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Dont Dehorsify the Horse


imageDont Dehorsify the Horse

A Zettelkasten is a personal tool for thinking and writing that creates an interconnected web of thought. Its emphasis is on connection and not mere collection of ideas.

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  • Sort of like the English language, which is a living, breathing entity. It has ever changing grammar rules and an ever changing vocabulary. "Ever changing" is the key term here. Nothing in the English language is static; something that is de rigueur today is passe tomorrow.

    What does this have to do with your article. Simply this - correct usage, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. And whatever works, works.

  • @System said:
    Dont Dehorsify the Horse A Zettelkasten is a personal tool for thinking and writing that creates an interconnected web of thought. Its emphasis is on connection and not mere collection of ideas.

    Read the full story here

    What he said.....I agree! What’s mine is mine and your entitled to yours....however It works for you. Thanks System.

  • Can you explain how you reconcile this post with your plans to add a glossary to this site, which will define what various concepts mean and do not mean? Or with your book, which will contain hundreds of claims about what a ZK is, isn't, and should be?

    What will you say when someone gives others advice based on their ZK, which is just a bag of marbles? You can tell them that a bag of marbles is not a ZK, at which point they should refer you to the late Wittgenstein and accuse you of overzealous orthodoxy.

    The fact that concepts are not hard-edged demonstrates very little about claims that something is or is not a ZK. The concept of ZK is not hard-edged but that doesn't mean that anything is a ZK or that it is not useful to draw distinctions between different types of notetaking practices.

  • Full disclosure, I am ElectronsOnMars on discord, so we have already chatted about this. I can't resist responding to you here, though, because I do find this conversation really interesting.

    @cobblepot said:
    Can you explain how you reconcile this post with your plans to add a glossary to this site, which will define what various concepts mean and do not mean? Or with your book, which will contain hundreds of claims about what a ZK is, isn't, and should be?

    Definitions can be broad in scope, encompassing a general concept that has several different implementations. A book can discuss the concepts that are generally useful to a ZK without restricting or harshly defining boundaries.

    What will you say when someone gives others advice based on their ZK, which is just a bag of marbles? You can tell them that a bag of marbles is not a ZK, at which point they should refer you to the late Wittgenstein and accuse you of overzealous orthodoxy.

    I assume you're being facetious, but the human mind is capable of determing categorical differences based solely on context. The context with which you say a bag of marbles is a ZK will determine if that is a useful statement. A tomato is a fruit in botany, but shouldn't be added to a fruit salad.

    You're using a deliberately preposterous example here for the sake of making a point. I think that if you were to give some actual examples of the sort of situation you're mocking here, the problem would be more nuanced.

    What if a wiki-user gives someone who is building a ZK advice? Or, as I think more closely matches your question, what if a wiki-user calls their method ZK and tries to give someone advice on their ZK?

    I don't think the answer--to either your question or mine--really matters. If that (imposter!) ZK/wiki-user is the only person that the advice-receiver talks to, then maybe the advice-receiver starts building a wiki and calls it a ZK. So what? It's not diluting the term if they aren't interacting with other people who are using ZK, and if they interact with others who are using more typical ZK then they will likely be exposed to what that specific community considers the core ZK concepts. If the term has been so diluted in the community at large that they don't understand the difference, then I don't think the difference was that important in the first place. If there is enough of a difference between a wiki and a ZK, then that difference will become engrained in the discussions about wikis and ZK. If the two smear together so much that they can't be distinguished in conversation, then they already weren't usefully distinguishable.

    To put it back in terms of your original question: If someone is giving advice to someone based on their marble ZK, it will quickly become apparent that a major category error has been made. If it isn't apparent in active discussion that a category error has been made, then the category error is negligible, or the context of the conversation has defined a new category that works for the purposes of that conversation.

    The fact that concepts are not hard-edged demonstrates very little about claims that something is or is not a ZK. The concept of ZK is not hard-edged but that doesn't mean that anything is a ZK or that it is not useful to draw distinctions between different types of notetaking practices.

