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  • Editorial Reflections—Expanding Beyond Canonical Figures and Periods
  • Rudolf A. Makkreel (bio)

I am grateful to the present editor, Steven Nadler, for giving me a chance to put down a few reflections about my fifteen years as editor of the Journal of the History of Philosophy and about the journal's contribution to historical scholarship over the years.

The JHP was founded in response to a recommendation of a special committee of the American Philosophical Association. The main founding Editor, Richard Popkin, who served from 1962 until 1980, left some of his reflections in volume 40:4 on his efforts to get the journal started and some of the financial difficulties it faced during the beginning years. A more detailed account of the initial editorial issues that needed to be sorted out was provided by Ed Strong in the special twenty-fifth anniversary issue that I edited in 1987. David Norton, who succeeded Popkin as Editor, has also provided his recollections in the previous issue.

Early in 1981, Norton recommended to the Board of Directors that I become the Book Review Editor, and I assumed that position in September of that year. The following year I was approached by the Board to see whether I would be willing to replace Norton as Editor and whether I could obtain adequate financial support from Emory University to assure the stability of the journal's operations. I was fortunate that Emory had just received what was then the largest single gift awarded an American university, which allowed it to be quite generous in its support. However, the timing of the journal's offer was not ideal for me, since I had recently been awarded an NEH grant and a contract with Princeton University Press to start a six-volume edition of Dilthey's Selected Works. I therefore asked if I could delay the beginning of my first five-year term as Editor for a year. The Board consented and obtained the agreement of Richard Watson and Popkin to co-edit the journal for the intervening period.

In September 1983 I became Editor, and James Force replaced me as Book Review Editor. I saw my editorship as an opportunity to further broaden the JHP's [End Page 309] scope and strengthen its balance. Unlike Norton and Watson, I had not written my dissertation under the direction of Popkin. The three Columbia professors who had the most influence on my Dilthey dissertation research were Paul Oskar Kristeller, Albert Hofstadter, and Peter Gay. My first contact with the journal came through my appointment in 1966 at the University of California, San Diego, where the journal was then being edited. My initial dealings with the journal were merely to respond to an occasional request by Herbert Schneider to review a book.

Popkin had always worked to obtain a good balance of submissions, but inevitably his own research on skepticism in early modern philosophy served to attract mostly papers in that period. To be sure, he inspired young scholars to work on non-canonical figures, but they were still part of the canonical period that dominates the scholarship in the English-speaking world up to this day. When I began as Editor, I received more submissions on Hume than on any other figure. Together with the Assistant Editor whom I was able to appoint to help me run the editorial office—John Krois, who subsequently came to be recognized as an important Cassirer scholar and editor—we looked for ways to encourage a wider range of coverage. We worked especially to obtain more submissions about German philosophy and in all areas of nineteenth- and twentieth-century philosophy. Of course that was easier said than done. The quality of submissions was the essential condition that could never be overlooked. We did succeed in getting a more diverse set of submissions, many of which were worth publishing. Some of the non-canonical figures dealt with were J.S. Beck, Bergson, Cieszkowski, Dühring, Jacobi, Jouffroy, Lask, C.I. Lewis, Maimon, Mendelssohn, Sidgwick, and Tschirnhaus, but not at the expense of ignoring the canonical figures. I also expanded the make-up of the Board of Directors by nominating Dorothea Frede, Edward...


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