Thursday, September 22, 2011

Brooks Advice on Publishing in Philosophy

Because he's right, it's always a good read:

http://tinyurl.com/publishingadvice

Side note: Sure my submission got rejected, but I'm happy to recommend the Journal of Moral Philosophy as a quick, professional unit. One of the good ones.

-- Second Suitor

40 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow. This is really good. Thanks for posting this.

Anonymous said...

Brooks is good!

And although I was rejected too, JMP is speedy!

(If only my recovery of self-confidence went as quickly as their review process.)

WV: galor -- I picture a gator gripped with gales of laughter.

The Brooks Blog said...

This is so very kind of everyone. I'm delighted to hear the publishing advice essay has been helpful to so many. More such essays on the way...but what topics would be most helpful?

Anonymous said...

Thom, an essay on how to approach book publishers would be fantastic!

The Brooks Blog said...

Noted!

Anonymous said...

I'm not so sure about some of this advice. I would think that spending your time working up papers from courses you took into pubs might be more efficient time-wise than spending time reading books and writing reviews on them (assuming you have someone more senior to read drafts and whatnot). Conferences are good. The problem with them is that you have to write papers that are not the same length as you would for a pub -- another time sink. Anything I've published though has been conferenced before publication, and they are great for getting to know people.

YFNA

ps: I too would like to know how to approach publishers about a book as a junior professor.

The Brooks Blog said...

Anonymous -

1. I disagree. Book reviews, etc. are a great low cost (in terms of time, etc.) to begin the practice of writing for a general audience. The better you can communicate with a general audience, the better your overall success. Conferences are also helpful (as I note), but lack the free books...

2. It depends on what conferences you target. Most of my talks have permitted more time/words than APA division meetings and have suited publication plans particularly well. Perhaps you should look to new venues that will allow you to discuss your work at greater length?

3. Many thanks (in addition to your other helpful comments) for the approaching book publishers suggestion. I will probably do something on this soon. Watch this space...

The Brooks Blog said...

PS I should add that I don't think that writing up course papers a better use of time. These papers are often about a particular course and ill-suited for mainstream philosophy journals in my experience. They also often fail to address an audience beyond their fellow classmates.

Mr. Zero said...

The problem with them [conferences] is that you have to write papers that are not the same length as you would for a pub -- another time sink.

I don't get it. Don't you just take a regular, hope-to-publish-it paper and trim it to fit the conference guidelines? How is that a waste of time?

Anonymous said...

Yes, exactly. Trimming a paper for a conference instead of grooming it more for publication is a time sink. How could it not be? I can see getting an idea for a conference topic and writing up something short and then expanding it. That wouldn't be a time sink, but the reverse?

I also disagree about the course paper thing. If you have good profs and you are writing good papers for your courses, then you should be writing them as if they were potential publications. At least that was the expectations our profs put on us at my grad school, and they were commented on with that in mind. If that is not what is going in a grad program, then I think that should be changed, or you should change grad programs. I have two different papers myself that are now in publishable form that I wrote for course papers.

And I really do honestly think book reviews are a bit of a waste of time. They don't do much for your CV. In fact, at a certain point, they can be viewed as a negative. I mean maybe if you're a first year you might try it, but I would only do it once.

YFNA

Mr. Zero said...

Yes, exactly. Trimming a paper for a conference instead of grooming it more for publication is a time sink. How could it not be?

Several ways. For one thing, you're editing for concision, which is a virtue even if you're eye is on publication. Many times I have rewritten a paragraph in order to get the word-count down and then replaced the paragraph in the "for publication" version.

For another thing, you're getting something out of it: a conference presentation is a line on your CV, which is often worth the investment of time (depending on the conference).

For another thing, the conference presentation is likely to result in valuable discussion and feedback, which is also worth the time.

I guess it's possible that you find it more difficult to pare your papers down than I do. I usually start by hacking entire sections out--for example, depending on the context, I might delete sections where I canvas the alternatives to my proposal, or where I discuss the history of the idea, or where I relate my proposal to the recent literature in the area. I try to get to the most central part of the paper with a minimum of stage setting. Then I try to eliminate paragraphs or smaller units until I'm under the limit.

I often find this process extremely helpful. It helps me to get clear on what the most interesting or central idea really is and how best to express it, to understand how the auxiliary portions of the paper are related to the main part, to see ways of organizing the paper that I hadn't thought of before, and to state things more clearly using fewer words. It would never have occurred to me to characterize it as a waste of time. I see it as an important part of the editing process.

