Open Access in Philosophy

Open access (OA) to scholarly publications in academic philosophy is not noticeably widespread, especially in the German-speaking area. Although more and more research institutions have an OA strategy (cf., for example, the Open-Access Strategy for Berlin, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, the Swiss Academy of Humanities and Social Sciences, and the University of Vienna), position statements on OA by prominent philosophical associations (for example the German Philosophical Association (DGPhil) and the German Society for Analytical Philosophy (GAP)) have not yet been forthcoming.

However, since 2004, when Kristin Antelman noted the comparatively narrow spread of OA in philosophy, and drew attention to the significantly increased citation rates of openly accessible publications, the number of OA journals in philosophy, and the availability of OA repositories in this discipline has increased significantly worldwide. The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) lists some 200 titles under “Philosophy (General)”, and the Directory of Open Access Repositories (OpenDOAR) lists 119 archives in the subject area of “Philosophy and Religion” (as of April 2015).

The most prominent OA journals include Philosophers' Imprint and Ergo, both of which publish contributions from all areas of philosophy. The German OA journal of academic philosophy LOGOS - Freie Zeitschrift für wissenschaftliche Philosophie publishes non-historical articles from all areas of the discipline. The Zeitschrift für philosophische Literatur is a promising review journal that was founded in 2013. An English-language OA review journal that is worthy of mention is Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews. For further – as a rule, specialised – journals, see the next section.

Journal projects such as those mentioned above offer what is called “gold open access”, while self-archiving in OA repositories is referred to as “green open access”. One reason for the hesitant archiving of philosophical works in OA repositories is the belief that access can just as easily be provided via personal web pages or the social web. However, what authors who share this belief fail to realise is that works made available in this way are often overlooked in general Google searches, and that neither the bibliographic metadata nor the scientific systems of these works can be evaluated. These metadata are collected when a work is submitted to a repository (usually by means of self-archiving) and they are subsequently extracted by search programmes (“harvesters”). Portals such as Openaire and BASE aggregate the data holdings of the many repositories in their catchment area.

Sammelpunkt is a disciplinary repository of philosophy that covers the entire spectrum of philosophy (cf. download statistics). Moreover, numerous German universities have repositories for the scholarly works of the members of their communities. A list of these repositories can be found in ROAR or OpenDOAR.

The discipline’s leading digital repository is PhilPapers. In addition to OA contributions, it contains a comprehensive collection of links to external resources  that are freely available on the internet. However, the project does not use the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH), but rather it is currently experimenting with a subscription model for large institutions, especially universities. Therefore, to achieve optimal coverage for their publications, authors should observe the following three-step procedure:

  • Self-archive your works in an OAI-PMH-compliant repository (green OA)
  • Enter your works in the index.
  • Provide a list of your works on your personal web pages (with links to the self-archived works and the entries in

In philosophy, it is not common for preprints of works to be self-archived before submission to a journal. However, because the author still holds all rights in the work at this stage, there are no legal problems involved in self-archiving it. The SHERPA/RoMEO  database documents journal publishers’ self-archiving policies. Preprints are useful because they bridge the often lengthy time gap between submission and publication. Moreover, archiving a preprint is a way of establishing priority should copyright disputes arise at a later date. With regard to postprints, under German copyright law, authors of scholarly works have a number of secondary exploitation  options one year after first publication. Similar provisions exist in Austria and Switzerland.

When concluding publishing agreements with journal publishers, authors should make sure to retain the right to self-archive their work and should avoid granting the publisher an exclusive right of use in the work. Further information can be found here

Open Access Journals

A selection of OA philosophical journals can be found via noesis. The following is a small selection of the philosophy journals listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (not including symbolic logic):


The two freely accessible online encyclopedias Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophie and Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy contain comprehensive articles on the selected topics.

Open Access for books

What is true for journal articles, is also true for books: they are noticed more when they are OA. The provision of free access does not automatically mean that fewer hard copies are sold (cf. for example Freier Eintritt in die Geisteswissenschaft.) For books, the digital format offers a number of advantages: a powerful search function, easy manipulability, and space-saving storage. In the case of out-of-print books that are not reissued by the publisher, OA is a particularly obvious option.

Books (or parts of books) can also be deposited in a digital repository immediately after completion of the text and before submission to a publisher. As in the case of journal articles, when concluding publishing agreements, authors should take care not to grant the publisher a temporally unlimited exclusive right of use.

The Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) and OAPEN (Open Access Publishing in European Networks) list philosophical monographs that are accessible free of charge. The OA option is increasingly being incorporated into the business models used by publishers, for example those of Humanities online and Böhlau Verlag. Examples of OA-oriented book publishers in the German-speaking area are MV-Wissenschaft and Meine-Verlag, and in the area of English-language book publishing, Open Humanities Press and Bloomsbury Academic. A comprehensive list can be found in the DOAB.

Disciplinary Repositories

Many universities have repositories for publications authored by the members of their communities. These institutional repositories can be found in ROAR or OpenDOAR. Moreover, the following disciplinary repositories are of special philosophical interest:

  • Sammelpunkt: A repository of philosophy. Not institutionally affiliated.
  • PhilPapers: A comprehensive text archive, bibliographic index, and search engine.
  • PhilSci: A preprint archive in the philosophy of science and natural philosophy.
  • Cogprints: A repository for the “cognitive sciences”.
  • Swiss Philosophical Preprint Series (for philosophers resident in Switzerland only)

Literature searches in philosophy

Key players

There is no institution that bundles and coordinates OA initiatives in philosophy that go beyond individual projects. The most effective impulses come from individual projects on the one hand, and from university libraries on the other. The Discovery Project contains a selection of appropriately coded and semantically embedded philosophical text sources from a number of focus areas. Particularly worthy of mention is the sub-project Wittgenstein Source. Organised by Alois Pichler at the University of Bergen, Wittgenstein Source provides access to an important collection of Wittgenstein’s primary sources, which are curated and made freely available for research purposes. Daniel von Wachter provides an overview of the status of OA publishing in philosophy and compiles “neglected German philosophical texts”, which can be found mainly at Google Books and in the Internet Archive. Herbert Hrachovec runs the philosophy-specific internet archive Sammelpunkt. In his lecture Technik und Philosophie des freien Forschungsaustausches (Technology and Philosophy of the Free Exchange of Research) (winter semester 2011/12, summer semester 2015), Hrachovec deals with the developments in this area. (See also his lecture Open Source Philosophie delivered in 2008).

Content editors of this web page: Prof. Herbert Hrachovec, Prof. Daniel von Wachter.