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Volume 51 • Number 3

July 2014



Growing Pains

From the Executive Editor

The Directory of American Philosophers listed some 11,000 academic philosophers in the United States and Canada for 1975, and roughly 13,000 for 2005. It appears that the profession grew by somewhat under 20 percent during this thirty-year, generation-sized period. On the other hand, the membership of the American Philosophical Association (APA) grew from roughly 5,000 to around 11,000 over the same period. A time where around half of the profession belonged to the APA gave way to a time where almost 90 percent did so.

Interestingly, the scholarly output of the profession has far outstripped its numerical growth. Over the period from 1975 to 2005, the number of professional journals increased from approximately 100 to approximately 300. And the number of philosophical publications (books and papers) increased from just over 5,000 to about 12,000. Over the period at issue, a profession that has grown by only some 20 percent has increased its published output well over twofold. Under the pressure to "publish or perish," the productivity of academics has seen a striking increase. By all visible indications, academic philosophy has become not only more professionalized but also substantially more professional.

But while all this is doubtless to the good, it has its negative side as well. For, perhaps inevitably, the growth in professionalism has been accompanied by a marked increase in specialization and division of labor. During this 1975–2005 period, the number of thematically specialized philosophical societies in America increased from around 50 to around 90. The discipline's topical fragmentation has kept pace with publication, and thereby far outpaced its population growth.

The proliferation of academic philosophers has served to impede rather than promote the sharing of common interests. Ironically, when philosophers look for discussion partners for sharing their own concerns with colleagues, the fragmentation of an enlarged profession affords them fewer rather than more opportunities.

Nicholas Rescher, Executive Editor


1. Data from the Directory of American Philosophers.

2. Data from The Philosopher's Index.

3. Data from the Directory of American Philosophers.



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ISSN: 2152-1123