Philosopher Sally Haslanger (MIT) writes: "It is crucial to the success of the journal that it represent research done by the many different intellectual constituencies of the APA."
That seems to me the primary danger for the journal, not what is crucial to its success. Only if one thought every intellectual constituency within the APA produced good philosophical work could this possibly be a desideratum: but does anyone really believe that? (One need only look at the MIT faculty to see that no one there does.) As I wrote previously in refereeing the JAPA proposal for another press:
I am skeptical whether the APA is well-positioned to produce the high quality journal it envisions, the one that combines “diversity” with “quality.” The APA’s “pluralistic consitutencies” (as the proposal calls them) are potentially a source of significant difficulty for this project, not an asset. The worry is that the APA is supposed to represent everyone in the philosophy profession, regardless of the quality of their work or approach. When the proposal describes Continental Philosophy Review, for example, as a “top field" journal,” it is quite clear that it is pandering to interest groups within the APA, not philosophical standards of excellence. (Some good work occasionally appears in CPR, but the idea that the best work in Continental philosophy appears there is ludicrous and indefensible; the use of this example suggests the process has already been ‘captured’ in part by those with other agendas.)
We have seen this pattern repeatedly within the APA. The Eastern Division represents the extreme of this phenomenon, with the result that many philosophers no longer participate there because for the sake of alleged “inclusiveness” and “diversity”—meaning neither racial nor ethnic diversity, nor even philosophical diversity, but simply pandering to organized interest groups—the program is no longer very good. As I understand it, The Journal of Philosophy stopped publishing papers from the Eastern because of this problem many years ago. The Central and Pacific have avoided the fate of the Eastern, which gives some reason for hope if they take the lead on the JAPA project. But surely the prospect of an APA-approved journal will bring out “special interest” lobbying in its worst forms. I see no reason to be optimistic that the contemplated journal will not simply be captured by certain groups looking to leverage their position in the field by capturing editorial control of portions of the journal, without regard to quality.
The initial choice of editor and editorial board gives us some reason to be more hopeful. But what will actually be crucial to the success of JAPA is that it publish high quality work, not that it represents every "constituency". I certainly share Prof. Haslanger's hope that JAPA publishes high quality work in many areas, including work on the post-Kantian Continental traditions in philosophy, as well as the other areas Prof. Haslanger mentions.
UPDATE: Comments were closed at the FP blog, based on a concern that the comments could get "ugly." To be clear, the "ugly" comment that prompted this decision was a content-free ageist and gendered smear of me. The author of that unfortunate comment had the courtesy, however, to e-mail me a retraction and apology for it.
ANOTHER: In the bowels of cyberspace, philosopher Eric Schliesser (Ghent) has earned the amusing nickname "the Ghent Balloon," in recognition of the amazing amounts of hot air he can generate on any topic, no matter how trivial. Since he is a serious scholar and philosopher, my own suspicion is that he really doesn't believe a lot of the stuff he blogs, and that he does it mainly to garner attention or to satisfy his apparently enormouos appetite for righteous posturing. Whatever the explanation, his latest balloon ride warrants a couple of observations. First, regarding its juvenile title, there was no "dust-up": Prof. Haslanger made a claim, and I disgreed with it for the reasons given. I often agree with Prof. Haslanger on issues in the profession, but I did not agree with her about this. That is not a "dust-up," but Prof. Schliesser apparently would like to make it one. Second, if Schliesser does not believe that meaningful qualitative judgments are possible, and that all we can do is meet the demands of each "constituency," then he should cut through the hot air with a bracing burst of icey directness and say so clearly. Third, his feigned uncertainty about this line from my original comments--"Only if one thought every intellectual constituency within the APA produced good philosophical work could [representing them all] possibly be a desideratum: but does anyone really believe that? (One need only look at the MIT faculty to see that no one there does.)"--is a bit incredible, even allowing for his rhetorical tendencies. If anyone at MIT believed that all the intellectual constituencies in the APA produce high quality philosophical work, then MIT would have--maybe just once in the last 25 years, say--hired a philosopher trained at a SPEP department, or a philosopher affiliated with the Society for American Philosophers. In fact, MIT hires (even when they hire Continental and feminist philosophers) only from a small handful of departments, about a half-dozen (Princeton, Berkeley, MIT, Oxford, two or three others on occasion). I conclude that no one there believes that all the intellectual constituencies in the APA produce high quality philosophical work. I also think that is the only reasonable view to hold, and I would be astonished if it were not Eric Schliesser's view, posturing to one side.
MORE HOT AIR, alas, but a nice photo (I infer) of Ghent as seen from the air! Most amusing line: Schliesser's brave (and wholly irrelevant) declaration: "I refuse to defer to [MIT's] hiring patterns as final authority in matters of qualitative judgment." No one suggested anyone do that; I certainly wouldn't.