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How academic journals brushed me off

(Nevertheless, nobody should despair of academia as an ideal!)

Thorwald C. Franke
© July 2017



I repeatedly tried to give notice to established academia about my research results concerning Aristotle and Plato's Atlantis. The usual and orderly way to do this are some printed words in some academic journal, e.g. a book review, a debate column, or an academic article. By this, established academia should get reason and opportunity to pause, think, and to start a debate. You cannot expect a sudden and immediate acceptance of new ideas, of course. What you can expect is that you and your theses are noticed explicitly, that your theses are discussed, and that your theses are slowly, very slowly accepted by a stepwise self-correction of academia.

Yet the academic journals always brushed me off. Here, everybody can see and judge for himself how this went. It makes no sense to continue with further attempts. Well, as everybody knows, real-life academic scholarship implements the ideal of academia only imperfectly. Nevertheless, nobody should despair of academia as an ideal!

Currently, academics are silently ceasing one after the other to claim that Aristotle spoke out explicitly against the existence of Plato's Atlantis. They claim now that Aristotle implicitly had this opinion. What does not make things any better. Reasons for this new claim are not given, and cannot be given: There are none, as I already have demonstrated. Furthermore, it is regularly not mentioned that this partial change of mind happened. Example: Christopher Gill (external link). Some publications show implicitly by language and argument that the partial change of mind was inspired by my research results. But for most publications only the date of publication reveals what could have inspired the partial change of mind.

My book on Aristotle and Atlantis was published in German in 2010, and in English in 2012. Find closley related arguments in Kritische Geschichte der Meinungen und Hypothesen zu Platons Atlantis, published in 2016, so far in German only. Not published but free to read is my brushed-off academic article from 2017 (see below, fourth and last attempt).



First attempts:
Proposing book reviews, sending books to academic journals 2010 / 2012

Basic idea

The easiest way to achieve some printed words in an academic journal is a book review. It is only a short column, and not you but somebody appointed by the journal writes it. The author even does not have to like you and your book: He can criticise it to hell! Some book reviews are motivated exactly by this intention. So, it should be possible to achieve a book review in any case. – Therefore, I announced my newly published books always to academic journals. Furthermore, I proposed to certain academic journals to consider my books for a review. Sometimes, I did this by sending a copy to the editor.

Reaction

The result was: Absolutely no reaction. Not even a refusal. I especially remember the Bryn Mawr Classical Review (BMCR): After a while I dared to ask whether they received my books. I never got an answer. – I consider the culture of non-answering to friendly, reasonable, and justified questions as deeply anti-humanistic. How do such institutions want to spread the spirit of humanism in our society?

Retrospective

Yes, there are publications which are simply not worth to be mentioned. Yet in my humble opinion, my publications are not of this type. I am too learned not to know this. And over the years, several Classics professors confirmed that my books have a certain quality, although they were Atlantis skeptics – this says something. Besides this, there is the stepwise partial change in the opinion of academics, exactly to my topic, as mentioned above. Not to forget articles about my books in popular magazines such as Focus or abenteuer philosophie. Therefore, I find it conspicuous that my books are very consequently ignored by academic journals.



Second attempt:
Debate column for Antiquity 2013

Basic idea of this contribution

To avoid any provocation, I wanted to introduce my theses in a "gentle" way. Therefore, I wanted to publish only a short debate column instead of a full-fledged academic article. Thus for a start, a first awareness could be created that there is a real problem, and an open debate could be stimulated. Nobody would be confronted with accomplished facts which might have overstressed some, and thus endangered the acceptability of my contribution. It was especially intended to express explicitly that the question for the existence of Atlantis is a totally other question. Such a possibility was offered by the archaeological journal Antiquity where you could submit short debate contributions of less than 1000 words which were published online only, in the so-called Project Gallery. In 2004, Dr. Rainer W. Kühne could successfully publish there his contribution A location for "Atlantis"? (external Link).

