Thursday, November 17, 2022

Citation Rates by Academic Field: Philosophy Is Near the Bottom

Citation rates increasingly matter.  Administrators look at them as evidence of scholarly impact.  Researchers familiarizing themselves with a new topic notice which articles are highly cited, and they are more likely to read and cite those articles.  The measures are also easy to track, making them apt targets for gamification and value capture: Researchers enjoy, perhaps a bit too much, tracking their rising h-indices.

This is mixed news for philosophy.  Noticing citation rates can be good if it calls attention to high-quality work that would otherwise be ignored, written by scholars in less prestigious universities or published in less prestigious journals.  And there's value in having more objective indicators of impact than what someone with a named chair at Oxford says about you.  However, the attentional advantage of high-citation articles amplifies the already toxic rich-get-richer dynamic of academia; there's a temptation to exploit the system in ways that are counterproductive to good research (e.g., salami slicing articles, loading up co-authorships, and excessive self-citation); and it can lead to the devaluation of important research that isn't highly cited.

Furthermore, focus on citation rates tends to make philosophy, and the humanities in general, look bad.  We simply don't cite each other as much as do scientists, engineers, and medical researchers.  There are several reasons.

One reason is the centrality of books to the humanities.  Citations in and of books are often not captured by citation indices.  And even when citation to a book is captured, a book typically represents a huge amount of scholarly work per citation, compared to a dozen or more short articles.

Another reason is the relative paucity of co-authorship in philosophy and other humanities.  In the humanities, books and articles are generally solo-authored, compared to the sciences, engineering, and medicine, where author lists are commonly three or five, and sometimes dozens, with each author earning a citation any time the article is cited.

Publication rates are probably also overall higher in the sciences, engineering, and medicine, where short articles are common.  Reference lists might also be longer on average.  And in those fields the cited works are rarely historical.  Combined, these factors create a much larger pool of overall citations to be spread among current researchers.

Perhaps there are other factors a well.  In all, even excellent and influential philosophers often end up with citation numbers that would be embarrassing for most scientists at a comparable career stage.  I recently looked at a case for promotion to full professor in philosophy, where the candidate and one letter writer both touted the candidate's Google Scholar h-index of 8 -- which is actually good for someone at that career stage in philosophy, but could be achieved straight out of grad school by someone in a high-citation field if their advisor is generous about co-authorship.

To quantify this, I looked at the September 2022 update of Ioannidis, Boyack, and Baas's "Updated science-wide author databases of standardized citation indicators".  Ioannidis, Boyack, and Baas analyze the citation data of almost 200,000 researchers in the Scopus database (which consists mostly of citations of journal articles by other journal articles) from 1996 through 2021. Each researcher is attributed one primary subfield, from 159 different subfields, and each researcher is ranked according to several criteria.  One subfield is "philosophy".

Before I get to the comparison of subfields, you might be curious to see the top 100 ranked philosophers, by the composite citation measure c(ns) that Ioannidis, Boyack, and Baas seem to like best:

