Sunday, March 25, 2007


Most important philosophy articles of the past couple of decades

Disclaimer: Since I first posted this, a number of readers have commented that my list seems very idiosyncratic, not merely in being restricted somewhat to my AOIs (notice the total absence of phil-mind, for example), but also in having its basis more or less entirely in my personal opinions rather than in any more objective measure. I should have been clearer about my aims. I intended this to have no pretenses to objectivity. I hope its still of some value, but I always envisaged such value to be primarily in providing some entertainment, rather than to provide any kind of genuine stats on these topics. I invite people to contribute to the discussion thread in this spirit.

A while back Dan posted a list of what he regarded as the most important philosophy articles published between 1950 and 1979. I thought it might be interesting to see what readers thought were more recent articles of potentially the same importance. Of course, to a certain extent which ideas are significant is something we learn with hindsight, but even bearing that in mind, people should be able to make some suggestions. So what do you guys think are the most important papers published since 1990?

Let's stick to papers for now, and leave out monographs (papers in volumes rather than journals are to be included). Let's not restrict the topic at all.

Here's are some of my own suggestions (I intend to add to this list when I have more time):

Tyler Burge (1993), 'Content Preservation', Philosophical Review.

Darwall, Gibbard and Railton (1992), 'Toward Fin de siecle Ethics', Philosophical Review.

Keith DeRose (1992), 'Solving the Skeptical Problem', Philosophical Review.

Tom Hurka (2003), 'Moore in the Middle', Ethics.

Jim Pryor (2000) , 'The Sceptic and the Dogmatist', Nous.

Diana Raffman (1994), 'Vagueness Without Paradox', Philosophical Review.

Mark Sainsbury (1990), 'Concepts Without Boundaries'.

Tim Williamson (1992), 'Vagueness and Ignorance', Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society.

Crispin Wright (2001), 'On Being in a Quandary', Mind.

Crispin Wright (2004), 'Warrant for Nothing (and Foundations for Free?), Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society.

Steve Yablo (1993), 'Paradox Without Self-Reference', Analysis.

: In addition to the suggestions in the discussion thread, Sam has a list here.


The immediate obvious one is Frank Jackson (1986) "What Mary Didn't Know".
Well, it's published before 1990.
Makes me think of how much post-1990 stuff I need to read!

I'm thinking:

Alex Burge (2001) "Intentionalism Defended" Philosophical Review

Christopher Peacocke (1992) "Scenarios, Concepts and Perception", in The contents of experience: Essays on Perception, ed. T. Crane

I think that it is a real shame that we can't quite squeeze in Mark Crimmins and John Perry's "The Prince and the Phone Booth: Reporting Puzzling Beliefs" which was published in December 1989!
Also, I suspect that Mark Johnston's recent (2006) "The function of sensory awareness" which was published in John Hawthorne and Tamar Gendler's Perceptual Experience will end up being very important- it already features in a host of top institutions perception seminars!
Davidson's (1990) 'The Structure and Content of Truth'. Only articles right?...because there are many very important *books*. For instance Wright's (1992?) Truth and Objectivity.
Digging through my Endnotes database, here are my idiosyncratic suggestions

Ned Block (1990) Inverted Earth
Stephen Yablo (1992) Mental Causation
William Alston (1993) Epistemic Desiderata
George Bealer (1998) Propositions
Kit Fine (1994) Essence and Modality
David Lewis (1996) Elusive Knowledge
Timothy Williamson (1996) Knowing and Asserting
Robert M. Adams (1997) Things in Themselves
Paul Boghossian (1997) Analyticity
Mark Crimmins (1998) Hesperus and Phosphorus: Sense, Pretense and Reference

I arbitrarily stopped at 2000, because I think more time is needed to evaluate the significance of recent articles.

One quibble about the above list is that I've ignored the vast literature on 2D modality. Perhaps Chalmers (2002) "Does Conceivability Entail Possibility?" comes closes to being a helpful one stop article, even though everyone else is trying to prove him wrong.

Maybe if it seems like people would be interested I'll start a separate thread for books. T&O would undoubtedly be on my list too. But yeah, for just now we're just sticking to articles.
Oops - I read that as 1980 rather than 1990, especially since the other list stopped at 1979.

In this time period, the one I can think of most is Alan Hajek (2003) What Conditional Probability Could Not Be.
Someone needs to have a list for articles from between 1980 and 1989, now. It looks odd to have a gap. ("A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs" makes the list.)
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