Diversity and Inclusiveness Tell Us How to Fix the Lack of Diversity in Philosophy Journals

Tell Us How to Fix the Lack of Diversity in Philosophy Journals

By Eric Schwitzgebel and Nicole Hassoun

Philosophy departments in the U.S. and Britain are famously homogenous.  You already know that.  What you might not know is that mainstream Anglophone philosophy journals are even more homogenous.  We at the Demographics in Philosophy Project aim to fix that.  Come join us at the Pacific Division meeting to tell us how.

First, some data:

Women comprise about 20-25% of philosophy faculty in the U.S. and Britain (Beebe and Saul 2011; Paxton, Figdor, and Tiberius 2012; White et al. 2014) and about 27-33% of philosophy PhDs and new tenure-track hires (Schwitzgebel and Jennings 2017).  However, among elite Anglophone philosophy journals (as measured by reputational polls), women are only about 12-16% of authors of research articles (Schwitzgebel and Jennings 2017; Wilhelm, Conklin, and Hassoun 2017.

Black philosophers are even more scarce, comprising about 13% of the general U.S. population, but only about 2% U.S. of philosophy faculty and only about 0.5% of U.S. authors in elite philosophy journals (Bright 2016).

In the most elite general Anglophone philosophy journals, there is almost no serious discussion of authors from other linguistic traditions, even in translation.  In the only published study we are aware of on this topic, we examined 3556 citations from a sample of 93 articles from twelve elite journals (Schwitzgebel, Huang, Higgins, and Gonzalez-Cabrera forthcoming).  Approximately 97% of citations were of sources originally written in English, 1% were of sources originally written in German, and less than 1% were of sources originally written in French, ancient Greek, Italian, or Latin.  We found not a single citation of any source from any other linguistic tradition.

We are not aware of any formal studies of the rates at which disabled authors or authors from lower Socio-Economic-Status family backgrounds publish in elite Anglophone philosophy journals, compared to non-disabled authors and authors from middle- to upper-SES family backgrounds, but anecdotal evidence suggests that they may also be substantially underrepresented relative to the general population and perhaps also relative to the population of philosophy professors as a whole.  Other under-studied dimensions of diversity include (but are not limited to) sexual identity, political viewpoint, religion, topic of research focus, prestige of home institution or institution of graduate study, and other aspects of race or ethnicity.

Why it is a problem:

You might not think such homogeneity is a problem.  We do think it is a problem.

It is a problem for epistemic reasons.  Philosophy, as a discipline, profits from hearing voices from a variety of different backgrounds, with a variety of different cultural perspectives and life experiences.  If only a restricted range of voices enters the philosophical dialogue, we philosophers, as a community, risk drawing conclusions that would not survive the scrutiny of a broader range of people.  We also risk disproportionate focus in our collective philosophical attention: over-emphasizing issues that especially matter to those with the dominant voices and under-emphasizing issues that matter more to those who are not participating as visibly.

It is also a problem for reasons of social justice.  Plausibly, individual and systemic patterns of prejudice or bias disproportionately favor philosophers who already belong to socially privileged groups.  Unfair exclusionary practices, whether implicit or explicit, harm people’s lives by unjustly closing off career opportunities, advancement, and salary.  If so, this is an injustice that deserves addressing.

Since publication in elite journals is central to hiring, tenure, and promotion, it is unlikely that we will see much greater diversification among faculty until we repair the situation in the journals.  Furthermore, it might be easier to change publication practices than it is to fix pipeline problems directly – and improving the diversity of authorship in elite journals might then naturally lead to more diversity in hiring, tenure, and promotion.

Tell us how to fix it:

We have some preliminary ideas about how to improve the situation.  But we want to hear from you.  We are interested in concrete suggestions for specific practices that can be implemented by journal editors to improve diversity without compromising their other goals.  We are especially interested in hearing about practices that have been successfully implemented to good effect.