1. Nussbaum, Martha C.
2. Clark, Andy
3. Lewis, David
4. Gallagher, Shaun
5. Searle, John R.
6. Habermas, Jürgen
7. Pettit, Philip
8. Buchanan, Allen
9. Goldman, Alvin I.
10. Williamson, Timothy
11. Thagard, Paul
12. Lefebvre, Henri
13. Chalmers, David
14. Fine, Kit
15. Anderson, Elizabeth
16. Walton, Douglas
17. Pogge, Thomas
18. Hansson, Sven Ove
19. Schaffer, Jonathan
20. Block, Ned
21. Sober, Elliott
22. Woodward, James
23. Priest, Graham
24. Stalnaker, Robert
25. Bechtel, William
26. Pritchard, Duncan
27. Arneson, Richard
28. McMahan, Jeff
29. Zahavi, Dan
30. Carruthers, Peter
31. List, Christian
32. Mele, Alfred R.
33. Hardin, Russell
34. O'Neill, Onora
35. Broome, John
36. Griffiths, Paul E.
37. Davidson, Donald
38. Levy, Neil
39. Sosa, Ernest
40. Hacking, Ian
41. Craver, Carl F.
42. Burge, Tyler
43. Skyrms, Brian
44. Strawson, Galen
45. Prinz, Jesse
46. Fricker, Miranda
47. Honneth, Axel
48. Machery, Edouard
49. Stanley, Jason
50. Thompson, Evan
51. Schatzki, Theodore R.
52. Bohman, James
53. Norton, John D.
54. Bach, Kent
55. Recanati, François
56. Sider, Theodore
57. Lowe, E. J.
58. Hawthorne, John
59. Dreyfus, Hubert L.
60. Godfrey-Smith, Peter
61. Wright, Crispin
62. Cartwright, Nancy
63. Bunge, Mario
64. Raz, Joseph
65. Bostrom, Nick
66. Schwitzgebel, Eric
67. Nagel, Thomas
68. Okasha, Samir
69. Velleman, J. David
70. Putnam, Hilary
71. Schroeder, Mark
72. Ladyman, James
73. van Fraassen, Bas C.
74. Hutto, Daniel D.
75. Annas, Julia
76. Bird, Alexander
77. Bicchieri, Cristina
78. Audi, Robert
79. Enoch, David
80. McDowell, John
81. Noë, Alva
82. Carroll, Noël
83. Williams, Bernard
84. Pollock, John L.
85. Jackson, Frank
86. Gardiner, Stephen M.
87. Roskies, Adina
88. Sagoff, Mark
89. Kim, Jaegwon
90. Parfit, Derek
91. Jamieson, Dale
92. Makinson, David
93. Kriegel, Uriah
94. Horgan, Terry
95. Earman, John
96. Stich, Stephen P.
97. O'Neill, John
98. Popper, Karl R.
99. Bratman, Michael E.
100. Harman, Gilbert

All, or almost all, of these researchers are influential philosophers.  But there are some strange features of this ranking.  Some people are clearly higher than their impact warrants; others lower.  So as not to pick on any philosopher who might feel slighted by my saying that they are too highly ranked, I'll just note that on this list I am definitely over-ranked (at #66) -- beating out Thomas Nagel (#67) among others.  Other philosophers are missing because they are classified under a different subfield.  For example Daniel C. Dennett is classified under "Artificial Intelligence and Image Processing".  Saul Kripke doesn't make the list at all -- presumably because his impact was through books not included in the Scopus database.

Readers who are familiar with mainstream Anglophone academic philosophy will, I think, find my ranking based on citation rates in the Stanford Encyclopedia more plausible, at least as a measure of impact within mainstream Anglophone philosophy.  (On the SEP list, Nagel is #11 and I am #251.)

To compare subfields, I decided to capture the #1, #25, and #100 ranked researchers in each subfield, excluding subfields with fewer than 100 ranked researchers.  (Ioannidis et al. don't list all researchers, aiming to include only the top 100,000 ranked researchers overall, plus at least the top 2% in each subfield for smaller or less-cited subfields.)

A disadvantage of my approach to comparing subfields by looking at the 1st, 25th, and 100th ranked researchers is that being #100 in a relatively large subfield presumably indicates more impact than being #100 in a relatively small subfield.  But the most obvious alternative method -- percentile ranking by subfield -- plausibly invites even worse trouble, since there are huge numbers of researchers in subfields with high rates of student co-authorship, making it too comparatively easy to get into the top 2%.  (For example, decades ago my wife was published as a co-author on a chemistry article after a not-too-demanding high school internship.)  We can at least in principle try to correct for subfield size by looking at comparative faculty sizes at leading research universities or attendance numbers at major disciplinary conferences.

The preferred Ioannidis, Boyack, and Baas c(ns) ranking is complex, and maybe better than simpler ranking systems.  But for present purposes I think it's most interesting to consider the easiest, most visible citation measures, total citations and h-index (with no exclusion of self-citation), since that's what administrators and other researchers see most easily.  H-index, if you don't know it, is the largest number h such that h of the author's articles have at least h citations each.  (For example, if your top 20 most-cited articles are each cited at least 20 times, but your 21st most-cited article is cited less than 21 times, your h-index is 20.)

Drumroll please....  Scan far, far, down the list to find philosophy.  This list is ranked in order of total citations by the 25th most-cited researcher, which I think is probably more stable than 1st or 100th.  [click image to scale and clarify]

Philosophy ranks 126th of the 131 subfields.  The 25th-most-cited researcher in philosophy, Alva Noe, has 3,600 citations in the Scopus database.  In the top field, developmental biology, the 25th-most-cited researcher has 142,418 citations -- a ratio of almost 40:1.  Even the 100th-most-cited researcher in developmental biology has more than five times as many citations as the single most cited philosopher in the database.

