I mean, say what you want about the Uniqueness Thesis, Dude, at least it’s an ethos.
Walter Sobchak (paraphrased)
Last Spring, in one post and another, I hit upon Nihilism as a third way in the opposition between Evidential Uniqueness and Permissivism. That grew into a paper, Evidential Nihilism, which is forthcoming in Analysis.
Back in July, Dan wrote a tweet that concluded “Anyone want to write a little response with me?” Jessey and I replied that we’d be game for it. E-mails followed. We each wrote a snippet of prose. The snippets got worked together into one document, and that document went through a bunch of revisions. We used a google doc, which highlighted changes and allowed us to make comments back and forth in the document itself. Other than a few e-mails, that’s how we interacted. No realtime conversations, even via skype.
I still use LaTeX for my own writing, but the collaborative workflow of the google doc worked really well for this project.
My paper Science, Values, and the Priority of Evidence has been accepted at Logos&Episteme. I worked over the manuscript to meet their style guidelines, sent it off, and put the last draft on my website. Since it’s an OA journal, in the gratis and author-doesn’t-pay sense, I will swap in the published version when it appears.
Over on Facebook, Matt Brown linked to my previous post and some interesting discussion ensued.1 In one sub-thread, Matt makes some distinctions between different types of OA. He mentions one I hadn’t seen before, Copper OA, coined by Egon Willighagen and defined this way:
1. the author(s) remain copyright owners,
2. the work is made available under an Open license to all users a free, irrevocable, worldwide, right of access to and a license to copy, use, distribute, transmit and display the work publicly and to make and distribute derivative works in any digital medium for any purpose, subject to proper attribution of authorship, as well as any further rights we associate with Open as outlined by, for example, the Debian Free Software Guidelines.
This is kind of a mess, resulting in part from the collision between the push for open access in academia and the older open source software movement. When I wrote forall x, back in 2005, most people could only understand it on analogy with open source software. Now, more people know about Creative Commons licenses. And CC licenses are just a better framework for licensing text than free software licenses are.
It’s important to note that there are at least two dimensions of ‘open’ which are getting conflated here.
There are lots of times that I find a reference or a link to a paper that looks like it could have something to do with a topic that I’m researching. If there is a readily-available version of the paper, then I read it. If it is in a closed-access journal, then I may check to see if I have access through my university library. Especially for recent or on-line first papers, the answer is often no.
At this point, I could request a copy by interlibrary loan or e-mail the author to ask for a copy. Sometimes I do these things, but only sometimes. There isn’t time to chase down copies of every possibly-relevant paper. So there are papers I never read that would be useful if I did look at them.
I used to feel guilty about this, but I’ve decided that I’m over it.
1. Publishers usually set the prices of philosophy books so as to exploit the market, rather than so as to maximize readership. I hate my publisher especially, but putting ideas in books often means sequestering them where they won’t be read.
2. Most philosophy is best done in journal articles, both for reasons of style and dissemination. Philosophy is no longer a discipline that requires a book for tenure. So the obvious response to 1 is just not to write books.
Nevertheless, there are still some projects that make sense as books rather than as articles. So what’s one to do?
3. For a textbook, I can offer it as an Open Education Resource. If it meets a need, other people will use it. And it can be acknowledged as legit after the fact.
4. For a monograph, I can share an unformatted draft in the same way I do for articles. This kind of self-archiving (Green OA) should be more common than it is, but that’s a rant for another post.
The thing I’m puzzling about is what alternatives there are for the published book itself.
5. This post felt like it should be a list of numbered points, even though it looks pretentious now that I’ve typed it out.
In his PhD thesis, Stijn Conix briefly considers the suggestion “that it does not make sense to think of values and epistemic standards as taking priority over each other.”1 In a footnote, he cites Matthew Brown “who refers to Magnus making a similar remark in personal communication.”
That’s cool, because I have made such a remark. I have a draft paper in which I defend it.
Frustratingly, today I got another rejection notice for that paper. I’ll take a day to cool off before looking at the referee comments again, and then I’ll decide on my next move. The most effective strategy for disseminating ideas might be to just talk to Matt Brown more often. Alas, that’s hard to document on my CV.
Several years ago, my colleague Jason D’Cruz and I set on the idea of writing something about Goodman’s autographic/allographic distinction. In the course of our discussions, he introduced me to Sol LeWitt’s wall drawings. I went down a rabbit hole of reading about them. I saw the exhibition at MassMOCA. I devised a wall drawing of my own.
The referee commented that this note could have appeared in a longer paper about conceptualism and the nature of art. It could have, perhaps, except that waiting on that longer paper to write itself would probably mean never publishing this bit.
I’ve been thinking lately about dissertations. The traditional model is for a PhD student to write a book-length exploration of a topic. A newer model is for the student to write several publishable papers on related topics. I’ve heard the former called the monograph dissertation, which naturally makes the latter a polygraph dissertation.1
I have met some philosophers who are hostile to the polygraph dissertation, but not for any clear reasons. I’ve met others who welcome the new model. As someone advising graduate students, I would like to have a better sense of what the disciplinary norms are.2