Warp, Weft, and Way

A Group Blog of Chinese and Comparative Philosophy

Chinese and Comparative Philosophy Journals

A blog reader who wishes to remain anonymous writes:

This comment is intended to further discussion of the long thread on Leiter about the status of research and teaching (at the Ph.D. level) of Chinese philosophy in the U.S and the West.

Over the decade during which I’ve been doing research in philosophy (dating from the time I finished coursework in grad school), I have spelled my research projects in the Scottish Enlightenment with periodic research projects in other areas. Last year I finally published a book on my main research topic. Not wanting to get burned out in that area of specialization, I decided to return to some earlier interests in ancient Chinese philosophy and write a few papers.

Two are finished and prepared for submission to journals that publish in East Asian philosophy in English. My hunch was that Philosophy East & West (PEW) was heads and shoulders above the other journals in that family, including Dao, Journal of Chinese Philosophy (JCP) and Asian Philosophy (AP). But a colleague mentioned to me that she thinks Journal of Chinese Philosophy is best. I looked online and found no discussion of the quality and rankings of these journals. This surprised me a bit, but I still had a means to decide where to send my papers. I checked the latest editions of the big red Directories (American & International) published by the Philosophy Documentation Center to find these journals’ acceptance rates. Here is what I found:

Asian Philosophy
It is edited by someone in a theology program. No acceptance and revision rates were released.

Unlisted in the 23rd edition of Directory of American Philosophers (2006-7). Perhaps it is there and I missed it, but I doubt it. I find this very curious since it dates from back in 2001.

Journal of Chinese Philosophy
Listed (p. 354) and published acceptance and revision rates: 50% of papers are accepted and 50% of those require significant revision prior to publication. Refereeing is not blind.

Philosophy East & West
Listed (p. 369) and published acceptance and revision rates: 15% of papers are accepted and 25% of those require significant revision prior to publication. Blind refereeing.

First, thanks should go out to the editors at PEW & JCP for being willing to publish their acceptance rates. That kind of transparency itself increases the reputation of journals in my opinion. The results confirmed my personal ranking of the journals based on articles I’ve read in them. What surprised me was (i) just how high JCP’s acceptance rate is, (ii) that Dao is unlisted, and (iii) Asian Philosophy doesn’t published its rates.

Typically acceptance rates are a good predictor of the quality of a journal’s published articles. But perhaps this is not true in Chinese philosophy journals. Since I don’t consider myself part of the culture of Chinese philosophers, I’d like to know how these and other journals are appraised by people who are. In short, for someone who aspires to publish the best work in Chinese philosophy, where ought she submit? Where ought she not submit?

These seem like fair questions — or do they? Comments are welcome.


December 22, 2009 - Posted by | Chinese philosophy, Comparative philosophy, Profession


  1. Where should someone who aspires to publish the best work in Chinese philosophy submit? I’d say “none of the above.” Aim for mainstream philosophy journals that welcome work on Chinese or comparative thought.

    Comment by Chris Fraser | December 22, 2009 | Reply

  2. Hi Chris; I’m not sure that’s right. I would think the referees for those mainstream journals, for submissions in non-Western topics, are either a) the same ones as are tapped for PEW, JCP, or Dao — I’m less sure about AP — or b) they are specialists in Western philosophy who have some knowledge or interest in the topic and whom the editor of the mainstream journals happen to know.

    Personally, I think the reader’s question is harder to answer for a couple of reasons. First, I’m not sure the correlation between low acceptance rates and high quality can be taken for granted. This is partly due, again, to the probability that many of the same people are tapped for refereeing among these journals. I’m not sure how to explain the difference in acceptance rate between PEW and JCP. I don’t think it’s simply lower standards at the latter.

    Second, I’ve read plenty of articles in all of these journals that I thought were okay but not particularly interesting to me because they were on topics or took approaches to ancient texts that I don’t think make much sense. Nonetheless, I recognize that there are others in the field who might think such topics or approaches make sense. I’m not sure “best” is coherent in a context in which there may not be much uniformity in standards of philosophical quality.