The other humanities also fare poorly: History at 129th and Literary Studies at 130th, for example.  (I'm not sure what to make of the relatively low showing of some scientific subfields, such as Zoology.  One possibility is that it is a relatively small subfield, with most biologists classified in other categories instead.)

Here's the chart for h-index [click to scale and clarify]:

Again, philosophy is 126th out of 131.  The 25th-ranked philosopher by h-index, Alfred Mele, has an h of only 27, compared to an h of 157 for the 25th-ranked researcher in Cardiovascular System & Hematology.

(Note: If you're accustomed to Google Scholar, Scopus h-indices tend to be lower.  Alfred Mele, for example, has twice as high an h-index in Google Scholar as in Scopus: 54 vs. 27.  Google Scholar h-indices are also higher for non-philosophers.  The 25th ranked researcher in Cardiovascular System & Hematology doesn't have a Google Scholar profile, but the 26th ranked does: Bruce M Psaty, h-index 156 in Scopus vs. 207 in Scholar.)

Does this mean that we should be doubling or tripling the h-indices of philosophers when comparing their impact with that of typical scientists, to account for the metrical disadvantages they have as a result of having fewer coauthors, on average longer articles, books that are poorly captured by these metrics, slower overall publication rates, etc.?  Well, it's probably not that simple.  As mentioned, we would want to at least take field size into account.  Also, a case might be made that some fields are just generally more impactful than others, for example due to interdisciplinary or public influence, even after correction for field size.  But one thing is clear: Straightforward citation-count and h-index comparisons between the humanities and the sciences will inevitably put humanists at a stark, and probably unfair, disadvantage.

Update, December 21, 2022:


Anonymous said...

Or maybe we should encourage philosophers to cite other philosophers, by properly doing literature review. It seems quite easy to find new publications that ignore some important previous literature, especially contributions from junior scholars.
Not acknowledging previous contributions to the field is just bad behaviour.

Phil Tanny said...

I'd be interested to read ongoing analysis and commentary on the relationship between philosophy, and the academic philosophy business.

Philosophy and the academic philosophy business seem to get routinely confused, especially by academics. As example, Eric writes that citation rates are "mixed news for philosophy". Well, no, they're irrelevant to philosophy.

And, why should citation rates be used as a measure of quality philosophy when the overwhelming majority of academic philosophers, very close to all of them all of the time, routinely ignore nuclear weapons, the single biggest threat to the civilization that academic philosophy depends on for it's existence?

Anyway, I suspect all such inside baseball philosophy business issues are quickly becoming a relic of the past.

1) It looks like AI is rapidly approaching the point of being able to write articles that no one will be able to distinguish from the writings of academic philosophers. Automation is coming to the ivory tower.

2) We're racing towards Biblical scale calamity on numerous fronts, and as these forces put pressure on the economy academic philosophy is going to be high on the list of things we conclude we can no longer afford.

These are the kind of inconvenient realities that those in the academic philosophy business can't really afford to comment on too much because to push back against the ivory tower group consensus too much, that is, to do philosophy, would negatively affect their business interests.

Mohan Matthen said...

Was this tally taken from Scopus? I find Scopus listings quite odd: for instance, two relatively highly cited papers of mine do not appear at all. (It isn't the journal--other papers of mine from the same journal are listed.) And also, when I look up some of my highly cited colleagues, I find that their Scopus counts are relatively low. Strange! This doesn't change anything you say, but maybe the ordinal counts of prominent philosophers is somewhat distorted.

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Hi all!

Anon: Yes, I agree that philosophers ought to cite each other more often and more systematically -- for multiple reasons.

Phil: There's some truth for sure to the idea that academic philosophy is a business, with all that entails. I endorse your view that philosophers should devote more attention to big-picture risks and threats -- though I suspect my opinion about this is more moderate than yours.

Mohan: I totally agree that the ordinal counts are strange and that Scopus is unfortunately unsystematic in the articles it picks up (not to mention its neglect of books). I don't have a full understanding of why, but I suspect that it's partly because it's run by and for scientists and the humanities are an afterthought that aren't scrutinized closely.