The submitted debate column for download: Franke_2013_AristotleAtlantis_Debate-Column_A.pdf

e-mail from Antiquity 11 March 2013

Dear Mr Franke,
Thank you for submitting your manuscript to Antiquity. I regret that the content of the submission is not within the scope of the journal.
As noted in our submission guidelines (http://antiquity.ac.uk/contribute/contribute.html), to be eligible for consideration, authors are advised to demonstrate that their research is likely to attract the interest of our global readership. In this case I feel there is insufficient archaeological content in your paper.
We are sorry to bring disappointing news but wish you luck with your future researches.
Best wishes,

Retrospective

It is true, my debate column had "insufficient archaeological content". Yes, this rejection was justified since Antiquity is a journal for archaeology. Yet why were other articles accepted which also had "insufficient archaeological content"?



Third attempt:
Debate column for Plato Journal 2013

Basic idea of this contribution

It was the same basic idea as in the previous attempt: Better a short debate column than a full-fledged academic article. Only that the mistake of the first attempt should be avoided: It should be a journal about philosophy and philology, not archaeology. The International Plato Society invites contributions for its Plato Journal: "The aim of this journal is to promote international dialogue on Plato across different languages and scholarly approaches."

The submitted debate column for download: Franke_2013_AristotleAtlantis_Debate-Column_P.pdf

e-mail from Plato Journal 23 April 2013

          (After one month without any answer, I had politely complained)

Dear Mr. Franke,
I apologize for not responding sooner. When your e-mail arrived I was in the middle of preparing the last volume of the journal and I wanted to wait to get the opinion of a scholar with thorough knowledge of the subject. The possession or lack of degrees is not an issue for me, but I am reluctant to publish short notes (instead of more substantial articles) unless they really make a very important and indispensable contribution. The expert reviewer I have had look at your note does not think this is the case here. He says he cannot really see the point or what is said that is truly new. I add below the comments that I thought you might find helpful; I assume it is not a problem that they are in French. I do thank you in any case for considering the journal for the communication of your work.
With best regards,

       [The anonymous review comment:]
Mais surtout, si l’on veut discuter de l’éventuelle position d’Aristote, alors il faut regarder les éventuels échos du Critias (et du mythe géographique final du Phédon) que l’on trouve dans les Météorologiques.
Ce que l’auteur de cet article ne semble pas savoir.
Dans les Météorologiques, Aristote fait allusion de deux manières au Phédon et au récit de Critias : en y trouvant simplement des preuves de l'explication qu'il donne lui-même de certains phénomènes, ou bien encore en discutant l'explication platonicienne. Dans le premier cas, Aristote reprend par exemple, dans les termes du Timée (25d) le constat de ce que la présence de « bas-fonds » est l'indice de la présence autrefois d'une terre aujourd'hui engloutie, gagnée par la mer (II 354a18-22). Dans le second, il résume et critique la conviction exposée par Socrate dans le Phédon, et la déclare "impossible à admettre" (II, 355b22-356a25).
Ce que montrent ces passages, c’est qu’Aristote lisait Platon et qu’il tenait la part « géographique » de ces deux récits pour des explications plausibles ou discutables, alors même, si l'on en croit Strabon, qu'il considérait le Critias comme une fiction.
Mais ça ne veut pas dire qu’Aristote croyait que l’Atlantide était vraie ni que Strabon avait tort : Aristote pouvait penser, comme n’importe quel lecteur raisonnable de Platon, que la fiction platonicienne de l’Atlantide était une fiction, construite avec des éléments de géographie (et des concepts géographiques) pertinents.

       [My translation of the anonymous review comment:]
But above all – if you want to discuss Aristotle's possible opinion – you have to consider the possible echoes of [Plato's] Critias (and of the geographical final myth in Phaedo) which can be found in [Aristotle's] Meteorologica.
What the author of this article seems not to know.
In Meteorologica, Aristotle makes two kinds of allusions to [Plato's] Phaedo and to Critias' account: [First] by simply finding evidence for the explanation which he himself gives of certain phenomena, or [secondly] by discussing the Platonic explanation. In the first case, Aristotle e.g. picks up [the following] in the same words as [Plato's] Timaeus (25d): The conclusion, that the presence of shallows is an indication of the former presence of land, which [is] swallowed-up today and gained by the sea (II 354a18-22). In the second [case], he summarizes and criticises the conviction presented by Socrates in [Plato's] Phaedo, and declares it "impossible to admit" (II 355b22-356a25).
What these passages show is that Aristotle read Plato and that he considered the "geographical" parts of these two accounts to be plausible and discussible explanations – although he, when believing Strabo in this case, considered the Critias to be fiction.
Yet this does not mean that Aristotle believed that Atlantis was true, nor that Strabo was wrong: Aristotle could think, as every reasonable reader of Plato, that the Platonic fiction of Atlantis was a fiction, constructed with elements of the corresponding geography (and geographical concepts).