    It does, however, mean that it isn't easy to draw hard-edges between notetaking practices. Which is the point of the article, I think. Using a griffon as the not-a-horse example maybe obscures the point a little bit.

    A three-legged horse is a horse, as is a horse born with two heads. We also have donkeys and mules and miniature horses and zebra and sea horses. In what way are we talking about horses? Horses and donkeys are different species (of the horse family). Mules are interbreeds of these two. Zebra also part of the horse family, but not common in North America. Is a sea horse a horse? It has horse in its name.

    The context defines the working definition of horse for the purposes of a given discussion. Generally, when one talks about a horse they mean a specific species of the horse family. If they are talking about using a horse for labor, then maybe a mule or donkey will do. If they are talking about riding, that eliminates the miniature horse, despite this technically being the same species of horse as the ones that you might ride. A zebra is part of the horse family and can be ridden, but you would be very surprised if you asked to ride a horse and someone brought out a zebra.

    This metaphor is getting away from me. I only mean to say that hard-edges are for scientists and falsifiable statements, and even in the case of falsifiable statements context becomes important to make sure a category error hasn't been made. When a topic is not falsifiable, context becomes doubly important.

    You're never going to get a hard-edged definition of a ZK. Because you're never going to get that hard-edge definition, further context and discussion will always be necessary to ensure that the parameters for a given conversation are clear. Maybe that context can be provided with a handy glossary, for the purposes of a forum. Maybe that context will be provided by saying, "As Sönke Ahrens describes it

    In other words, the answer to the question, "Is a wiki a ZK?" is: "In what sense?"

  • @cobblepot said:
    Can you explain how you reconcile this post with your plans to add a glossary to this site, which will define what various concepts mean and do not mean? Or with your book, which will contain hundreds of claims about what a ZK is, isn't, and should be?

    a) Perhaps, you shouldn't make any assumptions.

    What will you say when someone gives others advice based on their ZK, which is just a bag of marbles? You can tell them that a bag of marbles is not a ZK, at which point they should refer you to the late Wittgenstein and accuse you of overzealous orthodoxy.

    b) Strawman.

    The fact that concepts are not hard-edged demonstrates very little about claims that something is or is not a ZK. The concept of ZK is not hard-edged but that doesn't mean that anything is a ZK or that it is not useful to draw distinctions between different types of notetaking practices.

    c) Still strawmaning me.

    I am a Zettler

  • @prometheanhindsight said:
    In other words, the answer to the question, "Is a wiki a ZK?" is: "In what sense?"

    Yes. :smile:

    I am a Zettler

  • I will cite something here:

    A book I love is “Proofs and Refutations” (Imre Lakatos). A big point of that book is that people tend to think of definitions & categories as starting points, from which we derive theorems or scientific results about the world. But the process really works the other way round. Definitions and categories are things which emerge after we’ve understood phenomena in the world, and as a consequence of that understanding. And so while it’s worth making very tentative definitions, it’s a mistake to do so too prematurely, or to hold too strongly to them. Those tentative definitions are, at best, scaffolding to help arrive at an understanding, which may eventually result in good definitions.
    ~ cognitivemedium.com - trouble_with_definitions

    So, I feel like we need to be able to understand this concept of Zettelkasten in order to define it (and understanding can always be expanded), and on the other hand we are eager to find definitions in order to be able to communicate about it, especially with beginners. Seems like we are in a vicious cycle. We don't need orthodoxy, but I think we do need discussion about definitions and terminology and different approaches - that is the fastest way to improve and better our understanding - there is nothing bad in confronting our thinking and arguments with others!

  • I think the issue is not purely on the level of language and concepts. The manner in which you engage with the matter will influence how you behave socially. For example: Strawmaning is sometimes a conscious tactic. Very prominent in attention merchants (click bait, rage bait, increasing parts of the former non-partisan press etc).

