How A Philosophy Professor Writes

Quick Facts

Pen or Pencil?
Pen, preferably one with a fun color (especially metallics)

Favorite place to write?
Home, at the table next to my guinea pigs

Favorite word?



Ginger Hoffman, Ph.D.
Professor of Philosophy

SJU Writes:  Are there people you try to emulate as you write?

GH: Not necessarily. I often think about how Nozick used the phrase “superduper neuropsychologists” and got away with it, and wonder if I could do something like that. That’s one of the most famous writings, and “superduper” is in there. I try to stick in some fun phrases, but you want it to be professional and scholarly.

SJU Writes: Do you have any specific advice for writing in philosophy?

GH: Make sure you know the contours of your argument first, and then write it, maybe revise it immediately, but at some point revise it after you haven’t been working on it. So revise a ton, and at least between some of those revisions, have a day.

SJU Writes: So it’s really just a matter of taking the time and letting it mull in your brain while not actively working on it?

GH: I would say letting it not mull in your brain, so that when you approach it again, it’s approaching it anew. So then you say, “Oh, wait, I thought this followed from this, but now I don’t see why I was thinking that.” It’s just amazing what you’ll find after you’ve set it aside. When you step away from it for a day, two days, it’s not in your mind anymore, so then you can see where the gaps are.

SJU Writes: Do you enjoy revising?

GH: It comes with a lot of anxiety. I want what I produce to be good, and it’s hard work to do that, so it depends. But revising can sometimes be fun, and putting it down is, for me, hardly ever fun. Thinking of the ideas is fun. Getting them on paper for me is very hard. I love the ideas. That’s my very favorite part. But, that’s not yet to the writing.

—Nathan King ’20