Blogging on PEA Soup has been light lately, which I’ll armchair-diagnose as a symptom of getting slammed with various other tasks at the moment. (At least that’s my excuse.) So I thought I’d take a moment to pick up a discussion that has taken place on other blogs, such as Brian Weatherson’s Thoughts, Arguments, and Rants, about the practice of blogging itself.
There are a bunch of interesting questions here. For example, TAR raised the issue of how, whether, and when one should cite another’s unpublished comments in one’s blog posts. What I’m particularly interested in, however, has to do with the implications of posting one’s own philosophical ideas. For example, say that a blogger is working on a paper in which she advances an argument that is both original and important. The usual course of action is to try to publish the paper in a journal or as part of a book. But, let’s say that the blogger also wants to put this argument on her blog, both because that’s what her blog is about and because it might stimulate helpful and interesting discussion of her argument.
One of the worries about blog-publishing her argument would be plagiarism – perhaps someone could steal her ideas. But this doesn’t concern me too much, since, just like all forms of publication, there would be a clear record of the date and time when her argument was first published on the blog.
But this record of publication raises another cluster of worries. Since publishing her idea on her blog does count as publishing it, does this reduce the journal-publishability of her argument? First, might a journal balk at publishing her paper, much as it would balk at publishing a paper whose main argument has already been published in another journal? Of course, most journals explicitly require that a paper not have been published elsewhere, though I believe some journals make an exception for manuscripts whose earlier drafts have been published merely for discussion (such as when one publishes a draft on one’s own personal Web page). So does our blogger’s Web publication fall under this exception? (I’m not asking here whether it should fall under this exception, but whether journals would actually make the exception.)
Second, Doug Portmore pointed out to me another distressing scenario. Say that our blogger does publish her argument on her blog. Then, prior to publishing the paper that contains that argument in a journal, a second party publishes a paper in which her argument is recounted (and cited) and discussed. Would this kind of case discourage a journal from publishing the first paper? Does all of this serve to dissuade bloggers from putting their best arguments into the blogosphere?
Comments are always welcome on our posts, of course, and let me emphasize in this case that I’d particularly appreciate hearing from anyone who has actually had experience with this sort of thing, or who has at least spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to negotiate these matters. And, any discussion of different but related topics is welcome as well.