2.77 Frankfurt Cases

Category: Ethics/Aesthetics

Keywords: jones, fischer, pretense, smith, blame, fictional, inwagen, frankfurt, fiction, luck, sam, brown, ignorance, responsible, abilities

Number of Articles: 245
Percentage of Total: 0.8%
Rank: 65th

Weighted Number of Articles: 221.6
Percentage of Total: 0.7%
Rank: 75th

Mean Publication Year: 1991.6
Weighted Mean Publication Year: 1985.9
Median Publication Year: 1996
Modal Publication Year: 2008

Topic with Most Overlap: Arguments (0.0499)
Topic this Overlaps Most With: Arguments (0.0204)
Topic with Least Overlap: Liberal Democracy (0.00031)
Topic this Overlaps Least With: Analytic/Synthetic (0.00045)

A scatterplot showing which proportion of articles each year are in the Frankfurt casestopic. 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 2008 when 2.2% of articles were in this topic. The lowest value is in 1885 when 0.0% of articles were in this topic. The full table that provides the data for this graph is available in Table A.77 in Appendix A.

Figure 2.178: Frankfurt cases.

A set of twelve scatterplots showing the proportion of articles in each journal in each year that are in the Frankfurt Casestopic. 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 - 0.4%. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society - 0.4%. Ethics - 0.6%. Philosophical Review - 0.7%. Analysis - 1.6%. Philosophy and Public Affairs - 0.4%. Journal of Philosophy - 0.7%. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research - 0.8%. Philosophy of Science - 0.1%. Noûs - 1.1%. The Philosophical Quarterly - 0.9%. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science - 0.2%. The topic reaches its zenith in year 2008 when it makes up, on average across the journals, 2.3% of the articles. And it hits a minimum in year 1885 when it makes up, on average across the journals, 0.0% of the articles.

Figure 2.179: Frankfurt cases articles in each journal.

Table 2.189: Characteristic articles of the Frankfurt cases topic.
Table 2.190: Highly cited articles in the Frankfurt cases topic.


Harry Frankfurt’s article “Alternate Possibilities and Moral Responsibility” had as much impact on the trajectory of the journals as any other article in the data set.

It essentially launched a new topic, the one seen here. Now there would always have been a free-will topic—that’s a perennial philosophical concern—but Frankfurt’s work meant that there was a detectable new topic about the issues Frankfurt’s examples raised.

And it ensured that subsequent work on free will would be in ethics, not metaphysics. When I was an undergraduate, free will was covered in the metaphysics unit of intro, not the ethics unit. I suspect that was because free will was associated with possibility, and possibility is a paradigmatically metaphysical topic. But Frankfurt showed that possibility had less to do with moral responsibility than previously thought. And once that happened, it was clear that free will was more tightly tied to the moral notion (responsibility) than the metaphysical notion (possibility). This results in a topic that is naturally placed in ethics, and indeed was largely discussed in Ethics.

The model, however, does two other odd things here. One is that it puts Gettier’s paper in this topic. I think it got thrown by the word ‘jones’. The other is that it put a whole bunch of work on philosopy of fiction in here as well. Fiction turned out to be a tricky topic for models; on different runs it turned up in all sorts of different places. Here it goes with Frankfurt cases, so strictly speaking this is a disjunctive topic. But after looking at what the articles are about, it’s something like an eighty-twenty split in favor of Frankfurt case articles. So that’s how I’m identifying the topic.