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Translation of Kleist: on the gradual construction of thoughts during speech

There's this old text that I think is kinda useful to understand a tiny bit of the basis of Luhmann's communication theory. Manfred Kuehn wrote about this, too, with another reference:

As Lichtenberg put it, we should say: "there is thought," and not "I think," just as we are wont to say "there is lightning" or "it is raining."

I uploaded the public domain text from https://www.projekt-gutenberg.org/kleist/gedanken/gedanken.html here in German, plus a DeepL-based English translation:

https://gist.github.com/DivineDominion/022ce0fdca0ed21d30c11e5c56135058

If you search (hat tip to @cobblepot :)) for "on the gradual construction of thoughts during speech" on the web, you can get to PDFs for free, too, but I won't hotlink these, because I'm not sure about their copyright status.

So if any of you bilinguals here want to submit improvements to a free community edition of the text's translation, there you go, please submit corrections via the link above.

That being said, I do think the current DeepL-version is intelligible, too.


Why do I mention this? Actual prose seems to make stuff easier to grasp, which I think is why @Eurobubba brings up Pirsig's Lila to provide an illustration of the Zettelkasten Method here and there. It's a great example, and one can be inspired a lot through the story that's told.

Same for me with Kleist. It's a rough description of the vocabulary of some systems thinkers, but it's also indicative of how we can understand topics and ourselves better through writing.

In my opinion, it's part of the """"magic"""" of a Zettelkasten. There's no literal surprise text files on my disk. I wrote all of them myself. But my thinking changes through the process much like thinking happpens when we talk to someone. Kleist noticed the moment that thoughts came to him out of thin air while he was immersed in the process of communication. Maybe you find all of this equally powerful.

Either way, enjoy the machine lord's translation of the classic that is Kleist!

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

Comments

  • @ctietze said:

    Actual prose seems to make stuff easier to grasp, which I think is why @Eurobubba brings up Pirsig's Lila to provide an illustration of the Zettelkasten Method here and there. It's a great example, and one can be inspired a lot through the story that's told.

    Same for me with Kleist. It's a rough description of the vocabulary of some systems thinkers, but it's also indicative of how we can understand topics and ourselves better through writing.

    In my opinion, it's part of the """"magic"""" of a Zettelkasten. There's no literal surprise text files on my disk. I wrote all of them myself. But my thinking changes through the process much like thinking happpens when we talk to someone. Kleist noticed the moment that thoughts came to him out of thin air while he was immersed in the process of communication. Maybe you find all of this equally powerful.

    I found these comments from @ctietze when looking through "older" (to me) posts.

    I find the process by which we think to be a fascinating topic and one that I have discussed with many engineering colleagues over the years - people that I considered to be creative problem-solvers. Here are some observations on the process of thinking:

    1. I have one colleague who cannot think unless he is talking - a habit that drives others who do not know him well, crazy. Once you know what is going on, it is fascinating to converse with him.
    2. Another colleague is the opposite - he cannot think unless he is quiet (and not listening to others). With him, patience pays great dividends.
    3. Many others are somewhere in between in the spectrum - sometimes talking, especially in an energized group, aids thinking; at other times, it hinders.
    4. The same applies to writing. I find that sometimes thinking during talking and thinking when being quiet only get me so far and that I must start writing to complete (and organize) some of my thoughts.

    I'm here talking about technical writing, as that is mostly what I have done during my working life. I have written many, many engineering reports and technical papers, and several theses, and believe that I have a good grasp on what is required to deliver quality and style in my field of work. Thinking while writing is an essential aspect of that.

    I have a daughter who (very successfully) writes fiction for a living; she tells me that a similar process applies to her.

  • If you fancy confusing yourself, you could try looking at this, which offers a rather different take on this "thinking" business!

    https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01924/full

  • @MartinBB thanks for sharing this paper on "this thinking business." I don't know which of me should be thanking you. The non-conscious one or the conscious one. Interesting stuff and not at all confusing.

    Will Simpson
    I'm a Zettelnant.
    Research: Rationalism, Zen, Non-fiction Creative Writing
    kestrelcreek.com

  • @ctietze thanks for the pointer to Heinrich von Kleist's essay on 'On the Gradual Creation of Thoughts While Speaking'. It is stimulating to consider closely just how communication might work and it dovetails in with the research paper by David Oakley and Peter Halligan' titled Chasing The Rainbow: The Non-conscious Nature of Being referred to by @MartinBB above. Here is a small capture from my notes.

    Will Simpson
    I'm a Zettelnant.
    Research: Rationalism, Zen, Non-fiction Creative Writing
    kestrelcreek.com

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