Phil Tanny said...

@Eric: Will citation rates remain relevant at the point that AI can write philosophy articles that can't be distinguished from those written by academics? The following article claims AI can already write undergraduate level philosopher papers. A sample article is shared.

Katie Plaisance said...

This is really interesting — thanks for sharing! (Eric: do you know if these are calibrated for field size (e.g., citations per capita)? If not, I’m wondering how that might change things…)

I totally agree with others here that we need better citation practices. One way to facilitate this would be for journals to exclude references in the word count. Seems like an easy change to make.

I’ll also add that I don’t think citations are a great way of measuring influence (not worthless, but definitely problematic). My research team conducted interviews with several philosophers of science about their broader impacts and we found that participants could point to many examples of significant impact that didn’t go through citations; moreover, some had been cited in ways that went completely against the content of their work. And that’s not to mention the significant influence many of us have via teaching. I think it’s important for us to keep these things in mind (and more junior folks may want yo find other ways of tracking their impacts). If anyone is interested in that paper, here’s the reference: Plaisance et al. (2021), “Pathways of Influence: Understanding the Impact of Philosophy of Science in Scientific Domains,” Synthese.

Phil Tanny said...

@Katie: Thanks for citing that paper, very interesting. The issues discussed in the paper are just the kind of topics I'm most interested in discussing, so if you should have any advice regarding where I might do so, that would be most appreciated.

The paper states...

"Indeed, philosophers of science are particularly skilled at analyzing scientific concepts, methods, and inferences; identifying and interrogating underlying assumptions in scientific reasoning; examining the uses and misuses of scientific knowledge;"

I'm most interested in finding writers who are examining and challenging the belief that seems fundamental to science culture, the underlying assumption that we should seek as much knowledge as possible.

If you'll click my name you'll find an amateur's attempt to begin such an examination.

In my admittedly limited experience I've found academic philosophers on many sites over a period of years to be relentlessly uninterested in what seems to me to be the issue that will decide the fate of this civilization. I would like to correct this impression as it's undermined my confidence in all of academic philosophy.

Thanks for any input you might care to share, and I'll return now to reading the article.

Katie Plaisance said...

@Phil: As it turns out, I’m writing a paper on exactly this issue right now!

My collaborator and I recently finished interviewing several scientists and engineers who had collaborated with philosophers of science (this is a follow-up to the previous project, so we can see both sides of this connection). Here’s a preview of what we found: one of the major themes was the dominant culture of science which values producing more and more data and publishing as much as possible.

The participants were frustrated by this dominant norm, not because they don’t think this type of work is important, but because many scientists seem to see this as *the* business of science. Conversely, many of the participants thought it was important to take a step back and think more critically about their research questions, methods, models, and inferences, along with the broader social and ethical aspects of their work. We see this as a tension between different notions of what counts as science (what is or is not the “business of science”), as well as what scientists see as *good* science. (The participants believe that working with philosophers and thinking more critically improves their work.)

We are working on setting up a website with more information about the project. I can come back and post the URL here once it’s up! In the meantime, I’ll be sure to check out your thoughts on this. :)

One more thing: we also published a paper with results from a survey of almost 300 philosophers of science, and we found that the majority were interested in doing more broadly engaged work and that such work should be more highly valued by the discipline. Here’s a link to that paper: (and a link to the full manuscript:

Phil Tanny said...

The paper concludes...

"This study enhances our understanding of how philosophical knowledge and insights are disseminated across disciplinary boundaries and taken up in scientific domains. Our findings indicate that direct, interpersonal, and often face-to-face interactions are associated with greater impacts outside the discipline."

Before philosophers of science focus too much on increasing their impact in the science community (and beyond) they might first ask whether the "philosophical knowledge and insights" they seek to share should be impactful.

If it is the goal of these philosophers to assist the scientific community in developing ever more, ever larger powers, at an ever accelerating rate...

That goal should make philosophers more popular with scientists, because the philosophers would be validating the most fundamental holy dogma of the science community, the blindly held assumption that more knowledge is always better. Validating people's deeply held unexamined assumptions is a sure path to popularity and increased business opportunity, but...

It's lousy philosophy.

