The Ranking System for Reviews


Since the Proceedings of the Friesian School, Fourth Series has an editorial purpose, it is reasonable and appropriate that items for review be judged in relation to that purpose. The ranking, however, is not simply in terms of the closeness that philosophical works may have to Kantian or Friesian doctrine--though that will be a factor. A particular work may be significant in the history of philosophy for the laudable treatment of certain issues, even if it is fundamentally at odds otherwise with Kant-Friesian principles. The following system, somewhat whimsically, uses the 6 Rates developed for British naval vessals in the era of sail.

"First Rate" philosophical ranking will be for those works that qualify as the indispensible classics of philosophy. This means things on the order of Plato's Republic, Aristotle's Metaphysics, Descartes's Meditations on First Philosophy, Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, etc. However, works like Wittgenstein's Tractatus, that may be widely perceived as having such status, do not qualify here.
"Second Rate" philosophical ranking will be for those works that, in the editorial judgment of the Proceedings of the Friesian School, qualify as indispensible for the progress of philosophy, without, however, having been generally recognized as such. Works like Nelson's Critique of Practical Reason and Otto's Idea of the Holy would fit in here. "Second Rate" is usually not a term of praise; but, just as a second rate ship-of-the-line is little inferior to a first rater, the difference here is not regarded as unflattering.

Since first and second rate philosophy is rare and extraordinary, it cannot be expected that any ordinary review items, good or bad, will qualify. A third rate rank should therefore be considered as "first rate" in the realm of reasonable expectation. As it happened, when Britain began building iron warships, they were ranked, because of the number of guns, as third raters. This was the end of the old rating system, since it was obvious that an iron, armored, steam "third rater" could sink a whole fleet of wooden first raters--"the black snakes among the hares." A simple division between battleships and cruisers followed, though after World War I, with battleship construction limited by naval treaties, cruisers began to be built as miniature battleships. In World War II, consequently, most serious naval surface actions, especially in the Pacific, were between cruisiers, which thus became de facto line-of-battle-ships. In philosophical ranking, first and second rate works might thus be considered the equivalent of battleships, with third rates as the equivalent of the "treaty cruisers."

"Third Rate" philosophical ranking will be for those works that, in the editorial judgment of the Proceedings of the Friesian School, make a fundamental and permanent contribution to the progress of philosophy on particular issues, without, however, representing an overall philosophical system that is of permanent value. Sartre's Transcendence of the Ego would be of this nature. It is not an indispensible classic or indispensible to the progress of philosophy, but it is of enduring value. The vast majority of British ships-of-the-line were in fact Third Raters, and this should be the case with the three highest ranks of philosophical works.
"Fourth Rate" philosophical ranking will be for those works that, in the editorial judgment of the Proceedings of the Friesian School, may make a significant contribution to the progress of philosophy on particular issues but, however, contain some major flaw or drawback. Heidegger's Being and Time would fit in here. The positive contributions to metaphysics of Heidegger are seriously offset by the pernicious influence of the rest. Works by Hegel that are worth reading might fit in here also. Fourth Rate ships, although possibly belonging in the line-of-battle, were better used for heavy back-up, or flagship duties, on foreign stations or cruisings missions. Philosophically, being out of the line-of-battle will mean not making an overall positive contribution to the history of philosophy.

Fifth and sixth rate philosophy, on our naval metaphor, are outside the line of battle (as ships, they are not even commanded by a Captain, just by a Commander, or even a Lieutenant Commander--like destroyers and submarines in World War II), which means that they do not make a permanent contribution to philosophy. This will be because they are either basically insigificant or so profoundly wrong as to represent an irrational level of philosophical confusion.

"Fifth Rate" philosophical ranking will be for those works that, in the editorial judgment of the Proceedings of the Friesian School, may deal with an issue in an interesting or noteworthy way but do not make a significant contribution to the progress of philosophy. Overall, such works may be good or bad. They will tend to be bad. Fifth Rate ships have no business in the line of battle, and so fifth rate philosophical works may be harmlessly forgotten by posterity. Given the vast amount of material produced by academic philosophy, it is all but impossible that most of it would not be forgotten.
"Sixth Rate" philosophical ranking will be for those works that, in the editorial judgment of the Proceedings of the Friesian School, may be interesting or noteworthy for some reason but which are not thought of as making a positive contribution in any way. Indeed, such a work may only be significant only as an exemplar vitiis imitabile--an example to imitate its defects. It may be a mistake to notice such things, since people may indeed imitate them, but already popular errors cannot go unanswered.


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