Category Archives: philosophy

The 3 Rs of Publishing Philosophy

So you want to publish philosophy? Follow the three Rs!

1. Rhetoric

No matter how good your results are or how technically sophisticated your argumentation, if it is done in an obscure way, your paper will not be published. There are at least two, but more usually three or more people that will read your paper when it is sent to a journal. First is the head editor and/or section editor. If they can’t make heads or tails of your work → Desk Rejection. If they can’t think of any external referees to send it to → Desk Rejection.

Then come the external referees. Assume they are drunk/ in an altered state of mind when they first read your paper. If it doesn’t make even a little sense to them in such a state → Rejection after 2+ months, with generic, low effort comments about your paper. Assuming it gets past this first check, and they actually sit down and read it, then it has to be something that they like.

So think about why anyone other than you should like your paper. Will it be a useful pedagogical tool for teaching a subject or idea? Does it provide fodder for or against some canonical position? Is it entertaining? Are the examples clever? Does the writing flow or is it a tough slog? Are the arguments easy to spot and comprehend?

The reviewers are human, and are subject to these everyday concerns as anyone else. If your paper is rhetorically weak, they will put off reading and reviewing your painful writing. Eventually they’ll get a nag email from the Head Editor at the journal asking where their review is, which will make them grumpy and dislike you → Rejection after 4+ months, with inane things said about your paper in their comments.

2. Rigor

Academic philosophy fetishizes rigor, and hence if your work is not rigorous → Rejection, with insulting things said about your paper in the reviewer comments.

What is important here is to understand how you are getting to your conclusion. While this sounds straight-forward, it becomes muddled quickly. As the author, you become wrapped up in the research and writing, seeing connections within the work that your reader will not. Conclusions, then, that for you obviously follow from the premises will appear disconnected and un-argued-for for your reader.

Combating this requires a dispassionate look at your premises, conclusions, and how the paper gets from the former to the latter. It is the method of argumentation that is key. For instance, if arguing by cases, you need to be able to go through the cases and show that they are all the cases. If making a historical claim about what some dead person said, you need to show different possible interpretations — though not necessarily all interpretations — and why your interpretation is at least a plausible, charitable reading among those others. Logical conclusions require explicitly following the rules of that particular logic. And so on. Each method of at arriving at a conclusion has its own standards that must be carefully followed.

Also remember to do a gut-check: is this the right sort of rigorous argument for my conclusions? Don’t use a logical argument if your conclusion is historical, don’t argue by cases if it is a question of interpretation, etc. Else → Rejection, with obvious confusion about the point of your paper in the reviewer comments.

3. gRavitas

If you are still reading this, then chances are you think your work has philosophical merit. Philosophical gravitas is easy to say, very hard to do.

Basically this comes down to showing your results matter to a philosophical tradition or have real world application. Having the weight to move a tradition or moving actual living people to act is no small task, however, academics understand this. What they are minimally looking for is for your work to hook into bigger philosophical ideas or movements. Then at least your work will be carried along with the overall wave of that tradition, and maybe give it a little boost.

Without being tied into some tradition or movement, your work will be seen in isolation, off on an island. Taken by itself, your paper has no ability to affect anything, and is impotent and pointless → Rejection, quickly, with comments reflecting the reviewer being insulted at having their time wasted.

.

Good Luck!

Posted in argumentation, philosophy, random idiocy. Tagged with , .

Paradox of Logical Privilege

Let us assume that logic cleaves the world at its corners. Then everything can be divided into the logically privileged, that which makes up the corners, and the not logically privileged, that which makes up everything else.

Where then does the concept of logical privilege fall?

If logical privilege is logically privileged, then it describes it as something that is at the corners, and not the content. But then it must describe not have described itself, as something within the world. Hence it must not have been logically privileged in the first place.

If, on the other hand, logical privilege is not logically privileged, then it can not describe how the world is broken up into logical privilege and non logical privilege. This violates the initial assumption that the world can be so broken up. Hence logical privilege must be logically privileged.


I actually am rather certain there is something very wrong with the above, but I am testing out a new feature on the blog and needed a test post. So I dug this out of the drafts from May 2, 2014 as it is more interesting than saying ‘test post, please ignore’.

Posted in logic, philosophy. Tagged with , , .

Happy Possible Worlds Day!

On this day in 1277 Étienne (Stephen) Tempier, bishop of Paris, declared that God could have made worlds other than this one, perhaps the first time anyone publicly argued for possible worlds.

Posted in metaphysics, news, philosophy, religion, science.

