Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Ghettoization of Nietzsche

A major sociological divide in recent Anglophone philosophy is the divide between philosophers who see themselves as working in the tradition of Nietzsche, Heidegger, Foucault, and Derrida -- so-called "Continental" philosophers -- and those working in the tradition of Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, and Quine -- so-called "analytic philosophers". The labels are problematic and the divisions not always clear, but plainly there's a non-trivial sociological division here. This division is reflected, in part, in journal citation patterns. You might wonder about this history of this. Was Philosophical Review always allergic to Nietzsche? Or is that a relatively recent phenomenon? And how extreme is the phenomenon? Do leading Continental figures get at least some play in the top analytic journals, or are they almost entirely excluded?

Let's look at this quantitatively.

The "Big Three" Anglophone philosophy journals -- all of which have been leading journals since the first decade of the 20th century -- are Philosophical Review, Mind, and Journal of Philosophy (formerly Journal of Philosophy, Psychology, and Scientific Methods). All currently seem to lean heavily "analytic". Also, all are also indexed in JStor, along with a diverse group of 93 other philosophy journals, many of which are not as sociologically aligned with the analytic tradition. So I have looked, decade by decade, at the rates at which the names of central analytic and Continental philosophers appear in these "Big Three" journals compared to other journals.

Compare, first, Nietzsche and Frege -- foundational figures for both traditions, both born in the 1840s. The crucial measure is the rate at which each is cited in the Big Three vs. the rate at which each is cited in the remainder. For methodological details see this note.* For a clearer view of the charts below, click them.
As you can see, apart from a difference for Nietzsche in 1900-1909, through the 1940s or 1950s the Nietzsche lines stay more or less together and the Frege lines stay more or less together. The dashed and solid lines are clearly separated in the 1970s, after which the separation seems to continue to slowly increase. Particularly remarkable is the fact that in the 1990s-2000s, although the terms "Frege*" and "Nietzsche*" appear approximately as often in journals outside the Big Three, there's a huge difference in how often they appear in the Big Three. Over those two decades, the term "Nietzsche*" appears 20 times total in the Big Three, or about once a year total among the three journals, a citation rate of 1.7% -- compared to 7.2% outside the Big Three.  (For Frege it's 24.1% vs. 10.6%.)

A similar story holds for Heidegger and Wittgenstein -- leading early figures in the Continental and analytic traditions, respectively -- and both born in 1889.  (Again, click chart for clarity.)
Despite being cited in over 5% of articles outside the Big Three, the word "Heidegger*" appears only 16 times in the Big Three from 1990-2009, or in 1.3% of the articles.

Okay, how about the Continentals Sartre (b. 1905), Foucault (b. 1926), and Derrida (b. 1930) vs. the analytics Quine (b. 1908), Chisholm (b. 1916), and Putnam (b. 1926)? The graph is a little crowded but the following should be evident: The muted-color analytics show higher in the Big Three (solid lines) than in the remaining journals (dashed lines), while the bright-color Continentals show the reverse pattern -- and the spread is much more evident in the past few decades than it was mid-century. (There's a bit of false-positive noise for Foucault and Putnam, but not enough to mask the general trend. Russell I have chosen to exclude entirely due to false positives.)
Combining the five analytic and five Continental philosophers in a disjunctive search (Frege or Wittgenstein or Quine or Chisholm or Putnam vs. Nietzsche or Heidegger or Sartre or Foucault or Derrida; no wildcards) yields the following aggregate result.
The trends started rapidly pulling apart in the 1950s through 1970s and have continued to slowly pull farther apart since then.

Here's another way to look at it: For any philosopher or group, divide the percentage representation in the Big Three by the percentage representation in all the remaining journals. This yields an index of proportionally how much the Big Three favor that person or group compared to other journals. Call this the "Big Three favor ratio". Unity would mean equal representation in the Big Three vs. the other journals.
The favor ratio of about 1.5 for the analytics over the past couple decades means that the five sample analytic philosophers are about 50% more likely to be cited in the Big Three journals than in other journals. The favor ratio of about 0.2 for the Continentals means that they are about five times more likely to be cited in journals outside the Big Three than by the Big Three.

In the 1990s and the portion of the 2000s that has so far been indexed in JStor, the words Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre, Foucault, and Derrida appeared in 45 articles total among 1209 Big Three journal articles (3.7%). Thus, the Big Three journals have included, on average, about one article per journal per year that even passingly mentions any of these five authors.

(On the word "ghetto" in the title of this post: I mean it only to refer to the average Anglophone philosopher's perception of what counts as an elite journal. See, for example, this poll. It is not intended as a personal judgment about journal quality.)