And I really do honestly think book reviews are a bit of a waste of time. They don't do much for your CV. In fact, at a certain point, they can be viewed as a negative.

I'm really not sure that you're responding to Prof. Brooks's advice. Brooks doesn't say, write a bunch of book reviews. He doesn't say that writing book reviews is an essential step. He says, writing one or two is a good way of ramping yourself into writing publishable work and learning about the editorial process. He says this in part because it is so easy to get a book review published, which any thoughtful person will realize is a strike against writing lots of them or focusing on them to the exclusion of regular articles.

I mean, if any number of book reviews looked bad on your CV, or book reviews were a bad way of ramping yourself into writing publishable work, I'd say you had a point. But I don't see where anything you've said here contradicts the advice in the Brooks piece.

Anonymous said...

I do think book reviews kind of look bad. It looks like you're not good enough to publish anything but a book review (of course, there are book reviews that are more like critical discussion pieces). It's what you do when either (a) you are offered it as a first year in virtue of your advisor snagging you a request or (b) you have tried publishing your own work and can't or (c) you're already very famous and people are interested in what your pronouncements on the latest in x might be. Either way, I don't see how any search committee will be wowed by a book review. Better to spend your time working up papers to publish. This all depends of course on what you're shooting for I guess in a job. But I wouldn't do a book review if my life depended on it. I barely have enough time to work on my own stuff. If I were to do a book review it would require putting all my own original work on hold and dedicating myself to something that won't impress people very much. That makes no sense. Also, I don't see how writing a book review will help your publishing skills much except in learning how to polish prose, which you can learn by submitting your own original work and then some. All of the benefits you claim to get from conferencing are benefits you could get just by digging in and editing your own work. I do think feedback from some source or other though is most of the time required and conferences are a way to do that (as well as get your face around).

I suppose though doing a book review *might* be OK if you are a first year PhD, but being someone who is trying to get a lot of original work out in order to get a tt job, a book review sounds like a death knell to me.

YFNA

Mr. Zero said...

I do think book reviews kind of look bad. It looks like you're not good enough to publish anything but a book review

I'm sorry, but that is ridiculous. Someone who has no publications other than a book review looks like someone who is getting started, not like someone who sucks. I agree that you can't tell that she's awesome based on the book review, but neither can you tell that she sucks.

Someone who has other publications in addition to a book review looks like someone who wrote a book review in addition to her other stuff, not like someone who sucks. And someone who has only one book review from 1999 and nothing else looks like someone whose work wasn't good enough to be published, but in that case it's the lack of other publications over a long period of time that is indicative, not the presence of the book review.

If I were to do a book review it would require putting all my own original work on hold and dedicating myself to something that won't impress people very much. That makes no sense.

There are, of course, reasons not to do a book review. Some of these reasons might very well outweigh whatever benefits there might be. But you're just ignoring the stuff Brooks says about book reviews, substituting your own non-Brooks reasons in favor of doing book reviews, and then arguing against these new reasons. Brooks doesn't say, Do a book review; search committees will be wowed! He says, Do a book review; it's a good way to ramp up into publishing.

Also, I don't see how writing a book review will help your publishing skills much except in learning how to polish prose, which you can learn by submitting your own original work and then some.

When you submit work to journals, do the referees and editors typically help you polish your prose? I didn't think so. Does Brooks mention the ability to polish ones prose as a benefit of easing into publishing by doing a book review? I didn't think so. He mentions things such as learning to deal with editors and gearing your writing for a different kind of audience.

All of the benefits you claim to get from conferencing are benefits you could get just by digging in and editing your own work.

This is actually good to know. I didn't realize I could list times I dug in and edited my work on my CV. I guess I should emend the section heading: "Conferences, Presentations, and TImes I Dug In and Edited My Work."

But seriously. One time I went to a conference and this guy I didn't know had prepared comments on my paper. They were very helpful, and it would never have happened if I had stayed home, dug in, and edited instead of spending that weekend at the conference.

Now I'm friends with this person and I send him a lot of my work. He's nice and smart and always gets back to me with helpful comments. It's pretty great, and it would never have happened if I had stayed home, dug in, and edited instead of spending that weekend at the conference.

Then, after the commenter guy read his thing, the audience asked me questions. Their questions and comments were helpful, and it would never have happened if I had stayed home, dug in, and edited instead of spending that weekend at the conference. Now I'm friends with some of those people, too.

This sort of thing happens whenever I go to a conference.

So anyways, the claim that all of the benefits of conferencing can be had just by editing your work yourself is true only if you can say on your CV that you edited your work; you will always think of everything yourself when you edit and so there is no point in getting fresh sets of eyes and ears; and there is no point in making friends. But, of course, you can't; you won't; and there is.

