Thursday, May 06, 2010

The Forty Most-Cited Contemporary Authors in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

As part of my background work on discussion arcs, I compiled all the bibliographic entries in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, excluding the purely historical entries, and I noted which philosophers were cited in the most different entries.

(Some obvious shortcomings of the method: It favors breadth of influence over depth, the distribution of entries might differ from the distribution of philosophical research energy, and it might favor the perspectives and writings of the SEP editors. My aim, I should emphasize, is to generate a list of people whose discussion arcs might be interesting, not to generate a definitive measure of philosophical prominence. I'm sure I have also made some coding errors; corrections welcomed.)

With those caveats, then, here are the top forty contemporary philosophers on the list (in parens are the number of SEP entries citing them; I examined 664 SEP entries in total; "contemporary" means born 1900 or later).

1. Lewis, David (162)
2. Quine, W.V.O. (133)
3. Rawls, John (95)
4. Davidson, Donald (93)
5. Putnam, Hilary (88)
6. Kripke, Saul (84)
7. Armstrong, David (72)
7. Nagel, Thomas (72)
9. Fodor, Jerry (70)
10. Dennett, Daniel (69)
10. Jackson, Frank (69)
10. Williams, Bernard (69)
13. Nozick, Robert (68)
13. Searle, John (68)
15. Chisholm, Roderick (67)
16. Harman, Gilbert (60)
17. Dummett, Michael (58)
18. Dworkin, Ronald (57)
19. Nussbaum, Martha (55)
19. Raz, Joseph (55)
19. Van Fraassen, Bas (55)
22. Dretske, Fred (54)
22. Van Inwagen, Peter (54)
24. Chalmers, David (52)
24. Goldman, Alvin (52)
24. Kitcher, Philip (52)
27. Goodman, Nelson (51)
28. Strawson, P.F. (50)
29. Parfit, Derek (49)
29. Sober, Elliott (49)
31. Stalnaker, Robert (48)
32. Williamson, Timothy (47)
33. Geach, Peter (46)
33. Scanlon, T.M. (46)
35. Burge, Tyler (45)
35. McDowell, John (45)
37. Mackie, J.L. (44)
38. Plantiga, Alvin (43)
39. Adams, Robert (42)
39. Gibbard, Allan (42)
39. Lycan, William G. (42)

I find one omission particularly striking: Thomas Kuhn, cited in only 29 entries. (Karl Popper is a near miss at 37 entries.) Kuhn's omission probably reflects, in part, the SEP's underweighting of issues in general philosophy of science; it probably also reflects this measure's favoring of breadth over depth of influence.

The absence of "continental" figures like Foucault (13 entries) and Sartre (23 entries) reflects the generally "analytic"/anglophone pespective of the SEP (though Foucault and Sartre do have historical entries devoted to them).

Comparing these results with Brian Leiter's informal survey last year, the top three results are the same (setting aside Wittgenstein, Russell, and Heidegger, who are not "contemporary" by the present standard), though Leiter has Rawls beating Quine.

UPDATE, May 7:

Let me emphasize that I excluded historical entries, so historians of philosophy will be underrepresented in the data. Also, the SEP bibliographies strongly favor recent work, with the work from the year 2000 being the most cited (cited 2.5 times as often as the year 1980, for example). Here's a chart of citation year in the SEP:

That might be another factor influencing the poor showing of Kuhn (whose most cited work was in 1962) and, as Brian Leiter points out, of Hart, whose most cited work was in 1961 -- though Quine (1960) still does very well.


I have expanded the list to 200.


Anonymous said...

Go Martha, go.

Hans said...

39 men and 1 woman. I'm surprised Anscombe didn't have more of a showing.

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Hippocampa: And I excluded historical entries.

Brian Leiter said...

That was a big exclusion!!!

Tuomas said...

I was curious to see how E. J. Lowe would do in this one, and with a quick survey he appears to have been a near miss: I count 38.

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Hans: Yes, that says it all, huh? Anscombe was cited in 35 entries. That makes her third among women, after Nussbaum (55) and Thomson (41).

