Reviewers Assigned Redux

14 June 2018

I noticed to-day that, while the reported status of my paper on probability remains Reviewers Assigned, the date for the status has been changed from 30 May to 10 June. As the reported status of this paper at this journal has proved unreliable, and as I found the reports of another journal with another paper to be unreliable, I hesitate to make any inferences. None-the-less, I'd guess that one of two things happened, either that the paper really idled again for about eleven days with no reviewers actually assigned until 10 June, or that reviewers were indeed assigned but withdrew and that new reviewers were assigned on 10 June. In either case, I presume that reviewers are now assigned who were not assigned on 30 May.

Reviewers Assigned

1 June 2018

On 30 May (by a European clock), the status of my probability paper became Reviewers Assigned.

I did not check the status from the time that I submitted the revised version until the after-noon of 1 Jun. As I had said, I was not sanguine about the editors regarding my revisions as sufficient; I thought it most probable that I would quickly receive notice by e.mail that my paper were rejected.

The next possible status would be Under Review.

A majority of papers sent to reviewers are unconditionally rejected. For most of the remainder, acceptance is conditioned upon revisions.

Revision

31 May 2018

On 17 May, I received communication from one of the editors of the journal to which, on 20 February, I had sent my paper on qualitative probability. He apologized for the delay, explaining that it were caused by a set of individually small mistakes. He said that, weeks earlier, the editors had reached a decision to request that I revise and resubmit the paper before it were sent to reviewers. They recognized that the set of axiomata had philosophical significance, but felt that the abstract would not attract their readers and that there were not enough philosophical discussion in the exposition of the paper.

I wasn't sure whether I could rewrite the paper sufficiently to get their acceptance without unbearably compromising the mission of the paper. I spent the better part of two days pondering the matter, then saw a plan of revision that I would be willing to effect and that they might find satisfactory.

The major share of the revision was to the introductory section. I pulled content from elsewhere in the paper and put it in that section, so that readers would know more of whither the paper would go. I added material that I think to be over-explanation, but from the reading of which some readers would probably benefit. Additionally, I made what were plainly major improvements to the paragraph on intervals as such. I made various other changes through-out the article.

I do not know that the editors will find these changes sufficient. I think that a major issue is that I see discussion of the formal structure of reason as philosophy, whereäs plainly some academic philosophers do not. In a revision cover-letter, I noted that the axiomata were explicitly justified in the paper as conforming to principles that hold in formal systems across all major interpretations of probability, with the exception of one principle whose justification were labored, and that were I to explain how each interpretation would justify each principle used as an axiom, then the work would mushroom to the size of a book, and its principal contributions would be swamped.

I resubmitted the article. It was quickly returned with a request that it not be submitted in PDF but in LAΤΕΧ mark-up or as a Microsoft Word .DOC. (That demand was probably an artefact of how all revisions are handled, rather than indicating that the revision were considered to be sufficient for the article to be sent to reviewers.) I had composed and entered the article using LyX, a WYSIWYM editor that uses LAΤΕΧ programs for final rendering (and converting the document to Word format would be a dreadful process because of the formulæ). But I had to modify things so that the publisher's own programs could successfully process my files. I spent a considerable amount of time figuring-out what modifications to make. At one point, I bobbled the process, but was rescued by the JEO assistant effecting a reset so that I could begin anew. I completed the resubmission at 03:50 on 30 May.

I am not sanguine about my revisions being considered sufficient. I have one more philosophy journal in-mind, after which I must consider submitting to a journal of a different sort.

If rejection does not come swiftly, then within a very few days I will return to work on my next paper, which is to combine the logic of preference and the logic of plausibility, each allowing incomplete preörderings, into a general theory of decision making.

Into the Twelfth Week

12 May 2018

The reported status of my probability paper has remained Editor Assigned for more that eleven weeks now. I have sent a message to the Journals Editorial Office, requesting precise information on the actual status of the paper.


Up-Date:

The reply that I received from the Journals Editorial Office was that the editor had my manuscript and I would be informed of a decision after it had been reviewed. I responded that this were not a proper answer, and explained that I would not be so patient as I had been when a Springer journal had been slow and uncommunicative about a previous paper.

If I do not receive a proper answer by Tuesday morning and the reported status remains unchanged, then I will attempt to write directly to the editor. Right now, there seems a substantially greater probability that I will soon inform the journal that my paper is no longer available for their consideration.

Up-Date (2018:05/14):

I received a more informative answer from the Journals Editorial Office early this morning. They reported that the paper were still being evaluated by the editor, and that the search for reviewers had not been begun.

It is disgraceful if the editor truly hasn't completed his own evaluation after the passage of so much time. Editors have many papers at which to look, but still it is the norm for them to have evaluated any given paper within one month. My paper is challenging, but not so challenging as to justify taking more than twice the standard amount of time.

