Discussion regarding the difficulty of securing a place for feminist philosophy in non-specialist journals prompts me to echo Kate Manne’s concerns as they refract through the challenges of placing work substantively addressing Asian philosophies in non-specialist journals. First, some rough data on what the historical trajectory of research on Asian philosophies looks like, using entries in the Philosopher’s Index as the focus:
|Articles in Asian
in General Journals*
Confucianism in PI
Buddhism in PI
*Journals canvassed in the first column are: American Philosophical Quarterly, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, Ethics, Journal of Ethics, Journal of Moral Philosophy, Journal of Social Philosophy, Journal of Value Inquiry, Mind, Nous, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Philosophers’ Imprint, Philosophy and Public Affairs
As is evident, work in Asian philosophies has radically expanded over the decades, but there is no change in how frequently it appears in the general journals canvassed here, some among the most prominent journals in the discipline. [NB: I didn’t include here several of the history journals, for despite titles suggesting they cover history of philosophy, they are de facto history of *western* philosophy journals.]
Just a few obvious implications of this:
- Work on Asian philosophies largely remains confined to specialist journals that few non-specialists read, limiting the audience for this work and keeping the discipline as a whole comically provincial.
- Insofar as journals measure (both symbolically and materially) what the profession counts as important, the absence of Asian philosophies from the profession’s most prominent general journals implicitly communicates something. At best, we risk suggesting that the philosophies of Asia are simply unimportant or uncompelling relative to what does appear in the journals, relative, that is, to western philosophy. At worst, we risk suggesting that philosophy simply does not include Asian traditions, that what philosophy is includes criteria the traditions of Asia simply fail to meet. Most egregiously, any suggestions of this sort – that Asian philosophies are unimportant or that they are simply not philosophy proper – issue from ignorance: Because Asian philosophies remain woefully underexposed in the discipline at large, the discipline has no sound basis on which to draw any conclusions regarding what they may offer.
- Insofar as the profession counts publishing one’s work in the most “prominent” or “top” journals as one of the most direct pathways to “prominent” or “top” status for individual philosophers, we should not expect anyone specializing in Asian philosophies to succeed in this way. Much more worrisome, to the extent that hiring and tenure decisions rely on metrics of journal “prominence” for evaluating philosophers, those specializing in Asian philosophies will rank worse than their counterparts who focus exclusively on western philosophy.
Relating this more directly to Kate Manne’s experience in publishing feminist philosophy, my sense is that there are multiple hurdles to publishing for specialists in Asian philosophies. Just a few:
- Concerns over terminology and concepts, such as Manne raised, feature here as well. Sometimes this takes the form of reluctance to entertain concepts that have no ready analogues in western philosophy. Sometimes this takes the form of needing to present Asian concepts in western guise, however strained this might be.
- The dreaded spectre of western philosopher X, who may once have alluded to something somewhat in the neighborhood of something an Asian philosopher has said and thus should definitely be addressed. Want to talk about Buddhist no self doctrine? Be ready to explain why that’s necessary given that we have Parfit and what Buddhist texts produced millennia ahead of Parfit “add” to Parfit. Want to talk about the Confucian junzi/virtuous person? Be ready to explain why you’re not talking about Aristotle instead. Just to give a greater sense of this for the uninitiated, imagine: You submit an essay on Aristotle to a journal and receive a referee report suggesting that clearly you also should talk about Mengzi and make clear how what you’re saying interlocks with things Mengzi said or, better still, forget the whole Aristotle diversion and just talk about Mengzi instead.
- The desk rejection from an editor who has no training much less expertise in Asian philosophy. Desk rejections are of course part of the publishing experience, but the worries about how these are made are amplified where a) the journal has no one on board conversant with non-western philosophy and b) no reasons are given. This can contribute to the sense that specialists in Asian philosophies simply waste time bothering with general journals where their work won’t be evaluated by anyone remotely knowledgeable in their field.