The SEP has many entries on feminism, so I thought feminist philosophers would make a better showing.

Some other highly ranked women are:
Anderson (32 entries)
Millikan (also 32)
Young (31)
Korsgaard (28)
MacKinnon (25)
Okin (25)
Cartwright (24)
Butler (23)
and Foot (23).

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Brian: Yes, I excluded historical entries for two reasons:

(1.) It would have doubled the size of my task, which was already formidable -- 50,000 entries, each of which I had to scan at least once in the course of sorting.

(2.) Citation patterns and the meaning of citations are different in the history of philosophy, so mixing the two groups would mean mixing apples and oranges.

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Tuomas: I have Lowe at 34. The difference may be due to coding error and/or to methodological differences -- I excluded historical entries and only included bibliographies on each entry's front page. (Some entries have links to notes with separate bibliographies. Those were not included.)

For these and other reasons, I wouldn't put much weight on small differences in number.

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Brian, pertinent to your comment on your blog, I have Hart at 35 entries. I think this is probably a depth/breadth thing, like with Kuhn. He was hugely influential in philosophy of law, but he is not all that much cited in other contexts.

Brian Leiter said...

That wouldn't explain why Dworkin and Raz show up more than Hart, so it is still puzzling.

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Another issue is bias toward more recent work. I will soon be addressing that issue more systematically.

Mohan Matthen said...

When you search for Thomas Kuhn in SEP, you get 677 entries, or something like that. Clearly your method is different, but I am wondering why there wouldn't be at least one bibliographical entry for each mention of Kuhn in an entry. Or is that 677 occurrences in 40 entries (or whatever)?

Matty said...

BL commented: That wouldn't explain why Dworkin and Raz show up more than Hart, so it is still puzzling. Sure it would. Unlike Hart, both Raz and Dworkin are well known for their work outside of the philosophy of law--in ethics, metaethics, and political philosophy.

Eric Schliesser said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eric Schliesser said...

Great work!
Nevertheless, for some philosophers (not only in Continental) engaging with historical figures is a way of doing philosophy. So, your sample will understate on some fronts (besides Nussbaum, I am thinking of Larmore, McDowell, Brandom, Michael Friedman, etc).

Anonymous said...

Apart from the lack of women, the lack of non-natively Anglophone philosophers isn't surprising, but it is alarming. To my knowledge, van Fraassen and Plantinga are the only philosophers on that list who are not native English speakers. As a European, I certainly know that far from all philosophy in this part of the world is of the continental variety (for example, I live in Sweden, and there is really only one continental-style department in the country while the others are analytically inclined), but it seems that one has to be either born in an Anglophone country or associated with a major institution in such a place to rank highly on this list. But surely one could be a good thinker without being so. (And even if one for e.g. sociological reasons perhaps couldn't, then that is in itself alarming!)

Michael Pershan said...

I really know nothing about computer science, but my friends tell me that a not-too-complicated computer script could tally the references for you.

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Thanks for the comments, folks!

Mohan: When I use the SEP's own search tool, I get 85 hits for Kuhn. Some are in historical entries, which I excluded. Some are in notes or supplemental pages, which I also excluded. Some mention Kuhn without giving a bibliographic line to him. Rawls, for comparison, gets 150 hits, so proportionately that seems a little better. It's possible that once we have a list of candidate names, generated by my method, we can compare with the results of the SEP search engine -- though this won't work too well for people with common names like Lewis.

I'm not sure what search you did that generated 677 results. I'd be interested to know. Googling "Kuhn" within yields "about 115".

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Marty, Eric, anon 11:16 -- thanks for the observations!

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

MBP: Thanks for the tip. Grabbing the bibliographies off the SEP was a couple hours work; I suspect a program could do that fairly well. If I am going to make a habit of it, I should hire a programmer! I used Excel alphabetization, followed by looking for matches in the left part of the string up to the point of a period space or comma, to do a first-pass classification by name, but that is really so inaccurate that it needs to be cleaned up by hand, which takes more time. Things like properly grouping the J. Cohens, correcting for misspellings and differences in format (some people put first name first), compiling the "de"s and "van"s, and the like.