I am trying to decided when to withdraw the paper from their consideration if I have not been told that reviewers are assigned or at least that a search for reviewers is underway. I do not think that there is any constructive use in issuing an ultimatum; that would almost surely result in a quick rejection. So I think that I need simply to decide for myself at what point to contact them and tell them that the paper is no longer available to them.

Into the Eleventh Week

5 May 2018

The status of my paper on probability has remained at Editor Assigned for more than ten weeks. I console myself with two thoughts.

First and foremost is that I have made improvements to the paper during this time, and even recently, so that it will be a better article if-and-when it is published than it would have been had it quickly been accepted.

Second is that, as I have noted elsewhere, the delay suggests that the reviewers for the journal in question take their responsibilities seriously. It would be fairly easy to look through almost any paper and make a few carping demands without really understanding whether the work were any good.

Again, it is possible for a paper to be rejected because reviewers have not been found. And most papers that are reviewed are rejected.

On Cruelty and Weakness

26 April 2018

Everyone first becomes aware of suffering in the form of his or her own hurt. Further, each of us discovers that others have a power over us in an ability to injure us. And, from the very early childhoods of most people, pain was often used by those who also routinely exercised various other powers over them. Thus, many people associate infliction of distress not merely with the exercise of power of a particular sort, but with strength more generally.

However, exactly because dispensation of suffering is associated with strength, those who feel vulnerable or ineffectual have an increased propensity to attempt cruelty, as if cruelty would make them less vulnerable and more effectual. Indeed, an active desire to cause distress almost always comes from a felt sense of weakness.

That's not to say that injurious acts are always motivated by a sense of impotence. Hurtful actions — even hurtful actions that are deliberate actions — are not always characterized either by indifference to injury or by drawing satisfaction from that injury. Sometimes the action may be deliberate yet the agent genuinely unaware of the consequent suffering; in other cases, he or she may regard the hurt as a regrettable cost that none-the-less should be paid (as in a case of a painful medical procedure to prevent or to correct a still greater problem). And I don't assert that acts of cruel indifference almost always come from a sense of weakness; indifference does not proceed from felt need. Rather, I refer to acts driven by a desire to inflict suffering as such (including of course cases in which indifference is feigned).

In the sense that one cannot do what one greatly wishes to do, almost everyone will at times feel weak. Many of us will at one interval or another believe ourselves unable to do something that people normally seem able to do. Further, most or all of us will on various occasions regard the contrary choices of some other person or persons as what prevent us from doing what we very much wish. In this last case, that other person or those other people are perceived to be, at the margin, the source of the sense of weakness, and thus an urge to be cruel (and thereby to feel stronger) is likely to be directed at them. But if such people are in some way out of reach, or if the sense of weakness derives from other circumstances, then some other person — a target of opportunity — may be made the contemplated focus of attempted cruelty with some spurious rationalization.

While a desire to be hurtful almost always comes from a sense of weakness, a sense of weakness doesn't always provoke an urge to be hurtful, nor do people who from weakness feel such impulses always choose to act upon those desires. A person may be crushed beyond any action, or may see no opportunity to lash-out. But another person may reject cruelty that he or she could see within reach. It is possible to recognize a sense of weakness behind one's own desire to be cruel. It is possible to realize that cruelty will not make one any stronger; to see that cruelty is a confession of weakness; and to decide that, if a confession should be made, then there would be better ways to make it than through acts of cruelty. It is sometimes possible even to be conscious of a sense of weakness before it produces an urge to be cruel, and to consider what would be a reasonable response to that sense. The more practice that one has in finding rational alternatives to cruelty, the less one feels the impulse to be cruel even at the outset. To some extent, one can grow beyond that urge.

And, when one encounters cruelty from others, one can look for its source in some sense of weakness on their parts. Perhaps their cruelty will be forgiveable; perhaps it will not; but it will almost always be understandable. And any response to cruelty will be more assuredly appropriate if the motivation for the cruelty is understood.

Technical Difficulties

14 April 2018

Readers may have noticed some technical problems with this 'blog over the previous few days. I believe that the problems are resolved.

Recently, browsers have become concerned to warn users when they are dealing with sites that do not support encryption. Simply so as not to worry my visitors, I have tried to support the HTTPS protocol.

But I found that WordPress was still delivering some things with the less secure HTTP protocol, which in turn was provoking the Opera browser to issue warnings. At the WordPress site, I learned that I needed to modify two fields.

Unfortunately, changing these two fields broke my theme — my presentation software — so that fall-back text, rather than the title graphic, was sometimes displayed; but I didn't discover the breakage for a while, because the symptom wasn't always present. Ultimately, I realized that something were amiss. I tracked the problem to inconsistencies in how WordPress determines the protocol of the URI of the 'blog versus that of the directory holding the themes.

I recoded my theme to handle this inconsistency. (In the process of this recoding, my 'blog was made still more dysfunctional over several brief intervals.) My code is now sufficiently robust that it should not break if WordPress is made consistent in these determinations.

