2.3 Life and Value

Category: Social and Political

Keywords: living, life, human, spiritual, bergson, intelligence, beings, live, personality, men, creative, spirit, highest, ideals, intellectual

Number of Articles: 579
Percentage of Total: 1.8%
Rank: 5th

Weighted Number of Articles: 673.2
Percentage of Total: 2.1%
Rank: 4th

Mean Publication Year: 1932.7
Weighted Mean Publication Year: 1944.2
Median Publication Year: 1932
Modal Publication Year: 1942

Topic with Most Overlap: Idealism (0.063)
Topic this Overlaps Most With: History and Culture (0.0515)
Topic with Least Overlap: Formal Epistemology (0.00014)
Topic this Overlaps Least With: Truth (0.0011)

A scatterplot showing which proportion of articles each year are in the life and valuetopic. The x-axis shows the year, the y-axis measures the proportion of articles each year in this topic. There is one dot per year. The highest value is in 1921 when 9.9% of articles were in this topic. The lowest value is in 2007 when 0.3% of articles were in this topic. The full table that provides the data for this graph is available in Table A.3 in Appendix A.

Figure 2.8: Life and value.

A set of twelve scatterplots showing the proportion of articles in each journal in each year that are in the Life and Valuetopic. There is one scatterplot for each of the twelve journals that are the focus of this book. In each scatterplot, the x-axis is the year, and the y-axis is the proportion of articles in that year in that journal in this topic. Here are the average values for each of the twelve scatterplots - these tell you on average how much of the journal is dedicated to this topic. Mind - 2.2%. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society - 3.4%. Ethics - 4.5%. Philosophical Review - 4.2%. Analysis - 0.4%. Philosophy and Public Affairs - 1.4%. Journal of Philosophy - 2.7%. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research - 2.3%. Philosophy of Science - 1.2%. Noûs - 0.5%. The Philosophical Quarterly - 1.1%. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science - 0.6%. The topic reaches its zenith in year 1913 when it makes up, on average across the journals, 9.6% of the articles. And it hits a minimum in year 2007 when it makes up, on average across the journals, 0.4% of the articles.

Figure 2.9: Life and value articles in each journal.

Table 2.9: Characteristic articles of the life and value topic.
Table 2.10: Highly cited articles in the life and value topic.


I was very tempted to call this idealist ethics. It does, at first glance, seem to just be the ethics papers of the idealism section. But this would be misleading for a few reasons. For one thing, the idealism topic includes a nontrivial amount of ethics. For another, it’s sort of more like social and political philosophy than ethics. For another, this includes some philosophers who are very much not idealists, such as Margaret MacDonald.

MacDonald is an important figure in the story of these twelve journals. Her notes made up a large part of Wittgenstein’s Lectures, Cambridge, 1932-1935 (Wittgenstein, Ambrose, and MacDonald 2001). She was a founder of, and the second editor of, Analysis. And she read a very important paper on natural rights to the Aristotelian Society in 1947 (MacDonald 1947). MacDonald is usually read as a critic of the notion of natural rights, though she might not have agreed with that formulation.

But note that while MacDonald is no idealist, and her paper is in this topic, it isn’t particularly firmly in the topic. The model only gives it a probability of being in this topic of about 19.6 percent. So let’s see where else it thinks MacDonald’s paper might go. I’m going to present tables like the following for a number of papers in what follows. Although the model gives a nonzero chance to every paper being in each of the topics, the tables are going to be cut off at 2 percent. Sometimes that will make for a short table, especially when the model is quite confident in its assessment. Other times, there will be a much longer list of topics.

Table 2.11: Margaret Macdonald, “Natural Rights.”
Subject Probability
Life and value 0.1959
Social contract theory 0.1479
Duties 0.1346
Marx 0.0512
Ordinary language 0.0474
Laws 0.0459
Verification 0.0435
Value 0.0375
Decision theory 0.0344
Freedom and free will 0.0339
Liberal democracy 0.0321
Propositions and implications 0.0293
Crime and punishment 0.0257
Meaning and use 0.0240
Ontological argument 0.0216
Egalitarianism 0.0206

That’s a sign that the model doesn’t really know what to do with the paper. It’s obviously a paper on normative philosophy, broadly construed. And MacDonald is sympathetic to both ordinary language philosophy and verificationism, so both of those topics turn up. But the model is really rather unsure which normative topic to place the paper in. That’s fine; ninety topics is a lot, but it’s still too few to capture all the nuances of philosophy.

The common thread in this topic is that although it’s rather large, most of the articles that the model confidently places in it are by people who are very much not household names nowadays.