Zettelkasten Forum


Zettelkasten work - literature-driven and problem-driven

  • In the past, scientists have developed a number of impressive theories. In the case of Luhmann, we have a detailed picture of one of the crucial tools he used, this tool has been made very explicit to a degree that anyone can use it, and this tool is largely uncoupled from the individual knowledge and the cognitive skills of its users. For other scientific breakthroughs, some of them perhaps even more impressive than Luhmann's theories, we seem to know little about what methods led to these breakthroughs.
  • I wonder what we could develop from this perspective - what, if any, explicit, transferable methods and tools can we extract from the works of physicists, philosophers or mathematicians? How can we combine these tools with practices from the ZK universe?
  • As far as I know, most breakthrough ideas in science and elsewhere were made without the use of a ZK - so people have used other ways to create great ideas, and it would be foolish to narrow our view on ZK-based work only.
  • To me, in most of the forum discussions we have a dominant focus on "literature-driven" ZK work - people read, write zettels, enrich them with their own thoughts and link them to other zettels. On the other hand I suspect that a huge part of people's crucial relevant work in life is "problem-driven". I'm convinced that many writers in this forum use their ZKs for this purpose, but postings about how to start thinking about a topic, how to formulate problems, how to ask questions, how to generate ideas, how to discard approaches in the ZK framework seem to me underrepresented, given their importance for creative work.

Comments

  • @thomasteepe

    Good point, Thomas. Most of the great breakthroughs in science and other fields have come after years of study, research, thinking, etc. So, employing a ZK along the way, as a useful tool, cannot but help. But you are on to something - how do we make our ZK actually "work" for us, and if it is going to be a tool to do work, can we change our practices so that it does so. Some good questions; I hope it generates discussion here.

  • I'm guilty as charged! My bent is more "literature-driven".

    @thomasteepe said:
    For other scientific breakthroughs, some of them perhaps even more impressive than Luhmann's theories, we seem to know little about what methods led to these breakthroughs.

    "Literature-driven" methods and practitioners of this method seem less "corporate" than people versed in the "problem-driven." This may account for some of the disparity among the practitioners of these methods.

    I wonder what we could develop from this perspective - what, if any, explicit, transferable methods and tools can we extract from the works of physicists, philosophers or mathematicians? How can we combine these tools with practices from the ZK universe?

    I reading and onboarding Poincaré, Henri. “MATHEMATICAL CREATION.” The Monist, vol. 20, July 1910, pp. 321–35. This article tells of a mathematician's creative process. And it doesn't include a zettelkasten but there is a lot to glean from Henri's paper.

    To me, in most of the forum discussions we have a dominant focus on "literature-driven" ZK work - people read, write zettels, enrich them with their own thoughts and link them to other zettels. On the other hand I suspect that a huge part of people's crucial relevant work in life is "problem-driven". I'm convinced that many writers in this forum use their ZKs for this purpose, but postings about how to start thinking about a topic, how to formulate problems, how to ask questions, how to generate ideas, how to discard approaches in the ZK framework seem to me underrepresented, given their importance for creative work.

    Congratulations! You started.

    1. how to start thinking about a topic
    2. how to formulate problems
    3. how to ask questions
    4. how to generate ideas
    5. how to discard approaches

    These are keystone questions that are so hard to talk about but are critical. Education has to include these skills, and we pick up these skills usually through imitating the implicit actions of others. If we surround ourselves with people who have these skills, we might slowly absorb them into our creative work. But this is a slow and chancy process without any certainty. Finding ways to talk about these is a noble goal.

    • Kirsh, David. “The Intelligent Use of Space.” Artificial Intelligence, vol. 73, no. 1, 1995, pp. 31–68, doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/0004-3702(94)00017-U.
    • Bakewell, Sarah. How to Live--or--a Life of Montaigne: In One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer. Other Press ed, Other Press, 2010.

