The Open Handbook of Formal Epistemology

Today The Open Handbook of Formal Epistemology is available for download. It’s an open access book, the first published by PhilPapers itself. (The editors are Richard Pettigrew and me.)

The book features 11 outstanding entries by 11 wonderful philosophers.

We wanted to include lots more, but didn’t want to hold up publication any longer. Hopefully a second edition will cover more.

For me personally, a central aim of this project was to demonstrate a point about open access publishing and shared standards. The budget for this book was exactly $0.00, and this was only possible because we didn’t need a human typesetter.

Pretty much everyone in formal epistemology uses the same, standardized format to do their writing. And that format plugs in to a high-quality, freely available typesetting program. So all you have to do to turn a dozen contributions from different authors into a unified book is paste them into a template and click “typeset”.

Ok, it did actually take some noodling to iron out the kinks. But mainly just because of my poor planning. Having done it once now and learned the gotchas, a second go would come pretty close to the copy→paste→typeset dream.

So for me, the moral is that philosophers in general should settle on a similar standard (all academics, really). If we did, we’d have a lot more freedom from commercial publishers. We could publish open access books like this on the regular. The books would be freely and easily available to all, and authors would retain copyright.

Collective action problems plague academia, and philosophical publishing in particular. But this one’s about as close to an opportunity for a major Pareto improvement as we’re likely to get.