Our panel of 91 professional philosophers has responded to

2
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151
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574
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58
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244
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374
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287
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Question of the Day

Einstein gets credit for relativity, but (in spite of his having been a patent clerk) not a patent. Not all innovations are patentable, and in the sciences, philosophy, history... this is a very good thing. If something is patented, then others typically have to pay to use it. That’s not what we want for scientific or philosophical ideas.

What you seem more concerned about is credit, and there the answer is usually straightforward. The person who publishes the idea first generally gets credit. What credit means is just that it will be acknowledged by others that the person getting the credit is the originator of the idea.

But remember that few ideas are thoroughly original, that sometimes a larger idea can be “in the air,” so to speak, with more than one person coming up with a version, and that even if Jo Blow gets “credit,” that doesn’t mean her contribution will end up being the most important; how others develop the idea may be what ends up mattering most.

If you think you have an original philosophical idea, the general advice would be to try getting it published in a philosophy journal. But be warned: the process of getting something accepted for publication is very rigorous. Among other things, the referees will ask themselves whether what you’re saying actually is a new contribution (and trust me: there’s a good chance that it isn’t.) They will also go over the arguments for your thesis with a fine-tooth comb. And they will pay close attention to whether your article makes appropriate contact with the larger philosophical literature. There’s a reason why most published philosophy is written by people who spent years learning their craft.