More than Six Weeks

7 April 2018

My paper on qualitative probability has been in the submission queue of the same journal for more than six weeks now. The status of the paper has been listed as Editor Assigned since 23 February (by a European clock). The management system does not report when the handling editor begins seeking reviewers, but it would only be under unusual and rather scandalous circumstances that a paper would have been in the queue for this length of time without a search for reviewers having begun. Reviewers are normally found within four to six weeks of the handling editor being assigned; the editor is probably struggling to find reviewers for my paper.

I have read of a paper being rejected by a journal after about two months, ostensibly because the editor were unable to find reviewers; but most editors do not give-up within that span. I have also read of a paper accepted because reviewers could not be found, but I think that most editors would regard such a decision as inappropriate.

I have been doing some work on the next paper in the programme. Mostly, I have been researching the history of an approach that I want to reject, which history should inform the introduction of my paper.

Three Weeks and Counting

16 March 2018

The journal to which I submitted my paper on qualitative probability on 20 February has multiple editors. On 23 February (by a European clock) it was listed as assigned to one. Since then, the listing has remained unchanged; unless it receives a desk rejection (Editor has a decision), the next classification will be Reviewers Assigned, to be followed by Under Review.

It is not impossible that it should be given a desk rejection even after more than three weeks in the hands of an editor, but I think that such a rejection is unlikely. The editor seems to have read or be reading the paper, and to have recognized that it indeed is properly submitted to a journal concerned with philosophy of science, unlike the editor at the first journal to which I submitted it.

It is fairly common for it to take a month or a bit more to find reviewers. It may be harder to find reviewers for my paper than it would be to find reviewers for a typical submission.

Policy Paralogism

22 February 2018

Confronted with a real or imagined social problem, most people first grab for an ostensible solution that appeals to their prejudices, and then for an argument (in favor of this policy) that seems plausible to them. That approach is not ideal, but might still result in good policy if people would poke at each such argument, to see whether it were actually logical, and move away from proposed solutions in cases in which none of the arguments withstood examination. Unfortunately, people don't generally test their arguments; words strung together in emotionally satisfying ways are embraced as if any reasonable person would accept them.

I came upon an epitomal example of this behavior, in the wake of a recent mass shooting at a school. Someone posted a graphic macro suggesting how guns might be treated analogously to motor vehicles and and declared

Let’s go through this one more time…maybe they will get it. And yes, people will obtain guns illegally. And yes, people kill people. But doing nothing means more die.

(Underscore mine.) Now, there are various problems with the suggestion that guns should be treated analogously to motor vehicles, and perhaps someday I'll labor all that occur to me. But here I want to focus on that assertion doing nothing means more die. To the poster, it apparently seems that any reasonable person would accept that this assertion is an argument for the policy that he favors. Let's poke at this use, to see whether it is actually logical.

It is surely true that if we do nothing different, then people who have not yet died will die, and in this sense more will die. But, as a matter of logic, that doesn't mean that there is something that we can do such that people would not die, or even that fewer would die. If we somehow had an optimal social policy, and found that people died, we could still say that if we did nothing different then people would die. So, one question that we might ask is of whether a change in social policy would cause fewer or more people to die.

And I'm not simply talking about whether a change in social policy would cause fewer or more people to die at the hands of shooters who are not state officials, or even about the more general question of whether a change in policy would cause fewer or more people to to die at the hands of shooters of all sorts, but about the question of whether the change in policy would result in fewer or in more deaths across all causes. For example, a policy change might lead to greater use of IEDs. (The deadliest mass murder at a school in American history was effected by a bomb.) The answer is not known a priori.

There is also the issue of other costs. For example, some jurisdictions have a lower rate per capita of homicide, but a higher rate of rape. One doesn't want to switch from one set of policies to another simply on the basis that if we do nothing then more will be raped, and likewise one doesn't want to switch from one set of policies to another simply on the basis that if we do nothing then more will die. I don't think that any utilitarian calculus is actually reasonable, but one that simply counts lives is plainly inhumane. And it would be childlike to think and childish to insist that, with some set of policies, the global minimum for each costs could be achieved simultaneous to that for every other, let alone that such a fantastic minimum could be found by first finding the local minimum for one cost and then seeking the local minimum for another.

The poster has presented an example from just one class of policies, and declared doing nothing means more die. Plainly, there are other possible policy responses, so that the relevant comparison is not simply between adopting the policy that he favors and maintaining the status quo.

Moreover, if his argument were adapted to the defense of other policies, he and others might be provoked to examine that argument more carefully. His words might be left essentially unchanged, but the macro replaced with one discussing a policy of a different sort. For example, someone might propose that each person above the age of 10 years old be interned in a mental-health camp, until and unless experts appointed by the state certified that he or she was not a danger to society. I'd like to think that, if the original poster had earlier seen the very same words used in defense of an internment policy, then he would have immediately poked at the argument to find the illogic. I'm quite sure that most people who applauded or would have applauded his words in the context in which he did use them would have found their illogic in the context of an argument for rounding-up American youth and throwing them into camps. Well, they should have poked at the argument where they actually found it.