Zettelkasten Forum

Sertillanges, The Intellectual Life

Been reading A.G. Sertillanges’ 1946 book “The Intellectual Life”; the chapters on reading and note-taking are extremely Zettelkästen-friendly.

A work may be finished before it is begun; all its value is determined in your notes; the plan is there latent....

Others might find it useful.


  • A few pages later he describes a Zettelkasten, pretty much, having rejected notebooks and category folders. It seems that the idea was in the air.

    But it seems by far the most practical method, for most kinds of work, is to keep notes on slips.

    He doesn’t goes as far as Luhmann’s Zettel IDs, just numbering the slips and keeping a catalog. But the basic idea is there.

  • @Philaquino does he give his reasons for rejecting notebooks or category folders?

  • @Nick said:
    @Philaquino does he give his reasons for rejecting notebooks or category folders?

    Sorry, just saw this. Yeah, IIRC he does; and they are the reasons you'd expect. Notebooks are linear, and category folders impose an order on the material before you've really come to grips with it.

  • This is a valuable book for anyone who is learning. Here is a sample: (From my Zettelkasten)
    We must vitally assimilate, what we read
    “We must vitally assimilate, what we read, and we must finally think for ourselves. When we have heard the words, we must, after the author and perhaps thanks to him but in the last resort independently of him, compel our own soul to re-express them. We must recreate for our own use the sum total of knowledge.”

    p. 123

    Just copying text doesn’t work. You must be able to make the idea or the concept a part of you. Do this by paraphrasing, by closing the book and writing out what you think you know and then check against the text.
    Sertillanges, A.D.
    Sertillanges, A.D. "The Intellectual Life"

  • I can't help myself. But I am never suprised that a deep thinker is a catholic cleric. Perhaps, I like Pierre Teilhard de Chardin too much and have a strong bias.

    I am a Zettler

  • Thanks! I really liked this book.
    I'm feeling inspired and energized to study and work again.
    While reading the book, I was like "I'm almost sure that Luhman also read this book!"

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