    But, if you think you can access such an issue with pure logic and formal methods you overly engage with the material with the functions of your left hemisphere. That will result in adopting the character of the left hemisphere which is tends to hold on to ideas, is overly concerned with details, cannot understand the organic, deals everything as if it was dead and mechanical etc. The impulse to use strawmans or "violent communication" (not meant in the overly sensitive way but rather in the sense of Rosenberg's Theory of nonviolent communication) is the result of a reduced world view. It is reduced in a manner that you have only a limited perspective. The left does not allow anything other than the left, the right is capable of allowing both itself and the left.

    A HIGHLY recommended book on that topic is The Master and his Emissary by Iain McGilChrist.

    This:

    @prometheanhindsight said:
    In other words, the answer to the question, "Is a wiki a ZK?" is: "In what sense?"

    is the balanced view. It does not allow to go to extremes, keeps an eye on the concrete and does not lose itself in the platonic world mistaking ideas for reality.

    I am a Zettler

  • @cobblepot I hope to get a non-strawman version of your objections. :kissing:

    I am a Zettler

  • Hi @sfast , I stopped participating here regularly but saw this today. Although I'll happily withdraw my assumptions about your book (apologies), it is certainly no assumption to claim that a glossary is prescriptive/normative about what concepts mean and don't. Of course, I am not claiming that glossaries all have classical definitions (i.e. definitions based on necessary and sufficient conditions). Prototype definitions or even loose characterizations necessarily entail that the author thinks there are right/wrong (or better/worse) ways to use words. You can claim otherwise, but if/when you actually post your glossary, or if you post an example from it, it will be trivial to show that it is prescriptive to some degree.

    As for your "strawman" claims, my post contains no strawmen, and even if it did, simply saying "strawman" is not a counter-argument, nor is it an answer to my questions. It is just an easy way to dismiss a question you don't want to answer. I wrestled with whether to explain why my questions are not strawmen. You didn't to take the effort to explain why you thought they were strawmen. But I guess I'll do this in case others aren't familiar with the term.

    A strawman is a misleading characterization of someone else's argument. Thus, it is impossble for my question to be a strawman, since it is a question rather than a claim. My claims at the end of my post are statements about my position, not yours. If I don't say "You are arguing X" I can't be strawmanning you. You could argue that my claims are wrong, or irrelevant, or make false assumptions, but none of that is strawmanning. But let's not get into a vocabulary rabbit-hole. If there is something wrong with my claims, let's see your evidence and arguments rather than naming fallacies. How, exactly, did I misrepresent your views?

    As to your claim that you are interested in my "non-strawman version of your objections," I must say that I am skeptical. Interested readers can search for our previous discussions and I think in most cases, when things actually got philosophically tricky you stopped replying or it reduced to verbal game-playing rather than honest inquiry.

    I understand that you are in a strange position. You want a forum that is open to discussion and challenge, but you have a position as a ZK authority based on your knowledge and experience. When your claims are challenged by a bunch of anonymous strangers, it is easy to fall into defensiveness. But the reason that i stopped regularly participating in these forums is this: although I can't know your intent, it appears to me as an outsider that you are interested in helping others by sharing your wisdom (no sarcasm here, I think you have many valuable things to share), but it does not appear to me that you are interested in working with others to challenge and revise your own existing views of knowledge work. I am sure you will disagree but I have not personally seen evidence to the contrary in this forum.

    I have read in several of your posts sentiments along the lines of 'hey poster, you have to support your claims with evidence and arguments' but you have also written "no philosophical discussions here. We are not in the ivory tower, now." In this post, you tell us about (your interpretation of) Wittgenstein, but elsewhere you have accused me of "ivory-towering" you. Do you want to talk philosophy or not? You say you want arguments, but you call "strawman!" rather than answering my questions in good faith. And you say that you don't want others to discuss philosophy, but you invoke Wittgenstein to make your own points. This is why I now occasionally drop by but rarely post.

    Sorry to come across negatively. People can find me more regularly on Discord these days.