What philosophers should be doing is subjecting the fundamental "more is better" belief of the science community to rigorous challenge. This is always what philosophers should be doing, kicking the tires of unexamined assumptions at the heart of any group consensus.

Performing this valuable social function will make philosophers unpopular with scientists, and will diminish the business opportunities for the philosopher. That is, being a real philosopher is bad for business. Thus the question arises for each of us, which is more important. Business? Or philosophy?

The paper you've shared with us seems a very intelligent and articulate business document. The problem I see is that business agendas are in direct conflict with the highest calling of philosophy, as business agendas require the philosopher to validate the fundamental assumptions of the science community, instead of providing the much needed challenge to those assumptions.

Before philosophers of science help the science community develop ever more, ever larger powers, at an ever accelerating rate they should first find out whether such a process is still rational in the 21st century. If it's not, then the impact of philosophers on science will be to assist scientists in making an even bigger mistake.

Phil Tanny said...

@Katie, many thanks again for your informative engagement. You wrote:

"Conversely, many of the participants thought it was important to take a step back and think more critically about their research questions, methods, models, and inferences, along with the broader social and ethical aspects of their work. "

Ok, that sounds good at first. But what I read it to mean is that some scientists wish to "think more critically about their research questions", so they can do better science, which they understand to be developing more and more knowledge. And, some philosophers wish to assist scientists in this agenda.

The underlying assumption of this whole process is that the goal should be developing more and more knowledge, as fast as budgets will allow, seemingly without limit. Briefly, my argument is that this "more knowledge is better" assumption is an outdated 19th century philosophy that once was rational in the long era of knowledge scarcity, but which now requires updating in a very different era characterized by knowledge exploding in every direction at an ever accelerating rate.

This "more knowledge is better" dogma of the science community can be compared to how 12th century Catholics felt about the divinity of Jesus. If you and your peers challenge this blind belief science culture dogma, and especially if you're good at it, your desire to have increased influence among the science community will be negatively impacted. Scientists are good people, but they don't want to hear such a fundamental challenge, because it interferes with their business, and the hero role our society has assigned them.

Scientists are people of faith on such a fundamental question as our relationship with knowledge, and like many people of faith, they don't want their faith inconveniently disturbed. So...

OPTION #1: If you DON'T disturb their faith, you'll be a good business person.

OPTION #2: If you DO disturb their faith, you'll be a good philosopher.

Katie Plaisance said...

@Phil: Just leaving a quick comment here as we haven’t finished writing our paper yet, but I’ll say that one of the outcomes I’ve seen from these collaborations is that at least some scientists are taking a step back and asking exactly these sorts of questions. Several scientists critiqued the fast pace of science and the focus on accumulation of knowledge, and one explicitly pointed to the negative environmental impacts on focusing too much on collecting more and more data. So, I’d say that at least some of these philosopher-scientist collaborations are having the effect you’re talking about. (In short, at least some of the participants are slowing down and asking “why” in ways that I think can make science more reflective, rather than more efficient at knowledge accumulation. In fact, some of them are doing this even though it goes against the dominant norms and incentive structures of their discipline.)

Phil Tanny said...

Apologies to Eric for my going wildly off topic. If anyone can assist me in discovering where in the land of philosophy such discussion would be on topic, that would be a very helpful solution. If no such place can be found, that sounds like a good article opportunity for someone.

Phil Tanny said...

@Katie, ongoing thanks!

It would be very helpful if you are at some point able to identify the particular scientists you are referring to, as that would hopefully prevent me from making further sweeping claims about science culture. If there are particular intellectual elites whose work I can enthusiastically support, that would be a good plan.

Honestly, what I'm really looking for in both academic philosophy and the scientific community are heretics. As one example, anyone inside these communities who is willing to publicly propose that we should stop all research in to existential scale technologies like AI and genetic engineering until such time as we learn how to get rid of nuclear weapons, thus proving that we are capable of fixing existential scale mistakes when they occur.

As discussed above, a key problem could be that heretics may not remain a part of the intellectual elite community for very long. If one is an insider, one has rank, authority and influence, but is chained to the group consensus. If one is an outsider, one can think and speak freely, to almost no one. :-)

Andy said...

@Phil: I'm glad you are self-aware enough to notice that you were making "sweeping claims about science culture"! :)

You asked if "there are particular intellectual elites whose work I can enthusiastically support" and said that "what I'm really looking for in both academic philosophy and the scientific community are heretics". Perhaps you're looking for heretics since you have a mental model of scientists as "people of faith" and "chained to the group consensus".

