Planets to Mallards across the pond 
Scientific Enquiry and Natural Kinds: From Planets to Mallards, my monograph on things mentioned in the title, makes its appearance this week.

I am assured by my publisher that is in stock and available, and Amazon.co.uk concurs.
However, Amazon.com has pushed availability back to late November. I don't have my author copies, either, suggesting perhaps that the shockwave is still crossing the Atlantic.

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A post on r-strategy would have been more appropriate for Talk Like a Pirate Day 
In a post over at Crooked Timber, John Quiggin invokes the distinction between scholars who follow a K-strategy and those that follow an r-strategy. K-strategists focus their attention on a small number of finely honed publications, which they aim to place in the most prestigious journals. Conversely, r-strategists write on many topics and publish widely.* I had not encountered these labels before, but they nicely tag a distinction I am familiar with.

Quiggin comments, "Academic prestige these days goes mostly to those who follow ... a K-strategy.... And the narrower the specialisation, the better.... For K-strategy people, second-tier publications are worse than valueless." I know a number of philosophers who fit this description. For most of them, though, it does not represent a strategic choice. Rather, they are told to behave this way by people in the department that hired them. They expect that second-tier publications will be counted as demerits when it comes to tenure and promotion. This has the perverse effect that they often abandon papers which ought to be published in the straight forward sense that other people would benefit by reading them. Sometimes a conference paper is abandoned without being submitted to a journal, because it does not look like something JPhil would publish. Sometimes a finished paper is abandoned after being rejected by a few prestigious journals, even though those journals are so overwhelmed by submissions that they typically reject even fine papers. This perversity is compounded when, as sometimes happens, these unreflective K-strategy scholars get denied tenure because they have not published enough.

Of course, most academics are not ruthlessly pursuing academic prestige. Instead, they are attempting either to get an academic job or survive in the niche of the academic job that they have acquired. Scholars without a job or at a job that they would like to escape would rationally try to fit their profile to what they imagine hiring committees want. Scholars with a tenure-track job that they like would rationally to fit their publishing profile to the tenure expectations at their institution.

As is obvious from my CV, I am an unalloyed r-strategist. And fortunately I have a job I like in a department which has broad expectations. Rather than dismissing me for being dilettante, the worst anyone did was overlook the publications which they considered too twee; counting the remainder, I still looked fine.


* By poking around on-line, I learned that the labels are used by economists discussing how academic prestige is generated in economics. The first use I could find in this vein was Faria (2003). But the terminology is adapted from ecology where, according to Wikipedia, it was introduced by Robert MacArthur and E. O. Wilson in the 1960s.

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This post is the previous post warmed over 
In an epicycle of self-promotion, I am profiled by the UAlbany College of Arts and Sciences because my open access logic textbook was adopted at Cambridge. Also, according to Google Scholar, forall x is my ninth most cited publication.

When I couldn't sort out a time to have a picture taken for the story on the website, I got permission from Matt Slater to send them this photo which he took at the Metaphysics&Philosophy of Science conference last year.




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It takes a village to write a book 
My open access logic book, forall x, is going to be used this Fall for the first year logic course at Cambridge. I was contacted by a librarian there, who said that the course leader had edited a version especially for their course. So, she wanted to know, how should the book be listed and how should I be credited?

My reply, below the fold.
Read More...

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Kvetching about Holt in the Stone 
Jim Holt, writing in the New York Times' philosophy blog The Stone, asks whether philosophy can be literature and answers yes. I do not have any issue with his verdict, but I resist two steps in his way of getting there.

First, Holt identifies his focus as 'analytic philosophy', by which he means "the kind that is practiced these days by the vast majority of professors in philosophy departments throughout the English-speaking world." He gives the usual hemming and hawing about Moore and Russell as the fathers of analytic philosophy, but there's an equivocation here. There is lots of philosophy today which is not engaged in linguistic or conceptual analysis, and so does not continue in the footsteps of Moore or Russell. As I have said before, I do not self-identify as an analytic philosopher. So analytic philosophy as a movement does not capture "the vast majority of professors in philosophy departments".

The alternative is a flaccid sense of "analytic philosophy" in which it just means the kind of work done by anglophone academic philosophers. Here the historical aside is a distraction. Moreover, it would be more direct and clear to just call this academic philosophy: work written by professional philosophers which is primarily intended for other philosophers, work which appears in journals that are mostly available only in university libraries or in books that are purchased mostly by university libraries. The interesting question that Holt poses is whether professors' inside baseball can rise to the level of literature.

Second, Holt offers Kripke as the star evidence for the defense:*
Take the case of Saul Kripke - widely (though not unanimously) considered the one true genius in the profession today. ... [Kripke's] "Naming and Necessity," is so lucidly, inventively and even playfully argued that even a newcomer to analytic philosophy will find it hard to put down.


I have heard this claim before. A former colleague of mine identified Naming and Necessity as the best-written bit of philosophy he had ever read, and he thought it was gripping. Encouraged by such raves, I have tried to read it several times. On each occasion, I have stalled out. Because. Tedious.

To be clear, Naming and Necessity is minimally readable. It is the sort of rambling hodge podge that I can trudge through as a matter of professional commitment. My research sometimes requires engaging Kripke, and so I can work through it. But I cannot sit down and read the book with even a pretense of enjoyment.

To review: If you mean "anglophone professional philosophy", just say so. If you think Saul Kripke is an enchanting prose stylist, you are wrong.


* My two complaints come apart, since Kripke is an analytic philosopher in both the strong sense and in the flaccid sense.

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