Zettelkasten Forum

One note per-concept, or one note per-claim?

Given this claim:

"Human Behavior is driven by Mental Models, which are expressed in Sense Memories"

Do you create notes like this:

  1. Human Behavior is driven by Mental Models
  2. Mental Models are expressed in Sense Memories

Or like this:

  1. Human Behavior
  2. Mental Models
  3. Sense Memories

...Or some other combination?


  • Great question. I'd like to know the same. If you really take the Principle of Atomicity to heart, once could conceivably make a zettel out of every sentence or paragraph, since there is usually at least one main proposition.

    W.r.t your quote, I would probably do it in sentence form with specific propositions, like you have in the first example.

    Your second example is what I would make for structure notes or overview notes as I call them.

    Human Behavior
    Mental Models
    Sense Memories

    In your archive, you will likely have many ground-level zettels that pertain to those topics. Thus, these overview notes would collect and structure the individual zettels around each idea (e.g. human behavior, mental models, etc.).

    In your individual zettels (e.g. Human Behavior is driven by Mental Models), you might even do it so that you link to the overview note. So:

    2018120201 [[Human behavior]] is driven by 2018120202 [[Mental models]]. That's actually how I would do it. That way you've made the links at the outset.

    @sfast and @ctietze may have better suggestions, but this is how I would do it. As @sfast has discussed, I see my zettelkasten in layers, with notes having different layers of granularity and building on each other. I think the examples you provide are two different layers, both of which add value and serve different roles.

  • I would do it in a similar way. At first, though, if the claim is all I had, I probably wouldn't even bother to split in in two. But I see the point of this contrived example (I can tell it's contrived because e.g. the source of the claim is missing from the quote :)), so: what @achamess said!

    Author at Zettelkasten.de • http://christiantietze.de/

  • In my archive, it would look like this:

    Human Behavior [[201812061423]] is driven by Mental Models [[201812061423]], which are expressed in Sense Memories [[201812061423]].

    So, there'd be four notes.

  • @sfast said:
    In my archive, it would look like this:

    Human Behavior [[201812061423]] is driven by Mental Models [[201812061423]], which are expressed in Sense Memories [[201812061423]].

    So, there'd be four notes.

    What would be contained within the individual notes? Definitions of the terms?

  • It would depend on the level of processing already done. I generally don't link to definitions because I expect me to know all the definitions. The links can go to

    • the structure note that governs the topic
    • a expanding note that expand on the same topic from another perspective
    • etc.
  • On a related question, I quite frequently come up with classification schemes, where several individual concepts are connected in a very strong way.

    For example, Taleb’s framework of Fragile, Resilient, Antifragile. The terms themselves, in these cases, often derive their meaning more from the framework than from any individual definition. In a similar way, I've recently classified religious traditions as revolving around Leadership, Liturgy, or Literature. These aren't standalone concepts, but are useful models for comparing / contrasting within a framework.

    It gets quite tricky when trying to unpack or compare different aspects of these classification schemes. For example, what are the prerequisites for Fragile, Resilient, and Antifragile systems? Or what are the behavioral characteristics vs the failure modes of religious traditions that center around Leadership, Liturgy, or Literature?

    Do these comparisons exist in a separate high-level notes, such as:

    • Classification Scheme
    • Classification Scheme > Characteristics
    • Classification Scheme > Prerequisites
    • Classification Scheme > Failure modes

    Or do the individual items get broken out, such as:

    • Classification Scheme
    • Classification Scheme > A
    • Classification Scheme > A > Characteristics
    • Classification Scheme > A > Prerequisites
    • Classification Scheme > A > Failure modes
    • Classification Scheme > B
    • Classification Scheme > B > Characteristics
    • Classification Scheme > B > Prerequisites
    • Classification Scheme > B > Failure modes
    • Classification Scheme > C
    • Classification Scheme > C > Characteristics
    • Classification Scheme > C > Prerequisites
    • Classification Scheme > C > Failure modes

    Or is there some better way to approach this?

  • I do solve this problem like that:

    1. I think in difference of part and wholes. Antifragility, Fragility and Robustness are part of an overarching theory on being and time. They are conditions of existing over time.
    2. Or, I think in versions of the same. Antifragile, fragile and robust are property values of a system.
  • edited April 19

    Juicy stuff @micahredding . Not sure if this is helpful, but I've found it a fun and useful exercise to apply some ancient rhetorically categories to help unpack what I'm trying to categorize:

    Ways to Unpack a Thought or Thing

    For whatever reason, in whatever circumstance, something has entered your mind and you're trying to figure it out, or unearth its hidden power (maybe its cadence or syntax), or suck the marrow out of its multiple meanings—all of this so you can fully grok it—and you're grasping for the right tools to help you take that Thought or Thing and express it with surgical precision.

    Unpacking through Relationships

    What is it like?

    • Redefinition: replace old definition with something else
    • Same as : Opposite of

      • It’s the same as this. It’s the opposite of that.
    • Genus : Species

      • Rectangle : Square
    • Whole : Parts

      • Bike : Spoke
    • Either this : Or that

    • Similar to : Different from

      • It’s not unlike [BLANK] .
      • It’s like [BLANK], in that [BLANK], but not in [BLANK] .
    • More than : Less than

    How does it relate?

    • If that : Then this
    • Causes : Results from
    • Affects : is Affected by
    • Increases : Decreases
    • Attracts : Repels
    • Better than: Worse than
    • Exaggerated : Understated
    • Praised : Denounced
    • Before : After

      • It’s before this. It’s after that.
    • As that : So this

      • As that happens, so does this.
    • Possible : Impossible

      • It’s possible if/because this. It’s impossible if/because that.
    • Encourages : Discourages

      • It encourages. It discourages.

    Unpacking through Function

    What does it do?

    Transforms a thing
    Transform itself

    Unpacking through Circumstances

    What is the context surrounding it?

    • Circumstances

      • Tragic : Comedic / Funny / Humorous
    • Circumstances of People

      • Family, race, country, sex, age, education, physical appearance, fortune, rank, natural disposition, desires, inclinations, previous acts and sayings, passion, wisdom, name. [From Erasmus]
      • Birth, children, wealth, reputation, honor, health, beauty, strength, bodily stature, bodily excellence, a good old age, friendships, luck, happiness, justice, courage, temperament, magnanimity, magnificence, ability to speak and act, charisma, natural talent, skill, memory ease in learning, quick-wittedness, knowledge, art, life. [Adapted from Aristotle]
    • Circumstances of Things

      • Cause, place, time, occasion, antecedents of the affair (context), collateral circumstances, consequences, opportunity, instrument, method.
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