PEA Soup was founded as a place where people would try out new ideas, posting about an idea for a paper and not a completed, fully armored, paper. We don’t want to discourage discussion of completed work. Indeed, we have partnered with many great journals, whose recently published papers are commented on and discussed here at quite a sophisticated level. We love those discussions. But we miss and feel the need to especially encourage the more half-assed posts about papers that are still just a twinkle in the author’s eye.
It seems clear that three things help explain the drying up of the unguarded, exploratory posts that used to be the Soup’s bread and butter, if you will. First, Facebook happened. Now people informally try out ideas with their friends on Facebook and this, we fear, feels like a more low stakes way of testing the waters. Second, our friends (and our friends of friends) who have joined PEA Soup have aged and become more decrepit, er, we mean reputable. And perhaps, as a result, a little less adventurous and willing to try out publicly ideas that have not been vetted by those we let see our warts. For a while now we have resisted adding new contributors out of fear that there would be too much posting. We have now decided that that fear was misguided and will again be open to inviting new contributors. Third, Soup itself has perhaps become somewhat reputable and now feels like a more high-stakes venue to post on than it once did. Consequently, younger folks likely feel rather intimidated about posting what they view as less-than-stellar ideas or comments.
While the rise of Facebook has much to be said for it (just consider all the adorable pix of Shoe’s grandkids!), we see a downside as well. Many philosophers are not on Facebook and so discussions there are missed by many people who would otherwise be interested in thinking along with one. This seems to us especially troubling when general issues about the profession, such as the recent discussions about the PGR, take place primarily out of earshot of most of the profession.
There are too few venues where we can quickly get feedback from the profession at large of our nascent ideas. Such feedback can be vital—saving us months of toil working on a hopeless idea or pointing us to key literature or shaping our paper early on so as to deal with key concerns. We philosophers are a bit reluctant to expose our ideas to the well honed critical skillz of our fellows before we are sure the howlers are mostly eliminated. But this seems to us something to bemoan and try to overcome. Something akin to an unwillingness to show the doctor where it hurts.
We would like PEA Soup to once again be part of the solution to this problem. We strongly encourage people to post about ideas they have in areas where they have not yet read widely, or they are unsure how promising some new idea is, or they have not yet thought through all the endless ramifications of their idea. Let us hear your provocative idea before it is hedged beyond all recognition. Let us hear that harebrained thought experiment you thought up over beers last weekend. Let us hear that cool idea you shelved because you didn’t have the time to survey all the relevant literature. Let us celebrate the kind-of-thought-through, the considered-sort-of-closely, the this-could-be-good-maybe. Let us celebrate the half-assed!