Give us your suggestions.  Raise objections and concerns.  Comment this post.  Email us.  And, if you’re in the area at the time, please come to our session on this topic at the Pacific APA meeting in San Diego on March 29 (9a-12p).  The session will start with a brief presentation on diversity in philosophy journals, but it will mostly consist of open discussion with a panel of editors from nineteen well-regarded philosophy journals, who will bring their experience to the question as well as, we suspect, in some cases, their strenuous disagreement.

After the session, we hope to partner with journals to collect more data on what works to improve diversity and to develop a toolbox of helpful practices.

Suggestions, objections, and contributions welcome at dataonwomen@gmail.com.  More data on women in philosophy are available here: http://women-in-philosophy.org

Follow us on Twitter @PhilosophyData and Facebook

Here are the session details:

APA Committee Session: Diversity in Philosophy Journals

Pacific APA, San Diego

March 29, 2018, 9:00a-12:00p

Sponsored by the Committee on Asian and Asian-American Philosophers and Philosophies, the Committee on Inclusiveness in the Profession, the Committee on the Status and Future of the Profession, the Committee on the Status of Black Philosophers, the Committee on the Status of Women, the Committee on Hispanics, the Committee on LGBTQ People in the Profession, and MAP (Minorities And Philosophy).

Chair:

  • Eric Schwitzgebel (University of California at Riverside)

Speakers:

  • Liam Kofi Bright (Carnegie Mellon University; London School of Economics)
  • Sherri Lynn Conklin (University of California at Santa Barbara)
  • Sally Haslanger (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
  • Nicole Hassoun (SUNY Binghamton and Cornell University)
  • Manyul Im (University of Bridgeport)
  • Meena Krishnamurthy (University of Michigan at Ann Arbor)
  • Anita Silvers (San Francisco State University)

Panelists:

  • Bruce Barry (Vanderbilt University and editor in chief of Business Ethics Quarterly)
  • Christian Barry (Australian National University and co-editor of Journal of Political Philosophy)
  • David Boonin (University of Colorado at Boulder and editor of Public Affairs Quarterly)
  • Otavio Bueno (University of Miami and editor in chief of Synthese)
  • Stewart M. Cohen (University of Arizona and editor in chief of Philosophical Studies)
  • Graeme Forbes (University of Colorado at Boulder and editor in chief of Linguistics and Philosophy)
  • Peter J. Graham (University of California at Riverside and associate editor of Journal of the American Philosophical Association)
  • Stephen Hetherington (University of New South Wales and editor in chief of Australasian Journal of Philosophy)
  • Rebecca Kukla (Georgetown University and editor in chief of Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal)
  • Franklin Perkins (University of Hawai’i and editor in chief of Philosophy East and West)
  • Henry Richardson (Georgetown University and editor in chief of Ethics)
  • Achille Varzi (Columbia University and editor in chief of Journal of Philosophy)
  • Andrea Woody (University of Washington and editor in chief of Philosophy of Science)
  • Jack Zupko (University of Alberta and editor in chief of Journal of the History of Philosophy)
  • and representatives to be determined from Canadian Journal of Philosophy,Ergo, Hypatia, Philosophical Quarterly, and Philosophy and Public Affairs

Thanks to Sherri Lynn Conklin for continuing help with this project.

 

Eric Schwitzgebel is a professor of philosophy at the University of California at Riverside. Nicole Hassoun is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at SUNY Binghamton.

10 COMMENTS

  1. A few quick thoughts from the man in the street peanut gallery, to assist with the diversity project…

    You wrote, “Philosophy, as a discipline, profits from hearing voices from a variety of different backgrounds, with a variety of different cultural perspectives and life experiences. ”

    What jumped out at me upon reading that statement was the question of whether philosophy should be a discipline, a career, a business. The same questions arise in the context of religion.

    Once money is involved in any enterprise competition and agendas which conflict with the stated mission will enter the equation. As example, a professional philosopher whose mortgage is dependent upon professional peer approval can not afford to look ridiculous. Thus, there is likely an incentive to favor the kind of arcane technical language which diverse voices outside of the profession will not find inviting. In fact, such language is typically viewed as a device intended to divide the professionals from everyone else.

