[Trigger alert: this post is a peculiar academic form of #humblebrag.]
Recently, two of my papers appeared: "Evaluating Philosophy as Exploratory Research" co-authored with Rogier de Langhe in Metaphilosophy and "The Certainty, Modality, and Grounding of Newton’s Laws" co-authored with Zvi Biener in The Monist. (The latter paper has its origin, in part, in this Digression.) On the surface, the two papers have little in common (except that I am one of the co-authors). But they are also the external marks of the vicissitudes of academic publishing in recent professional philosophy. What follows is a tale of three papers and one journal, The Monist. The Monist is an unusual journal because all the issues are, I believe, essentially special issues focused on a particular theme or topic (or person).
The story begins with The Monist, Volume 3, Issue 4 edited by the great Newton Scholar , Niccolò Guicciardini. The issue was devoted to Philosophical History of Science. That issue was inspired by Guicciardini's encounter with the work (as he explains) of Howard Stein in 2007. As it happens Stein (recall for example this post) was one of my supervisors in graduate school. Stein's approach to the history and philosophy of physics is distinctive (and not well understood by critics and admirers, but about that some other time); I am pleased to see growing interest in his work (as evinced by this fest).* Several of the papers in The Monist volume were presented at a conference in Bergamo, Spring 2009, including one of my papers ("Newton's Challenge to Philosophy.")
The Bergamo conference was one of the most joyous intellectual experiences of my life: fantastic location, brilliant papers, biographical revelations (a true view behind the sciences, as it were), and terrific ambiance (including astounding food), all of this presided over by Guicciardini a first rate scholar and a magnanimous, gentle soul. Guicciardini is the leading scholar of Newton's mathematics and its reception. The Bergamo conference was not my first invited lecture, but it was the first time I shared an invited stage with many of the scholars I had admired as a graduate student on an all expenses paid ticket (etc.). I treated it as a kind of coming out party [I did not know the term imposter syndrome yet] and rather than presenting a standard work in HPS scholarship, I decided to present a methodological paper inspired by and critical of Stein's work on Newton. (I felt secure in taking this risk because my paper was invited to the special issue.) I felt my presentation was not a disaster--I got lots of critical questions throughout the workshop; at the time I fantasized about it as a breakthrough performance. Needless to say, I enjoyed the whole experience.
I was dumbfounded when my invited paper was rejected by The Monist. It never occurred to me that could happen to an invited paper there. Admittedly, the referee was very critical, but I could not see the point of many of the criticisms (which treated my paper not as a methodological manifesto but as a contribution to scholarship). It was impossible to address the referee's criticisms and still maintain the integrity of the paper.** I sent the paper to a then-new journal HOPOS: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science. There it was sent out to a excellent, albeit very critical, referees who raised a whole bunch of challenges (and also fruitfully insisted I engage with some of Ernan McMullin's work). Responding to these referees generated major improvements to the paper. I am very proud of the fact that Rose-Mary Sargent published it in the first issue of HOPOS. My only regret was that it appeared just after Ernan died, so I couldn't send it to him and elicit his reflections.
A few years later, by then I had become a prolific blogger, I got invited to contribute a special issue on 'Evaluating Philosophy' for, you guessed it, The Monist. I recruited Rogier to co-write it with me. Rogier was a post-doc and I figured it would help his career to have a 'top publication.'+ Moreover, I secretly hoped we would do some (agent-based) modeling in researching this paper (because Rogier had recruited me to join Complex Systems Institute in Ghent); due to time constraints that never happened, alas (and so I never became a formal philosopher. Rogier is the source behind the underlying model and if the model ever gets traction it should just be known as De Langhe-model. But I was pleased by our collaboration because (i) the model can be used to evaluate all kinds of research grant schemes and be made to apply to most scholarly disciplines [except the Arts and some of the Humanities]; (ii) within philosophy the model does not pick sides between analytic and continental philosophy (etc.); (iii) it gives the technocrats what they want without completely destroying the underlying practice.
As it happens, after we submitted our paper, I refereed at least one other paper for that special issue on 'Evaluating Philosophy.' But then silence. Eventually the editor of the special issue let me know that this issue of The Monist would be delayed due to lack of (high quality) submissions. Because Rogier needs publications to advance his career and we both wanted this paper to be discussed, we decided to submit the paper to another journal: Metaphilosophy. There our paper got caught up with their now well-publicized software problems. After much prodding on our part, and interminable delay, we were encouraged "to resend it," and they'd be "happy to begin the review." After an extremely speedy review process -- I seriously doubt it went to external reviewers -- it was accepted and for good measure, the editors of Metaphilosophy added: "This piece should generate much interest." No other editor has ever said that to me.