    Will Simpson
    I'm a zettelnant.
    Research areas: Attention Horizon, Productive Procrastination, Dzogchen, Non-fiction Creative Writing
    kestrelcreek.com

  • @Will wrote:

    These are keystone questions that are so hard to talk about but are critical. Education has to include these skills, and we pick up these skills usually through imitating the implicit actions of others. If we surround ourselves with people who have these skills, we might slowly absorb them into our creative work. But this is a slow and chancy process without any certainty.

    I would like to add a number of complementary aspects to this passage.

    • "so hard to talk about"
      Given the importance of problem solving processes in our lives, it's not surprising that there is a large body of literature about them. I see no reasons why communication about problem solving and thinking processes should be especially hard - people have written volumes about how society works.

    • "we pick up these skills usually through imitating the implicit actions of others"
      There is a massive body of work that tries to make thinking tools and their application explicit - here are just three examples:
      We could perhaps start in 1305 with Ramon Llull's "Ars Magna", proceed with George Polya's "How to Solve It" from 1945, which has a scope far beyond its immediate domain in mathematics, and not stop at thinking routines from the Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education from the 2010s.
      These are very explicit, actionable, adaptable tools for thinking.

    • "this is a slow and chancy process"
      We teach students essay writing, partial integration and perspective drawing. I see few reasons to view problem solving as something inaccessible.
      One of the charming aspects of combining writing processes and thinking tools in the way outlined here is that thinking becomes much more visible and explicit - and therefore becomes something that is easier to imitate and adapt and that can be talked about.

    For my tinkerings with my own thinking, I find this "tool-based" approach, combined with ZK-based notes, by far the most promising approach.
    Here are some ideas.

    • I have a collection of thinking tools and stimuli at my desk - small modules on sticky notes that I can see with one glance. Currently, it's a collection of about 30 notes, most of them with 10 - 20 entries, and a central "thinking engine" that guides my problem-driven ZK work at the top level. The tools and stimuli cover a range from a simple "so?!" or "what's puzzling here?" to a list of different graphic representations to the set of 40 TRIZ principles to a set of reflection tools.
      For me, the most useful tools are those about reflection, and the most effective stimuli are those that probe the resonance of my current domain with some generic principle like "timelines" or "extremes". When it's helpful, these notes show how a tool can be used in a special zettel layout.

    • Thinking tools could be a possible topic for literature-driven ZK work.

    • You can write "heuristic" tool zettels and juxtapose them with your regular "epistemic" zettels to see how they interact, possibly backed by a spaced repetition system in the spirit of Matuschak's Evergreen Notes.
    • "The Art and Craft of Problem Solving" is the name of a nice book on maths problem solving, and the phrase captures my view on the tool approach - this approach covers the craft aspect, and sometimes it can pave the way to things that cannot be put into an explicit, transferable heuristic method.
  • You have presented a compelling rebuttal to my post, removing any doubt as to my confusion. It is so nice of you to call these "complementary aspects to this passage" instead of calling them corrections to my ignorance. Thank you.

    ~confession~

    I come from an intellectually impoverished background. I see now that everyone in the environment I grew up in was trying to survive and didn't that the time to explore or teach me or anyone else these ideas. I think one has to reach a certain level of survivability, of comfort in one's skin, to relax and look at the positive strategies for problem-solving or "literature-driven" methods. Not that these strategies wouldn't have helped my teachers and me, but when you're treading water to keep from drowning, the intricate details of scuba diving are a distraction.

    I described my journey when discussing how I absorbed skills implicitly by watching other people rather than through book learning. Now, it is the opposite. I love books and can't be bothered watching other people.

    I think all this lies on a spectrum, from total impoverishment to total intellectual emersion. I don't think either of us is at either extreme. Maybe I'm wrong, but I do think there are more of us on the impoverished side.

    ~end-confession~

    Framing "Zettelkasten work - literature-driven and problem-driven" as you eloquently have, I'd agree there is a vast literature on problem-solving. Exposure to it is not well distributed. It's better now with the internets and this forum. I would have turned out differently if I'd been exposed to positive strategies for problem-solving earlier in life. Now, to try and make up for the lost time.

    Here are some ideas.