    And then there is the competition for power, which will be won not by those with the most interesting thoughts, but by those best positioned to play the academic totem pole inside baseball game, which appears to be primarily white men, whose naturally competitive nature may fuel their academic success. Good business for sure. But good philosophy?

    You write, “If only a restricted range of voices enters the philosophical dialogue, we philosophers, as a community, risk drawing conclusions that would not survive the scrutiny of a broader range of people.”

    There is a philosophical dialogue?? Where? Not on the official website of the American Philosophical Association surely. Do professional philosophers engage in real dialog somewhere else? Or does each philosopher tend to focus on their own work?

    These quibbles stated, I do agree with the essence of the article.

    Professional philosophy reminds me somewhat of the Catholic clergy. Very intelligent, well educated, highly articulate, and of generally good intentions. But becoming steadily less relevant over time, lacking an ability to truly connect with the population it seeks to serve.

    To the degree you seek to address that phenomena, you have my vote.

  2. My question concerns continental philosophy. Are you taking the ‘top’ journals to be all ones that do analytic philosophy? Because things would look different in some ways, not all, for continental philosophy work. Of course a few non-Anglophone authors would loom large – e.g., Foucault, Heidegger, Derrida. But in some ways I think the failure to refer to work by women and people of colour would be just as bad as with analytic work. However, I feel that the ways that continental philosophy work can fall down here – endless articles citing the same few ‘big boys’ and no-one else – only partly overlap with the analytic philosophy work’s problems, because it’s not so much of an Anglophone/non-Anglophone issue. My worry is that your way of putting the issues – greatly valuable as it is – nonetheless omits/occludes continental philosophy and by doing so also lets it off the hook. Is there some way to factor these issues in?

  3. A brief satiric comment on APA-certified, USDA-choice, Grade AAA homogenized philosophy articles in Big-Name Philosophy Journals: Appended to this provocative blog is a list of contributors. Every prestigious name on the list is followed by some such appendage as: University of Blatherskite, Chief Editor, CEO, & SOB of The Journal of Exclusive Bilgewoggle, Ltd.. Not one of them is listed as: Independent Scholar, Independent Publisher. Does that give you some vague clue as to why philosophy journals are so exclusive? (And so boring…) Didn’t take a Ph.D. to figure that out, did it! But you bet it takes a Ph.D. in Philosophy (With Specialty in Some Really Esoteric Field…) to get that article published, no matter how brilliant the thinking might be…

    A personal confession: I have a Ph.D. in Eng. Lit. from a US Midwest State University. I published 4 or 5 articles in reputable Eng. Lit. journals as a grad student (probably because my profs helped get them published, right?…). But after my brief honeymoon romance with MLA-certified English Departments ended in an ugly divorce, I started writing philosophy. After twenty years, I was finally able to get a book published, but I still have enormous difficulty getting anybody to take my articles seriously, or, heck, to even look at them briefly and respond (politely, of course…) with a short note after six months or so of impatient waiting. And don’t try to tell me about ‘blind review’ or ‘peer-reviewed journals,’ because even if they were a good idea (…the blind reviewing the blind…), everybody knows objective reviewing by objective peers just doesn’t really happen, however hard everybody may pretend to try…

    I don’t mention that to get articles published, not only do you need a Ph.D. and some reputation as a specialist in the esoteric field of your degree, with support from your Ph.D. committee and prestigious colleagues you’ve met at exclusive conferences in your field (on the expense account, of course…), but you also need a computer with up-to-the-minute word-processing functions, internet access, and access to up-to-the-deadline scholarly publications, to be cited in the copious footnotes to your minutely-documented article, to even be considered for publication. Having grad students and research assistants is also a must, to run back and forth to your up-to-date research library, fetching cutting-edge footnotes for you. And if you are located in Skull Valley, Nevada, Novosibirsk, Siberia, Ulanbatur, Outer Mongolia, Timbuktu or Tierra del Fuego—-or even Idaho Falls, Idaho, where I am felicitously located—these things are very difficult, if not impossible, to obtain.

