Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Ethics Books More Popular in Britain

I've been crunching numbers all day in service of my inquiry into whether ethicists steal more books. I was hoping to post results on the blog today, but it looks like it will have to wait 'til Friday. Now I have to dash off to dinner with Al Mele, who just gave a very interesting talk criticizing Libet's work on the timing of decisions and what that has to say about free will.

But here's a tidbit to reflect on in the meantime. In a sample of British academic libraries (those showing checkout information in COPAC -- virtually all the major universities in Britain), major ethics books are about 2.5 times more likely to be checked out than non-ethics books. This applies across the board, from major texts (like Theory of Justice) to texts primarily of interest to a narrow group of specialists. In the United States (looking at the UC's, Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, Columbia, Cornell, Michigan, and Texas), ethics books are still more likely to be checked out than non-ethics books (about 1.6 times), but that difference pretty much vanishes if one excludes a handful of exceptional texts with interdisciplinary appeal in law and women's studies.

Is this a sign that British academics take ethics more seriously than those in the U.S.?


Anonymous said...

Hey, cool -- I'd ask you to say hi to Al for me, but it's a little too late. I used to play poker with him back when he was at Davidson.

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

We talked about poker at dinner last night. Apparently Al was quite the shark in college!