Coming Soon:

The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON
LECTURE ONE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d__In2PQS60
LECTURE TWO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Al7O2puvdDA

ALSO AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ONE THROUGH TEN ON IDEOLOGICAL CRITIQUE



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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

THANK YOU

A warm thanks to Lounger, Jerry Fresia, and Thomas Decker for their kind words about my meditation and about Moneybags.  I must confess I was surprised that no one took the opportunity to say something substantive about [and perhaps in support of] the recent movement in Philosophy away from book-length dissertations and toward the journal article model.  To be sure, I have published more than forty articles, reviews, notes, and the like, but that is not really very many in a career spanning almost sixty years -- fewer than one a year.  Some years ago I had an exchange on this blog with a young Finnish philosopher [whose name, I am embarrassed to admit, I cannot call up] who assured me that philosophy is now a scientific discipline, done in articles, frequently jointly authored, and not in big bloated books, as of old.  I was suitably chastened but, I fear, not really convinced.

Perhaps the journal article was the genre of choice of the in crowd even when I was young, and I simply failed to notice.  Sigh.  All those books, when I could have been writing tweets.

3 comments:

Derek said...

Well, since you ask . . . .

As far as the journal-article centered view of the discipline, I think one major element in it, though not the only, has to do with the moving of philosophy almost exclusively into higher ed institutions. Plato was not a professor at a university, nor was Descartes, nor most of the philosophers whose book-length works we reread so often now. Of course, quite a few were--a good number of the late medievals, Kant, Hegel, etc. But for us today, it's difficult to imagine a philosophy *not* being at a college or university. In particular, job pressures might be promoting a publishing model that promotes more works being produced faster--who could write a Critique of Pure Reason in time for tenure review? Even in the middle of this century, one could get a tenure-track job, as my advisor did, having published nothing. Now, with so much competition, you need both publications and a marker to show that those publications are good--so journal article in journals everyone takes as high-rank is an easy marker of qualification.

So, part institutional change, part market forces. The changing notion of philosophy in the "analytic" tradition also probably has some part in this, both in terms of the analogy to scientific research (as you mention with the Finnish philosopher) and in the sense of what qualifies as rigor--shorter, intensely focused journal articles seem to produce a type of rigor that can be very appealing for some.

And of course, this has been going on for a while--Kant was a professor but still managed to write some rather big, substantive books, as I recall. But the balance of things, in the last 150 years in particular, seems to have shifted strongly.

mesnenor said...

The books vs. articles distinction is one of the major cultural and institutional differences between the so-called "analytic" and "continental" traditions in philosophy. The traditional names are somewhat silly, but they do refer to quite distinct traditions. And one of the distinguishing features of the analytic tradition is the idea that you can do philosophy without paying much, if any, attention to the history of philosophy. The continental tradition takes a quite different view, and at the other extreme tends to equate doing philosophy with scholarly work in the history of philosophy. Claims that the analytic/continental distinction is going away are overblown, but there does seem to be a tendency for universities on the continent to embrace the analytic tradition more. That tradition seems better suited to a culture where attracting external grant money is seen as the sole marker of departmental excellence.

Charles Parsons said...

If you look at the online Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, you will see that the number of books they review is quite large. In two recent years (2012 and 2014) they have published more than 400 reviews. It may be that "continental"-oriented books have a larger representation than their representation in the profession would indicate, but I doubt that that difference is large if it exists. So I think book publication by philosophers writing in English is alive. I would say "alive and well," except that I don't read enough of these books to make any judgment of overall quality.