Anonymous said...

Look, I didn't say there were no benefits to conferencing, unless of course you completely ignored my earlier post and took my comments completely out of context. Fuck me. A good way to "ramp" up into publishing is to do your own work, not waste time reviewing a book review for the sake of learning how to publish. If you have an interest in that topic: go for it, but otherwise, I stick by my opinion that it's a waste of time. Sorry, Zero. I remain non-plussed.

YFNA

Mr. Zero said...

Look, I didn't say there were no benefits to conferencing, unless of course you completely ignored my earlier post and took my comments completely out of context.

I didn't say you said that. If you think I did, you misunderstood. What happened was, on September 30, 2011 at 3:57 AM, you said, "All of the benefits you claim to get from conferencing are benefits you could get just by digging in and editing your own work." I pointed out that this is false by reiterating several such benefits.

Anonymous said...

OK HOLY FUCK. I forgot to stop assuming that philosophers subscribed to the principle of charity and should have been more explicit. The benefits I was referring to were those you cited as helping to clarify your position, etc. Can we put this rest now ZERO?

YFNA

Anonymous said...

ps: Zero, you must have a tt job, otherwise you would understand why I have the opinion I do about book reviews. Maybe if you are first year in a PhD program you might want to write a book review, but book reviews on a person's CV who is applying for a job? Not the best foot Zero, not the best foot.

YFNA

Mr. Zero said...

Hi YFNA,

I am copying this from the other thread. YOu wrote:

Maybe if you are first year in a PhD program you might want to write a book review, but book reviews on a person's CV who is applying for a job? Not the best foot Zero, not the best foot.

I didn't say it was the best foot, and neither did Brooks. He's not saying that book reviews will cause search committees to go weak in the knees from desire. He's not saying search committees will swoon. He's saying it's a good way to ramp up into publishing by learning how to deal with editors and gearing your writing towards an audience other than your professors and fellow seminarians.

Now look. Maybe you don't need this ramp. Maybe your professors grade you down when your seminar papers look like seminar papers instead of publishable journal articles. If so, good for you. Don't write a book review. Publish your publishable seminar papers, which will look better on your CV, impress the search committees, and help your career more. That's fine, and I haven't disputed that point, and as far as I can see, neither has Brooks. I didn't write a book review, either. And I definitely wouldn't consider taking the time to write one now, at this point in my career.

But the idea that book reviews look bad on your CV, that writing one is an intrinsically bad idea, that search committees will hold it against you if you do, is pure bullshit.

Anonymous said...

ps: I posted on the wrong thread again. Anyway, my point is that none of us have time for ramps. We have to get in there yesterday. If that's right, then the only reason to write a book review is if you're not ready to publish your own work yet and if you're not ready to do that, you will be fucked on the job market.

YFNA

Anonymous said...

Thom Brooks,

Thanks for writing that! It's super helpful, and I'm glad you were thoughtful enough to spend time writing it. Along with the question of how to approach book publishers, I wonder whether you might include other steps in the process: (1) how long before you expect to hear back from a publisher; (2) how likely a revise and resubmit is to turn into a book; (3) how long before you expect to hear back on a revise and resubmit; (4) whether you can simultaneously submit parts of the book manuscript as articles elsewhere.

Thanks for all your work!

Mr. Zero said...

@ 6:48,

The benefits I was referring to were those you cited as helping to clarify your position, etc.

I know that. The thing is that the benefits I cited as helping clarify my position really are benefits that cannot be had by simply digging in and editing. In my comment at 6:26, I am defending this claim against your assertion that, "All of the benefits you claim to get from conferencing are benefits you could get just by digging in and editing your own work." Which, again, you wrote on September 30, 2011 at 3:57 AM. I'm not saying you said there's no point in conferencing, I'm saying I have pointed to several benefits to conferencing that cannot be had simply by digging in. Which you have disputed, and about which you are wrong.

@ 7:05,

ps: I posted on the wrong thread again.

That's too bad. You should really try to keep these threads straight.

Anyway, my point is that none of us have time for ramps. We have to get in there yesterday.

What do you mean, none of us? I mean, I don't have the time to ramp up. And I guess you don't, either. But I am already publishing my own work, so I also don't have the need to ramp up. I'm already ramped.

The Brooks piece is not addressed to someone like that. It is not addressed to someone who is anxiously waiting for the JFP to drop. It is not addressed to someone who has any rational hope of success on the job market this year.

