I’ve received two rejection letters this summer for papers. I sent the first paper right out again, because the rejection from the APA’s new journal provided only two sentences of comment from one reviewer, and those two sentences showed the reviewer hadn’t even read the article. I won’t be sending anything to that journal again. (I don’t know what to do with the second, which also only provided part of the feedback from one reviewer, and that portion of feedback showed that the reviewer and I expect radically different things of a historical-textual argument.)
Anyway, whenever peer review ruins my day, I wonder once again what the value of the practice is in the humanities. I gather that it is relatively new in philosophy, in particular, given scraps of information that I’ve picked up here and there. (I can find no actual data on the issue.)
Even if I’m misinterpreting the scraps I’ve picked up, I have a hard time imagining any of the now-classic papers on which most of us spend our time when teaching Philosophy of Language, Philosophy of Mind, or whatever, were peer reviewed. They couldn’t have been, given that 75% of the literature on any one of them amounts to: “The thesis of Classic Paper x is obviously, ludicrously false, and here’s why . . .”
And think about Gettier’s paper getting peer reviewed. How many “yeah, but . . .” retorts, or “this is only three pages; should deal with x, y, z, . . . .” objections, would it have gotten? And what about R. Barthes’ “Death of the Author” or Wimsatt and Beardsley’s “The Intentional Fallacy“? I could easily find hundreds of scholars to write a two-sentence, “Oh, come on!” review of either, and yet they are now part of the canon.
I heard from someone that Russell had to visit the editor of Mind in person to convince him to publish “On Denoting.” I’m willing to bet that most of the classic papers that now form the constraints and contents of philosophical discussion were published for similar reasons (i.e., the author was friends with the editor, or something to that effect).
If that’s right, then we today are held to a different standard than our teachers were when they were coming up in the 60s and 70s, and than their teachers were when they were coming up in the Teens and 20s, etc. I find this distressing, and thus would very much appreciate anyone who could show me that peer review goes back further in philosophy specifically, and the humanities in general, than I think it does.
But even if peer review for philosophy started far earlier than I think it did, what about Plato? Can you imagine any of his dialogues making it through? Would any even get a “revise and resubmit”? You’ve read the Phaedo and Meno, right?