Retrospective

The anonymous reviewer had indeed screwed up what can be screwed up:

Of course I told my objections to the journal, yet at the same time I retreated. It makes no sense to start a quarrel if you only can win by putting the other side to deep shame what the other side even has to accept. Usually, this does not happen. The whole affair is a clear case for "Fremdschämen" (feeling shame for the blame of someone else). – Instead of the publication of my debate column a review of my book about Aristotle and Atlantis was considered by the journal, yet I never again heard anything of it. Of course.



Fourth and last attempt:
Academic article for Classical Quarterly 2017

Basic idea of this contribution

Now my basic idea was that short debate contributions might be too short in order to make it understandable that there is a real problem which has to be taken seriously. Thus, it should be a "real" academic article, this time, which contains all relevant arguments. In short: It should be my book in the form of an article. – For the details in the appendices of my book the article referred to this already published book. It is absolutely usual concerning voluminous academic studies to publish an article in an academic journal without printing the complete "data basis" with the article. In such a case, there are references to this "data basis" which is published elsewhere. It is not feasible in an other way, since an article simply is not a book.

The submitted article for download: Franke_2017_Aristotle-and-Platos-Atlantis_C.pdf

e-mail from Classical Quarterly 19 July 2016

Dear Thorwald,
The editor has been through your submission, Aristotle and Plato’s Atlantis, and asks if you can revise the article before we send it out to be refereed. In particular, please note the following points:

If you could address these points and resubmit your article we will then send it out to be refereed.
Best wishes

e-mail from Thorwald C. Franke 22 July 2016

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

concerning your preliminary review comments defining a list of requirements to improve my article, let me say the following:

I intentionally shortened and reformulated the text from the length of a book to the length of an article, and added reasonable references pointing to the original study and other sources. My assumption was that Classical Quarterly is a journal for academic articles, not a book editor. My assumption further was that basic knowledge about Aristotle etc. and about the research on Aristotle etc. can be expected from the learned reader. Yet you say about your readers, "it is not sufficient to report scholars’ views – CQ’s readers need the evidence on which to make up their own minds", i.e. without looking up anything on their own. My assumption was further, that the interested reader will be thankful for hints, and only hints, about further reading on arguments not closely related to the core argument. Finally, my assumption was, that the experienced reader will be thankful for an article which concentrates on the core argument and does not waste time and space on information which everybody can easily access in a good library if he really wants to know it, but you say, "the article cannot rely on the arguments/evidence in these publications without presenting them in the submission". Above all, scrutiny of the article will require the academic reader in any case to look up what is presented to him, whether included or not. This is also true for the Greek text, about which, by the way, there is no controversy, as you surely have seen. What can *not* be omitted is the translation on which the argument operates because it reflects the author's understanding of the Greek phrases.

What also can *not* be omitted is the clear and inevitable conclusion that contemporary academia has a serious problem with a collective error. You called this "polemic" and required its removal – yet this discussion, painful though it may be, is necessary to uphold the credibility of academia by self-correction. My strong conviction of the absolute necessity to defend the credibility of a continuously self-correcting academia in Karl Popper's sense obliges me not to silence the issue. (And I did not find any generalisations about ‘academic scholarship’ in my article, a phrase simply not contained there; where did you get this from?)

