Rejection Letters of the Philosophers

A new blog, Rejection Letters of the Philosophers, "imagin[es] what the greats of history might have been faced with, had they been forced to publish or perish."

A new blog, Rejection Letters of the Philosophers, ”imagin[es] what the greats of history might have been faced with, had they been forced to publish or perish.” While likely mostly of interest to academics and those who have extensively studied philosophy or political theory, it’s quite well done.

Some early highlights:

Decision Concerning MS “Democracy in America”// Author Monsieur A. de Tocqueville

If democracy really has been ordained by providence for over 700 years, are you not here merely stating the obvious at great length? What is the distinctive contribution of this work?

I found it difficult to follow the structure of the argument because your understanding of key concepts such as “democracy”, “liberty” and “equality” fluctuates at different points in your argument. In the case of democracy you imply on the one hand that it is an institutional mechanism, on the other that it is a social ethos. So which is it? Regarding liberty and equality, you tell us that Americans would rather be equal in slavery than unequal in freedom. I do not follow your reasoning: how can slaves be equal? What *is* equality? Defining these terms at the outset would help.


As an aside, I found your predictions for the future fanciful and unlikely. American democracy may well be on the rise. But a global confrontation with the backward barbarians of Muscovy and the Urals? Britain, surely, will have something to say about that! As for an American civil war over the rights of negroes, this is most improbable, and betrays a distinct lack of understanding regarding the nature of the union. In future you should stick to the present, and to the facts.

CONFIDENTIAL: Referee Report for Mr. Aristotle, ‘Nicomachean Ethics’

I started reading this MS submission to the Academy of Athens press with high hopes. I know and very much admire the work of the author’s (A.) former supervisor and was expecting something in a similar vein. I’m afraid to say I was very disappointed. The topic, after all, is a good one. It is nice to see an attempt to flesh out some kind of account of human flourishing.

However, the format of the MS is not at all what your readers would expect. There is no drama or characterisation; indeed, I had the impression at times that some kind of conversational or dialectical background was being assumed but this is not at all marked in the text. In short, the constant direct mode of address was a chore. No one will enjoy having this read to them. What is more, the style is woeful. I hear that A. is able to write fluid and engaging prose when he wishes, but that was sadly not in evidence here. Sentences are concise to the point of obscurity. Topics are introduced only to be sketchily addressed and then left aside with a careless, ‘Well, that’s enough about X’. Very few clear and novel conclusions are reached.

There are many more.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. PD Shaw says:

    I like this bit from Hobbes;

    Whilst I appreciate and share your distaste for the Popish religion, a serious work must do better than denigrate the Roman Church as the kingdom of the ‘fairies’ whilst making crude insinuations that priests are succubi.

  2. sam says:

    I can see the one for Wittgenstein now:

    Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen.

  3. Tillman says:

    As someone who took a seminar that included line-to-line study of the Nicomachean Ethics, I can wholeheartedly agree with the editor here.