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My question is very simple: what are the chances one can get a philosophy book (in the tradition of continental philosophy) published and delivered to a wide audience if one does not hold any degrees/certificates in philosophy? What are the chances they/their work will be dismissed and not even read or even rejected? Can you be a successful writer if you do not hold a degree in philosophy but are passionate enough to write a book and you are an avid philosophy reader?

My question is general and can be answered from many different angles, however I mainly want to know about the tendency of academia, the public, readers, and other philosophers in general attacking such a writer and rejecting him as a philosopher!

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    Very slim. The majority of people who have been doing professional philosophy for decades have no recognition outside of their peers. This isn't because their work is bad, it's because the general public only cares about the best work out there, if they care at all. If you're trying to reach a broad audience they won't care because you aren't a professional who is famous for coming up with some novel idea. Publishers already get bombarded with work from over qualified professionals and have to turn a lot of it down due to low demand, it would take your work being extremely novel to get noticed – Not_Here Jan 2 '17 at 11:24
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    If what you care about is furthering knowledge and producing good philosophy my advice to you is start a blog or a YouTube channel. There are tons of people who do are into those markets and there are a lot of very active communities that follow those types of outlets. You haven't done professional philosophy so you really have no idea how rigorous real philosophical writing is, putting yourself out there to these communities will give you a lot of feed back on the style and quality of your work and might result in a reality check about your ideas which will help you further improve them. – Not_Here Jan 2 '17 at 11:32
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    Nothing is stopping you from getting your ideas out there if that's what you want to do! The Internet is a vast place and there's room for almost anything. In regards to being publish, however, philosophy, like any other professional writing, is peer reviewed. It helps control for content, helps makes sure the ideas are well founded, and helps identify where weaknesses are. It's very difficult to get peer reviewed when you don't have an academic background. Without having that experience you really have no idea how many people think they have a good idea which turns out to be a really bad idea – Not_Here Jan 2 '17 at 11:52
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    @Not_Here I've community-wiki'd an answer that pretty much agrees with what you're saying. – virmaior Jan 2 '17 at 12:17
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    Just do your own thing. Why do you care about this if you value your philosophy. Unless you're in it for something else like fame money etc – user24971 Jan 3 '17 at 1:59
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There's several different problems that make the odds of the outcome you want very slim. First, let's split your question into pieces.

Part 1 - Widely Received Philosophy Book

What are the chances one can get a philosophy book (in the tradition of continental philosophy) published and delivered to a wide audience if one does not hold any degrees/certificates in philosophy?

Very few philosophy books are widely received in the English speaking world. I gather there's more of a chance of that in France and Spain, but I'm not super well aware of who and what. In other words, philosophy in the English-speaking world rarely amounts to celebrity.

Note also that most of the philosophers in France et al. that enjoy public celebrity had at least the education and possibly a position at one of the more prestigious universities (this is true of Sartre, Foucault, Derrida, Deluze, Blanchot, Levinas).

Part 2 - What will philosophers think of it

What are the chances they/their work will be dismissed and not even read or even rejected?

Here, (perhaps mistakenly), I will take this to mean what are the chances philosophers in the English speaking world will find the work serious?

I think the answer is basically nil. Having studied with some of the better respected continental philosophy scholars in the English-speaking world, I can tell you the field for original continental philosophy in English basically does not exist. The number of really famous continental philosophers is quite small (Foucault, Derrida, Deluze, Heidegger, Habermas, Gadamer, Levinas ... ). n.b. Zizek is not really that well-regarded even by continental philosophers.

Moreover, much of their work isn't even respected by most English-speaking philosophers. You can find condemnations of it as junk through the internet.

A second aspect is that you're probably going to not even get to full peer review without some formal training in philosophy. (What do I mean by full peer review? See all of these). Most likely, you'd get desk-rejected by the editor when they read you abstract. The reason is that (regardless of its virtues and demerits) if you're self-studied, you won't be used to the normal styles of philosophical writing.

If we move away from the English speaking world, the odds that you will receive acclaim from philosophers there are slim. Most academic circles are entrenched fiefdoms which have little incentive to become devotees of things that are not published by other philosophers they know. (For instance, a research center on Hegel and German Idealism is not going to suddenly abandon Hegel research and German idealism).

Here's an example: this guy paid a professional philosopher $1000 to review his book and the reviewer says his book is unimpressive junk.