    • I have a collection of thinking tools and stimuli at my desk - small modules on sticky notes that I can see with one glance. Currently, it's a collection of about 30 notes, most of them with 10 - 20 entries, and a central "thinking engine" that guides my problem-driven ZK work at the top level. The tools and stimuli cover a range from a simple "so?!" or "what's puzzling here?" to a list of different graphic representations to the set of 40 TRIZ principles to a set of reflection tools.
      For me, the most useful tools are those about reflection, and the most effective stimuli are those that probe the resonance of my current domain with some generic principle like "timelines" or "extremes". When it's helpful, these notes show how a tool can be used in a special zettel layout.

    • Thinking tools could be a possible topic for literature-driven ZK work.

    • You can write "heuristic" tool zettels and juxtapose them with your regular "epistemic" zettels to see how they interact, possibly backed by a spaced repetition system in the spirit of Matuschak's Evergreen Notes.
    • "The Art and Craft of Problem Solving" is the name of a nice book on maths problem solving, and the phrase captures my view on the tool approach - this approach covers the craft aspect, and sometimes it can pave the way to things that cannot be put into an explicit, transferable heuristic method.

    Thanks for sharing these ideas. Especially the notion of a "thinking engine." Developing a "thinking engine" is what is being developed through ZK work's art and craft. Mostly, I feel we have been talking more about the craft than the art.

    You bring up, "The Art and Craft of Problem Solving" is the name of a nice book on maths problem-solving." I'm reading and can recommend:

    Will Simpson
    I'm a zettelnant.
    Research areas: Attention Horizon, Productive Procrastination, Dzogchen, Non-fiction Creative Writing
    kestrelcreek.com

    • I framed this line of thought as "indirect vs direct work".
    • I personally work more directional than my impression of the average user. I think it is partially because I use my Zettelkasten as a tool to think and developed tools to tackle specific problems (e.g. How to organise training with a whide variety of modalities; How to invest; etc.)
    • My post on [Investing with the Zettelkasten Method](Investing with the Zettelkasten Method) is a perfect example of a post that is a) geared towards a tool to solve a specific problem and b) a post that got relatively little attention (compared to others on this blog). To me, zettelkasten.de is more commercially motivated than my other project on self-development. There, no ducks are given on what people might want. Here, I have the feeling that the general community (not this forum but the entirety of people interested in the Zettelkasten Method) is still figuring out more basic steps and get their Zettelkasten working in the first place. So, I tend to write posts more on the literatur-driven side.
    • I don't think those are two modes of working, technically speaking. Processing literature is a tool in the toolbox to solve problems.

    (Dang, I like lists)

    I am a Zettler

  • Here's a thought experiment:

    Anna and Barbara each work with their personal zettelkasten.

    • Anna's ZK work is largely literature-driven (or indirectional) in the above sense.
    • Barbara uses her ZK, and in addition (basically as a part of it) an explicit, written-down collection of thinking tools that are designed to support her problem-driven / purpose-driven / directional ZK work. One of the tools makes a crucial suggestion like "spend a reasonable amount of time per week thinking about improvements to this collection", and Barbara does her "tool-driven" ZK work in this environment.

    (In my view, this is not an overblown academic fantasy, but an outline of hands-on practices that can be set up in minutes and then be further developed. - Anna and Barbara are designed here as distant poles on a spectrum, and real people are obviously a blend.)

    Here are two ideas I like:

    • First, I like the idea of a co-growth of a person and their thinking environment. How will Anna and her ZK co-grow, and how Barbara and her combination of a ZK and a tool collection? (The concept of co-growth should capture how persons grow in knowledge and skills, then adapt and improve their ZKs, and these improved ZKs facilitate in turn further growth in knowledge and skills.) - Obviously, I have hopes and guesses about answers, but no evidence.
    • Second, I like the idea of "communities of practice". I imagine that learning from each other about tool-driven work could be a valuable addition to literature-driven work - insofar tool-driven work (including an emphasis on improving the tool collection) stimulates new practices of productive thinking that are less likely to emerge from literature-driven work alone.
  • I think proper work with the ZK is mostly problem-driven by nature. Even if you process just one book you are on a path to understand a particular problem deeply.