On Public Philosophy 1: Marketing

Quite a few pixels have been burned on the topic of public philosophy lately. Notably the American Philosophical Association recently registered its support for the practice. Carrie Jenkins wrote up an interesting guide and Eric Schliesser then commented on it … via Daily Nous.

The thing that strikes me is that no one treats public philosophy as actual philosophy. They basically treat it as marketing for whatever it was they were already doing. Keep in mind that I am 100% behind more and better marketing for philosophy, but that if public philosophy is just a synonym for marketing, we should just say marketing.

From the APA statement, my emphasese:

The American Philosophical Association values philosophers’ participation in the public arena. This includes work that engages with contemporary issues as well as work that brings traditional philosophies to non-traditional settings. Public philosophy may also bring the discipline into dialogue with other humanities, the arts, natural sciences, social sciences, and interested people outside of academia. Public philosophy is done in a variety of traditional and non-traditional media. Public philosophy can be especially valuable when it reaches populations that tend not to have access to philosophy and philosophers. Further, the APA notes that public philosophy raises the profile of the discipline, the scholar, and the home institution.

Or, to paraphrase:

‘[Engaging] with issues’ … ‘[bringing] traditional philosophies’/ ‘the discipline’ [to other settings] to create ‘access to philosophy and philosophers’ is in service of marketing extant philosophy to ‘[raise] the profile of the discipline, the scholar, and the home institution.’

Nothing in this statement mentions doing any philosophical research.

Jenkins’ guide “So You Want to be a Public Philosopher?” is excellent, and is likewise focused on concrete resources needed to market yourself and your philosophy. As Schliesser highlights in Jenkins’ account, though, the skills she mentions are non-trivial and will have to be cultivated, changing the everyday academic philosopher into a different beast. He brings in Levinas to push his point: in turning to face the public, we inevitably engage in a new transformative relationship with that community.

While this account is correct that more is needed to do public philosophy than just talking to non-philosophers, it treats philosophical results of public philosophy as a secondary, incidental consequence of the practice. It is completely silent on any philosophical resources unique to the subdiscipline of public philosophy.

For instance, Jenkins says public philosophy “isn’t suitable for every kind of philosopher or for every kind of philosophical work.” But why not? What about certain philosophers or works make them unsuitable for public philosophy?

Aikin and Talisse, in their response to the APA statement, note that a philosopher with crippling social anxiety shouldn’t be expected to make regular public appearances. It’s clear that these sorts of factors can limit or prohibit one from doing public philosophy and that they shouldn’t be held against someone.

Setting these issues aside, then, why are some philosophical people and works ripe for public philosophy and others not?

Here finally is the crux of the matter: If we had a good answer to this question — What makes good public philosophy? — then we would just go about doing what needs to be done. But, as the ongoing discussion of public philosophy shows, we have no such answer.

Moreover, until we actually treat public philosophy as a subject of research and figure out what needs to be done, we won’t be able to effectively market philosophy, either. We will just keep doing the same things, yielding the same results.

Posted in internet, philosophy.

Practical Ontologist 2.0

I’ve made a major update to my site, The Practical Ontologist. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Major site updates:

  • Topical Subsections: Metaphysics, Professional, Science, Traditions, Value, & Fun.

Incoming posts are classified via Naive Bayes Machine Learning. The categories, save Fun and Professional, are roughly modeled on [PhilPapers’ classifications](https://philpapers.org/browse/all). Fun is a stream of philosophical memes, mainly from Tumblr. Professional contains news about the profession and other meta-philosophical content.

  • RSS feeds for each subpage.
  • Now scanning over 200 text and media feeds.
  • Timestamps show the freshest content.
  • Screencaptures of the different blogs promote site recognition.
  • A “Top Blogs” section on the subpages listing blogs commonly posting content in that area.
Posted in internet, news, philosophy. Tagged with , , .

The Practical Ontologist

I’ve launched a new website called The Practical Ontologist. From its about page:

Every few hours a computer at a datacenter scans the web for new philosophical content. It then analyzes, processes, and formats the information. This creates an always updating website for easy perusal.

I built this site to highlight all the public philosophy that is posted every single day online and as a way for people to discover philosophically oriented websites. While there are already many excellent websites that post links to philosophical content, *The Practical Ontologist* is focused on staying fresh and not being a Balkanizing social network. It is the Google News of philosophy blogs.

Check it out and let me know what you think!