Anyhow, programming and data-manipulation tips accepted!

Brian Leiter said...

I am astonished by Matty's suggestion that Hart did not work in political philosophy, but perhaps this jsut involves contentious assumptions about how the sub-fields are demarcated. It is probably right that Dworkin's work on equality and Raz's on perfectionlist liberalism do play a role in their higher citations, given the au courant nature of those debates.

Anonymous said...

I suggest that overall citations are less indicative of the strengths of the departments than a list of the most citations in the past 10-20 years. Who’s on that list?

Brian Leiter said...

I'm obviously not understanding how you counted these things. If you put "Quine" into the SEP search engine, you get over 210 results. How did you arrive at your number? No doubt you've done it more carefully, but I'm not clear on how.

Kieran said...

In addition to the topical frame of the SEP (affecting which articles are likely to be commissioned, etc), you're probably also picking up characteristics of the kind of person likely to write an entry for the SEP — my hypothesis would be someone who was in grad school in the late 80s or into the 90s and was a young- or mid-career person when asked to write the article.

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Brian, my exact method was this. First, I coded entries as historical or not. Entries on a particular individual or era I coded as historical (even if the individual was 20th century). Then I grabbed the bibliographies from the front page of each non-historical entry and put them in and excel spreadsheet with a tag listing entry number. This was about 50,000 bibliographical lines over about 700 entries. Then I sorted alphabetically. Then I looked at each line by hand, cleaning up mistakes and differences in how the name is rendered, also pulling apart people with the same last name and first initial -- but only for people appearing in at least five entries. continued....

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

This method has two big advantages over the sep search box: 1. It requires no judgment about who is worth searching. 2. It works for people with common names like Lewis or Cohen. However, it leaves out historical entries, and it leaves out name mentions without a historical line. It also leaves out notes pages and supplements, but I don't think that last fact is necessarily a disadvantage.

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Kieran, good point. My guess is that the recency bias of the sep will decrease over time.

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Anon May 7: Yes, I am working on some temporal sorts. I might also try to correlate sums of entry appearances in a department with the leiter rank of the department -- though the omission of historical entries and the omission of people with fewer than 5 entries (many of whom are definitely visible philosophers) makes it a pretty imperfect measure.

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

P.S. "historical line" should be "bibliographical line" three comments above.

Mohan Matthen said...

Hi Eric: I guess I haven't learned the difference between single and double quotes. 'Thomas Kuhn'yielded 677, but "Thomas Kuhn" gave only 31. As you say, Kuhn by itself gives 85.

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Thanks for clarifying, Mohan! I was wondering if you had discovered another type of search method to triangulate with the others.

Brian Domino said...

I thought these results were interesting in part because they call into question the standard advice to specialize. I believe most of us would agree that professionally it is good to (1) focus on one area, if not one problem, in philosophy, and (2) appear on this list. The explanations for Kuhn’s and Hart’s inability to crack the top 40 suggests an incompatibility between (1) and (2). This is probably just a manifestation of the confirmation bias since I’ve never be fond of (1), but I thought I’d mention it and see what others think.

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Brian, I interpret it differently. I see the low ranking of Kuhn and Hart on this list as reflecting badly on the list rather than as suggesting that that it isn't good to focus in an area.

Andrew M. Bailey said...

"To my knowledge, van Fraassen and Plantinga are the only philosophers on that list who are not native English speakers."

Make that just one; Plantinga is a native English speaker.

Unknown said...

It is interesting to look at this list and compare it with the reputational ranking done on Leiter. Do you have any plans to rigorously determine how strongly these lists correlate? It would give some evidence as to the usefulness of citation indexes as a proxy for quality.

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

JP: Stay tuned!

hilde said...

I learned a lot about SEP from your list. (David Lewis--#1!) Thanks! I think a bar graph (or something visual) of which departments are most represented based on the people here would be interesting too. Since people change departments, perhaps just noting which department they spent the most time would suffice. (E.g. for Goodman Harvard but not Penn would be listed.)