    At the moment, I process The Winner Effect. The Neuroscience of Success and Failure. But it is not about processing a book and re-constructing what I find in it. I use it as a guide to think about how Success and Failure shape the brain and its neurotransmitters.

    The brain does not focus well on things that are not pressing problems or solutions for relevant problems. So, if you have a rather passive approach and trying to capture or re-construct you use less of your brain power.

    I am a Zettler

  • @sfast said:
    Processing literature is a tool in the toolbox to solve problems.

    I am so interested in hearing about the other tools. And how the toolbox is designed. And how its contents may change with time. And if the tools from generation N are used to build the tools for generation N+1.

    Here is yet another thought experiment to focus on the potential of ZKs that are not driven by literature processing:
    Imagine you are stranded on a desolate island, together with 5000 sheets of A4 paper unharmed by water, an A4 index card box to organize sheets in, a lifetime supply of pencils and not a single piece of literature. What would you do with the material? How might a ZK develop under these conditions of isolation? (And yes, arranging 1000 sheets as an SOS sign on the beach is certainly a possible approach.)

  • At the tremendous risk of conflating "literature-driven" approaches to ZK with artistic uses of ZK, and "problem-driven" approaches to ZK, which emphasize ZK as a tool for academic research as opposed to artistic production, I offer this Zettel as an illustration of confusing the unrelated, of failing to police the boundaries, and of the potential for ZK to connect the disconnected.

    20210613191420 Artist or academic: pick one

    Exhibit A

    People go [to graduate school] on a whim, or to get a promotion. Again and again the decision is invoked in terms of escape … It’s the last resort for the person who is ‘generally artistic and literary,’ but not a writer or an artist.

    — Jacob Mikanowski, The Secret Scandal of Grad School, Chronicle of Higher Education, May 27, 2014.

    What artist or writer would want to be considered "'generally artistic or literary' but not a writer or an artist"? The suggestion is that "either artist or academic" is not a false dichotomy. Perhaps there is enough truth in this to be genuinely irritating.

    Exhibit B

    Against the reasonable objection that one might be an academic at one time, and an artist at another, consider the canonical Western literature.

    And a third kind of possession and madness comes from the Muses. This takes hold upon a gentle and pure soul, arouses it and inspires it to songs and other poetry, and thus by adorning countless deeds of the ancients educates later generations. But he who without the divine madness comes to the doors of the Muses, confident that he will be a good poet by art, meets with no success, and the poetry of the sane man vanishes into nothingness before that of the inspired madmen.

    – Plato, Phaedrus [245a].

    Exhibit C

    [Kay Ryan] studied at UCLA, and briefly pursued a Ph.D. in literary criticism until, she says, she became appalled by the idea of being “a doctor of something I couldn’t fix.”

    --Kay Ryan interviewed by Sarah Fay, The Art of Poetry No. 94, Paris Review, Issue 187, Winter 2008.

    I first heard of Kay Ryan's poetry on the Poetry Foundation's Audio Poem of the Day podcast. All You Did, an allegory about a mountain climber stuck on the vertical face of a cliff, stood apart from the other poems. Artist or academic: pick one.

    ZK implemented with Zettlr+Pandoc+MikTeX+Zotero+BetterBibTex.

    What follows is a piece of empirical sociology. It concerns me and someone else, namely my slip box ... That slip boxes can be recommended as partners of communication ... But what about the slip box? How must it be conceived that he will acquire the corresponding communicative competence? — Niklas Luhmann. Communicating with Slip Boxes

  • edited June 14

    Another intervention on Zettelkasten.

    Luhmann treated his Zettelkasten as a conversation partner. This is probably the right attitude to set out with. It's certainly nutty enough to be exactly, precisely right, all the more since Ahrens prefers not to emphasize it. In Ahrens, the phrase "conversation partner" refers only to Luhmann:

    Luhmann almost never read a text twice (Hagen 1997) and was still regarded as an impressive conversation partner who seemed to have all information ready to hand.