    And I’m a white heterosexual male! So it’s not always a matter of race or gender, as the current agenda suggests. Class, maybe, caste, yes, but not in that order… Oh, and, by the way! Your stylistics had better be impeccable, so don’t use abbreviations or contractions, except those currently certified by The American Association Crotchety Librarians and Cranky Old English Teachers, Emeritii. And even then, maybe you’d better hire a phalanx of proof-readers, to comb over your impeccably-groomed prose, to make sure the format of your article fits the prescribed format of whatever journal you’re sending to, as determined by secret rules intelligible only to the editors and assistants of that particular journal, for obscure purposes of their own…

    And I’d just finally add that these same disciplinary strictures that make it difficult (if not impossible…) for non-certified non-homogenized writers to get published in philosophy journals also guarantee that nobody but professional philosophers with an esoteric interest in a specialist field bothers to read articles with titles like “A Persiflage-Ridden Obfuscationalist’s Approach to Winifred W. Peabody’s Theory of Epistemic Obscurity,” by Delbert M. Higginbottom, Ph.D., MMA, QED, the Muriel Q. Qimsley Professor of Dimbulbs and Chair of Philosophy, The University of Bondingwobble, Queensland, UKP….

    But is that news to anybody? I doubt it… And, really, I strain my own credulity even attempting to satirize the cliquishness and exclusiveness of contemporary academic fields. And I find it difficult to believe that any grad student with even minimal experience in contemporary professional studies does not already have painful experience of what I am describing. And you wonder why philosophy journals don’t feature articles by non-certified, non-professionally-credentialed, non-homogenized philosophers from obscure nationalities writing in unknown languages? Are you serious? Or what?…

    And probably the only reason nobody talks about all this stuff is because… They’re afraid they won’t get published! Or get hired. Or get tenure. Or whatever…

    Signed,

    Eric D. Meyer, Independent Scholar

  4. Wow, you go Eric.

    A serious logic error that many of us (such as myself!) often make is the assumption that our thinking and writing will be valued for it’s content. But that is not how the world works.

    In the real world, those who prosper intellectually will probably be those with a talent for accumulating authority. A knack for marketing is probably an essential asset as well, which is really kind of another way of saying the same thing. Look at politics or religion as example, it’s not what you have to say that matters so much as how well you play the game.

    A key reason we don’t see more engagement here on this blog and many others like it may be that to post on a forum or in the comment section of a blog is a threat to a professional’s carefully assembled authority. Too much hobnobbing with “the people” might give the impression that one is one of them, hardly the path to tenure.

    Anyway, this is largely how the world is and it’s not likely to change. There is however a solution, and that is to embrace thinking and writing for themselves whether or not anybody is listening. Many people have pianos in their home and will play for hours even though they have no audience, just for the joy of it. Computer keyboards can be enjoyed in the same manner.

    In the end, it really doesn’t matter too much. Human beings don’t really learn by logic, reason and intellectual analysis anyway, we learn by pain. We keep doing the same stupid things over and over until the pain becomes too great, and then we rush off in some other direction.

    Consider Europe, the home of Western philosophy. Even as our greatest minds wrote their greatest works, Europe continued with endless centuries of pointless bloodshed until finally the pain of it became too great. It wasn’t logic and reason and philosophy which ended that cycle, but bombed out cities across the continent and the arrival of the nuclear sword.

  5. Interesting data. Given these effects, I wonder why it isn’t more common for journals to adopt a triple-anonymous review process, i.e. one where the editors (and not just the reviewers) don’t know the author’s identity. We’ve been doing this for several years at the European Journal of Political Theory. If I ever get the time, I’d be curious to see whether and how our authors’ demographics changed since the implementation of this system.

  6. To help encourage the development of introductory and highly accessible materials that promote and engage diverse perspective in philosophy, “1000-Word Philosophy: An Introductory Anthology” is seeking submissions on diverse traditions, figures and issues in philosophy. We expect to soon be publishing some essays that reflect this diversity!