The Brooks piece is address to someone who has not published her own work yet, and does not feel ready to do that, and is in need of advice as to how to go about getting ready.

If that's right, then the only reason to write a book review is if you're not ready to publish your own work yet and if you're not ready to do that, you will be fucked on the job market.

Brooks is talking to people who aren't ready to publish their own work yet, and he is saying to them here is how you get ready. Are you that fucking dense? Did you read the section entitled "Publishing 101: Book reviews as an introduction to publishing" and think it would contain practical advice on how to prepare for a job market season that starts in two weeks?

If you don't have any publications as of right now, there is an excellent chance that you are not ready for the job market. If that's you, you are fucked on this year's job market. But that's not because you followed the advice offered in the Brooks piece; it's because your file is the file of someone who is not ready to be on the job market. There is no advice that will change that in time for this year.

If that's your situation right now, you are fucked on the job market whether you follow Brooks's advice or not; whether you have publishable work sitting in your documents folder or not. You are fucked because you're not ready, not because you have written a book review.

And there just isn't any viable short-term advice about how to get ready for the job market, because the events that make your file strong have long lead-in times. It takes a long time to write a publishable paper even if you're capable of it. It takes a long time to get that paper refereed. And with almost all top journals having acceptance rates of under 10%, even the most eminently publishable paper might be rejected several times before being accepted. This could take years.

But maybe that's not your situation. Maybe your situation is that you've got some published or publishable work and you're wondering what you can do between now and October 12 to make yourself a better candidate this year. If that's your situation, Brooks is not talking to you. Brooks is talking to people who are not ready, and he's saying, Ok, so you're not ready. Here's what I think is a good way to get ready. Why is this so difficult for you to understand?

Anonymous said...

HOLY FUCK. Have you heard of the problem of scarcity? Yeah Marxism would work too if there was a never ending supply of fucking resources. And if grad school lasted an infinitely long time, then go ahead and stick your head up your ass and write book reviews, what the fuck? People who enter grad school should be, right away, starting to think about publishing their own ideas. As you note, it takes a long fucking time. Yes, I have publications. Do I need more? Who doesn't? I took Brooks's advice to apply more widely than just to those who have nothing better they can spend their time doing than writing a book review, but I guess if you're right, then I am wrong. But if that is all he is saying, if all he is saying is if you cannot publish your own work, then at least you can try writing a book review, sure I can agree with that!

YFNA

Mr. Zero said...

HOLY FUCK.

I GUESS I DON'T GET WHY YOU'RE SO UPSET.

Have you heard of the problem of scarcity? Yeah Marxism would work too if there was a never ending supply of fucking resources. And if grad school lasted an infinitely long time, then go ahead and stick your head up your ass and write book reviews, what the fuck?

Yeah. I get it. You don't like the advice because you don't feel like you have time to do waste on publications that are of little intrinsic value with respect to the job market. I understand that this is your view, and I am inclined to agree (with the narrow point about the intrinsic value of BRs). No search committee is going to look at a book review and be impressed. Nobody cares about book reviews in themselves. I acknowledged this point back on September 29 at 3:59 PM.

And now you're saying that the all-things-considered value of book reviews is so small that in order for it to make sense to devote time in grad school to writing even one of them, you would need an infinite quantity of available time in grad school. On your view, book reviews are of extremely little intrinsic "job market" value, and whatever extrinsic "job market" value they may have is not enough to generate even a small-but-finite amount of all-things-considered "job market" value. Although this latest point is obviously somewhat hyperbolic, it is clear what your view is: any way you slice it, on your view, book reviews are as good as worthless.

And I understand your argument for this view about the extrinsic value of BRs, too. On your view, the drawbacks outweigh the benefits. Although you could use the BR to ramp into writing for publication instead of for your seminars, your view is that seminars themselves do this, and so you would be better served focusing on your already basically publishable seminar papers than getting sidetracked writing a review of someone else's work (or even editing those papers so as to be suitable for sending to conferences).

But look. Thom Brooks is the editor of a good journal. He gets lots of submissions. Some of these submissions no doubt come from graduate students who are submitting (direct descendants of) seminar papers, who no doubt regard these papers as publishable, and who no doubt think that their seminars have prepared them for writing publishable papers. This journal editor has also very generously written a document containing advice to graduate students who would like to publish their work.

If a journal editor like that thinks that graduate students would be well-advised to spend some time on a BR project that will be easy to get published, will help the student get acquainted with dealing with editors and editorial procedures, and will help her to write for a wider philosophical audience than just her professors and fellow seminarians, I would be prima facieinclined to accept this idea.