*Percentages are divided by a representative universe of articles hitting search terms philos* or ethic* or mind*. Only English-language articles are included. Reviews and minor documents are excluded by limiting the results to "articles" in JStor and also by excluding articles with a variety of titles such as "books received", "front matter", "back matter", etc. Without these exclusions the results reported above look very different. For example, not using such exclusions raises the occurrence rate of Nietzsche in the Big Three in the 2000s from 1.3% to 12.0%. Although the search terms run through 2009, JStor only covers through the mid-2000s for many journals, including the Big Three.


cargan said...

Nice, exciting quantification. You can push the argument back to the 18th century using the different national language Books in Print, and for periodicals with the summaries for the Philosopher's Index. In those series, Nietzsche have been at his height (though not as tall as Kant) on the eve of the First World War. During the Cold War, the most cited philosopher in the Philosopher's Index is Marx, and he still hovers around the top ten, but Nietzsche, Kant, and even God have resumed their priority listings at the top. The supposed Analytic representatives never do as well. It is interesting to compare subject choices in this process. The leading indexical is typically neither Analytic nor Continental in the Philosopher's Index but some aspect of ethics.

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Thanks for the kind words, cargan!

I haven't explored Books in Print much. Are there interesting analyses you can point me to? I have used Philosopher's Index a lot, as you can see if you search my blog for the term "discussion arcs" -- lots of interesting data there!

I find it interesting, as you do, to see how the trends vary over time. Bergson, for example, shows a mighty crash, while others seem to have much more staying power.

If you have analyses on line or that you could send me that you think I would be interested in, please do let me know!

Scott Bakker said...

'Non-trivial' and 'sociological' indeed! I did my PhD at a 'split' department, and it was the tribal nature of the way the students sorted themselves that triggered my turn to cognitive psychology. It had precious little to do with arguments, it seemed to me, and much more to do with ingroup and outgroup identifications. As someone who read and socialized with both analytics and continentals, I was asked why I 'bothered' with 'those goofs (assholes, etc.)' on a number of occasions.

Which just goes to show, the best way to fall in love with your colon is to shove your head up your ass.

Bad jokes aside, it got me thinking about the ways in which intellectuals are prone to repeat the very same ingroup tactics they deride in hoi polloi only with greater degrees of sophistication, particularly when it comes to the use of jargon to self-and-other identify-and-excoriate.

Which, of course, Nietzsche had pointed out so long ago. Maybe he's been locked in the ghetto for a reason!

Do you know of anyone who has done any real research on this, Eric? All I know of his Bourdieu's famous sociological account of the spread of Derrida and deconstruction through litery academe....

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Scott, I suspect your experience was common, though I am very fortunate to be at UCR, where the "analytics" and "Continentals" get along fairly well and some people even bridge between. I hope that becomes more the norm.

I don't know of any serious sociological research on this, I'm afraid. It might be out there, though, so if you (or anyone else who happens to read this) finds any, I'd be interested to know.

(I backed into this issue because I was looking for things to try out my Big Three vs. remainder methodological idea on, so it was the methodology more than the substance that brought me here.)

Scott Bakker said...

I should have added that was many moons ago. If anything I've been amazed at the number of 'bilingual' philosophers I find on the web nowadays... And I can't help but think that cognitive science has actually had a positive role to play, 'poxing' as it has, the smug certainties of both houses.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Eric! Great stuff. We tried a little informal wiki-style thing on citations of continentals in top journals last year over at New APPS, but it sort of petered out after a while.

I'm going to do a little post today on this in a bit.

Anonymous said...

Hi Eric, here's my little response post:

Brian Leiter said...

This is interesting, and not surprising, but it doesn't support the title verdict too well. In the case of Nietzsche, the most notable fact of the past 20 years is the huge improvement in the secondary literature--an improvement that really began with Clark's 1990 book--and the huge interest in Nietzsche and Nietzscheean themes among a lot of Anglophone philosophers, starting most prominently with Foot and Williams, but continuing in younger folks like Prinz and Knobe. Even Parfit devotes a chapter to Nietzsche in his magnum opus--who would have predicted that 25 years ago?

The three journals you're focusing on publish little or no historical scholarship--Phil Review is the exception. Nietzsche is an "historical" figure for most philosophers (some of those mentioned above, excepted), in a way that Frege is not simply "historical." So more telling, I think, would be to look at historical journals, to see what the trend lines are like.

Scott Bakker said...

"The three journals you're focusing on publish little or no historical scholarship--Phil Review is the exception. Nietzsche is an "historical" figure for most philosophers (some of those mentioned above, excepted), in a way that Frege is not simply "historical." So more telling, I think, would be to look at historical journals, to see what the trend lines are like."

