I assume most philsophers, even wildly successful philosophers, think they wrote an excellent paper that did not get the attention it deserved. I would ask folks to mention papers by themselves or by others that they think have been unjustly overlooked or that did not get the attention it deserved. Such papers should be at least 5 years old. Please don't bother mentioning famous papers that you think should be even more famous. Please limit yourself to one paper of your own.

I'll start with Peter Railton's "Locke, Stock, and Peril".

12 Replies to “Overlooked Papers

  1. T.H. Green’s Prolegomena is an unjustly neglected classic in the history of ethics (book, not article). Hopefully, the recent wave of excellent work in the history of ethics will soon extend to Green. Also, I’ve always thought that C.D. Broad’s “Self and Others” was under-appreciated.

  2. John Tomasi, “Individual Rights and Community Virtues,” Ethics Vol. 101, No. 3 (Apr., 1991), pp. 521-536.
    I think the so-called liberal-communitarian debate, more than any other intellectual development in political theory and philosophy that I know of, was simply stopped by argument. The best-known pieces that contributed here were Will Kymlicka, the first few chapters of Liberalism, Community, and Culture; Charles Taylor, Cross-Purposes; Michael Walzer, The Communitarian Critique of Liberalism; and Allen Buchanan, Assessing the Communitarian Critique of Liberalism. But I think two lesser-known pieces complete the intellectual picture; Waldron’s “When Justice Replaces Affection” and Tomasi’s article mentioned above.

  3. I started to post a link to my CV, but then I saw you specified “unjustly” neglected. 🙂 So how about John Skorupski, “The Ethical Character of Liberal Law”?

  4. Michael Stocker’s early papers probably get fewer reads than they deserve, and they fit in nicely with the rising interest in Ross and other intuitionists. For example, “Intentions and Act Evaluations” Journal o Philosophy, Vol. 67 (17):589-602 and “Moral Duties, Institutions, and Natural Facts” The Monist, Vol. 54(4): pp. 602-624
    Arthur Lovejoy’s book “On Human Nature” is not on the level of Green’s Prolegonmena, but it is another older book that is worth digging up (I found out about it from Darwall’s early book “Impartial Reason”)

  5. Arthur Ripstein, “Beyond the Harm Principle”. This is in line with his view in his recent book, “Force and Freedom,” but is a very interesting contrast between Millian and Kantian accounts of the legitimacy of the state’s coercive power.

  6. I think most things written by Hillel Steiner have not received the attention they deserve. Here are two papers in particular that I wish were more widely known:
    Hillel Steiner, “The Structure of a Set of Compossible Rights,” Journal of Philosophy 74 (1977): 767-775.
    Hillel Steiner, “A Liberal Theory of Exploitation,” Ethics 94 (1984): 225-241.
    Hillel has continued to develop his account of exploitation in more recent papers, and his view on compossible rights is a central part of his magnificent book, An Essay on Rights.

  7. Another nomination:
    Larry Krasnoff, “Consensus, Stability, and Normativity in Rawls’ Political Liberalism,” Journal of Philosophy 95 (1998): 269-292.

  8. Two papers that came to mind that I liked but have been surprised to see little discussion of:
    (a) James, Scott (2009). The Caveman’s Conscience: Evolution and Moral Realism. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 87 (2):215-233.
    (Argues that a realist version of contractualism can be vindicated by evolutionary theory. Surprising to see little discussion of this despite the rising interest in evolutionary debunking arguments.)
    (b) Barry, Melissa (2007). Realism, rational action, and the Humean theory of motivation. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 10 (3):231-242.
    (Argues for an anti-Humean theory of motivation, construed as the view that normative beliefs can give rise to new desires without serving or furthering antecedent ones. Overlaps a bit with her paper in Oxford Studies in Metaethics, but that hasn’t been widely discussed either. Perhaps people aren’t so interested in this topic anymore.)

  9. Apparently this is an overlooked blog post.
    How about the other P.F. Strawson paper on morality and responsibility: “Social Morality and Individual Ideal,” Philosophy (1961).

  10. What an excellent idea.
    Cora Diamond’s essay “Consequentialism in Modern Moral Philosophy and in ‘Modern Moral Philosophy'” appears in Human Lives: Critical Essays on Consequentialist Bioethics, edited by Oderberg and Laing. If Diamond’s essay were better known some common misunderstandings of Anscombe’s classic essay would be less common.

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