Now, I'm not 100% on this, and I can imagine circumstances that would cause me to change my mind. And I realize that you disagree, my friendly neighborhood asshole, and I think I understand why: you think that it is a general rule that high-quality seminar papers are very close to publishable journal articles, and so taking any time at all away from one's own research to focus on a low-intrinsic-value project whose purpose is to develop certain skills does not possess enough extrinsic value to make it worth the time investment.

However, in this environment, in which Thom Brooks, ed. Journal of Moral Philosophy thinks that it would be worth it to do that and my friendly neighborhood asshole doesn't, I accord your view no weight whatsoever.

Anonymous said...

I am two-years out of grad school at the beginning of a two-year position and I'm writing a book review. Am I crazy? Stupid? I don't think so. And I think my reasons for deciding to write this book review can serve as an example as to why writing a book review may be worthwhile to someone, even if one is not just starting one's career.

I was asked to write a book review for a top journal in my field about a book that is on a similar topic to the book manuscript that I'm working on. I need to carefully read and consider the arguments in this book anyway (so that I can intelligently and charitably discuss said arguments in my own book). Writing a review of this book will help me accomplish this, while giving me the added benefits of writing a book review for the first time (I like to try new things), performing a service to my community, and further developing my relationship with the journal and editors I'm working with. Given all of these benefits, I do not see this as a waste of my time at all.

True, this review won't count for much on my CV, BUT, call me crazy, I DON'T DO EVERYTHING FOR THE SAKE OF IMPROVING MY CV! I consider writing this book review to be a fun philosophical exercise on a topic I am very interested in. It is therefore a worthwhile use of my time. This attitude - and the encyclopedia entries, response papers, many conference presentations, and even this book review - happens to, I believe, serve me well. It has lead to my continued philosophical development. And this DOES improve my chances of getting a job. From what I can tell, departments want to hire people who love philosophy and pursue it for its own sake, especially when this correlates with a strong publication record. The fact that I've had a half dozen publications come out in the past two years (while completing a postdoc) shows that I am a productive scholar, even though some (but not all) of these publications "don't count" (e.g., an encyclopedia entry). Productivity does matter. Showing that I can write a book review (for fun!) while also publishing in peer-review journals, edited volumes, and while working on my own book manuscript helps make my case that I'm a productive and engaged scholar.

So, no, I do not think that writing this book review is a waste of my time. And while it isn't going to cinch a tenure track job for me, I do think that it will help show my ability to multi-task and be productive and THAT will help me on the job market next year.

Anonymous said...

@ZERO: Not upset. Amazed at the vitriol. Anyway, I guess you're right ZERO, and since Bas van Fraassen believes in god, I guess I should too. Christ. Get a grip. I know that journal editors don't want to encourage early publication because usually, in fact, we aren't ready to publish at that stage. And the editors have to deal with this crap. I personally disagree with the pressure to publish early. But it's a coordination problem, and I'm sure as hell not going to be the one taking the risk.

@bookreviewer or whatever: Good for you. I did say that doing a book review on a topic of interest might help. I also anonymously posted previously about being sure you look productive on your CV as well. So yes, book reviews can be good for that too.

Back to ZERO: I never said reviews are useless, and you know that I don't really think that they're useful only if we have infinite time in grad school. It's nice to know that there are still some straw men and people of authority in philosophy. Damn! I really am in Wonderland.

YFNA

Mr. Zero said...

@ZERO: Not upset. Amazed at the vitriol.

Not sure where you're seeing amazing vitriol. You do occasionally YELL OBSCENITIES, though, which is why I thought you were upset. If I misinterpreted, I am sorry.

and since Bas van Fraassen believes in god, I guess I should too.

I could be dense, but I'm not sure what you're talking about. If I had to guess it would be that you're comparing van Fraassen's expertise about the existence of a deity with Brooks's expertise about trends in the quality and characteristics of the papers graduate students submit to the journal he edits. But I'm skeptical of this interpretation because it makes no sense.

I never said reviews are useless,

Ok. But you have repeatedly and strenuously emphasized that they are a bit of a waste of time; they could have a potentially negative impact on your CV; they are a death knell after your first year of grad school though they are possibly worthwhile in that first year; a waste of time again; "not the best foot" for the CV of a job candidate--which suggests that one should leave one's BRs off one's application CV; something that would be sensible only if one had an infinite supply of time; and something one would have to stick one's head up one's ass to be willing to do. So maybe it's not accurate to say you find them to be useless. It's not too wildly inaccurate, either.

and you know that I don't really think that they're useful only if we have infinite time in grad school.

