by Brian on April 12, 2012

Thought is a new philosophy journal dedicated to publishing short (4500 words or under) papers in metaphysics, epistemology, logic and related areas. It is going to be open access for the first two years. After that unfortunately it will be closed, but the funds from it will be used to support the activities of the Northern Institute of Philosophy. The first issue is now up, and as I said it’s open for now, so if you’re interested, pop over and have a look.

Thought is trying to do a couple of things that are common enough elsewhere in academia, though rare in philosophy. One is getting decisions on submitted papers within 8 weeks, and often much less. Another is allowing authors to submit papers on a “take it or leave it” basis. What this rules out is the (very common) revise & resubmit verdict, where the journal asks the author to tinker with the paper in some way before publication. I’m not sure I’d use that last option as an author, but it’s not a terrible option to have. We’ll see whether either of these innovations spurs older journals to change their practices.

Finally, a disclaimer. I’m one of the associate editors for Thought, so I have a vested interest in making it work. But I like what we’re trying to do. In particular, I think the journal should be very valuable to pre-tenure faculty who need timely decisions on their papers before coming up for reviews of various kinds. They are very badly served by the existing journal system, and I’d very much like to see that system changed in ways that help them.



Neil 04.12.12 at 10:02 pm

Congratulations on the journal, Brian. Question: will Thought publish replies to papers? In other words, how Analysis-like will it be?


Manta1976 04.13.12 at 12:14 pm

Good luck with the new journal.
Two questions: why do you think the “take it or leave it” is a good idea? And shouldn’t a journal be a service to the *readers*, not the authors?


Slocum 04.13.12 at 1:40 pm

If you’re going to keep the articles under 4,500 words, then R&R is probably not the best way to go, since revisions will often add length to a paper.
Also, the submission/evaluation system for many journals is so broken that improvements on the author-side are much more urgent than service to readers.


Chris Bertram 04.13.12 at 2:03 pm

Very pleased to see the “take it or leave it” option. One consequence of R&R is that reviewers, not wanting to be nasty about papers they can see good in recommend that option and then authors deform their own thought trying to pander to the objections. Interesting and sharp articles get turned into flabby and directionless monsters.


cig 04.13.12 at 2:05 pm

Locked journal? In the 21st century? Hello?

Disregarding the dubious morality of giving away product for an introductory period to get your clients dependent on you and then charge predatory prices, do you really want your epitaph to read “He dedicated his life to keeping knowledge away from inquiring minds?”

But let’s assume that this journal’s founders have no morals, it’s also strategically silly. The main reason for the legacy journals’ arrangements was to fund the dead tree infrastructure they were carried on. This is now fully obsolete. The legacy survive through inertia (“let’s not change the way we did things when I was a lad”) and vested interests (see Elsevier), but the writing is on the wall: whenever an open medium of equal reputation is available, virtually everyone sensible will choose the open route, whether on moral grounds, or merely to maximise exposure. The pressure from academic funding bodies, public and private, will also be one way: some will make funding conditional on open publication, others will not care, and no-one will make funding conditional on closed publication. So it may take time, but legacy closed journals will slowly dwindle into irrelevance as their open peers inevitably catch up and then get ahead. The only route to long term survival for legacy journals will be to open or perish. And you plan to make your journal legacy two years from now, when this process will be more advanced than it is now…

Besides, even if you want to run the venture as a commercial enterprise at the expense of academic ethics, keeping it open and getting sponsorship or advertising is likely to be more profitable than a dead-end legacy model.


Brian 04.13.12 at 2:43 pm

I believe we’re going to publish replies. A paper that was a straight reply to something published elsewhere would have to be pretty good. I wouldn’t rule it out out of hand, as I would at say Phil Review, but it would have to be good. But replies to what we’ve published would be great.

And +1 to what Slocum said. The journals system is not functioning well, especially on the author side. Thought is a tiny step towards improving that.


Chris Stephens 04.13.12 at 4:05 pm

Will Thought publish philosophy of science papers?


Brian 04.13.12 at 7:17 pm

Short answer is: it depends. Papers on the philosophy of science/epistemology border (e.g., confirmation theory) or the philosophy of science/metaphysics border (e.g., realism vs anti-realism) are clearly in the remit, even if they are on the philosophy of science side of the border. Papers that would not be of interest to people outside philosophy of physics or philosophy of biology, say, would be a little harder.

For now, I think it is worth trying and seeing. That’s part of the point of a quick turnaround. If we didn’t like the paper on area grounds (or some other reason), you haven’t lost a ton of time.


