pohang U. of Science & Technology), “I Am Not the Zygote I Came from because a Different Singleton Could Have Come from It” from the The Philosophical Review
    Many people believe that human beings begin to exist with the emergence of the 1-cell zygote at fertilization. I present a novel argument against this belief, one based on recently discovered facts about human embryo development. I first argue that a human zygote is developmentally plastic: A zygote that naturally develops into a singleton (i.e., develops into exactly one infant/adult without twinning) might have naturally developed into a numerically different singleton. From this, I derive the conclusion that a human infant or adult is numerically distinct from the zygote she came from and so did not begin to exist at fertilization. This implies that a zygote does not have a “future like ours” and strongly suggests that it is not a human being.
  • Jake Quilty-Dunn (Rutgers), Nicolas Porot (Mohammed VI Polytechnic University), and Eric Mandelbaum (CUNY), “The Best Game in Town: The Re-Emergence of the Language of Thought Hypothesis Across the Cognitive Sciences” from Behavioral and Brain Sciences
    Mental representations remain the central posits of psychology after many decades of scrutiny. However, there is no consensus about the representational format(s) of biological cognition. This paper provides a survey of evidence from computational cognitive psychology, perceptual psychology, developmental psychology, comparative psychology, and social psychology, and concludes that one type of format that routinely crops up is the language of thought (LoT). We outline six core properties of LoTs: (i) discrete constituents; (ii) role-filler independence; (iii) predicate-argument structure; (iv) logical operators; (v) inferential promiscuity; and (vi) abstract content. These properties cluster together throughout cognitive science. Bayesian computational modeling, compositional features of object perception, complex infant and animal reasoning, and automatic, intuitive cognition in adults all implicate LoT-like structures. Instead of regarding LoT as a relic of the previous century, researchers in cognitive science and philosophy of mind must take seriously the explanatory breadth of LoT-based architectures. We grant that the mind may harbor many formats and architectures, including iconic and associative structures as well as deep-neural-network-like architectures. However, as computational/representational approaches to the mind continue to advance, classical compositional symbolic structures—i.e., LoTs—only prove more flexible and well-supported over time.
  • Francesca Zaffora Blando (Carnegie Mellon), “Bayesian Merging of Opinions and Algorithmic Randomness” from The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science
    We study the phenomenon of merging of opinions for computationally limited Bayesian agents from the perspective of algorithmic randomness. When they agree on which data streams are algorithmically random, two Bayesian agents beginning the learning process with different priors may be seen as having compatible beliefs about the global uniformity of nature. This is because the algorithmically random data streams are of necessity globally regular: they are precisely the sequences that satisfy certain important statistical laws. By virtue of agreeing on what data streams are algorithmically random, two Bayesian agents can thus be taken to concur on what global regularities they expect to see in the data. We show that this type of compatibility between priors suffices to ensure that two computable Bayesian agents will reach inter-subjective agreement with increasing information. In other words, it guarantees that their respective probability assignments will almost surely become arbitrarily close to each other as the number of observations increases. Thus, when shared by computable Bayesian learners with different subjective priors, the beliefs about uniformity captured by algorithmic randomness provably lead to merging of opinions.

The editors of Philosopher’s Annual are Patrick Grim (Center for the Study of Complex Systems, University of Michigan; Logic & Formal Semantics, Philosophy, Stony Brook), Sean Costello, Paul de Font-Reaulx, and Malte Hendrickx.

The nominating editors for this volume were: Jc Beall, Ned Block, Ben Bradley, Liam Kofi Bright, Lara Buchak, Tyler Burge, Victor Caston, David Chalmers, Andrew Chignell, Roger Crisp, Cian Dorr, Adam Elga, Iskra Fileva, 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, 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, Graham Oddie, Rohit Parikh, Derk Pereboom, Richard Pettigrew, Duncan Pritchard, Theron Pummer, Greg Restall, Geoffrey Sayre-McCord, Barry Schein, Mark Schroeder, Laura Schroeter, Stewart Shapiro, Ted Sider, Scott Soames, Roy Sorensen, Quayshawn Spencer, Katie Steele, Una Stojnik, Eric Swanson, Johan van Benthem, Mark van Roojen, Sergio Tenenbaum, Peter B. M. Vranas, Eric Watkins, Danielle Wenner, Gideon Yaffe, Jose Zalabardo, and Kevin Zollman.

Previous editions of Philosopher’s Annual can be found here.

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PhilMath
8 months ago

Can we just let arbitrary clique-influenced ranking die already? No wonder that there is an almost perfect overlap (in the institutions) of the nominating editors and authors of “best papers”. (not to say anything about the journals)

R.E. Lax
R.E. Lax
Reply to  PhilMath
8 months ago

I really don’t see the problem with PA. Nobody in their right mind takes PA seriously as a definitive ranking of the best articles of the year. It’s a short list, curated bye Patrick Grim and a few grad students, of papers that have been suggested as recent paradigms of good work by a few well-respected philosophers. That’s all it is, and everyone knows this. Of course, its cliquey and subject to bias. But who cares? The papers are usually very good. And its nice (especially for those selected) to have at least some examples of good work in philosophy publicly recognized as such on a regular basis. Its not like it plays some major role in the structuring of the profession. If we want more diversity and less cliquishness maybe we need more rather than fewer such rankings?