And you know I know that, because I acknowledged the hyperbolic nature of that remark when I addressed it. However, if this remark means anything at all, it must mean that the value of book reviews falls in the "extremely low" to "negligible" range. This remark, "...if grad school lasted an infinitely long time, then go ahead and stick your head up your ass and write book reviews, what the fuck?", does not express the idea that book reviews are a potentially sensible way to spend one's time. (It's also obscenity-laden enough that I was surprised when you subsequently expressed amazement at the vitriol.)

It's nice to know that there are still some straw men and people of authority in philosophy.

I see what you're saying about the "straw man," but I'm a little confused about the suggestion that I am the one doing it. I have acknowledged that your "infinite time" remark was meant to be taken figuratively, whereas the entirety of your reply here is to falsely indicate that I insisted on a literal interpretation.

So anyways, I know you didn't mean the remark literally. But I figured you meant it somehow, or else you wouldn't have said it. If you didn't mean to be interpreted as saying that book reviews are almost worthless, I suggest you take it up with yourself.

Anonymous said...

Uh. I notice your comments are frequently laced with "obscenities" as well. Who cares? Aren't we all adults here? And, well, I realize this is partly your blog, ZERO, but it is after all, merely a blog. I do think that given that there is a limited amount of time to get ready for the job market and that committees require, let's say, an INFINITE number of pubs before they hire you, that book reviews are not the best use of your time. PERIOD. That is my considered opinion having been a job candidate and on a committee. Oh right, and since you're too dense to get it, the reference to van Fraassen was intended to implicate that you were appealing to authority to justify your views. I thought you might not get that, so I tried to make it more explicit in my later comments, but apparently that failed too. So sorry.

YFNA

Mr. Zero said...

Uh. I notice your comments are frequently laced with "obscenities" as well. Who cares?

What the fuck do you mean, "who cares"? You fucking care, because you're the motherfucker who fucking complained about the amazing fucking vitriol. I didn't fucking complain about the fucking obscenities; I fucking pointed out that they are fucking there. And shit.

I do think that given that there is a limited amount of time to get ready for the job market and that committees require, let's say, an INFINITE number of pubs before they hire you, that book reviews are not the best use of your time.

Do you know what the word 'infinite' means?

Oh right, and since you're too dense to get it, the reference to van Fraassen was intended to implicate that you were appealing to authority to justify your views.

Go back. Reread. I suspected that this is what you were saying. I was unsure because I doubted that you were stupid enough to have made such a dumb comparison. Thanks for confirming that you are, though. It helps me to know what I'm dealing with.

The reason for my skepticism is this: although I definitely appealed to Thom Brooks's authority in my comment from September 30, 2011 at 10:59 AM, there was nothing fallacious about it. The appeal to authority concerned information that he is in a position to have.

I did not say, e.g. Brooks is right about a lot of stuff, therefore he is right about P. I said, Brooks is in a position to know whether P, so the fact that Brooks seems to believe that P is a prima facie case in favor of P, and the fact that you disagree with him about P does not affect this prima facie case at all. That is a textbook legitimate appeal to authority.

I mean, what you're saying here is really interesting. I've not seen it before. It's almost as though you're saying people should side with you against Brooks, and that we should do this because there is no reason to suspect that you know what you're taking about.

I thought you might not get that, so I tried to make it more explicit in my later comments, but apparently that failed too. So sorry.

I don't know what you mean. I looked for these later comments of yours, between the one containing the "van Fraassen" passage and this one containing the claim of subsequent attempts to clarify, but I couldn't find any. You make this "van Fraassen comparison," and then in your very next comment you say you subsequently attempted to be more explicit.

I considered the possibility that you meant that you did this before the "van Fraassen" passage (but, obviously, after the allegedly fallacious appeal to authority), but I couldn't find any of those, either. I appealed to Brooks's authority concerning the journal he edits, and then in your very next comment you make this ridiculous "van Fraassen" comparison. The "later comments" you mention simply don't exist.

So I guess I think you're just sort of lying about this, though I have no idea why, since it is so easy to look and see that your claim is false.

Anonymous said...

You bite every single time. Hilarious. Take a pill and relax, or go do something else. But man, you are A LOT of fun ZERO. I bet your wife enjoys dinner conversation with you very much.

YFNA

Anonymous said...

ps: here's your clue that I wasn't lying...

It's nice to know that there are still some straw men and people of authority in philosophy.

Now go back to intellectually beating up on something with some real philosophical content. Seriously man. I knew you would take me to task on the vF comment. You're very predictable.

I did make a reasonable statement about what I really think about writing book reviews, however, which you perversely chose to ignore.

