Bait and switch papers

Resolution: I will no longer attend talks without seeing at least an abstract beforehand unless I know the speaker’s current (not past, not even recent) work well enough to predict its subject matter. This is true no matter how interesting the paper title is.

Philosophy talks are particularly bad about this. I shiver to even count the number of philosophy talks I’ve gone to where the title seems to promise a sustained engagement with some interesting topic, but it turns out to really be another cookie-cutter talk in philosophy of action, metaethics, or undifferentiated drivel about intentional states. Papers with titles that represent that they will be talking about the interaction between issues raised by some other, interesting topic (like, say, evolution) and one of those three boring (to me) topics invariably devote one uninteresting and/or unreflective paragraph to the interesting topic, perhaps as the premise in an objection that could do without the appeal to said topic, sometimes repeating the same point about it over and over, then proceed to go on about the boring topic with no serious reference to or analysis of the issues raised by the interesting alleged topic (coinage: fauxpic?) whatsoever for the entire rest of the time, that is, at least 73 subjective weeks per talk, as I contemplate faking going into labor to confuse people long enough to make an exit. This appears to be true even of quite brilliant and admirable scholars.


4 Responses to “Bait and switch papers”

  1. homais Says:

    Augh! I’ve sat through enough of those for one career. Famous political theorists coming through my school have been about as bad about this as the philosophers you mention. “Funky and interesting problem” somehow keeps turning into “kicking a very dead horse”

    Basically, pick your unresolvable pure-theory debate from our dear subfield, and rest assured, papers that promise to use some interesting topic to provide new leverage about the debate actually just rehash the debate.

    So, since you’re apparently in a game theory mood tonight, can you think of creative ways to, umm, incentivize people (particularly famous political theorists) to avoid the bait and switch?

  2. Paul Gowder Says:

    Electric shocks? (Although Dictator Paul would also impose those for the use of “incentivize.” :-) )

    “Luck egalitarianism”

  3. Steve M. Says:

    Next conference paper:

    “‘The Really #&@%ing Hurts!’ ‘I know, Listening to You Did Really #&@%ing Hurt.” — The Ethics of Deterring Conduct Our Glorious Leader Finds Annoying by Immediate Administration of Electric Shocks.”

  4. Paul Gowder Says:

    A very short paper. “Yes.”

Leave a Comment