Part 3 - Writing Success

Can you be a successful writer if you do not hold a degree in philosophy but are passionate enough to write a book and you are an avid philosophy reader?

If we separate this from "widely received" and "accepted by the philosophical community", then I think if you write in the right way and in a certain popular style, you could potentially write something (not specifically considered academic philosophy) that gets well-read enough for you to have a career, but you'd really have to ask writers.SE or some other context.

Part 4 - WHY?

Simply put, there's no money in academic philosophy and little fame to go around. Few outside of philosophy read contemporary philosophers. And usually they-1 are reading this because they-1 too are contemporary philosophers or work in a cognate field (law, cognitive science, psychology, social sciences).

For academic publications, you generally get a free copy of the book and no money. A good print run is measured in the thousands of volumes. Tens of thousands is huge.

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    @Fryd: It is not that I (and I think that I can include virmaior here) do like this. It is just describing reality. I guess about 90% of contemporary philosophy is published in peer-reviewed journals. Do you have access to these? Have you read thousands and thousands of pages in this style? Sorry, but Heidegger, Nietzsche and Deleuze isn't "normal styles of (read: contemporary) philosophical writing". And currently residing in the UK, I can confirm that the stance towards continental philosophy is...problematic. In general, not including references as new as possible is considered bad style. – Philip Klöcking Jan 2 '17 at 14:24
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    @Fryd Who are you mad at? You asked if it's hard to get an entire book published with "no formal education" and we gave you a completely honest and accurate answer. Reading philosophical texts and actually writing them yourself are two completely different things. I am sure that virmaior meant that you won't be used to writing in the normal styles of philosophical writing. And as Philip Klöcking said, half century old continental writing is not what is accepted today, even in the continental school. You name dropping some of the most famous continental writers does not show your familiarity. – Not_Here Jan 2 '17 at 14:35
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    Yeah, I'm not trying to say you're not used to reading the philosophers you like. But we need to separate three things: (1) reading them by yourself and greatly enjoying and feeling like you're learning, (2) reading them in a class and having to write papers for instructors, and (3) writing about them to get published. Your question is ultimately about (3) which is for better or worse a completely different experience than (1) and a significantly different experience than (2). – virmaior Jan 2 '17 at 15:25
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    To put things in perspective, I (with the education) generally spend 6 months to a year reading background literature to publish 10 to 15 pages in a middling place. Maybe at my fastest, 4 months per one paper. / Books are actually considered easier than peer-reviewed journal papers to publish, so I could try that... – virmaior Jan 2 '17 at 15:26
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    @Fryd This is just my two cents, go ahead write the book you seem to much smarter than any of us here. Only question I would really have is why not go to school? You seem to be able to name drop pretty well, and quote stuff out of a book but think about it this way, would you rather be known as a great Philosophy writer or the crazy guy who rants about the way he thinks the world should be? Take a class or two, it might give you some better insight into your passion and you might learn something. – Anthony Fornito Jan 4 '17 at 19:06
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I've actually done this (self-published), so I can give you the inside answer:

  1. No academic philosopher will respect or even ever read a philosophy book written by someone without formal credentials. There are three reasons for this:

    a) There is a lot of philosophical writing out there, and academic publication through the normal channels is a rigorous vetting process that reduces that down to a more manageable supply. In practice, this is an option only available to actual credentialed academics.

    b) Academic philosophy is heavily embedded in a matrix of previous academic writing. When you write academically, it is expected that you have done exhaustive research to consider and respond to all previously formulated relevant arguments that have been published academically. Almost no one does this who isn't an academic, and it's hard to guess why anyone who does do this wouldn't just go ahead and gain academic credentials.

    c) Academics have spent years of their lives gaining their credentials. It isn't in their best interests to allow others to shortcut the system.

  2. It's rare for anyone to successfully publish a general interest philosophy book, let alone someone with no credentials. Those who do so are most likely experts in some other field, and even then, they are likely to not be well regarded by professional philosophers. For example biologist Richard Dawkins has written a number of best-selling books that are largely philosophical, but his reputation among philosophers is very poor.