  • (Some quotes are shortened. If that twists the meaning wrongly, please point out)

    @cobblepot said:
    Hi @sfast , I stopped participating here regularly but saw this today. Although I'll happily withdraw my assumptions about your book (apologies), it is certainly no assumption to claim that a glossary is prescriptive/normative about what concepts mean and don't. Of course, I am not claiming that glossaries all have classical definitions (i.e. definitions based on necessary and sufficient conditions). Prototype definitions or even loose characterizations necessarily entail that the author thinks there are right/wrong (or better/worse) ways to use words. You can claim otherwise, but if/when you actually post your glossary, or if you post an example from it, it will be trivial to show that it is prescriptive to some degree.

    What is it if not an assumption? You infered from your concept of glossaries what I will do with mine: "adding a glossary which will".

    1. You didn't distinguish between right/wrong and better/worse. Both are very different categories of judgement. The better/worse category is not prescriptive on how to use words.
    2. What if I don't use prescriptions but descriptions? (Which I plan to do)
    3. Or I use just the cause-effect-model? "If you use the term like this, you draw the boundaries like this which will allow you to see this"

    As for your "strawman" claims, my post contains no strawmen, and even if it did, simply saying "strawman" is not a counter-argument, nor is it an answer to my questions. It is just an easy way to dismiss a question you don't want to answer. I wrestled with whether to explain why my questions are not strawmen. You didn't to take the effort to explain why you thought they were strawmen. But I guess I'll do this in case others aren't familiar with the term.

    A strawman does not need any counter-argument. If a strawman is at the level your strawmaning it is very unlikely that something productive is coming out.

    A strawman is a misleading characterization of someone else's argument. Thus, it is impossble for my question to be a strawman, since it is a question rather than a claim. My claims at the end of my post are statements about my position, not yours. If I don't say "You are arguing X" I can't be strawmanning you. You could argue that my claims are wrong, or irrelevant, or make false assumptions, but none of that is strawmanning. But let's not get into a vocabulary rabbit-hole. If there is something wrong with my claims, let's see your evidence and arguments rather than naming fallacies. How, exactly, did I misrepresent your views?

    Example:

    The concept of ZK is not hard-edged but that doesn't mean that anything is a ZK or that it is not useful to draw distinctions between different types of notetaking practices.

    Nowhere I claimed that anything is a ZK or that it is not useful to draw distinctions. You defered to the most extrem caricature of my position that the thinking is should not be lead by hard lines: No lines and anything can be a Zettelkasten.

    This behavior allows you to post the following quote:

    What will you say when someone gives others advice based on their ZK, which is just a bag of marbles? You can tell them that a bag of marbles is not a ZK, at which point they should refer you to the late Wittgenstein and accuse you of overzealous orthodoxy.

    If you really want the answer:

    1. If somebody asks this online and anonymous, I'd either ignore it or (if I really trust in the sincereness of the person) I'd ask to moderate himself/herself and to stop using extreme examples.
    2. If somebody does this in the real world to my face I'd point out the ridiculousness of such a behavior and how it is not useful. Perhaps, I'll point out Rosenbergs work "Nonviolent communication". But in my experience, this kind of behavior comes from a point of general disrespectful behavioral pattern which I normally disrupt and end.

    For the non-philosophical folks: If somebody invokes the late Wittgenstein he refers to the problem that there seem to be clear cases which are not divided by clear boundaries. The classical example is the heap of sand: If you have a heap of sand you can remove one grain and still have a heap. But there comes a point of course when the heap is no longer a heap but a bunch of grains.

    There are two ways to deal with the problem: Retreating back to what I call the ivory-tower which means more practical irrelevant mouthing without any consideration of practical usefulness. Or, stepping back and reflecting on the relevance of the problem.

    The philosophical failure is to see and reflect that there are both options. The ivory-tower philosoph has limited capability to take a step back and keep in touch with the real world because he has no interest in the real world.

    Wittgenstein did this exact step. There are basically two different Wittgensteins: His early works and his later works. The difference between the early Wittgenstein and the late Wittgenstein is the result of his renewed contact to the real world. Both versions are geniuses. The early Wittgenstein was a genius ivory-tower type. The late Wittgenstein contracted himself to a great extend because of this stepping back. The result was his work on familiarity and language games.

