Philosophy Research Index

Users of The Philosopher’s Index might be interested in a new competing bibliographic tool, the Philosophy Research Index, a venture of the Philosophy Documentation Center. The PRI aims to cover articles in 360 journals, as well as dissertations, books, and reviews in philosophy, from the 15th century (!) to the present. Journals include The Thomist, Aquinas, Divus Thomas, the ACPQ, and even some series no longer in print. Individuals can sign up for a 1-week free trial to the database here.

More on Publishing in Philosophy

In a previous post I noted some publishers in philosophy whose lists include studies of Aquinas. Here I identify a few resources that offer good advice about getting book and article manuscripts accepted by respectable publishers.

The 1997 version of The Guidebook for Publishing Philosophy is online, and chapters include On Avoiding Rejection by Journals and General Advice About Book Publishing. The latter chapter reports a study that claims manuscript editors at certain presses divide incoming manuscripts into three categories: (1) those personally solicited from authors by the editor; (2) those that arrive with the recommendation of a notable scholar; and finally (3) those that show up as unsolicited submissions. The sobering conclusion is that “manuscripts in category (1) had a roughly one in three chance of being published, those in category (2) slightly less than one in ten and those in category (3) considerably less than one in a hundred.” In light of these statistics, potential book authors are encouraged to make use of whatever contacts they might have when shopping a book manuscript.

Probably the best-known guide to scholarly publishing is William Germano’s Getting it Published. It is full of straightforward advice, including an endorsement of “The Fifty Page Rule.” Germano encourages authors to pay special attention the first fifty pages of a book manuscript on the assumption that most acquisitions editors need to be convinced about the merits of the manuscript before reading beyond that point. New and seasoned authors will also benefit from Germano’s From Dissertation to Book, since the advice it gives applies generally to reworking previously-written material into new projects. Chapter five, “Reading with An Editor’s Eyes” describes a valuable skill for all potential authors.

A highly entertaining book is Robin Derricourt’s An Author’s Guide to Scholarly Publishing. It offers a series of fictional letters composed to authors covering the virtues of good manuscripts and the sins of bad ones. Letters 34-37, grouped under the title “The Publishing Decision” are particularly insightful, as they collectively identify reasons for outright acceptance, outright rejection, and the middle-ground of “revise and resubmit.” An old classic, now revised, is The Thesis and the Book. In it one editor is described as counseling writers to conceive of any future reader as “in serious trouble most of the time, a man floundering in a swamp, and that it [is] the duty of anyone attempting to write English to drain the swamp quickly and get this man up on dry ground, or at least throw him a rope.” The lesson is that authors should be kind to their reader

Also helpful is Beth Luey’s Handbook for Academic Authors. A chapter on how publishers determine book prices is revelatory, and another chapter about the difficulties of edited collections is quite direct. A recent guide is Getting Published by Gerald Jackson and Marie Lenstrup. A companion website is quite detailed, and recent posts describe the mechanics of book production probably unknown to most authors. Two journals should also be mentioned. The Journal of Scholarly Publishing is a quarterly that publishes pieces of interest to authors, editors, and publishers, and includes reviews and essays in addition to articles. Publishing Research Quarterly covers the whole industry of book publishing, but the occasional article pertains to scholarly publishing.

Why should an academic publish? It is not difficult to find mercenary reasons: publications can lead to a first job, a new job, a raise, tenure, and promotions. One can find other reasons, however. Jaroslov Pelikan argues for a unity between the vocation of teaching and scholarly publishing in The Idea of a University: A Reexamination. In a chapter titled “The Diffusion of Knowledge Through Publishing,” Pelikan argues that “as a key metaphor for the vocation of the scholar, the purely contemplative order is not quite appropriate,” and he then invokes the motto of the Dominican Order, contemplata aliis tradere, as a reason for publishing.

Thomistic Philosophical Terms

A reader writes:

I will be teaching a Thomistic philosophy class (starting in four days!) and was thinking it would be helpful to give my students a short list of terms with definitions to start them off (e.g. potency, act, form, matter, etc.). Do you know of such a list, or would I be best off to just make my own?

Good question. These two books should help:

  • Bernard J. Wuellner, A Dictionary of Scholastic Philosophy, 2nd ed. (Milwaukee, WI: Bruce Publishing Company, 1966).
  • William A. Wallace, O.P., The Elements of Philosophy: A Compendium for Philosophers and Theologians (New York : Alba House, 1977).

Also, definitions are present throughout Joseph Owens’s An Elementary Christian Metaphysics (Houston, TX: Center for Thomistic Studies, 1985). If you are looking for a primary text for students, there is a brief discussion of key terms in Aquinas’s short On the Principles of Nature, available here.

Publishing on Aquinas

Which good academic presses might be interested in publishing a book manuscript in philosophy about Aquinas?

The question arose among my colleagues. Admittedly, the expression “good press” could be understood in a variety of ways. Notions of prestige, editorial services offered to authors, or even royalty terms might be deciding factors.

The evaluation of prospective presses is not just important to potential authors. Rank and tenure committees need to make judgments too. The European Science Foundation ranked journals in philosophy and theology/religious studies in 2007, but it has not yet published its next phase: a ranking of academic book publishers. No doubt this second venture will be as controversial as the first. We’ve all seen that side comments about presses occasionally creep up in book reviews (one might think of this example). Moreover, at least one publisher seeks to forestall problems by requiring its authors to provide a letter from a departmental dean or chair testifying that publication with the press will count for promotion at the author’s university.

The question about where to publish a philosophy monograph on Aquinas overlaps with a more general one: which presses publish books on the history of philosophy? Some outlets have ceased to accept manuscripts (see here and here), and it is not difficult to identify presses that have published great books in the past but haven’t been active in the area in recent years. The good news is that many academic presses continue to publish exegetical works in philosophy. The Association of American University Presses identifies 36 presses with active lists in the history of philosophy, and this count omits overseas university presses and all commercial academic publishers.

For me, the first English-language presses that immediately come to mind for shopping a manuscript on some aspect of Aquinas’s philosophy include:

  • The Catholic University of America Press
  • Brill Academic Publishers
  • Cambridge University Press
  • Oxford University Press
  • The University of Notre Dame Press

There are, of course, other good publishers that publish widely in the history of philosophy with some books on medieval philosophy. Examples of commercial presses are: Routledge, Springer, Peeters, and Continuum. Examples of university presses are: Penn State, SUNY, Georgetown, Fordham, Marquette, and Edinburgh. Also, I’ll note that I’ve heard rumors of one press of former glory planning to reconstitute its publishing program in philosophy.

I’m sure there are presses that I have missed from the listings above. Those writing in theology might have other options than the ones I have identified. So, I invite readers to offer suggestions in the comments section below.