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9/30/2016
Deadline to submit reports for the fall board meeting

Statement on Research
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The following statement was prepared by the committee on the status and future of the profession (Richard Schacht, chair) and approved by the board of officers at its 1996 meeting. Originally published in Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association, Vol. 70, no. 2, pp. 119-121.

"Research" has come to be employed in contemporary academic life as a generic term referring to forms of inquiry pursued in all the many disciplines, from the natural sciences to the humanities. In this broad sense of the term philosophers have been engaged in research throughout the entire history of philosophy, and continue to be so engaged today, together with their scientific and humanistic colleagues in the many other disciplines descended from philosophy in which the degree of Doctor of Philosophy is still granted. Philosophy's domain today, while no longer all-encompassing, embraces a rich array of problems and issues as important as any the human mind has conceived.

In some disciplines the aim of research is to discover new facts, to gather new data, to put hypotheses and theories to the test by way of new experimental evidence or calculations, and, in general, to generate new knowledge. Some philosophical research is of this kind. One of its most distinctive forms is the attempt to achieve theoretical integrations of various domains of phenomena. In the philosophy of mind, for example, philosophers may reflect on both our experiences of mental life and on what the various sciences and other disciplines can reveal pertaining to it, seeking to develop an integrated theory of our mentality and humanity.

Research in philosophy also often takes the form of efforts to refine analyses, develop and advance or criticize interpretations, explore alternative perspectives and new ways of thinking, suggest and apply modified or novel modes of assessment, and, in general to promote new understanding. A special case of this type of research is conceptual and methodological critique, involving the scrutiny of the basic concepts and methodologies of other disciplines, scientific as well as humanistic. Other cases involve interpretive and evaluative inquiry contributing to the enhancement of our comprehension of ourselves and our world. All of these forms of endeavor contribute importantly to the philosophical and academic enterprise.

Philosophical inquiry by its very nature involves the attempt to think clearly and rigorously about difficult questions. The criteria of assessment of work in philosophy may be complex, but no other discipline is more attentive to the cultivation of intellectual conscience and of critical acumen. Disagreement and criticism are among the hallmarks of philosophical life, and it is rare to find two philosophers working in the same area who are in complete agreement with each other. The very best research in philosophy serves more often to generate disputes and differences than to resolve them. It is precisely through such ongoing argument and debate that sophistication with respect to the issues at hand increases, comprehension of them deepens, and understanding concerning them is enhanced.

Research in philosophy is highly diverse, reflecting the diversity of the array of kinds of inquiry the discipline subsumes. So, for example, inquiry in some areas of philosophy is akin to kinds of inquiry pursued in mathematics and in some of the sciences; while in others it resembles the activities of those who study languages, literatures and the arts. The intimate relation between the history of philosophy and ongoing philosophical inquiry moreover gives rise to work on developments in that history resembling the kind of scholarship practiced in intellectual history, but which may be and often is of contemporary relevance.

Some research in philosophy deals with topics not investigated (or only investigated in limited ways) in other disciplines: for example, truth and knowledge; morality and value; mind, action, and language; and the ideas of God, the soul, and immortality. Other research deals with various forms of human experience and activity, often under the rubric of "philosophy of X": for example, art, religion, language, science, mathematics, law, and politics. Philosophical research also deals with the understanding and assessment of aspects of the thinking of those who have contributed significantly to developments in the history of philosophy or of human thought. Other work in philosophy deals with problems of social policy, normative theory, and value theory on a more applied level. The possible ways of pursuing and contributing to these and other such kinds of inquiry are legion, and continue to increase as the discipline grows and evolves.

Philosophical writing often deals with the work of other philosophers, either in the history of philosophy or on the contemporary scene. Many philosophical issues are as old as the history of philosophy, and the efforts of others to deal with them often prove worthy of further examination, or serve as useful points of departure. Citation of contemporary literature is not practiced in a manner that yields meaningful citation statistics, however, since it is done selectively if at all (as authors may deem useful), and is as likely to be critical as favorable.

There are few sources of funding available to philosophers for the support of research in philosophy outside of their own institutions. There are several research institutes to which they are eligible to apply, but these opportunities can accommodate the needs and circumstances of very few. Most extramural research for philosophers is in the form of a dwindling number of research fellowships, which typically provide limited amounts of salary replacement funding for periods ranging from a few months to a year, and little else. Except in a few areas of philosophy with scientific or public policy connections, research grants of the sort with which those in scientific disciplines are familiar are nonexistent. Success in obtaining external funding thus is not an appropriate criterion of research quality and recognition in philosophy.

Philosophical research is carried on and communicated in many ways, including seminars, colloquia, informal discussion, and now electronic exchanges, as well as publication in print. Some philosophers write both essays ("papers" and reviews) and books, and a few write books exclusively, but many more write essays exclusively. Philosophical essays vary greatly in length. Some may be brief discussion notes, while others may approach monograph dimensions. In either event, they rarely have the character of the reports on empirical studies that are common in some disciplines. They typically involve the careful examination of difficult and complex issues, and what generally is taken to matter most in them is the quality of the reasoning set forth and the greater understanding of the matter under consideration to which it contributes.

Some doctoral dissertations in philosophy lend themselves readily and appropriately to publication in book form, but it is neither expected nor typical that dissertations will be published as books. It is more common for portions of dissertations to appear in the form of extracted articles. At any stage of a philosopher's career, the development of a substantial essay of sufficient quality and interest to be published in a good philosophical journal requires considerable time and effort. Substantial essays of high quality and promise, either published or accepted for publication in good journals or anthologies, supplemented by other evidence of involvement and recognition in the life of the profession, are generally regarded as a strong showing for philosophers during the early years of their careers prior to tenure decisions.

Philosophical research deals with issues of fundamental importance and places rigorous intellectual demands upon those who pursue it. That is why it continues to attract some of the best minds of every generation. The enhancement of our understanding of matters with which thinkers of great intelligence and sophistication have long been wrestling, which do not admit of definitive resolution and yet have far-reaching implications, is both challenging and central to the academic enterprise. Research in philosophy must be viewed and assessed in relation to the kinds of issues with which it deals, and it is the norms, standards, and practices of the philosophical community that must be the measure of the activity of philosophers in our academic institutions if it is to flourish in them.

Recommended by the committee on the status and future of the profession and approved by the board of officers at its 2010 meeting, the Statement on Research has been revised to include the following:

The American Philosophical Association does not rank philosophical journals nor does it sponsor or endorse any rankings of philosophical journals that are compiled by others. The American Philosophical Association recognizes that there is often a need for comparative information about journals. It encourages those seeking such information to consult multiple sources, to do so critically, and to keep in mind that a particular journal's place in any ranking is not, in itself, a reliable indicator of the philosophical quality of any individual article that appears in it. Rankings of journals also pose a risk of bias against particular areas, topics, methods, or traditions in philosophy. While those evaluating candidates for academic positions, tenure, promotion, and research grants should consider the quality of a candidate's published work, and while the overall quality of a journal can be a general indicator of the quality of the articles it contains, no ranking of the journals in which a candidate's work appears is a substitute for the detailed assessment of that work by experts in the candidate's area of research.


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