Of course, it will be technically possible to inflate the text to the length of the original study. Which is a book. This study, of course, refers to other sources, which themselves will have to be included, too, as you required, in order to give the readers the possibility "to make up their own minds" without looking anything up. Yet these other sources, in turn, refer again to other sources, which again have to be included, as you required. I have, honestly speaking, the impression that you have a revealing lack of awareness how many authors relied on Aristotle in order to speak out in favour of the existence of Atlantis, and how many text they produced on this matter, until the unfortunate error started to spread in the 19th century that Aristotle allegedly spoke out against the existence of Atlantis. If you want me to include all the contents of the whole chain of references until the very ends of these chains of references, including the very basic research works about Aristotle, what you doubtlessly require by claiming that I even have to give a source for the commonplace statement about the Aporemata Homerika "which Aristotle is said to have written while still at Plato’s Academy", then the amount of text which will have to be included is considerable!

My cautious estimation to fulfill your requirements are 5040 pages, or 2,585,525 words. Let us face what this means. Your requirements are less about reasonable improvements such as adding the Greek text. Your requirements are more about sending me on a mission impossible.

The nature of your requirements becomes even more clear when considering articles published in Classical Quarterly. I have read a lot of CQ articles none of which complies with your requirements. Just as an example, see this article by a certain Alan Cameron: Crantor and Posidonius on Atlantis, in: Classical Quarterly No. 33 (1983) pp. 81-91. There are a lot of "unexpanded" references in this article which require the reader to look up on his own, if he wants to know. The article has only ten and a half pages what naturally contradicts your requirements. And yes, there is even real and hard polemic in it, not such neutral, objective, fair, helpful, and polite statements as in my article which you pleased to interprete as "polemic". What is more, Cameron's article is full of flaws and failures, many of which can easily be seen (Cf. Thorwald C. Franke, Kritische Geschichte der Meinungen und Hypothesen zu Platons Atlantis, 2016, pp. 185-193). The display of some mutilated Greek phrases here and there did not prevent Cameron to present an erroneous translation on which he unfortunately built up his core argument. This even caught the attention of scholars (Cf. e.g. Heinz-Günther Nesselrath, Atlantis auf ägyptischen Stelen? Der Philosoph Krantor als Epigraphiker, in: Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik ZPE No. 135 (2001) pp. 33-35; or: Harold Tarrant, Proclus – Commentary on Plato's Timaeus, Vol. 1., 2006, p. 169 footnote 309 on Proclus In Timaeum 1,76).

How could such an article pass your checks? I cannot avoid the impression that your journal works with double standards.

In my humble opinion it became clear by the very nature of your list of requirements that you do not want to have my article. So I will save my time and will not start any attempt to fulfill your requirements, but retreat from my submission. I do not like playing games.

I wish you well.

Retrospective

The review comments establish a subtle attack in form of a climax: First comes a reasonable comment (Greek text). Then some reasonably looking comments follow: They look reasonably because it is indeed reasonable not to hide important arguments in footnotes. It is an art to find the right balance between explicitly unfolded arguments and implicitly given evidence in footnotes. Yet the review comments tilt this balance into the realm of absurdity by unlimited general claims and by including more and more information, what usually is not required in this intensity. Independently, how much information I ever included into the article, they always could have said, it is still not enough. And then, they could have argued that I exceeded the maximum length of an article. This maximum length is 12,000 words or ca. 20 pages, what had never been sufficient to fulfill only a fraction of the requirements. Finally comes the attack on the conclusions of the article: Well-founded criticism of a prevailing, collective error of academia is called "polemic", and its removal is required. – Besides this basic structure of the review comments, there are a lot of subtle side blows against my article which again shed light onto the intention of this review.

The reviewer's statement about the alleged generalisations about "academic scholarship", which had been put in quotation marks as citation although it simply does not occur in my article, gives a hint what the reviewer might really have thought: It seems that he saw an attack by a pseudo-scientist on "academic scholarship" in general. If so, then this is just another example how the collective error prevails by interpreting dissent and doubts concerning prevailing academic opinions about Plato's Atlantis as "the enemy". Thus, an open debate is of course not possible.



Organizational notice: In order to make the contributions more readable, the formatting wanted by the journals has been partially adapted. A copyright statement was added.



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