    --Sonke Ahrens, How to Take Smart Notes, p90.

    If the Zettelkasten is a conversation partner, one might as well aim for an intellectual lodestar or two.*

    Consider:

    I set out to write books, to be surrounded by generous, brilliant people, and to have great adventures.

    Rebecca Solnit, The Mother of All Questions

    Those luminaries must have been generous all right.

    Not being so completely surrounded and sought after, I am left to develop my Zettelkasten into a conversation partner, ideally on the order of the GOLEM XIV, the superluminal supercomputer of Stanislaw Lem's Imaginary Magnitude, only programmed with sufficient generosity to explain things to me.

    Post edited by ZettelDistraction on

    ZK implemented with Zettlr+Pandoc+MikTeX+Zotero+BetterBibTex.

    What follows is a piece of empirical sociology. It concerns me and someone else, namely my slip box ... That slip boxes can be recommended as partners of communication ... But what about the slip box? How must it be conceived that he will acquire the corresponding communicative competence? — Niklas Luhmann. Communicating with Slip Boxes

  • edited June 15

    Correction: Ahrens refers to a "communication partner" once in his book.

    The slip-box is like a well-informed but down-to-earth communication partner who keeps us grounded. If we try to feed it some lofty ideas, it will force us to check first: What is the reference? How does that connect to the facts and the ideas you already have?

    -- Ahrens, Sönke. How to Take Smart Notes: One Simple Technique to Boost Writing, Learning and Thinking – for Students, Academics and Nonfiction Book Writers (p. 115).

    "Communication partner" is a better term than "conversation partner," and is the term Luhmann himself used. Significantly, Luhmann asserts that his slip-box is a partner of communication, whereas Ahrens allows that the slip-box is like a communication partner. I'm inclined to take Luhmann at his word: if anything, Luhmann's attitude is more imaginative and motivating--especially in the long run-- than the academic caution of Ahrens.

    Post edited by ZettelDistraction on

    ZK implemented with Zettlr+Pandoc+MikTeX+Zotero+BetterBibTex.

    What follows is a piece of empirical sociology. It concerns me and someone else, namely my slip box ... That slip boxes can be recommended as partners of communication ... But what about the slip box? How must it be conceived that he will acquire the corresponding communicative competence? — Niklas Luhmann. Communicating with Slip Boxes

  • @ZettelDistraction

    • What are your reasons for linking literature-driven work closer to artistic uses and problem-driven work closer to acadamic research uses?
    • "Either artist or academic" - am I overlooking reasons for discussing this seriously? We could find countless people, even famous ones, that are neither of the two, exactly one of the two, or both. What is the point you want to make here?
      (I hate to sound pompous, but I'm turning 50 this year and I would like to spend my time on this forum halfway responsibly. I'm perfectly fine if you operate with a different time budget and follow another approach. If the user name you've chosen is a hint - I can take it.)

    • For the communication partner issue - I wonder about the potential of actually constructing different types of reactions from the ZK as communication partner - the ZK could "react" to your request in a supportive or provocative or challenging or guiding way, hinting at things you might have overlooked or which you could try. Obviously, there is a connection between this "mentoring" and "coaching" aspects of a ZK and the tool ideas mentioned above. I guess these limited but sometimes helpful reactions from the ZK are not the kind of communication Luhmann had in mind - communication in his understanding was arguably based on links between notes. - Closely connected, I wonder about the potential of chatbot communication partners that are specifically designed to support your ZK work, or more generally your thinking.

  • edited June 15

    @thomasteepe said:
    @ZettelDistraction

    • What are your reasons for linking literature-driven work closer to artistic uses and problem-driven work closer to acadamic research uses?

    On reflection I am unable to find a clear demarcation between them. Will suggested that literature-driven ZK approaches are less corporate than problem-driven approaches, but unless "literature-driven" means open-ended and following ideas whenever they may lead, and "problem-driven" means constrained by an external end, then perhaps I do not understand the distinction.