In my experience working with scientists, they are not as sheep-like in reality as they are in your mind. I worked with a team of interdisciplinary environmental conservation scientists (conservation biologists and social scientists), and they were very philosophical about their work, even inviting professional philosophers who were doing relevant work to give talks.

These scientists did not believe what you accuse them of believing, namely that "the goal should be developing more and more knowledge". They only wanted sufficient knowledge to solve environmental conservation problems.

Instead of looking for scientists who are "heretics", I would suggest that you look for scientific fields that are working on problems that are important to you, and you will find there are mainstream scientists who share your values and concerns.

Kristin Shrader-Frechette comes to mind as someone with a PhD in philosophy who has done postgraduate work in various sciences, has held dual appointments in departments of philosophy and biological sciences, and has written many publications on issues that would seem to interest you such as nuclear waste.

To bring this comment back to the theme of Eric's post: Talking only in terms of citation rates makes academia look like a game or a business like Phil said. I think it is important to talk, instead, in terms of PROBLEMS: Are philosophers identifying and solving important problems? Shrader-Frechette, whom I mentioned above, is an example of a philosopher who has worked on problems that are important to me. Are the highly-cited philosophers in this data set highly cited in part because they are working on problems that are important to the other authors in the Scopus database? When scientometricians analyze citation counts and networks do they also consider specific problems?

Phil Tanny said...

@Andy, hi there, thanks for your input. We could try this if you wish.

Click on my name, and find an article which expresses my view in everyday language. Briefly, the claim is that our "more is better" relationship with knowledge is outdated.

If you can point me to intellectual elites of any flavor who are addressing that point of view, either in agreement or disagreement, I'd be happy to learn about them.

The reason I hold the view that I do is that I've asked this question about a thousand times all over the Net, and so far at least, no one has been able to point me to what I just requested. Here's an example.

You've pointed me to Kristin Shrader-Frechette. Ok, thank you. Except that's not what I'm looking for. I'm not looking for people who have concerns about some specific technology, though of course that can be educational.

What I am looking for are philosophers, or others, who are willing and able to examine and challenge the typically unexamined assumption at the heart of science culture (which includes nearly the entire society) that our goal should be to seek as much knowledge as possible, as fast as budgets will allow.

Here's an example. Show me the intellectual elite who says that we should stop development of existential scale technologies such as AI and genetic engineering until such time as we get rid of nuclear weapons, thus proving that when we make a mistake with powers of that scale we are capable of fixing it.

This is the simplest logic. If your teenage son keeps crashing his bicycle, you don't go out and buy him a motorcycle. Instead, you wait on the motorcycle until he has proven he can handle the bicycle.

Why does this have to be explained to PhDs?? It's clearly not a lack of education or intelligence on their part. As best I can tell, both academic philosophy and science are businesses, and the business interests of both groups do not allow them to think or write too far outside of the group consensus.

My final complaint is this: Thinking and writing outside the group consensus is exactly what philosophers are supposed to be doing.

Andy said...

@Phil: I'm not going to click on your name and read your Facebook post; I have no reason to think it's worth my time, since my own experience working with scientists and philosophers refutes your beliefs about them, and you have provided no evidence that your thinking on this issue is more than wild speculation.

If you have "asked this question about a thousand times all over the Net" and nobody has answered you, you should consider the possibility that the lack of response is because you say too many false overgeneralizations to have a prima facie case. In other words, people can't take you seriously because of the way you write, which shares with typical conspiracy theorists the tendency to attribute everything you don't like to the machinations of an elite cabal.

To find scientists and philosophers who are working on the issues that concern you, perhaps you could start by consulting the sources cited in the Wikipedia article on "Global catastrophic risk" and related articles.

Anonymous said...

Well, if you read American analytical philosophers, you can easily recognize that their writing is kind of similar to writing like Aristotle - they try to "sell" their own thoughts. Attachment to this is precisely the reason why philosophers refrain from citing.. If they cite, they cite "isms" without mentioning their proponents. If they have to cite authors, they cite only the great philosophers, ok, their own colleagues also... Take Davidson, Bratman, Searle, Gilbert... Examples are numerous.