    The big issue for the general (non-academic) audience is that most people don't care much about philosophy or understand it. Not many non-academic publishing houses even publish philosophy, and the chances that anyone will pay attention even if you get to print are low. Of course, your task of capturing a general audience would only be marginally easier if you DID have the credentials. The number of contemporary philosophers with bestsellers can be counted on your fingers. With that said, academics can often be very influential, even if they are not widely read.

  3. Most publishers (and readers) won't take a chance on a philosophy book by an unknown author. If you have a PhD in some other field, or if you're a well-known success in some area of life, you might have a shot. But philosophy is difficult to read, and most people don't want to put the effort in to understand the worldview of someone with no visible accomplishments, who might very well be a crank. (I can even prove that: As I mentioned at the top, I have a self-published philosophy book. When you read those words, is your first instinct to ask to read it?)

    The one exception to this is people who are good enough writers to write compelling enough fiction or creative non-fiction that people will publish and/or read them purely for entertainment, with the philosophical content as a bonus (for example, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance or The Alchemist). This is a rare combination of skills, but if you have them, or can gain them, more power to you.

In summary, if you have compelling philosophical ideas that will appeal to a general audience, go for it, but be aware that the odds are heavily stacked against you. Popularizing deep ideas is very difficult, even some of the acknowledged great names were never widely read in their own times. (Personally, I'm considering pursuing an advanced degree, even despite my distaste for academic philosophy, because I do want that academic audience.)

  • All good, Chris, but I think maybe you under-estimate the audience for philosophy. The main thing for me would to avoid writing like a professor. Leave that to them for it is dangerous to think that style can be faked, and it's all too often a painful and not all salutory experience for the reader. – PeterJ Aug 16 '17 at 10:30
  • @PeterJ - Keep in mind, you're talking to someone who has written and attempted to sell multiple philosophy books over the course of the last 20 years. I've also read quite a lot of philosophy books, so I have I a good sense of what has actually made it into print. – Chris Sunami Jan 22 at 19:53
  • Yes, I see you know what you're talking about. But you're speaking about publishers and I feel publishers underestimate the audience for philosophy. Perhaps what you say about The Alchemist bears this out. It's the academic style issue that I was questioning. I don't think this can be faked and so it might be best avoided unless it comes naturally. I understand what you mean about pursuing a degree in order to acquire the style. I did the same in a small way. . – PeterJ Jan 23 at 11:39
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I agree with pretty much everything Virmaior and Chris Sunami said, however I would point out one counter example: Sam Harris. Note that he would fit more into the Analytic tradition than the Continental tradition. He only has a B.A in philosophy (He has a Ph.D in Neuroscience), and apparently no graduate level training in the subjects he writes about.

He has published several widely received philosophical books, and is considered by many an influential figure, even if he is not held in high regard by Academics.

I think the key to his success despite the lack of formal credentials is that he ties his philosophical writing to current affairs and controversial topics such as atheism, religious extremism and terrorism, etc....

So to answer your question: You are facing an uphill battle if you want to get a philosophy book published without being part of the in-crowd, but diving into a hot controversial topic will help. Basically you have to be a "high-brow troll".

  • This is a great answer, but I do want to point out that both he and Delanda ( @ClearMountainWay ) would fit the exception noted in point 2 of my answer, "experts in other fields." – Chris Sunami Feb 14 '17 at 21:09
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Manuel Delanda, author of several books on a diverse variety of topics that are classified as philosophy, gets regularly published, and until recently was not a PhD.

Looking at his bibliography, it appears he started off writing about philosophical topics for the art theory crowd, and after many years of it began to publish his own works, which were always put in the philosophy sections of libraries and book stores (perhaps because he always heavily cited authors like Baudrillard or Deleuze). In more recent years his work has been more centered on philosophy than in the early works, and although I do not see him cited by philosophers much, he does apparently sell, as he's continually published.

So perhaps getting a start in a humanities related field that does not require formal higher education (as a prerequisite to being taken seriously) is a way to do what you desire without a MA/PhD.

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Sounds to me like there's a whole bunch of conformist here and being a true philosopher is to not be a conformist. I believe you should go ahead with your book and not conform to the academic field of thought.