Grad Student
Grad Student
Reply to  R.E. Lax
8 months ago

I wish it were true that no one took the PA seriously, but I’m a grad student at one of those cliquey institutions (not Michigan FWIW) and I was shocked to discover when I got here that the faculty here do take these awards — given out by Patrick Grim and a group of grad students at Michigan — very seriously indeed. Alas, I would have expected philosophers to be a lot more reflective about how our profession hands out prestige and whether this really tracks quality…

Dan Weiskopf
Dan Weiskopf
Reply to  R.E. Lax
8 months ago

“Nobody in their right mind takes PA seriously as a definitive ranking of the best articles of the year.” Sorry, this claim would make the cat laugh. Let me just emphasize: people put this on their CVs. I rather doubt they would if it were more truthfully labeled “Selected by A Guy and His Students as a Cool Paper.”

E d
E d
Reply to  Dan Weiskopf
8 months ago

I’ll grant that being selected as a winner by Grimm and the Grads isn’t a big deal. But being nominated by the following committee sure as heck is.

Jc Beall, Ned Block, Ben Bradley, Liam Kofi Bright, Lara Buchak, Tyler Burge, Victor Caston, David Chalmers, Andrew Chignell, Roger Crisp, Cian Dorr, Adam Elga, Iskra Fileva, 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, 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, Graham Oddie, Rohit Parikh, Derk Pereboom, Richard Pettigrew, Duncan Pritchard, Theron Pummer, Greg Restall, Geoffrey Sayre-McCord, Barry Schein, Mark Schroeder, Laura Schroeter, Stewart Shapiro, Ted Sider, Scott Soames, Roy Sorensen, Quayshawn Spencer, Katie Steele, Una Stojnik, Eric Swanson, Johan van Benthem, Mark van Roojen, Sergio Tenenbaum, Peter B. M. Vranas, Eric Watkins, Danielle Wenner, Gideon Yaffe, Jose Zalabardo, and Kevin Zollman.

PhilMath
Reply to  E d
8 months ago

I actually don’t think that it is a big deal being nominated by the committee. What I am saying is that all this is a big circle jerk. Consider the people you have named and the “winners” of the best article of the year: as far as I can tell everyone except Lee (I can’t access his personal webpage) is either a colleague or a student of one of the nominating editors. This is true also of previous “winners”.

Last edited 8 months ago by PhilMath
David Wallace
Reply to  PhilMath
8 months ago

Even if that’s right, there are something like 70 people on that list. Between them they have a lot more than 10 colleagues and students.

Tom Hurka
Tom Hurka
Reply to  David Wallace
8 months ago

But do those 70 people all read all the 10 papers that are selected plus some (presumably a fair number) that aren’t, at the end of the day, chosen but were serious candidates? Or do they just nominate papers — maybe only one or at best a few more each — the final selection from which is then made by a smaller group, maybe at Michigan?

I had a paper selected for last year’s Annual — maybe completely wrongly — but have no idea how that was done and am just asking about the process, i.e. what do the named nominators actually do? I seriously doubt that it involves all 70 of them reading a large number of papers and then together, through lengthy consultations, selecting 10 from them.

Sergio Tenenbaum
Reply to  Tom Hurka
8 months ago

The nominators participate in the process in two stages. First each of them nominate up to three papers. Then we receive the list of all the nominated papers and score and comment as many as we want (I generally only score and comment on papers in my area and I try to avoid those with which I have a clear conflict of interest). After that point is up to the editors to make the final selection.

Hasko von Kriegstein
Hasko von Kriegstein
Reply to  Sergio Tenenbaum
8 months ago

It strikes me that this is not a good use of the valuable time of the people on this lengthy list. Instead of scoring papers for PA, why not referee another paper for some journal?

Jamie Dreier
Jamie Dreier
Reply to  Hasko von Kriegstein
8 months ago

I know some other things Sergio does that are not good uses of his valuable time.
Not everyone is as efficient as Hasko von Kriegstein and I.

Sergio Tenenbaum
Reply to  Jamie Dreier
8 months ago

I do hope you are not counting watching 30 hours of soccer per week among those.

Noah
Noah
Reply to  R.E. Lax
8 months ago

I agree that it is nice to have something like this in the profession. But having too many of them (unless there is significant overlap in their selections, which would surprise and impress me), would dilute the value. Since we all seem to agree that Phil Annual’s process is not representative of a broad consensus of the discipline, perhaps there is an opportunity for one major new end-of-year compilation with a less eclectic selection process. It’s fairly easy to imagine how that would go (a broadly circulated nomination round, with highest nominees being put onto a final ballot).

This seems just like another recent case where the discipline decided to take an institutional ranking system out of the hands of a small party that the task had outgrown (Leiter rankings).

William Bunker
William Bunker
Reply to  PhilMath
8 months ago

I totally agree. As soon as I read ‘ten best articles’ I thought it is more suited to a blog post than a real academic publication. Philosophy is purely subjective at heart and can’t be judged in this way.

Barry Lam
8 months ago

Just because I feel like opining today, I think its part of a good, healthy field to have prizes, awards, honors, fellowships and so forth to show to admin, to show to the public, to show to the world, that the field has standards of excellence and awards work to those standards. I have been told by people in other fields and Deans that philosophy doesn’t have enough of these things, compared to say other humanities and the sciences. While I would do things differently if I tried to run a Philosopher’s Annual, that it exists is good for the field and it is obviously good for the people who get their papers in. If anything, we need more people curating.

Whitney Schwab
Whitney Schwab
Reply to  Barry Lam
8 months ago

I strongly agree with Barry (though am not in a position to do much about it). We are a ways away from over-saturation here. Being fortunate enough to get on the list played a non-trivial role in getting tenure at my (non-flagship, state) university. Full disclosure: my co-author on that paper was (and is) at NYU, so I’m just part of the circle jerk (which deserves independent recognition for its coordination, given how big it is, though I guess a regress looms).

Last edited 8 months ago by Whitney Schwab