Posted in internet, news, philosophy.

winter/ spring 2016 calendar update

bbday_15

As per usual, lots of great philosophy talks. I’m still waiting on CUNY to update [updated Feb 1], which is unusual, since they are often first to publish their speaker list. Many departments and groups have been modernizing their websites, too, which is a step forward. Most are not quite there yet, and some departments, apparently, do not even control what goes on their webpage.

In this, the 9th(!) year of the NYC Philosophy Calendar, it seems that there has been greater professional interest in public philosophy: There has been talk about how to engage the public through the internet and new public philosophy awards. (Is the ivory tower starting to shake a little? Or just being dragged into the future?) I’d settle for a little more interdepartmental communication in terms of scheduling. We could have a mini-conference each week if we wanted to, and it could serve as a focus of outreach and community building.

Speaking of outreach — not that I’m actually an academic — traffic to the calendar has steadily risen over the last year. Manhattan has beaten out Brooklyn in calendar pageviews in the last few weeks, which is rare. I’ve even met people who found talks through my calendar. (No beer donations, sadly.) Also, for the first time ever, I rejected a request to be on the calendar: don’t write me a cloying email saying how insightful my blog has been in the last few months (when I hadn’t actually posted anything, and not that it has ever been insightful) and then ask to get your cult leader/ dvd seller/ pyramid scheme talk on the calendar.

One idea I had was to become a degree granting institution. That’s right, a NYC Philosophy Calendar Degree in philosophy!  I’ve been developing a way to register which talks you’ve been attending, and when you take enough talks, you get credit towards a degree. Enough credits equals a minor, then major, eventually all the way up to PhD. Yes, this will all be based off fake internet points, and you will have to self-report your attendence, but, hey, people love tracking progress and getting awards for it.

Have a great semester, all.

[image credit: oglaf.com. Often gleefully NSFW.]

 

Posted in news, NYC, philosophy.

Things I Have Been Told by Professors of Philosophy

  1. People like you shouldn’t be philosophers.
  2. You’re not clever enough to have written this.
  3. You are a psychoneural freak.
  4. You’re a cheap drunk.
  5. You’re really weird. I’m weird, but you’re really weird. [added 10 Feb. 2016]

These are are direct quotes, with one professor being responsible for items 2 and 3.

Posted in philosophy.

The Tortoise and the HareLoon

[draft]

Achilles glanced up from his writing atop the Tortoise[1] and exclaimed, “Look! The Hare has caught up.”

“No,” said the Tortoise apprehensively, “that isn’t the Hare, but the Hare’s all too clever cousin, the HareLoon.”

“A real HareLoon! I’ve only ever seen them in pictures.”

“Don’t get so worked up. She is always in a hurry but I can never tell if she is coming or going.”

“Ah, but you should know the HareLoon coming and the HareLoon going are one and the same,” said the HareLoon. She then faced Achilles, “I heard that Tortoise had you write many logical steps after starting with a mere three.”

With a wan smile Achilles murmured, “We’ve moved on from that now…”

“Yes” said the Tortoise firmly. “Have you heard of Moore’s Proof of the External World? It is just as short as the three lines of Euclid:

(A) Here is a Hand.
(B) Hands are external things.

(Z) The external world exists.

Achilles said, “We are now in agreement that Z follows logically from A and B. But…”

“But only if we accept A and B, does Z follow,” the Tortoise interjected. “However, I’m skeptical that hands are real at all.”

“Whatever do you mean?” asked the HareLoon, looking rather concerned for Achilles.

“Well, I might just be dreaming that there is a Hand in front of me. Or I could have eaten something disagreeable that is making me imagine things. Or someone is playing a trick on me.” The Tortoise continued, “I need a further statement to guarantee A:

(C) I am not being fooled into thinking a Hand is here.

Achilles cringed, palm to face.

“Fair enough, and I think I know where you are going with this,” said the HareLoon. “But before we worry about the External world, have you a proof of the Internal World?”

“What do you mean: Proof of the Internal World?” asked Achilles.

The HareLoon queried, “Let me ask you first: Would you know a HareLoon if you saw one? If so, please tell me how.”

In an official sounding voice the Tortoise recited: “The chief characteristic of a HareLoon is that it appears to be a Hare at some times, and appears to be a Loon at others.”

“Excellent,” replied the HareLoon. “Would you agree that the HareLoon does not itself change when it takes on these different guises? That is: the appearance of the Loon and the appearance of the Hare are in the thoughts of the beholder.”

“I suppose… The change is in the onlooker,” agreed the Tortoise.

“Then,” continued the HareLoon,

(A’) Here is a HareLoon.
(B’) HareLoons are internal things.

