I’m interested in when it’s legitimate to request that a journal reconsider a manuscript that it has rejected. In particular, I’d be curious when it’s appropriate to resubmit a manuscript indicating that you feel the manuscript was not read with sufficient care.
Since this is motivated by my own recent experience, I’ll give a general picture of the situation in question (details concealed to protect the innocent). But I sense that this occurs from time to time within philosophy, so perhaps others will find this discussion beneficial.
In the manuscript in question, I argue that although a certain prominent and long dead philosopher S held the following ethical view about X, a more lenient (and more intuitively appealing) view of X can be defended that is broadly consistent with S’s overall ethical theory. Along the way, I argue that other contemporary efforts at defending a more lenient view of X that is consistent with S’s overall ethical theory are either implausible in their own right or violate core tenets of S’s theory. Furthermore, the failures of these contemporary efforts suggest some constraints that an adequately S-like view of X must meet (constraints that my own S-like account of X in fact meets).
The journal in question rejected the manuscript on the grounds that it is too historical for their purposes. This is puzzling. First, the journal sometimes does publish work with a historical focus that is at least as devoted to historical exegesis as is my manuscript. Second, perhaps 15% of the manuscript is historical exegesis, but it’s fairly familiar and uncontroversial historical exegesis, mostly just stage setting for the remainder of the paper. And the remainder of the paper is (in my opinion of course!) chock full of interesting and meaty philosophical arguments.
So my impulse is to write back requesting that the journal reconsider, since it does not appear that the manuscript was read with much care. In particular, the rejecting editor read the paper as if it were essentially a historical paper of the form ‘S’s view about X is often thought to be erroneous, but it isn’t’ when it’s more of the form ‘S’s view about X is erroneous; a number of S’s contemporary partisans have tried and failed to defend a S-like view about X; but here’s a S-like view about X that is not only consistently with the main principles of S’s ethical theory but succeeds precisely where other attempts to defend S’s view have failed.’
Yet I wonder if this is futile: Would a journal even consider this request seriously or is it likely to be perceived as an effort at special pleading on my part? Is it worth writing to the editor explicitly not requesting a reconsideration, but simply pointing out that the paper seemed to have been misread? Has anyone ever succeeded going this route?