    • "Either artist or academic" - am I overlooking reasons for discussing this seriously?

    No.

    • For the communication partner issue - I wonder about the potential of actually constructing different types of reactions from the ZK as communication partner - the ZK could "react" to your request in a supportive or provocative or challenging or guiding way, hinting at things you might have overlooked or which you could try. Obviously, there is a connection between this "mentoring" and "coaching" aspects of a ZK and the tool ideas mentioned above. I guess these limited but sometimes helpful reactions from the ZK are not the kind of communication Luhmann had in mind - communication in his understanding was arguably based on links between notes. -

    Luhmann writes as if the slip-box is a communication partner, an alter-ego. The open-ended implementation with links is supposed to facilitate enough of an element of surprise (through combinatorial possibilities that are too large to be computed and explored in advance) to make communication fruitful for both partners.

    It isn't that much of a leap to imagine a digital Zettelkasten with additional software capabilities that enable it to engage in conversation with its author (or curator) over time.

    I have a question that I hope reveals more about my ignorance than anything else. I took a look at the thinking routines from Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. I was unable to locate a single thinking routine that wasn't somehow obvious or elementary. The intended audience for these routines does not seem to include the mature researcher. What am I missing? Is the purpose to offer educators a typology and a common language for discussing directed inquiry in a classroom setting?

    Post edited by ZettelDistraction on

    ZK implemented with Zettlr+Pandoc+MikTeX+Zotero+BetterBibTex.

    What follows is a piece of empirical sociology. It concerns me and someone else, namely my slip box ... That slip boxes can be recommended as partners of communication ... But what about the slip box? How must it be conceived that he will acquire the corresponding communicative competence? — Niklas Luhmann. Communicating with Slip Boxes

  • @ZettelDistraction said:

    I took a look at the thinking routines from Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. I was unable to locate a single thinking routine that wasn't somehow obvious or elementary. The intended audience for these routines does not seem to include the mature researcher. What am I missing? Is the purpose to offer educators a typology and a common language for discussing directed inquiry in a classroom setting?

    • In my comment above, I wanted to give several examples of well-established, explicit thinking tool collections - I did not aim for advanced collections. (In this respect, the Tricki started by Timothy Gowers would have been a better example, and there are other collections on mathoverflow.net etc.)
    • I think the Project Zero thinking routines try to reach students at an early age, and they are phrased accordingly.
    • I suspect that even simple routines that are without doubt somehow obvious or elementary can be very useful over a broad range of problem solving expertise - tools like "make a drawing of the situation" or "make a list of questions you find puzzling". Similar examples from the PZ page are "Question Starts" or "Think, Puzzle, Explore".
    • I wonder if the questions "How might beauty reveal truth? How might beauty conceal truth?" from the PZ tool "Beauty and Truth" are really that obvious or elementary.
    • From a structural point of view, I find it unsatisfying that the PZ toolbox does not direct some attention to the improvement of the tools itself - but the minds behind PZ presumably know what works and what doesn't for their core audience.
  • edited June 16

    In my comment above, I wanted to give several examples of well-established, explicit thinking tool collections - I did not aim for advanced collections. (In this respect, the Tricki started by Timothy Gowers would have been a better example, and there are other collections on mathoverflow.net etc.)

    Ok. Since the original post raised the ambitious question of importing methods for asking the right questions from the great mathematicians, scientists and philosophers into Zettelkasten, perhaps my expectations were different. These areas have become so professionalized that it's difficult to imagine what heuristics and ZK would bring to the table in the absence of a specialized education.

    Thanks for bringing my attention to the Tricki.org site. I'm familiar with mathoverflow, which I would visit more if it didn't invariably remind me that my own mathematical ability and knowledge couldn't withstand the slightest comparison with the regular posters there.

    I have nothing against heuristics, aide-mémoire, and so on.

    Quite a few forum posts concern where to start, what belongs in a ZK, what kinds of Zettels there are, whether there is a payoff, and not least of all, the educator's enthusiasm for "the theory of the theory."