(Z’) The internal world exists.

“I distinctly remember Moore talking about hands and not HareLoons,” grumbled the Tortoise.

“Perhaps, but unlike hands you cannot be fooled into thinking HareLoons exist! We exist when, without change, we can appear to be a Hare or a Loon. Since we have agreed that this change is in your head, you can’t be mistaken about us switching in appearance between Hare or Loon. Hence when you think you see a HareLoon, you do see a HareLoon!

“Very Clever!” returned the Tortoise. “But what we want is the external — not internal — world. You’ve just argued yourself into my head and out of external existence. If you are only in my thoughts, it is a quick matter of logic to say that you aren’t anywhere eles.”

“Why Tortoise, that is the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me! To think, you’ve kept me in mind and maintained my existence, all these years. I should be flattered — or flattened, like you. I would take this paper thin existence (Cogito me papyrum esse, ergo sum)[2] but I don’t think I need to any longer.

“Answer me this: Who lives in this internal world? I’m here, and so are you! We have just agreed that I exist by you thinking, Cogito Ergo Es, and this is just the same as you existing by you thinking, Cogito Ergo Sum. So if I am a figment of your imagination, then so are you.”

“I am most certainly not a figment of my own imagination! You always were Loony, using Hairy reasoning.” said the indignant Tortoise.

“I don’t want to deny my existence any more than you yours, but if, as a quick matter of logic, you exclude others from existing, it loses its sense to say that you exist, either[3]. The only other thing that could have gone wrong is B’, that HareLoons are internal things. So we now have:

(A’) Here is a HareLoon.
(B’’) HareLoons are external things.

(Z) The external world exists.

Achilles shook his head, “You should have known, Tortoise… you can be in your house, but you’re still outside. If only your cousin were here, the Mock-Turtle would say: that while Achilles skill kills and the Tortoise disorders us (what tsuris!), the HareLoon’s Hume’s heir.”


[1] Carroll, Lewis. (1895) What the Tortoise Said to Achilles. Mind 4, No. 14: 278-280.
http://fair-use.org/mind/1895/04/what-the-tortoise-said-to-achilles

[2] Bouwsma, O. K. (1949). Descartes’ evil genius. Philosophical Review 58 (2):141-151.
http://home.sandiego.edu/~baber/analytic/Bouwsma1949.pdf

[3] Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1953/2003). Philosophical Investigations: The German Text, with a Revised English Translation. Malden, Ma, Blackwell Pub.
Relevant section §398 quoted below.
http://gormendizer.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/Ludwig.Wittgenstein.-.Philosophical.Investigations.pdf


Philosophical Investigations §398

(Bold Added)

“But when I imagine something, or even actually see objects, I have got something which my neighbour has not.” — I understand you. You want to look about you and say: “At any rate only I have got THIS.” — What are these words for? They serve no purpose. — Can one not add: “There is here no question of a ‘seeing’ — and therefore none of a ‘having’ — nor of a subject, nor therefore of T either”? Might I not ask: In what sense have you got what you are talking about and saying that only you have got it? Do you possess it? You do not even see it. Must you not really say that no one has got it? And this too is clear: if as a matter of logic you exclude other people’s having something, it loses its sense to say that you have it.

But what is the thing you are speaking of? It is true I said that I knew within myself what you meant. But that meant that I knew how one thinks to conceive this object, to see it, to make one’s looking and pointing mean it. I know how one stares ahead and looks about one in this case — and the rest. I think we can say: you are talking (if, for example, you are sitting in a room) of the ‘visual room’. The ‘visual room’ is the one that has no owner. I can as little own it as I can walk about it, or look at it, or point to it. Inasmuch as it cannot be any one else’s it is not mine either. In other words, it does not belong to me because I want to use the same form of expression about it as about the material room in which I sit. The description of the latter need not mention an owner, in fact it need not have any owner. But then the visual room cannot have any owner. “For” — one might say — “it has no master, outside or in.”

Think of a picture of a landscape, an imaginary landscape with a house in it. — Someone asks “Whose house is that?” — The answer, by the way, might be “It belongs to the farmer who is sitting on the bench in front of it”. But then he cannot for example enter his house.


You’ve tossed the grin out with the cat.

Posted in metaphysics, mind, philosophy.

Xmas post

Happy Holidays!

As is my Xmas tradition, I watched “Die Hard”. Surprisingly one of the characters reminded me of the current state of internet philosophy:

Posted in internet, news, philosophy. Tagged with .