Hey, let's play chess sometime, bud. For real. I think it would be fun.

Oh, but for the long gone days of PGOAT: a world in which people understood that hyperbole is sometimes used to make a more reasonable and subtle point, a world in which Literalism was banished and Charity reigned, a world in which the word "fuck" was a casual emphatic, but calling someone "dense" was vitriolic, a good world, a fun world...

TTYL ZERO.

YFNA.

Mr. Zero said...

You bite every single time. Hilarious.

Oh man, do I feel dumb. You have clearly tricked me into responding to your comments. Very clever.

But, aren't you responding to my comments just as much as I'm responding to yours? The only difference, as far as I can see, is that I attend to, acknowledge, and allow my remarks to be affected by what you have actually said.

I bet your wife enjoys dinner conversation with you very much.

I asked her, and she says she does.

here's your clue that I wasn't lying...

["]It's nice to know that there are still some straw men and people of authority in philosophy.["]


You said that in the "van Fraassen" comment, not a later one.

And anyways, the problem wasn't that I didn't understand that you were accusing me of making a fallacious appeal to authority. More lying. it's that you apparently don't know how to distinguish between fallacious appeals to authority and inductively strong ones.

I did make a reasonable statement about what I really think about writing book reviews, however, which you perversely chose to ignore.

You did occasionally indicate that you thought that it would sometimes be okay for some people in some situations to do book reviews. But then you would immediately reverse course and call writing a book review a "death knell" or some such thing. You can't have it both ways.

Hey, let's play chess sometime, bud. For real. I think it would be fun.

I don't agree.

Oh, but for the long gone days of PGOAT: a world in which people understood that hyperbole is sometimes used to make a more reasonable and subtle point...

The problem I had with your "infinite time" point was not that it was expressed hyperbolically. More lying. The problem I had with it was that the point you used hyperbole to express was wrong.

...a world in which Literalism was banished and Charity reigned...

I don't see where I took your point literally. I clearly took it figuratively. More lying. It's just that understanding the point in a figurative manner didn't make it any less incorrect.

...a world in which the word "fuck" was a casual emphatic...

We still use 'fuck' pretty casually around here.

...but calling someone "dense" was vitriolic...

Calling someone "dense" is not vitriol.

Ben said...

I've enjoyed the discussion but I'm inclined to think, however little book reviews are worth, they're worth more than posting comments on philosophy blogs. So, if you have time to do that, I'd have thought you also have time to write a book review. It doesn't require you to have infinite time, merely to make time for it on top of your research.

Anonymous said...

YFNA here. This is a comment on a post from the Hitchcock thread. It says:

My claim that book reviews are little extra work over and above reading the damn thing entails 9:53's (2): given that they are little extra work, SCs shouldn't put much weight on them. But there need not be a tradeoff between reviewing and writing substantive papers, as 9:53 suggests. First, knowing that you are writing for publication may motivate you to read more carefully, think more deeply and develop your ideas better. I have written several papers that used ideas that I generated through reviewing. Second, book reviewing cultivates useful skills: you need to be able to summarize other people's research, situate their work in the literature, and so on. You need to learn to write clearly and concisely (several people have said that 2-3 hours extra over and above reading is 'virtually impossible'. Perhaps it is for them: they might be the people who most need to practice these skills). Beyond a certain point, the returns will be negative, but up to that point, reviewing should be useful for your research even though it isn't going to contribute useful lines for the CV.

I don't think that whether book reviews are useful or good for *something* is what is at issue and I feel like people have been talking past each other a lot on this issue, including myself (YFNA) and ZERO.

Let me clarify my position on book reviews: if you really want the best shot you can get at getting a job in this market, assuming it continues to be harsh for the next few years, then it behooves you to learn how to publish your own work as efficiently as possible, assuming that search committees are primarily interested in your original work. Assuming this is the case, if there is any way for you to get the skills you need to publish your own work in some way more efficient than writing a book review, you should do that instead of writing a book review.

Call me "dense," but I personally think that the most efficient way to learn how to publish your own work is to come at it directly right away. That may be wrong. I don't have the time to do an empirical study. It's a hunch. Do with it what you will. I think it's a hunch of the kind that acting upon it is less risky than acting upon others. At least, for myself, I feel safer puttin' my eggs in that basket than in the book review basket.

However, in some cases, say, if doing a book review is part and parcel of what you need to know to develop your own original views, then there is no net loss in doing so. So why not?

I do maintain though that if the choice truly is between doing a book review or working on your own publications, you should, in this market, assuming you are "careerist" in the sense of not wanting to be a Nomad, or live in debt anymore, do your own work.

