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To acquire wisdom, one must observe

Brandeis students are publishing their own undergraduate philosophy journal

As a prominent research institution in the country, Brandeis is starting its own philosophy journal in the undergraduate philosophy community. Founded by Joseph Pendleton ’24 last summer, the journal gained its name Simpliciter, meaning “without qualifications.” Now, as the first official semester of Simpliciter, it has attracted over 55 submissions from institutions over the world, with an editorial board of 15 active editors and faculty advisor Jordan Kokot. Hoping to learn more about the journal and the Brandeis philosophy department, The Hoot sat down with Simpliciter’s editor-in-chief, Qiyuan Feng ’24.

Being a fairly new club and publication on campus, Simplicter’s past few months have been primarily focused on working out all the logistics, sending out calls for papers to other schools all around the United States and the world, recruiting editors and doing editor training workshops. A big challenge for the editorial board was that they did not have any previous experience running a journal.

“I’ve personally submitted to another journal at Johns Hopkins University. It’s called Prometheus. So I got a little bit of experience with that, but that’s all we have. So we gotta start from scratch, basically.” Feng explained. They also interviewed seven existing journals, asking a lot of questions like what they think is essential for a successful journal, how to prevent the journal from dying in future generations, etc. “We had all kinds of questions in detail so those really serve as great resources for our future operations.”

The biggest task this semester for them will be reviewing all the submissions and working with the authors, with an ultimate goal of publishing the journal by the end of the semester. Given those goals, a typical club meeting for Simpliciter this semester would be paper reviewing sessions for the editor. There is a strictly enforced and regulated process of the review. 

Feng told The Hoot: “Before the meeting, every editor is assigned with their weekly papers to review. And in our meeting, they will get together to talk about the papers. So, for example, if three editors review the same paper, they are going to talk about that paper together. And they had to fill out a preliminary scoring form, and write down a brief summary of the paper, [about] how well they think the paper does under each criterion. Also, they need to fill out some additional comments, and [in] every meeting they talk about two papers with other editors. After the discussions, there could be a share out, and they will give a final score to each paper. We are going to rank the papers according to the score.”

Review processes like this will happen in three rounds, and editors will pick out the best 15 papers and reach back out to the authors for further editing. There will also be some sort of copy editing and social media work involved with the journal. It will be published online while there will also be physical copies available. According to Feng, they are planning to give out copies to editors, authors, and interested personnel in the philosophy department.

Besides publishing the journal, Feng mentioned another goal of Simpliciter would be to foster and tighten the bonds between the philosophy department through events and activities. They are planning to host a Zoom conference in April, which editors and some qualified authors will be invited to attend. Other activities they would like to do include in-person discussion sessions similar to the Socrates Cafe, an activity organized by the philosophy UDRs in the form of roundtable discussions, in which attendants talk about a given philosophical topic.

Feng loved working with the editorial board; they got to meet new people with the same academic interests and also worked on a common project. A big challenge Simpliciter has is to catch the multiple pressing deadlines this semester, given the large amount of submissions to review. “In the third round we’re gonna start editing, giving feedback for them. What if the authors don’t respond promptly? What if they don’t work with us? So we need to keep up with the schedule, which is pretty tight,” Feng expressed their concern, “We gotta work every week to make the conference happen in time. Make sure the whole typesetting and copy editing process don’t fall behind and can be completed by the end of the semester.”

Besides Feng and Pendleton, the treasurer Sadie Giddings ’26 and the managing editor Ray Xie ’26 are also working hard to ensure the smooth running of Simpliciter. To find out more about Simpliciter, visit the journal’s website https://www.simpliciterbrandeis.com/. “Watch out for the journal copies that will be hidden around campus by the end of semester!” Feng said.

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