The skinny on the brief

Thu 08 Oct 2009 09:01 AM

A paper is either good or it is not. A good short paper is better than a good long one, because it gets right to the good stuff with hemming and hawing; if Gettier had buried his examples deep in some other discussion, the problem might not have been named after him. A bad short paper is better than a bad long one, because it wastes less of the readers' time. So short papers are better than longer ones. QED

This is specious, of course, because the length of a paper is not independent of its quality. Carefully and convincingly explaining something takes time. Nevertheless, it is part of my philosophical self-conception that I write short papers.

A couple of years ago, I put this to the test by tabulating word counts for my published papers. Today I updated the list. Again, I give it the illusion of technical precision by abbreviating article titles and writing word lengths in units of 1000 words. The ones marked with *s are co-authored and, as one would expect, are among the longest. Lines in italics are papers since the last time I did this.

8.2 Reid's defense... (2008)

8.0 On trusting... (2009)

7.8 Realist ennui...* (2005)

6.9 The Identical Rivals...* (forthcoming)

6.9 Is there an elephant...* (2007)

6.5 Reckoning the shape... (2005)

5.9 Distributed cognition... (2007)

5.5 Demonstrative induction... (2008)

5.1 Williamson on knowledge...* (2003)

4.6 Background theories... (2005)

4.4 Peirce... (2005)

4.2 The price of insisting... (2004)

3.9 Success, truth... (2003)

3.3 Un... Identical Rivals (2003)

2.9 Mag Uidhir... (2008)

2.7 Whats new... (2006)

2.6 Hormone research... (2005)

1.7 Reid's dilemma... (2004)

1.3 Early response... (2008)

Although some of my recent papers are among my longest, others are among my shortest. My self-conception survives with only a little bit of rationalization and denial.