Working methods of philosophers

by Chris Bertram on January 6, 2009

“An excellent column by Jo Wolff in today’s Guardian”: . Personally, I have two methods of getting things written. The first was prompted by reading an obituary of Anthony Burgess which revealed that he used to write 1000 words every day and then retire to a cafe for a martini. Though I skip the martini part, this works well as a way of making progress on a project over a longish period during which there are other demands on time. Sometimes, though, deadlines loom and you just have to get something written fast. For this, 45 minutes interspersed with 15 minute breaks is the way, totting up the virtual football matches I’ve thereby accumulated. I keep my trousers on. Usually,



HP 01.06.09 at 1:50 pm

Break time already?


Matt 01.06.09 at 2:35 pm

I suggested moving up a step from “casual friday” to “pantsless friday” for my work but was out-voted. I did think it would improve our moods and so our productivity. That’s pretty low on friday, anyway, so it couldn’t have hurt. As for work and drink, more often than not now I also have half of Burgess’s formula, though usually the opposite half of Chris.


t e whalen 01.06.09 at 3:08 pm

We’re all reading Daily Routines, right?


Chris Bertram 01.06.09 at 3:20 pm

#3 Thanks! Great link.


James Wimberley 01.06.09 at 4:28 pm

Somerset Maugham: “I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.”


Samir Okasha 01.06.09 at 5:51 pm

Part of the problem with philosophy, though, is that people write far too much, in my opinion.
Speaking of J.S. Mill, think of his vastly too-long A System of Logic.
Rather than discussing ways to overcome writer’s block when doing philosophy, perhaps we should be discussing ways to induce it?


Ingrid Robeyns 01.06.09 at 6:54 pm

Writing in general is not the problem for me- whether in pants, pyjamas, in the office, at home, or somewhere else (though sufficient amounts of coffee and once in a while a little piece of belgian chocolate do help).

The main problem is that projects without deadlines always get lower priority than projects with deadlines, especially when these deadlines invovle other people (typically: a chapter for a book promised to an editor). So that’s why that damned monograph never gets written. Solution? I have come to believe that without a book contract with a publisher, there is not going to be a book written on this computer. And I recently heard a colleague from another university coming to exactly the same conclusion. So it’s not just me.

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