    You, @cobblepot, play by the rules of the early Wittgenstein, ignoring the late Wittgenstein I invited.

    Or with the heap of sand as an example: I say that you neither cannot draw clear boundaries between a grain of sand and a heap nor is this a solution to any of the problems (how to write a thesis, what to put in a note for long-term usefulness, techniques to process texts etc.). There are ways to deal with the vagueness of language and move on from the theoretical field. Your answer is: "But there must be boundaries and they are useful and it is productive to search for good boundary definitions, perhaps is supervaluationism a solution, perhaps..."

    As to your claim that you are interested in my "non-strawman version of your objections," I must say that I am skeptical. Interested readers can search for our previous discussions and I think in most cases, when things actually got philosophically tricky you stopped replying or it reduced to verbal game-playing rather than honest inquiry.

    I am interested in non-strawman versions. But this the first section is the perfect example why I not consistent in my engagement with you. The point you describe of philosophical trickiness is the point I describe of philosphical ridiculousness. Your style of your writing and lack of ability to deviate from the way you approach things (as demonstrated in your inability to undertand why improveism felt your writing as disrepectful) is fun for me because I like this kind of friction with a bit of conflict. But sometimes, I lose the engagement because I don't see any problem (see above) to solve. It's just two keyboard-warriors (me included in this case). Then I rather invest my energy and time who seem to actually do something with their ZK and not only talk about it. I cannot see that you are doing more than theoretising on issues with any true aim to actually search for a problem.

    I understand that you are in a strange position. You want a forum that is open to discussion and challenge, but you have a position as a ZK authority based on your knowledge and experience. When your claims are challenged by a bunch of anonymous strangers, it is easy to fall into defensiveness. But the reason that i stopped regularly participating in these forums is this: although I can't know your intent, it appears to me as an outsider that you are interested in helping others by sharing your wisdom (no sarcasm here, I think you have many valuable things to share), but it does not appear to me that you are interested in working with others to challenge and revise your own existing views of knowledge work. I am sure you will disagree but I have not personally seen evidence to the contrary in this forum.

    To quote myself:

    First, I was deeply skeptical about Dan Sheffler’s setup. His naming scheme results in some kind of categories as Christian discussed. Since categories impose more inflexibility compared to tags I thought that his approach was too restricted to let the magic of a Zettelkasten unfold to its fullest. Now I have to radically revise my opinion. Source: https://zettelkasten.de/posts/luhmanns-second-zettelkasten/

    You just did not present anything useful or convincing. At this point, you just tried to lecture a bird on how to fly.

    I have read in several of your posts sentiments along the lines of 'hey poster, you have to support your claims with evidence and arguments' but you have also written "no philosophical discussions here. We are not in the ivory tower, now." In this post, you tell us about (your interpretation of) Wittgenstein, but elsewhere you have accused me of "ivory-towering" you. Do you want to talk philosophy or not? You say you want arguments, but you call "strawman!" rather than answering my questions in good faith. And you say that you don't want others to discuss philosophy, but you invoke Wittgenstein to make your own points. This is why I now occasionally drop by but rarely post.

    I hope the above explains. To me, you have an incomplete set of tools and trying to hammer on the screw in. (hammer = ivory towering, screw = real world problem)

    Perhaps, story time illustrates more:

    I once visited a class on animal ethics. I strongly positioned myself on the carnivore side. A class mate was very passionate on the vegan side. He was so passionate that he got a bit personal which was fun within the set of discussions. When we later met at the canteen he really enjoyed his ham sandwich and was not amused when I pointed out his inconsistency. Back in class again he was even more upset when I disengaged from our previous discussion and seemed indifferent to what I previously was passionate about. He got really upset when he asked me "Do you want to talk philosophy or not?" and my answer was "I once visited a class on animal ethics. I strongly..."

    Sorry to come across negatively. People can find me more regularly on Discord these days.

    No, problemo. Feel my digital hug, bro. :* I am there for you when you want to apply the Zettelkasten Method.

    I am a Zettler

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