    Comment by Manyul Im | December 22, 2009 | Reply

  3. Manyul, you’re probably right. My quick response was motivated partly by my hope that people will publish more on Chinese and comparative stuff in mainstream journals, rather than sticking with the narrower specialist ones. But you may be correct that even in mainstream journals, refereeing of China-related work will be uneven.

    [snip] I’m not sure “best” is coherent in a context in which there may not be much uniformity in standards of philosophical quality. [snip]

    Agree that this gets to the heart of the issue. No doubt the lack of uniformity holds in other subfields of philosophy, too. But it’s an unusually prominent feature in Chinese and China-related comparative philosophy, perhaps due to the relative immaturity of the field. So on the whole I’d agree with your implication that the quality of individual articles in all four journals varies widely enough that it’s misleading to pick one or the other as “best.”

    A distinctive feature of JCP, which partly explains the high acceptance rate, is that many JCP issues are special thematic issues, in which most of the submissions are invited. They are still refereed, so that they “count” as refereed articles for career purposes. But they are not random submissions.

    Comment by Chris Fraser | December 22, 2009 | Reply

    • That’s interesting; I hadn’t thought about the thematic JCP issues. That might also skew Dao’s rates, were they available, since Dao aims to do thematic issues on a regular basis.

      Comment by Manyul Im | December 22, 2009 | Reply

  4. It would be interesting to see how these journals are ranked in perception among those in the field — i.e. how they are regarded informally. I’d also be curious to know what those perceptions track.

    Comment by Manyul Im | December 22, 2009 | Reply

  5. Thanks to Steve for alerting me about this discussion and asking me to provide the relevant information about Dao. Dao’s acceptance rate is currently about one third, with the volume of submission continuing to increase. Almost no article is accepted for publication as it is. By the way, Dao does not have the plan to publish thematic issues regularly. The information of Dao will be included in the newest edition of the directory mentioned.

    Comment by Yong Huang | December 23, 2009 | Reply

  6. I’m curious what exactly is meant by the immaturity of the field, and how it is expected that the field will mature, and how one can measure the relative maturity of any subfield of philosophy.

    Comment by Joel Dietz | December 29, 2009 | Reply

  7. I’d actually like to pose a variation of the question in the OP. As far as tenure review is concerned, is any one of these journals weighed more heavily than the others? Is PEW, for instance, given more weight because of its lower acceptance rate?

    Regarding informal perception of these journals, I’ve always taken PEW as the flagship journal, primarily on the basis of its longevity. PEW has a larger pedigree to be associated with.

    On a related note, Yao Xinzhong is in process of compiling a compendium of the most “influential” articles on Confucianism written in the last century (to be published by Routledge). I’ve been told that over a quarter of them are from PEW.

    Comment by Ronggui | December 29, 2009 | Reply

  8. Hi Ronggui; there are basically two groups who judge one’s tenurability: those who know something about the field and its journals and those who don’t really know. The second group includes important people in the process — department colleagues, the college tenure committee, dean, and provost (or equivalent). For them, the only thing that matters about journals is probably whether the they are peer-reviewed and, if information is available, what their acceptance rates are. Based on that, PEW may be given more weight than the others. Strategically, however, since most people will have at most one PEW piece prior to tenure — an effect of selectivity as well as on-average longer refereeing times — and will probably have pieces in the other journals, I would emphasize that PEW, JCP, and Dao are all double-blind peer-reviewed and all well-regarded in the field. (There’s no sense in making one piece on one’s own CV seem better at the cost of one’s other pieces!) By the way, both JCP and Dao state their blind-review status in their guidelines for submission (for PEW, see: http://www.wiley.com/bw/submit.asp?ref=0301-8121&site=1 and for Dao: http://www.kutztown.edu/academics/liberal_arts/philosophy/Dao/daosubmissions.htm ). I know from experience, both as a submitter and referee, that PEW is also blind-reviewed, but I don’t know where, if at all, that is stated. Asian Philosophy’s review process is two-step: “…based on initial editor screening and anonymized refereeing by at least two anonymous referees” (http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/titles/09552367.asp). The second stage is blind, but I don’t know whether the first is.

