News and brain candy for the philosophy community
Starting in 2011, the journal Philosophical Books was renamed Analytic Philosophy. The journal features original peer-reviewed research in all areas of philosophy, along with other kinds of pieces like book symposia, critical notices, and reviews, etc. In this interview, we caught up with the editor, David Sosa, and asked him a little about the remit for the new project, and what he considers to be the most important questions in philosophy today.
Philosopher’s Eye: Starting in 2011, Philosophical Books has been renamed Analytic Philosophy. What were some of the reasons for the transition?
David Sosa: Philosophical Books was a great resource for the profession for many years (since 1960!), so the change was not without some regret. And we’ve kept the retro look-and-feel of the journal. But I thought there was an opportunity to do more for the discipline by emphasising original research articles and not limiting the journal to review-type essays. To highlight that evolution in the journal’s aims and scope, we also changed the journal’s name. It surprised me that “Analytic Philosophy” was not already in use. We’ve emphasized how broadly we’re conceiving of our domain, so as to encourage a very broad range of submissions.
PE: How do you see Analytic Philosophy fitting in to the wider philosophy community
DS: Given the extremely low acceptance rates at all the top journals, and the long lead times between acceptance and publication, it seemed to me that there was clearly room for another journal featuring original research articles. And while there are outstanding journals for specific sub-disciplines, I thought a journal with no limits on area was preferable. (As it is, we add only a few more bits of original research to the profession per year: we have a limited page budget and do still want to carry book symposia and critical notices.) And then the success of other journals that started a decade or so before we did (e.g., Philosopher’s Imprint and the European Journal of Philosophy) was evidence that, done right, a new journal could be valuable (and I think the new journal Thought and the recent changes at Inquiry confirm that further).
PE: What criteria do you look for in an Analytic Philosophy paper?
DS: Really it’s just one main criterion: excellence. But what makes for excellence? It’s very hard to put it into any kind of algorithm or even slogan. Just to get a historical perspective, compare Gettier’s “Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?” with Rawls’s A Theory of Justice. Both clearly excellent works of philosophy; but it’s not easy to say in virtue of what (else) they have excellence in common. (Or just take Wittgenstein’s own Tractatus and Investigations!) Still, if I had to give you one general rule of thumb, it might be that we prefer pieces that make a significant contribution, not ones that are too far down the argumentative tree to have that sort of value—it’s not that there’s no value in contributions that build more derivatively on the work of others, it’s just that such pieces are better suited for other venues. In the end, of course, a crucial question is whether good referees recommend publication, good referees that I trust and respect on the relevant subject matter.
PE: What are your goals as editor over the next few years?
DS: Mainly I want to make the journal one of the best places for the publication of important philosophical research. My soccer coach in college used to yell at us during training runs, “I want to see more of you in the top ten!” Though he said it without irony, and notwithstanding the unintended comedy, we understood the sentiment. It made us laugh; but it also made us run faster. I have a similar sentiment. Publication in a “top ten” journal carries a certain visibility and prestige that help shape the discipline and give it direction. We have too few such journals in the profession at the moment, I believe.
PE: Apart from the journal, what are some of your own research interests?
DS: I’ve been working for some time on a project distinguishing the semantics of linguistic items from the intentionality involved in thought. Nothing is both (by definition) the meaning of ordinary sentences and the content of propositional attitudes. There is no (one) such thing as a “proposition.” I think appreciating that will help us get over a number of persistent obscurities in philosophy of mind and philosophy of language connected with Frege’s puzzle, Twin-Earth cases, the Puzzle about Belief, and the like. But I’m also working on the nature of normativity, on what’s required by the very idea of one thing’s being better than another.
PE: How has editing a journal shaped your work?
DS: By giving me much less time for it! But yes, you can hardly read and evaluate as much work as you do when you’re editing without refining your sense of what your own work should be like. I read more philosophy than I used to (well no more than I do when we’re conducting a job search!), and that provides a kind of mashed-up Gestalt of work in the profession that I think is useful to have informing one’s perspective.
PE: In your view, what are the most compelling issues and discussions in philosophy today?
DS: I’m afraid I don’t think there’s too much that’s new under the philosophical sun. I think the most interesting issues discussed today are the most interesting issues discussed by Socrates and Plato, and by Descartes, Leibniz, and Hume and Kant: goodness, truth, beauty, knowledge, freedom, causation, justice, time, meaning etc.—the usual rogue’s gallery of philosophical investigation.