Words about words 
Miles MacLeod has a nice review of my book over at Metascience. You can see the first two pages for free, which are the ones before he starts raising objections.

I updated the on-line drafts of my work-in-progress papers about what Nelson Goodman would say and what John Stuart Mill would say.

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What venues are there for short papers? 
I have written several papers recently which have turned out to be a bit under 3,000 words each. I could make them longer, of course, but I think they address everything they need to address in order to make the point that I want them to make.

To extend one of these papers, I'd have to widen its scope. Instead of being a short paper that gives a concise argument for P, it would probably become a longer paper that gives arguments for P and Q with implications for R. Worse still, it could become a paper primarily about Q with a section addressing P. But I really think that P is important enough to have a paper written about it, even if I can make the point in 3,000 words!

But where can one submit a paper of this length, without having referees either reject it or insist that it should be resubmitted in a longer form?

Obviously Analysis, but hopefully there are other options. I searched the web for advice and turned up blog discussions from 2007 at Leiter Reports and at Thoughts, Arguments, and Rants. A few comments:

1. The discussion is a bit confused because the original question is posed about "discussion notes", which might mean either short articles or articles that are a direct response to just one other article. I have something in the works that's a discussion piece in the second sense, but it's comfortably long. The two short items are more general.

2. Brian Weatherson suggests that lots of short items should just appear as blog posts, especially if they are just one-off responses to an article or book. I totally agree. Just blog it and move on is good general advice for short items of the 'Some Philosopher Is Wrong' variety.

3. In addition to Analysis, people recommend Phil Quarterly and Dialectica. So there are some options, at least.

4. The commenters on both posts are enthusiastic about the idea that there should be a new journal aimed at short pieces, an on-line or even open-access affair after the fashion of Analysis. One commenter even says that there is something like that in the works but he's not at liberty to share. I suspect, since that was 2007, that it never came to be.

Do any of ya'll have better or more current advice? The three venues I listed above give me someplace to start, but perhaps the landscape has changed in the six years since those blog posts.

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Albany is hiring in early modern 
My department is making a tenure-track search this year for an early modern historian of philosophy.

It has been several years since our previous search, and several things are different this time around. Jobs for Philosophers has now combined, Voltron-style with another source of job listings to make JFP/PhilJobs. We are going to be doing preliminary interviews via skype rather than in person at the Eastern APA. And I'm the search committee chair this time around.

It is unlikely anyone will read about the job on this blog who would not have seen it on PhilJobs anyway, but I'll take this chance to exhort you to apply if you fit the profile. Albany was not someplace I would have chosen before I got the job here, but it has turned out really well. I enjoy both the department and the city. I recommend both enthusiastically.

Our ad at JFP/PhilJobs
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Mirrors aren't even mirrors 
I am puttering around today and thinking about scientific realism.*

A standard albatross to hang around the neck of realists is that they are committed to thinking that proper science doesn't depend on us at all. Catherine Elgin, for example, writes, "Scientific realism holds that scientific representations are utterly objective. They describe the way the world is, independent of any point of view."**

Elgin rightly rejects that view. What caught my attention today, though, is something she says in summarizing her rejection of it. She writes that, "science, as currently practiced, or foreseeably improved, is not the mirror of nature."

This a common metaphor, of course, famously associated with Rorty's rejection of it. Today I was struck by the oddity of it. Actual, literal mirrors aren't utterly objective and point-of-view independent. They don't provide a cosmic and inhuman truth.

They are partial: I can't see the back of the back of my head in a single flat mirror. Contriving to see the back of my head with multiple mirrors is hard, and the effort required is because each individual mirror has a point (or at least a surface) of view.

They misrepresent in certain ways: The image of me in the bathroom mirror is out there, even though I am still right here. It's handy to see my hair as-if-at-a-distance, and I have learned to look at that image to adjust my hair. The phenomenology is complicated, but navigating the representation is something that requires experience. A device which literally pulled off my hair and presented it to me as-if-in-a-mirror would be a very different sort of thing.

So the (trivial, blog-weight) point, is that the metaphor of philosophy or science as a mirror of nature is deeply confused. It is used to point out a bad way of understanding the target of the metaphor, but does so by presuming a confused conception of the metaphor's source.


* A sure sign of having gone off the rails.
** "Keeping things in perspective", Philosophical Studies, 2010; because she's as Harvard, there's a free preprint.

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Some words about evidence and method 
I wrote in a recent post that I like the kind of book review which "offers a critical view of the issue and situates the book in recent discussions" and which also "treats the book as a bit of philosophy worthy of criticism."

So that's what I was aiming for with my review of Peter Achinstein's new book, published today at Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.

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