    (I have some insider breaking information, by the way, that JCP will now be introducing a two-step review process as well, with an initial, blind editorial screening for minimal relevance and quality, prior to blind full refereeing.)

    Returning to the issue, the other group assessing one’s tenure file is the one composed of external referees who are very likely to be in the field and who have had plenty of experience, on both sides, with each of these journals. I suspect that their own rankings will vary according to their own allegiances to editors, and so on, or they will not rank much among these journals at all.

    Comment by Manyul Im | December 29, 2009 | Reply

    • Thanks Manyul!

      Comment by Ronggui | December 31, 2009 | Reply

  9. Thank you Chris and Manyul for posting responses to my query about the quality of journals publishing work in the history of Chinese philosophy—I was the person to send this to Manyul. I originally composed that email Friday, September 19, 2008, and I sent it to Manyul along with thanks to him for his previous blog. I wanted answers to the questions above more than I wanted to create any public discussion in answer to them. Manyul wasn’t sure how to address the issue then. More than a year on I’m still not sure, so I resent it to him. I hesitated to resend it because I didn’t want to be perceived as the brash outsider that I wasn’t. But now a year later I want to add a question to the discussion.

    Was it un-Confucian of me to have asked for clarity in the rankings of these journals in the first place?

    Background: The community of contemporary historians of Chinese philosophers has its own dao and its own de different from those of other sub-groups of philosophers. Like the philosophical systems it studies, it is correlative, collaborative and communitarian—so it seems to me. This is furthermore a good thing. Perhaps preoccupations about journal rankings and program hierarchies occlude our vision of the signposts on this dao. Hence my question.
    Btw I sent the OP to Manyul happy to publish it under my name or anonymously. When Manyul offered to do so anonymously I replied ‘yes’ without recollecting that the email had identified me as someone who recently published a book about Thomas Reid (which Manyul deleted) and who works in the Scottish Enlightenment (which he didn’t). Anyway: Hi.

    This is followed by a post on Alexus’ related thread.

    Comment by Ryan Nichols | December 30, 2009 | Reply

  10. Was it un-Confucian of me to have asked for clarity in the rankings of these journals in the first place?

    Analects 3:15: “The Master, when he entered the grand temple, asked about everything. Some one said, ‘Who say that the son of the man of Zou knows the rules of propriety! He has entered the grand temple and asks about everything.’ The Master heard the remark, and said, ‘This is a rule of propriety.’”

    Much Confucian ritual is aimed at making relative rankings more visible, including virtue-rankings of historical figures; and in choosing friends and associates one is to be careful about their virtue. But that’s ranking of people. The Confucian tradition also ranks texts, to some extent, selecting poems (though Western scholars are skeptical of the tradition that says Confucius compiled the Book of Odes, that was the tradition), selecting a canon of classics, and advising as to order of study. But that’s not ranking people on the basis of their texts. The Confucian state tradition ranks new officials on the basis of their texts (exam papers), but on the basis of a direct review of quality. (Might there have been on a board some reviewers whose OK counted for more on the grounds of being given to fewer? Seems unlikely!)

    Confucius in the Analects is in favor of consulting people even if they are ranked below oneself in one way or another, but that seems to be an ameliorative rather than a model virtue.

    So a concern with the ranking of journals for tenure purposes doesn’t seem out of harmony with Confucianism. But I think Confucianism would rank journals by quality (as judged by the in-group or great masters) rather than by rejection rates.

    But Confucianism’s interest in ranking doesn’t seem to be shared by Confucianism’s western fans. And Daoism is another kettle of fish.

    Comment by Bill H | December 31, 2009 | Reply

  11. JCP and PEW both publish about 600-700 pages a year. Can’t we explain the lower acceptance rates at PEW as (partly) stemming from the fact that they must get a lot more submissions than JCP? JCP specializes in Chinese philosophy,
    whereas PEW publishes papers in Indian, Japanese, South Asian, etc. Isn’t that right? If so, it seems safe to assume that they get many more submissions than JCP. Just a thought. (Sorry to be so late to the discussion.)

    Comment by hagop sarkissian | February 7, 2010 | Reply

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