Thursday, February 10, 2005

Can an Independent Scholar Get Published?

Jim Ryan of Philosoblog (defunct but content-rich) and of The Conservative Philosopher e-mails:

Your Independent Philosopher site is interesting. Keep me posted, sign me up, etc. I see that you published articles after retirement. I have a textbook manuscript I'd like to publish, but I figured publishers wouldn't be interested since I have no institution. What do you think?

BV: One of the things I considered carefully before resigning my tenured position was whether resigning would make it difficult to publish in reputable outlets. The world runs on appearances, people judge by them, and to do so is not entirely irrational. But I figured that there are enough decent people out there willing to judge my work on its merits to make the risk worth running. My experience has borne out my judgment.

Since quitting in the Spring of 1991, I have published about 35 articles and reviews and a book.
The journals in which I have published since '91 include the top analytic journals Nous and Analysis as well as a number of mid-range journals including all of the main philosophy of religion journals (Religious Studies, International Journal of the Philosophy of Religion, Faith and Philosophy, Philosophia Christi), as well as some other good journals like Ratio, Philo, Modern Schoolman, and International Philosophical Quarterly.

Of course, certain narrow-minded and status-obsessed individuals will not consider some of the above to be good journals. But no decent maverick philosopher would have any truck with the judgments of such people. There is a good elitism and a bad elitism, and that is the latter. I find it astonishing that there are people who wouldn't be caught dead reading a journal like IPQ or MS any more than they would be caught dead shopping in the wrong stores. Such bigotry! And many of the people who hold these views call themselves liberals. I thought 'liberal' had something to do with toleration and openmindedness.

I published my book in Kluwer's Philosophical Studies series edited by Keith Lehrer. I just sent it to them, they accepted it after some revisions, and I decided to be done with the matter. I don't cultivate contacts and connections, so I figured there would be no point in trying to get it into a really prestigious press. Plus, I'm lazy when it comes to mundane activities like mailing manuscripts.

I would suggest that you submit your manuscript. But first put it into the best possible form and explain in your cover letter what your credentials are. You owe it to yourself to submit it even if it is not accepted. A book that is released into the world is a great joy. Of course, with a textbook somewhat different rules are in play.

But if the question is put generally: Can an independent philosopher get published? then I am living proof that it is possible.

I am convinced that the main factor when it comes to having work accepted is the quality of the work, and not institutional affiliation or lack thereof. There are exceptions to this, of course, but the main thing is to write something good. There are all too many whiners out there (sometimes they show up in the Letters to the Editor of the APA Proceedings) who think they are being unfairly discriminated against when the plain truth is that they are submitting crap.