If we want to make philosophy scientifically more credible, philosophers should show their extent of awareness what is happening in their field of expertise. This means: citing other scholars much more frequently. Otherwise they risk being perceived as arrogant or contemptuous.

Anonymous said...

You're making so many wild assumptions that no one would take those particular views to be worth taking seriously. It sounds like you're interested in the ethics of nuclear weapons, and there are a lot of articles out there on that subject (google into it!)

Phil Tanny said...

@Andy - your recent post is an example of the "above it all" defense, a common method of avoiding inconvenient ideas. The avoider attempts to win a debate, without actually engaging it. This is a highly efficient rhetorical strategy which comes at the price of lacking any credibility.

I don't want philosophers to read my post. I want them to write their own articles on the subject. When they tell me, as they have done here on this blog, that they can't think of anything philosophical to say about nuclear weapons, I point them to that article as just one little example of how one might go about that.

But it doesn't matter, and I agree my efforts are irrational. Academics aren't interested in the fundamental issues which will decide the future of this civilization, they're interested in their citation counts. Their primary focus seems to be to obtain tax dollars harvested from truck drivers and waitresses, and then use that money to pursue the philosopher's own business interests. How those footing the bill for this operation are supposed to benefit is unknown to me.

Andy said...

@Phil: Your ideas aren't inconvenient to me, because they are both false and irrelevant to me: I am neither a philosopher nor a scientist and never said I was; I said I have worked with them on environmental conservation problems. I'm just an ordinary citizen myself with a bachelors degree. You calling me "above it all" is as rhetorical as it gets. What you described in your last paragraph would be bad if it were true; the problem is that it doesn't apply to all scientists and philosophers, who work in a variety of institutions with different funding sources and many of whom are working on problems that benefit common people (and nonhumans) without any use of tax dollars. That's an example of what I meant by false overgeneralizations.

Andy said...

In my last comment I should have given some examples of the benefit for common people (and nonhumans) in the area where I was working: things like the creation and management of natural protected areas, public environmental education programs, bioblitzes (participatory biological surveys), ecological restoration programs, etc.

Phil Tanny said...

@Andy, hi again, sincere thanks for your engagement.

I'm not sure how you can declare my ideas false when you haven't actually read them, but ok, no problem, never mind, let's move on.

You've provided a useful service in reminding me that even if every philosopher I met were to do exactly as I request, it wouldn't really matter, because close to nobody reads philosophy articles. If a member of the public does read a philosophy article, they probably don't get it, especially on the subject I'm addressing. If they do get it, they probably soon forget it as they are bombarded with a million other forms of stimulation.

Point being, even if the ideas expressed in the article I've pointed you to are perfectly correct, the article is still a waste of everyone's time, especially mine.

The movie Don't Look Up hits the nail on the head. The comet is coming. And there's nothing I can do about it. Get over it Phil.

John Fischer said...

I don't want to waste a lot of time on this, because it really doesn't matter how many citations an individual has. The top 100 Eric lists is ludicrous. Mark Sagoff is there, and yes, Eric points out he is there (above Daniel Dennett).

Who's not: Harry Frankfurt, Gary Watson, Susan Wolf, Derk Pereboom. Etc. Etc. Etc.
Have I missed these in the list? Maybe, but, as I just wrote, this survey is not worth discussing. Why publish it, Eric? Yes, you are listed as having more citations than Daniel Dennett, and you point out that this is an obvious red flag. But there are MANY more BIG red flags, and your caveat really doesn't capture the total disaster of this, and similar, data sets.

Eric, of course, is my colleague and good friend, so I feel comfortable stating the obvious here.

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Thanks for the comment, John. As you point out, it is a seriously flawed ranking.

I do think it's worth discussing the general low citation counts in philosophy compared to other fields. Hopefully, if this is common knowledge administrators and others will know that comparing citation rates across fields is not an apples-apples comparison.

I also think that it's worth seeing the rankings within philosophy, to help us develop a specific and informed sense of how accurate or inaccurate measures of this sort are, and what types of work tend to be more visible by such measures. For example, this list it's evident that there's a pattern of empirically-informed philosophy of mind tending to have higher citation rates in Scopus than work in history of philosophy that is of similar quality and importance. I hope it's clear that I'm not offering it as anything like a valid or accurate top 100 list!