May 17Liked by Bentham's Bulldog

The main problem is intrinsic to the blind nature of review: You don’t know the reviewer, so you avoid controversial opinions because there is a risk that she is in the other side of the controversy.

Now, the solution is simple: write the technical arguments in the paper, write a blogpost about the paper.

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In sciences, the most important thing about a paper is that it is the best attempt possible to accurately reason about the objective world. Being “interesting” is not as important.

What is interesting to the lay person is often less interesting to a journal reviewer, because the journal reviewer is deeply familiar with the relevant arguments and literature about preexisting topics.

Having a “hot take” which is interesting, controversial, and skips over some of the boring technical details can make a great blogpost for the lay reader.

But these are boring for journal reviewers because most of those *hot takes* have actually been taken before, and then others have argued against them. It is better to have people engage with the preexisting literature and reply to the counter argument to the counter argument because that is what moves the field forward.

Furthermore, saying something like, “if you accept X, then those are some potentials reasons to favor Y” might seem boring, but is much more thoughtful then just coming out and saying “you should believe Y.” The latter demonstrates an unfamiliarity with the broader literature around a topic, and demonstrates an ignorance or refusal to engage with of other arguments.

Academic papers are often written in the a boring tone and style because, unfortunately, that turns out to be the best mode we have for dispassionate objective reasoning.

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In other words, things would be much worse, nightmarish in-fact, if academic papers looked like substack. Thank god there is a bastion of “boringness” left in the world.

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Do you have any plausible theories of change to realign incentives? I am not familiar with academia and assume that the probability of change is quite low, but if the value of an academic publishing system that selects both for interesting and rigorous arguments is high enough it could be worth attempting a realignment. Probably you have no incentive to do this, if you’re pursuing a career in academia, but maybe others could be convinced to try?

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Censoring controversial opinions is certainly bad, but the requirement to interact with some part of prior literature seems more reasonable. Someone writing a serious paper should be able to engage with with prior work, no?

Of course, that requirement could be implemented in an excessive manner. Perhaps that’s what happening here on some of the more niche topics you discuss.

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Regarding free will I wrote this:


and the first editor told me that I was covering too much. Man, what is philosophy about? Semantic details?

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