    This strikes me, at least partly, as psychological, which is why I mentioned Luhmann's attitude toward the Zettelkasten as a communication partner. Taking this literally has enabled me to produce some of the junk I have deposited in this forum--to say nothing of what festers in my own ZK. But it has short-circuited some second-guessing and discursive methodological digression.

    Post edited by ZettelDistraction on

    ZK implemented with Zettlr+Pandoc+MikTeX+Zotero+BetterBibTex.

    What follows is a piece of empirical sociology. It concerns me and someone else, namely my slip box ... That slip boxes can be recommended as partners of communication ... But what about the slip box? How must it be conceived that he will acquire the corresponding communicative competence? — Niklas Luhmann. Communicating with Slip Boxes

  • @thomasteepe said:

    @sfast said:
    Processing literature is a tool in the toolbox to solve problems.

    I am so interested in hearing about the other tools. And how the toolbox is designed. And how its contents may change with time. And if the tools from generation N are used to build the tools for generation N+1.

    Here is yet another thought experiment to focus on the potential of ZKs that are not driven by literature processing:
    Imagine you are stranded on a desolate island, together with 5000 sheets of A4 paper unharmed by water, an A4 index card box to organize sheets in, a lifetime supply of pencils and not a single piece of literature. What would you do with the material? How might a ZK develop under these conditions of isolation? (And yes, arranging 1000 sheets as an SOS sign on the beach is certainly a possible approach.)

    I'm not sure at what level we are talking about tools. The article Investing with the Zettelkasten Method is, for example, a presentation of one of my tools. Or, are we talking about tools to develop such tools?

    I am a Zettler

  • @sfast

    • In the case of the article on investing - how did you construct the structure note? I guess you started with the wish to engage in investing, and then looked for ways to do it in a clever way, and then started reading and processing relevant literature, and then decided to focus on the knockout approach, and then compiled the table with a number of possible criteria? (Btw, in the first row of the table, would a PEG ratio of 1.2 qualify as super and dumb?)
    • Did explicit "thinking tools" play a relevant role in this construction, or was it more implicit or even intuitive?

    My questions above were very short - I will try to give more context here.

    • "hearing about the other tools": A good starting point may be "What tools do people use to generate ideas?" With respect to designing productive "work surfaces" (background is at the end of this comment) - I suppose there will be a stage of making a collection of ideas, perhaps some from processing literature, some from modifying ideas from literature, perhaps some from direct brainstorming, and perhaps some from using more specific methods of generating ideas - but what are these methods? And perhaps people will argue that doing literature-driven-work alone is certainly not the only possible way, but simply the most efficient use of their time. - Similar questions for setting goals, identifying problems, making plans for the next steps in a solution process etc.
    • "how is the toolbox designed": One could have a large tool container with no direct ordering principle. Or a kind of "tag cloud" where tools with a broad range of applications appear large and others small. Or one could use a problem solving model with different stages and have a collection of tools for each stage. Or one could have more refined structures like decision trees - what is the problem solving situation I'm faced with? What can I do? Or a toolbox that mimicks interactions with a mentor.
    • "how its contents may change with time": If Al is a novice problem solver and Bert an expert problem solver in a domain, it seems highly unlikely that Al could immediately jump to the level of Bert just by using Bert's toolbox. I think it's more important to find mechanisms that help Al to develop his own expertise quickly, and taking inspiration from Bert could play a central role.
  • Well, in my case, I do both literature-driven" ZK and problem-driven ZK. At least, I try! I think there isn't an opposition between the two focus. One can have a literature-driven" ZK work that I would say is based on their own interest that may evolve with time and at some point, when the acquired knowledge has grown, a problem-driven focus may emerge. I think that an (the?) interesting concept here is emergence. Mário Bunge wrote quite a bit on this concept that have been overlooked by many philosopher of science (most of them?). IN this case, it just means that from some readings, something new emerged. A problem is found, or a paradox and who encounter it fill that it needs to be solved and it make him work on that...