I'm not so sure this counts against the significance of Eric's findings as it highlights a salient difference between analytic and continental approaches. For whatever reason, analytics tend to focus more on philosophical problems than figures, whereas continentals tend to do the opposite.

This suggests that the journals in question are not so interested in the problems raised by Nietzsche - which I think delivers back into the lap of Eric's point.

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Brian, while I don't wholly disagree, I have done the same analyses for Descartes, Hume, Plato, Kant, and several others, and while I see a non-trivial downward trend in the "Big Three" compared to the other journals, it's not a trend of sufficient magnitude that would explain the data above. Maybe it's taking some time for the good recent work on Nietzsche to percolate across the mainstream?

Brian Leiter said...

An interesting comparison would be Spinoza--there aren't many Spinozaists, whereas there are Humeans, Kantians and so on. It would be interesting to see how Spinzoa fares in J.Phil, Phil Review and Mind compared to Nietzsche or some of the others even.

Anonymous said...

Maybe take a look at how much Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, etc... are discussed or even just mentioned to get an idea about historical value.

Mohan Matthen said...

Hi Eric,

Great stuff! I did a very casual Google Books ngram on the following: Bertrand Russell,Gottlob Frege,Friedrich Nietzsche,Martin Heidegger,Ludwig Wittgenstein,J. L. Austin. Something went wrong with the Austin search (or perhaps he isn't in the same class). But here's the interesting thing: Russell is a clear first, but his rate drops in the last couple of decades, while Heidegger's (number 2) rises. Nietzsche is 3rd and Wittgenstein 4th, with Frege coming in 5th. Frege's name occurs about one-seventieth as often as Russell. (But of course Russell is famous for other things than philosophy: his mention rate might be declining for those other things, but rising for philosophy.)

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Thanks for the continuing discussion, folks!

@ Brian & Anon: Yes, I'll do analyses of some of the folks you mention, hopefully for a future post, if the results seem interesting enough to report. Spinoza I haven't done, but I think you're right that he would be an interesting diagnostic case. Besides the philosophers reported above, I've done the same type of analyses so far for Deleuze, Levinas, Hegel, Descartes, Plato, Hume, Hintikka, Epicurus, Plotinus, Gassendi, and Gettier; and more casual analyses (without all the exclusions) of another dozen or so, including Theophrastus and others of almost exclusively historical interest. The overall trend is somewhat down in the Big Three compared to the others, but not hugely so -- and up for Gassendi! I need to do a more thorough range of analyses to get a handle on this.

@ Mohan: Interesting! Two worries, though: One is what I called the "popular persistence of fading philosophers" in NGram searches -- see my earlier post by that title. Philosophers like Bergson and Royce, who have declined hugely in their rates of discussion in philosophy journals, for some reason decline very little in NGram. Also: I think NGram overestimates the values for people whose last names call for disambiguation, with Russell being a good case here. In a popular book, you can say "Einstein" without specifying "Albert", but not so naturally so for "Russell" -- so "Bertrand Russell" beats "Albert Einstein" until recently in NGram, but "Russell" (i.e. *any* Russell) loses to "Einstein"!

Greg Frost-Arnold said...

Were all of the Big Three always 'big' from 1900 on? Or might e.g. the average English-speaking philosopher in 1920 have considered Mind far superior to J.Phil.?

And as a closely related question: was there any difference between the Big Three, for any decade, in terms of the frequency of 'continentals' being discussed? (E.g. did Mind always ignore Nietzsche, but J.Phil. come to it later, or was there never really a difference amongst the 3?)

GPTLA said...

Haven't read it and can't evaluate it, but do people think there's anything to this sort of political explanation? A chilling from McCarthyism?

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Greg: It would be interesting to see a quantitative analysis of that. I'm inclined to think that Mind was considerably more prominent in the early days. And today, a case could be made for Nous over JPhil and/or Mind. But looking broadly across the whole period, those three stand out clearly from among the others.

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

GPTLA: I haven't read the McCumber book, though I seem to remember finding a shorter version of that interesting as an article. (Or was it only a review I read?...) The causal claim that McCarthyism drove philosophers away from leftist Continentals or politically hot philosophers generally, toward arid analysis, is hard to evaluate, I think -- but maybe I should read McCumber's full story before saying that!

Anonymous said...

BBC radio 4 philosophy programme 'in our time' (avail on I tunes podcast) featured recently on this topic.The terms were American created and are yet to reach the continent whose philosophers don't seem to perceive of a split