  • Hi, and welcome to philosophy.SE! As written your answer is not a good fit for the site. See here for general guidelines on answering. In terms of specific criticism you necro'd a question that seems to have been settled a while ago for the primary purpose of denigrating the participants. You do not, however, respond to any of their arguments about why it would be so hard to be published and successful. – Canyon Aug 16 '17 at 2:40
  • I know the OP posted some time ago, but in noticing some of the popular philosophy titles at a national bookstore chain near me, it would seem that there are books which try to discuss philosophy with "superheroes", and based on other popular characters/events. The books use these characters to discuss old philosophical themes, at least it appears so from the titles. So with big chains, they are interested in books that sell. I didn't check to see if the writers held a Phd. in philosophy, or a teaching position at a university. I have not looked closely at these books. – Gordon Aug 16 '17 at 9:47
  • @Gordon a decent percentage of the chapters in the pop. culture and philosophy series are written by graduate students, some by PhD holders, and a few by people outside of academic philosophy (usually in another relevant academic discipline). One of the main series is andphilosophy.com edited byhttps://andphilosophy.com/ edited by William Irwin. Another series is edited by Fritz Allhoff – virmaior Aug 16 '17 at 11:10
  • @virmaior I see. Well these type books are certainly popular because I see a lot of younger people looking at them in the bookstore's coffee shop. To be fair to the bookstore chain, they also carry such impenetrable classics as Heidegger's B&T, and Hegel's Phenomenology. It's probably a good thing that these young peeople don't start their browsing with Being & Time, or they might leave the field immediately. – Gordon Aug 16 '17 at 11:40
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After having read the question more than once and the comments, I think the question may not have been clear as to where you were coming from and some of the comments are not as helpful they the authors may think them to be.

The comments have exposed what I can say for certain exists, the arrogance of the academia community. One comment questioned the OP's humility towards academics. But I believe, even as an academic myself, that it's the other way around. Academics can be prideful about others getting success when they didn't take the same route as we did. To some of us it was a short cut, but really self-taught individuals work really hard at what they do, just as academics.

Academics just don't perceive self-taught individuals' work as being just as hard as their work. This can lead to arrogance in some people in the community. I don't believe in undermining the hardship of others' work because they went a different way, especially since I've experienced being self-taught; it is easier in ways to get formal education than to teach yourself. A lot easier.

Oftentimes academics undermine the skill level of someone self-taught, hence I believe was your disagreement with the comment in regards to your ability to write in the "Normal" styles of philosophy (normal was not the best word to use in this context, so I can understand your taking it as you did). It was not about arguing continental Philosophy but questioning a statement made in regard to your skill level.

The problem with this comment is that it assumes a self-taught individual will automatically not have this skill; this is not something that even academics can say for sure unless they have read what the individual has written. There are ways one can develop this skill outside of traditional schooling if they do not possess the skill. If you need to be able to write in this style, this is a skill that one can study in non-traditional ways. So to assume you will be lacking in this area without first accessing the writing is understandably symptomatic and justifies reproof. But the OP clearly stated that they weren't looking to write in a "normal" style. So it's better to go with what you want to write.

I also acknowledge the fact that you were clarifying what it was you wanted to write. So I think sometimes, in giving advice, we need to learn to be more attentive and humble ourselves. I think it was misconstrued that you were arguing when you were simply trying to clarify that you were not looking to work within the academic realm nor that you were looking to impress the academic world with your writing, you just wanted to know how it would be received. This is understandable.

You also expressed that you are not interested in what English-speaking countries would think. So this shows some of the comments had gotten off topic from what you were addressing. However, as was said before, the question was not specific enough, so the authors of the comments gave more generalised comments than what you were really looking for. I think if you had clarified that in your question, the confusion as to what you were trying to get out of the question, could have likely been avoided.

Now that I see what it is you were trying to get out of the question, to some extent Virmaior has good points about your chances of success but not completely accurate (you can look at Alexander S. King's and ClearMountainWay's as proof); but based on your clarification, it was too general. As well as you're not really asking for an assumed analysis of your writing ability or style, so that was a little extra.

The best comments really are by Chris Sunami in regards to your asking about how the academic world would receive the writing, Alexander S. King's counterpoint and ClearMountainWay on those who are successful philosophers and are not experts in philosophy.

I think the best thing you can do is be more specific, think about the audience you want to target, keeping reading and research the style you want to write (structure and may be even language is key). Look for Philosophy groups around you or if you are willing to travel, and have your writings read. One of my favourite writers, Nathaniel Hawthorne, would read and write most of the day. It takes that kind of dedication. Write down the names given here of successful people and study them, look at their process, learn from how they were able to beat the odds.