    We can comment on that subject, the famous quote of Bernard De Chartres: 'We are like dwarfs on the shoulders of giants, so that we can see more than they, and things at a greater distance, not by virtue of any sharpness of sight on our part, or any physical distinction, but because we are carried high and raised up by their giant size.'

    I think that when we understand literature, we have a point of view and there are some aleatory aspects that make our mind evolve in certain ways whereas other researcher of our area don't make this steps. In other words, there is variation inside the population of researcher in the area. It does not mean that we assume a relativist perspective, that is to say that one created a new concept but that could be something totally different. No. It means that the comprehension that occurred to one researcher led him to have a sequence of mental activities activities which led him to correct and new ideas.

    They are many things that can make a researcher do something. For example, he can encounter internal incoherence. For example, Galileo found internal incoherence in Aristotle idea about free fall. He found that by increasing the mass and applying Aristotle framework led to a decreased velocity which was obviously highly problematic! No need to be a great experimentalist to understand the problem raised by him. It was based on a thought experiment that don't need empirical work. They are of course a lot of important details in Galileo's work that cannot be detailed here.

    We can also encounter problems of discrepancy between theoretical ideas and reality. This a very common in science, but this does not lead easily to ideias or concepts that allows a new comprehension of reality (as a contrary to what empiricist usually thinks). It is just motivational. For example, today, the problem of dark mass. is well know. This has driven many experimental studies but also theoretical ones that frequently are linked with experiments. Though no answer have yet been found! We don´t know yet if the correct thing is keeping actual theory of gravitation and find new particles or a purely new theory without new particles or a mix of new particles and a new theory of gravitation (or something else!). The path to new knowledge is mostly conceptual. The problem here would to understand what a concept is! DIfficult question!

    Let's look again at Galileo, which in kinematics, "switched" from the Aristotelian perspective that was based on categories for types of motion to a mathematical conception of motion. This is a huge ontology change and this changed drastically the conceptions about motions. Before him, Benedetti already wrote about parabolic motion but, if I'm not mistaken, it was much less conceptual work than what Galileo did ( I really have to check this statement!). Galileo unified two types of motions (up and down natural motions) in one (down motion) thanks to him relating up motion with buoyancy.

    I would say that this idea emerged because he knew very well Aristotelian ideas on motion, Arquimedes ideas on hydrostatics and made real experiments to confront his conceptual ideas. From this knowledge Galileo had the idea that "falling bodies somehow become weightless. (...) On that basis he went on to design and carry out experiments with pendula to test the principle that bodies of all types of matter fall at the same speed in the void." (Palmieri 2005:345) As we can see even in factual science, (conceptual) ideas (or model of reality constructed from new conceptual ideas) leads to experiments (indirect tests of ideas) and not the contrary (experiment->concepts). With the pendulum he found that the motion is symmetric during falling and raising moments. This made him doubt the idea of two natural motion (up and down). Why would up and down motion could be identical?

    New conceptualization was needed and Galileo based it on arquimedian hydrostatic he could understand that natural motion was falling motion. With the notion of circular inertia, it was "easy" to deduce the parabolic motion for a professor of mathematics.

    They are of course many other aspects in Galileo. He seems to have inherited from his father the hability to refuse argument of authority and to write dialogues (dialogical approach). His father refuted pytagorician knowledge about tuning cord and did so using discussing with another scientist, and by then doing experiments with cords, frets and weight.

    Galileo wrote his two famous dialogues in a similar way to his father's most famous book. It includes an old thinker, a thinker with new ideas and a thinker with the ability to understand new ideas and to not stay stucked to old ideas. An historian of science wrote that the thinker with the ability to understand new ideas is representative of young Galileo.

    I think the dialogue approach may have been an important part of Galileo thinking process. This just an hypothesis that I'm raising now as I wrote this comment. It is (only) fresh idea. We don't always make long clear demonstration such as the one Galileo did but when we have new ideas, we have to convince other scientists in order to make them understand why our new ideas are better than the old ones. That's why I think that dialogue is important during thinking because it allows you to have sound arguments that may convince scientific community in your area.

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