    See https://1000wordphilosophy.com/submissions/ for more.

  7. The authors write…

    “Black philosophers are even more scarce, comprising about 13% of the general U.S. population, but only about 2% U.S. of philosophy faculty and only about 0.5% of U.S. authors in elite philosophy journals.”

    Here’s why that is, and how to fix it.

    The problem is that everybody loves to talk about diversity, racism, the history of oppression, crime and bad schools in the inner cities, etc etc, it’s on every other media program every other day. But it appears nobody is interested enough in these problems to shift the focus from an endless pattern of general complaints to big, bold and specific plans that could effectively address these problems.

    Here’s one of those….

    THE PLAN: Free college for every black American. Room, board, books, tuition, everything, a completely free ride. The plan would continue until such time as black Americans are, on average, as rich as white Americans.

    Too expensive? Nonsense. The plan can be paid for by “the 400 richest Americans who have more wealth than the bottom 61 percent of the population”.

    https://www.thenation.com/article/20-people-now-own-as-much-wealth-as-half-of-all-americans/

    So, this plan would cost the vast majority of Americans nothing, and it would provide a substantial message to the black community that we are serious about bringing them fully in to our society.

    Why do suggestions like this have to come from the man in the street peanut gallery? Why aren’t they coming from professional intellectuals with PhDs?

    Diversity in philosophy journals doesn’t really matter that much if almost nobody is reading the journals, and if that’s true, it may be because philosophy professionals aren’t applying their substantial gifts to real world problems in a manner which transcends what the rest of us can offer.

    Eric Schwitzgebel and Nicole Hassoun, how about a reply to Eric? He answered your request promptly and directly, it would be polite to offer some kind of reply. If you want diverse voices, he’s got one.

  8. Wisdom is not confined to any particular race, gender, nation or ethnic group. Wisdom is a universal quality of human mind. But wisdom is also rare, as well as its true lovers. Thus, to look for diversity in philosophical journals in statistics and adjust this diversity to any social background is a misunderstanding. The lack of diversity in philosophical journals lies somewhere else: in the lack of originality. Lacking originality, philosophy, trying to imitate science, becomes merely a technical enterprise, and philosophical articles, with countless of citations referring to primary and secondary sources, have so often so little of any original content. Further, today’s philosophy professors seem to show so little interest in any originality. Let me give an example.

    In 2015 I published my Tractatus Politico-Philosophicus. It was bilingual Polish/English version and my publisher, Derewiecki from Poland, to promote the book, has contacted American Philosophical Association. As a result, information about my Tractatus was send to over 10000 APA members. Out of these only six responded showing an interest in receiving a free book copy and in reviewing the book. Out of these six, one, a professor from the University of Calcutta, actually wrote a review and then decided that it should be translated in Bengali and published in India, which actually happened.

    Then in 2017 Tractatus Politico-Philosophicus (English version) was published by Routledge. Information about the book was sent to APA members, this time only to those whose research field was social and political philosophy. Again, a response was very small, which means there was no real interest in my work.

    After my Routledge edition of the Tractatus was published, Zayed University in Dubai, where I am currently employed, informed me that they should not renew my contract. They have said that it has noting do to with me and my achievements (eight books and many articles), but they are now planning to reduce Liberal Education and shall hire more Computer Science professors and other narrow specialists. Then I started my job search. While introducing myself in my application letters I wrote: “However, above all, I am an original philosopher and political thinker. Recently I have published a major philosophical work: Tractatus Politico-Philosophicus: New Directions for the Future Development of Humankind (Routledge 2017).” I sent out 50+ applications and I have not received a single invitation for an interview. Why?

    I believe that today’s academics, at least in philosophy, do not really look for any originality or novelty or for the unexpected. They are commenting on Aristotle, Kant, Wittgenstein, Rawls, and sometimes on Foucault, Heidegger, Derrida, citing many secondary sources, or engage in highly technical speculations. But, as at it was observed by Heraclitus a long time ago: “If you do not expect the unexpected, you will not find it; for it is hard to be sought out and difficult.”

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