By Sean Walt, Episteme archivist (thru Vol. XXII).
Episteme has published papers on a wide variety of philosophers and subjects. To my knowledge, though, our archive happens to feature a few topics. By the same token, Episteme‘s breadth could benefit from increased coverage in a few areas. What follows are some thoughts I have pertaining to Episteme‘s content, looked at from a historical perspective and with an appreciation for all the valuable branches, subjects, and people of philosophy.
To my mind, the single most written about issue in our catalog is artificial intelligence–a whopping 4% of our papers address this problem in the philosophy of mind. The popularity of this subject speaks to why John R. Searle happens to be one of the more written about philosophers. Many of the Episteme papers on this subject deal explicitly with the Turing Test and the nature of consciousness. And although the majority of the articles come from the tradition of analytic philosophy, one paper examines continental philosopher Hubert Dreyfus’ critique of the very principle of AI. Maybe most interesting of all, AI happens to be the only topic about which we have published an article that explicitly replies to a prior Episteme article. One can see that AI-talk stirs up debate.
While the By the Numbers page provides a good sense of which philosophers are popular, it does not really tell you how thoroughly interested many of our authors appear to be in the work of Martin Heidegger. Right up there with Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations and Plato’s Republic, Heidegger’s Being in Time appears to be a highly important source for philosophy students, especially those authoring Episteme papers during the journal’s first decade. Episteme‘s editorial board often rewards highly competent interpretations of tough philosphers, and so it is no wonder that much of the stuff we’ve published on Heidegger involves substantial efforts to simply “understand” him. A popular foil in the Heidegger papers is Jean-Paul Sartre, a fellow 20th Century Existentialist who holds some contrasting ontological and ethical positions. Sartre, himself, was popular in Episteme‘s earliest years. It is worth noting that two of Episteme‘s most excellent papers come from Denison students who feature Sartre. Good work, Ron!
As varied as Episteme is on the whole, I believe the value of the journal could improve if it widened its scope a bit. Of course, such a call is not really directed at its Editors so much as it is directed toward students looking to submit an excellent paper. Episteme will always reward high-calibre work above all else. Yet, I think a paper should have a better chance in a tie-breaker if it is on a topic/subject/philosopher that is not as common as some, though clearly intellectually worthy of being written about.
What often neglected areas of philosophy would I like Episteme to publish papers in? Well, we could use more papers in logic and political philosophy, as well as papers in the philosophy of religion and the philosophy of education. In today’s world, the philosophy of cognitive science and the philosophy of technology seem extremely important to us, too. We’d also like to review papers in structuralism, post-structuralism, radical philosophy, nontraditional philosophy, and analytic philosophy. Finally, why not help Episteme improve its interdisciplinary relevance?
Which philosophers deserve coverage in Episteme? I think we all have our biases, but it’s worth mentioning that some considerably important philosophers have not played a major role in any of the first 111 Episteme papers. Those thinkers are: St. Augustine, Avicenna, Elizabeth Anscombe, Simone de Beauvoir, Berkeley, Hans Blumenberg, Noam Chomsky, Confucius, Donald Davidson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Erasmus, Gottlob Frege, Susan Haack, Leibniz, Machiavelli, Maimonides, G. E. Moore, Ayn Rand, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Gilbert Ryle, Voltaire, and numerous Pre-Socratics, nontraditional philosophers throughout history, and those thinkers on the cutting edge of new philosophy. Of course, there are countless philosophers who have received less than adequate attention, also.
Since Episteme only publishes once a year, I know it is unreasonable to expect Episteme to have a little bit of something on everything. I am not after diversity for diversity’s sake, anyway. It is merely my hope that we avoid creating the image that philosophy is a limited discipline. Additionally, in my experience I have found that reading papers on topics and philosophers I am not very well- or at all familiar with has been the single most rewarding aspect of archiving and digitizing Episteme. I want others to have this type of experience as often as they read another student’s perspective on one of the immortal greats.