I'm currently reading a book called "The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership" by John C. Maxwell, which I know appears to be off topic; but one thing I've learned from him is that many of the most successful people were told it was impossible or not likely. They made things happen by looking to other successful people and followed their process. One way was by becoming a leader themselves; Maxwell expresses success is increased when one becomes a strong leader. I think an older example, Socrates, was most likely a great leader.

Surround yourself with the right people and build a relationship of trust, respect, and love. I think this will apply here, no matter how hard it may be; correct mistakes, build relationships with the right people (take respectful and good criticism), and I believe you will most likely become published. I believe many people will read what your philosophy. They may not all agree but you'll have people reading your work.

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    I find it suprising that you turn the content of the comments upside down: It was the OP basically stating that an established academic just hadn't read and understood Heidegger and Nietzsche, and I answered that the academics I know read all the authors he read very thoroughly, i.e. his accusation is wrong and he would know that if he had to make his stand in academic discourse. I myself know very thorough analyses of the flaws in the thought of Nietzsche and Heidegger, e.g. by Karl Löwith. AND e.g. having to read only translations IS a big obstacle in philosophy, if there are any at all. – Philip Klöcking May 24 '17 at 15:49
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    Actually I wasn't addressing who had read what in my statement. I was addressing that based on the comments, it is clear that humility on the part of academia world is questionable. He was told to be humble in regards to the academia world, but is that it is quite clear that the academia world is where humility is in question. Reality is that the academia world is still rather ignorant when it comes to philosophy, but then that's the case with every subject. He clearly stated that wasn't looking to make a stand in academic discourse. I read them in order and understood them in order. – Fala Crow May 24 '17 at 16:16
  • I told him to be humble, yes. In the context of said problem that he raised the general accusation of people just not reading and understanding the authors he read and in general created the impression that he had a deeper, more meaningful understanding of these authors. I never said or tried to say that this cannot be the case, just that it expresses disrespect. Humbleness is imho exactly what academics learn when they are all the time confronted with the fact that others have already thought about that more thoroughly and have better arguments. You need discourse with others for that. – Philip Klöcking May 24 '17 at 17:42
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    Actually I disagree with you. I am speaking in regards to the fact that OP is right in saying that academics are ignorant. Being academic doesn't take away ignorance, it just lessens it. My saying he has point isn't saying that he's not ignorant himself. Simply expressing that regardless of you r opinion, he has a point in that. I didn't find the statement disrespectful but that is your interpretation. I saw it as truth. Academics do not however learn humility through the learning, it is a personal choice. I can say for certain it is not an inherent quality or inseparable. – Fala Crow May 25 '17 at 18:29
  • As to his needing discourse, it doesn't have to be in an academic setting. So traditional education is not necessary. Hence him saying he wasn't looking to write in the academic world. From a non-traditional or informal approach he can get discourse from other places. In fact I find that it helps to talk to non-academics. If he hopes to be able to reach that audience, he'll need to talk to them. My statement wasn't solely criticising your comment. I was simply saying that while people may question his humility, the academia world isn't much better there, and hence his statement "scared of". – Fala Crow May 25 '17 at 18:33
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My question is very simple. What are the chances one can get a philosophy book (in the tradition of continental philosophy) published and delivered to a wide audience if one does not hold any degrees/certificates in philosophy?

Plato did it - but it took him centuries. ;)

As others have noted, it's very hard. The publishing industry is pretty grueling, no matter what topic you write about.

What are the chances they/their work will be dismissed and not even read or even rejected?

Very high. Publishers are up to their eyeballs in manuscripts. Address your question to a writer's agent, and you'll probably get a polite "No thanks."

Can you be a successful writer if you do not hold a degree in philosophy but are passionate enough to write a book and you are an avid philosophy reader?

Of course. But it generally takes a lot of hard work. You have to do your homework, write your book and get it published. As those in the industry say, that's when the hard work starts.

We're living in the information age, and people were deluged with information even before the advent of epubs.

If you're determined to give it a try, put some of your writing on the internet and/or self-publish something as an ePub. A WordPress website is easy to set up, and pubs are remarkably easy to make.

I'm working on a philosophy book (ePub) myself. I don't know if I'll even sell a hundred copies, but researching and writing it is so educational, that may be the ultimate value.

Good luck.

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