Anatoly 04.13.12 at 9:24 pm

I hope the prospective authors reflect on the morality of helping build up yet another closed-access journal. The first two years of it being open, frankly, sounds like a bait-and-switch scheme.


x.trapnel 04.14.12 at 1:41 am

What Anatoly said. If you’re going to all the effort of building up a new journal, why on earth would you hand it over to a commercial publisher like Wiley?


Axel Gelfert 04.15.12 at 6:36 am

Random observation: All contributors to the first issue are male. Were there really no publishable contributions from female philosophers? Looking at the many high-profile women philosophers on the Editorial Board I doubt that this could have been the reason.


Sumana Harihareswara 04.16.12 at 11:03 am

Good luck on your new venture.


Katherine 04.16.12 at 12:40 pm

I recall a chap from the Welcome Trust proposing a new model of journal publication whereby organisations like th Welcome Trust would fund open access, with the idea being I think that there would be more contribution from the writer of the article (those costs being included in any bid for research funding).

It was about science funding, but if the idea is sustainable, perhaps this whole closed/open issue will cease to be in a few years’ time?


Sam Centipedro 04.16.12 at 12:58 pm

Is this new journal representative of the state of academic philosophy in these areas? To this non-philosopher, the papers I have looked scream “cargo cult!”.

There are enough philosophers sitting in university philosophy departments around the globe, can’t you guys actually make progress? What the heck have you been doing for the last century? Pretty much other subject area has moved on, often making huge strides, but this is old, old stuff, rehashed, wrapped in a cargo cult sheen of apparent erudition while having almost no intellectual merit. Where is your relativity, your structure of DNA, your plate tectonics, your group theory, your rocket ships, your Keynesian economics, your digital networks?

Barth’s article about Frege’s work – well, Frege died in 1925, so that’s work from over 80 years ago. Surely that’s long enough to have sorted any problems in that out? Mark that as a dead duck.

Gray wrote about some guy called Frankfurt and free will, discussing a paper published over 40 years ago. Free will is first and foremost a problem of neurology, not one of philosophy. If you want to do philosophy on free will, first you must grasp the neurology. Philosophy that ignores relevant science is working in an intellectual vacuum. Leave the dust-covered paper from a different era on the shelf.

Severo’s note on “essential indexicals” exemplifies a good cargo cult technique: create a weighty term and it automatically acquires significance. The paper mentions the sentence “I am here.” while clearly not understanding the meaning of that trivial sentence. There is no obvious need for “essential indexicals”, the entire discussion is a category error. (How tall are unicorns?)

More language stuff, apparently from philosophers who don’t understand that language is not primarily or even secondarily about logical statements (in any form of logic). It is an exercise left for their minds to work out what language is actually about. (Hint: why are philosophy papers written?)

Ichikawa’s paper on knowledge norms is juvenile nonsense wrapped up in pomposity. He clearly has absolutely no comprehension of human reasoning mechanisms whatsoever. He has fallen into the cargo cult philosopher’s oubliette of over-estimating the real world significance of logic, in either verbal or symbolic form.

Loss on “branching time” is trapped under the same oubliette as Ichikawa. Well, does time branch? Isn’t that a more interesting question? Loss is trying to impose childish logic models onto language. It doesn’t work, does it? Both of these guys need to go and learn about Bayesian Belief Networks, which are an artificial intelligence tool, and see how that might actually give them some insight into how people who actually work with knowledge deal with these problems. The real world is multi-coloured, not the drab monochrome of philosophy.

French’s paper on general validity I didn’t understand. But I’m not convinced that French did either.

McClelland on “Kantian Humility” – blah, blah, blah. This seems to be more about defining terms and the interrelationships of definitions. I can’t see any useful connection to knowledge, the structure of knowledge, or the real world.

Heck on the Liar Paradox – that’s from Ancient Greece, isn’t it? Haven’t philosophers cracked it yet? Heck’s burble (with all the cargo cult bells and whistles: formulas that mentions of Leibniz, nice words like “bivalence”) adds nothing, because this is a trivial “paradox” that no mathematician (or any 10 year old with a Venn diagram) has trouble understanding. Yet in his acknowledgements Heck admits he wasted the time of 8 other people and referees writing this.

Not one article has any redeeming feature where one could easily answer the question: “how does this work progress our understanding?”.

Should not the editor ask (perhaps even publish) the author’s one sentence answer to the question “how does this paper improve our knowledge?”

Philosophy “in vacuo” has status within its own mutual admiration society, but it needs to do much much better than this to earn the respect from outside the in-group that philosophers clearly feel they deserve. If engineers followed the philosophers’ approach, they would be arguing still about whether it might be possible to build a steam engine one day.


Neil 04.19.12 at 3:58 am

Yes Sam, this is fairly representative. The fact that you don’t understand it, and have some ill-informed opinions related to it, is no reason for us to stop doing it.

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