An Annual Oversight?

The Philosopher’s Annual has published a list of the best articles in Philosophy.  While I have no doubt that these are among the very best articles of the year, as a political philosopher, I could not help but notice that there are no articles in the area of political philosophy.  After doing an admittedly quick search, I noticed that the last articles in the area of political philosophy to appear in the Annual were in Vol. XXV, from the literature of 2002, by  Christopher F. Zurn, “Deliberative Democracy and Constitutional Review,” from Law and Philosophy and Vol. XXIV, from the literature of 2001, by Liam Murphy & Thomas Nagel, “Taxes, Redistribution and Public Provision” from Philosophy and Public Affairs.  Indeed, if we look at the period before 2002, there were a number of other articles in the area of political philosophy featured in the Annual.  The lack of papers in political philosophy might be explained by the fact that, at least this year, only one or two of the nominating editors work directly in political philosophy.  This may be true also of the years after 2002 (I am not certain about this because I could not find the list of nominating editors for the other issues online).  It also seems that, in recent years, other areas such as philosophy of race, feminist philosophy, and applied ethics are severely underrepresented among the chosen articles and among the nominating board of editors.

This leaves me curious about how the board of nominating editors is chosen. In choosing the nominating board, do the editors aim for some sort of balance among various areas of philosophy? What are the criteria for selection?

On a positive note, there are a good number of articles by women in the Philosopher’s Annual and a number of women among the nominating editors.  This is to be commended.  I hope that, in the future, the editors will also seek to be more inclusive of political philosophers and of philosophers working in other currently underrepresented areas.

Thanks to Eric Schliesser and Alex Guerrero for encouraging me to write this post.

UPDATE: As Alex Guerrero notes on Facebook, the Annual has recently published a few articles that may be thought to be in the area of legal philosophy, which can be seen as a subfield of political philosophy.  However, as he suggests, the pieces that have tended to be chosen are actually much closer to other fields than legal and political philosophy, such as this year’s piece by David Enoch, Levi Spectre & Talia Fisher, “Statistical Evidence, Sensitivity, and the Legal Value of Knowledge,” from Philosophy and Public Affairs 20 (3), 197-224 and last year’s piece by John F. Horty, “Rules and Reasons in the Theory of Precedent,” from Legal Theory.

UPDATE: As Eric Schliesser points out at New Apps, Ryan Muldoon has noted that there is a piece in the Annual, Vol. XXVII, from the literature of 2007, in the area of formal political theory by Peter Vanderschraaf, “Covenants and Reputations,” from Synthese.  This may count as an example of work in political philosophy, but, again, I would argue that, like the other pieces in legal philosophy in the Annual, it is closer to other areas of philosophy.  Moreover, as Alex Guerrero noted on Facebook, even if it does count, this would be only one piece in political philosophy in the last 11 years.

Eric Schliesser also makes some good points about the tendency of the Annual to give an “extremely one-sided perspective on the history of philosophy.”  Check out his post.

6 responses

  1. Hi Meena,

    Thanks for this. I’m writing as one of the graduate student editors responsible for this year’s final selections. The point you raise is a legitimate one that speaks to a well-documented set of interrelated problems plaguing the discipline as a whole. I would add to your list of omissions africana philosophy and aesthetics; probably there are more.

    I made a deliberate effort to raise this issue with the chief editor, Patrick Grimm at our meetings, so that the Philosopher’s Annual might be more representative in future editions. Patrick, to his credit, was extremely receptive to criticisms and suggestions. As a course of action, we agreed that this year’s graduate editors, Chloe Armstrong, Patrick Shirreff, and myself, would make nominating-editor recommendations with regard to areas of omission, and that Patrick would alter (perhaps by simply supplementing) the pool of nominating editors as best he could in light of this.

    Thanks again


  2. Thank you for this, Nils. So, does this mean that the next issue will aim to be more representative? Can you speak at all to how exactly the nominating-editors have been chosen in the past and how things might change in the future? I would be grateful for further information.


    • No problem. This does mean, provided we get our act together in time, that the next issue will aim to be more representative, yes. I should add that my sense is that this is true of most if not every year’s Annual, however much or little is done toward achieving that aim.

      I don’t know exactly how the nominating editors are chosen. My impression is that they are invited by Patrick Grim who attempts to get a broad array of philosophers known to keep up with the most contemporary literature (for obvious reasons). As an aside, I also recall Patrick (Grim) remarking that a number of people invited to contribute turn the invitation down.

      My hope is that we can diversify the nominating pool a little by recommending people to Patrick who work in less well-represented areas, and that this will ameliorate some of the representation issues–both theoretical and demographic.

  3. Thanks, Nils. This sounds positive. However, again, I would like to hear more about the process behind the selection of nomnating-editors. The Annual will really only become more genuinely representative if the selection process is itself designed to be more inclusive. However, perhaps, this is something that only Patrick Grimm can give us the details about. I hope that he will take this as an opportunity to make this process more transparent.

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