This was all I ever meant to be defending.

@Ben: yes, I do have time to spend on blogging, since there are only so many brain cells a day I can commit to doing straight up hard-core philosophy? Is this a surprise. Again, this misunderstands me. I am saying that I should spend the time that I can on phil on doing my own research, not on book reviews. And I do that. That is perfectly consistent with my thinking that I shouldn't spend such time on book reviews, and that I should take some down time to write what I guess are inflammatory comments on this blog :)

YFNA

Anonymous said...

I'm amazed at how much comment this has generated.

I don't think it's been emphasised enough how incredibly easy writing a review of a book that you're familiar with is. And if you're not familiar with the book, or should be because it's relevant to your research, you shouldn't be reviewing it. I think that everything else I list on my CV took me longer.

I'm not entirely sure how much organising a graduate conference will help me on the job market (well, I am, it doesn't, much) but it takes a hell of a lot more time than a review does. Of course, it's more rewarding, both personally and professionally, but the ratio of effort put in to reward is probably roughly comparable.

So, my question is, if you have enough time to sleep at night (8 hours on a good day) or go out and get drunk, then presumably you have 2 hours you can spend writing a review of a book you've just read and thought about because it's your job?

Anonymous said...

YFNA: Book reviews take up too much of my precious time that I could otherwise use for the job market. Anyone who wastes time writing a book review to put on your C.V. is an idiot.




See the funny? I do.

Anonymous said...

I am a recently tenured prof. In my personal experience writing book reviews and commentating on papers at conferences early in my career have been invaluable for my own publishing success. The great thing about book reviews is that I got to read important books in my area (given to me for free), I made invaluable contacts with the authors of those books and I also learned how to pitch a bit of philosophy to a more general audience. I also found being a frequent commentator very helpful. It keeps me up to date in what what is going in my area of specialty, I meet others working in my area and I find it excellent practice for my own writing to summarize another person's view and develop a response to that view in a concise manner. I should add I have had quite a few published papers inspired by the work I had done in book reviews and commentaries.

The Brooks Blog said...

I am grateful to Mr Zero for the remarks below. Book reviews offer a relatively cost-free opportunity to *do* publishing in your research area and begin writing for an audience beyond your graduate programme (plus, you get a free book).

I don't understand how writing one book review could so derail trying to publish articles, etc. 500-1000 words that hard to write...?

Anonymous said...

YNFA claims to be a junior faculty member in philosophy, but given his (I feel reasonably sure about that pronoun) contributions to this thread, I think there's little reason to take that claim seriously. & his views about the advisability of reviewing are likewise discountable.

Anonymous said...

My god, did anyone read my considered opinion about book reviews and why I think time is better spent elsewhere given certain assumptions? We are talking past each other. I never meant to imply that book reviews are not good for anything. Assume what you will about pronouns. I'm not sure why you would assume I am a he except for your own sexist beliefs about how a he supposedly acts and writes. Yes, I am a junior faculty member. I have plenty of experience with on campus and APA interviews, as well as having published in a top ten journal, and I also have some experience sitting on search committees. Believe that or not. That's your call, I guess. Sorry for having an opinion that goes against the grain. I can't believe that leads you to surmise that I have no credentials, but alright.

YFNA

Mr. Zero said...

I continue to be mystified by the vociferous opposition to book reviews. Although I didn't take the specific route Brooks advises, I do recall thinking that, late in my graduate course-work, I had sort of gotten pretty good at writing seminar papers, that I wanted to quit doing that and start writing for publication, and that I wasn't entirely sure how to go about it. I figured it out, but I doubt a book review would have been harmful at that point in my career. I don't see why you'd think writing a book review at that point, when I was about to finish my coursework and was transitioning to the dissertation stage, would have been a bad idea.

And it's not as though this business about book reviews is the lynchpin of Brooks's whole strategy. If you don't think you need this practice--and whenever I first read the Brooks piece, I thought I was past the point where it would have been helpful to write a book review in the manner he describes--it would be easy to just skip ahead to step 2.

I realize I could be wrong, so I checked it out a little. This isn't science, but I looked at the five or six most successful people to have come out of my graduate program in the ten-year period that ended 5 years or so ago, plus a couple of pretty influential philosophers who earned their Ph.D.s elsewhere in approximately the same time period. Almost all of them had at least one book review dating from when they were first starting to publish, and one person, a legitimate superstar, has like six of them. So I think this idea that book reviews will hurt your career does not seem to be borne out by the evidence.