Zettelkasten Forum


Self Help - Self Improvement - Is this a thing?

  • Most of Will's ZK focuses on self-improvement ideas. Is self-improvement a bad thing? I don't think so. He needs a lot of improvement. They are reminders. Once he hears or reads an idea, it seems so naturally intuitive. He thinks, "I've heard that before." He's unsure if capturing the idea in a note or writing it into the world makes a difference.
  • As soon as Will makes such a declaration, Will finds a truckload of notes that don't exactly fit the self-improvement line of ideas. Notes on ideas from Python, materials engineering, atmospheric science, architecture, self-driving cars, dog training, uji, vision, and many others. These others only make up a fraction of Will's ZK.
  • Will is hunting for interesting things to take notes on that are not philosophically based on self-improvement.
  • This evolving process is happening from the bottom up. He is finding it to be quite enjoyable and is training his mind, enjoying the journey rather than just the end result.

Is Will off base? Is this a thing? How do you view the mix of the content of your zettels?

He presently processed a self-help article 1 that pointed out three "hobbies worth pursuing."
Zettelkasting fits number one nicely.
1. A hobby to train the mind
2. A hobby to train the body
3. A hobby to make money

Will Simpson
My zettelkasten is for my ideas, not the ideas of others. I will try to remember this. I must keep doing my best even though I'm a failure. My peak cognition is behind me. One day soon, I will read my last book, write my last note, eat my last meal, and kiss my sweetie for the last time.
kestrelcreek.com

Comments

  • edited October 2023

    Referring to yourself by name is supposed to add psychological distance to introspection, speaking of self-help, so let's try it out.

    ZettelDistraction files a monthly "Report to the Zettelkasten," intended to limit his embarrassing, self-indulgent, driveling reflections to a concise screenful. If he must indulge in self-analysis, that's where it belongs. Occasionally, he reports on progress.

    Justin E. H. Smith offers an uncompromising take on hobbies that comes across as stern and possibly defensive. Is this rigid stance a self-protective shield against dissipating one's energies?

    And if I dislike “outreach”, “public philosophy”, etc., I feel nothing less than violent hostility every time I hear someone use the word “hobby”. What a failure it would be, to live a life so incomplete that it needs to be supplemented with a hobby! No, it has always seemed to me, if a given activity is not a necessary and central part of who your are, then you must banish it altogether.
    – Justin E. H. Smith. 2022. “Yaka Yaka - Justin E. H. Smith’s Hinternet.” Substack. Justin E. H. Smith’s Hinternet. October 30, 2022. https://justinehsmith.substack.com/p/yaka-yaka.

    I don't mean to contradict by offering another perspective on hobbies. Justin E. H. Smith suggests that activities we might term 'hobbies' could be reframed as additional careers--which can make sense for someone who identifies strongly as a writer.

    A Zettelkasten is a place for whatever one wants, Garbage-In, Garbage-Out (GIGO) notwithstanding. I find it helpful for drafting unsent letters--a time-honored practice.

    Post edited by ZettelDistraction on

    GitHub. Erdős #2. CC BY-SA 4.0. Problems worthy of attack / prove their worth by hitting back. -- Piet Hein.

  • I, too, cringe at the term 'hobby.' It has a lot of summer camp baggage. It is associated in my mind with Micheal's and Hobby Lobby (low-brow chain box stores catering to most 'hobbies' under the sun.)

    Justin offers the example hobby as The Secretary-General of NATO running a Phil Collins fan page. One may wonder about the 'life so incomplete' as to require such a 'hobby.' But there must be a spectrum. The Secretary-General on one end and John Urschel, the former offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens and mathematician. somewhere in the middle of the range. Urschel has published peer-reviewed articles in mathematics journals and is currently an assistant professor in the MIT Math department. On the opposite end of the spectrum, someone like Einstien and his passion for the violin as a way to sharpen his cognitive development.

    Will Simpson
    My zettelkasten is for my ideas, not the ideas of others. I will try to remember this. I must keep doing my best even though I'm a failure. My peak cognition is behind me. One day soon, I will read my last book, write my last note, eat my last meal, and kiss my sweetie for the last time.
    kestrelcreek.com

  • There seems not English word for "Muße". The next best concept is Otium.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Otium

    I am a Zettler

  • @Will, I agree--there is a spectrum, and I'm on it. Case in point: amateur radio is more than a hobby for me--it's an avocation, an attempt to experience anew the wonder of radio and the electromagnetic spectrum that captivated me as a boy, an attempt to increase my awareness of the world, the chemistry and electrodynamics of the ionosphere, the effect of solar radiation on radio communications, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, radio astronomy, the whistling of lightning at very-low frequencies, of chirp spread spectrum modulation at sub-gigahertz frequencies in the harsh, RF-hostile environment of the city, the hours listening to static, hunting for some signal in the noise, of police radio communication scanners, of jamming stations and international espionage, of programming the REYAX RYLR998 LoRa module to send text messages below the noise floor and learning that people around the world have adapted my software, my motivation to learn mathematics.

    GitHub. Erdős #2. CC BY-SA 4.0. Problems worthy of attack / prove their worth by hitting back. -- Piet Hein.

  • @Will One topic that has generated about 50 notes in my Zettelkasten (of 500 notes) is "Personal History / Memories". In fact, it is the subject of one of only 2 Hub notes, with sub-topics on Ancestors, From my Youth, Finding Hope, Relationships, Family - Immediate, Family - Extended, University Learnings, Hobbies, and At Work. It is also the one area with the most (additional) zettels just waiting to be written.

    Eventually it may morph into some sort of personal history, but for the time being, I'm just trying to capture important learning moments and enjoyable experiences in my life (some overlap, but the learning moments usually have some "less enjoyable" component in them as well). None of my ancestors seemed to have left much of a written record of their own lives, so I'm trying to not make the same mistake. I often recall the very few stories of my dad and grandad that I heard as a child, and wish I had more stories like those and more detail.

    Just an idea to consider, if you wanted to branch out into another area in your Zettelkasten.

  • Will didn't think this thought stream would erupt like it has. What, exactly does Will think? It is interesting to him because ... of the importance of a fitness program for the mind in fostering a fulfilling life.

    The term hobby comes from hobbyhorse, a child's toy. The root of hobby comes from the Middle English word "hobi," a diminutive of "hobyn," a term for a small horse or pony. This term probably originated from the Old French "hobin" or "haubby," which means a pony.

    "Career" comes from the Latin word "carrus," meaning a wheeled vehicle or chariot. This was adapted into the Old French term "carriere," referring to a racecourse or a path/route.

    It's funny both terms have the horse world as background. The idea that a career is a path is still relevant, as is the idea of a hobby being playful. Some are okay with hobbies, some with more sophisticated terms like public outreach, side hustle, pastime, self-expression, and avocation.

    Which horse is the one that provides greater freedom for exploring and expressing oneself? Will doesn't deny that some greater avenues for exploring self-expression might be found in a career path.

    Engaging in a career and an art life (hobby) can lead to deeper introspection about one's identity and priorities. It can also enhance self-awareness as one understands one's strengths, weaknesses, passions, and aspirations more clearly. The most authentic expressions emerge when one's profession is deeply intertwined with one's passion.

    Where is the synergy here? Can "bandwidth" stretch to accommodate multiple personas? Do we care about society's perception of what is "worthy" or "significant?"

    Thanks, @ZettelDistraction, for your deep dive into your 'hobby' and the opportunity to clarify my thinking and explain the origins of my ideas. Will doesn't, in any way, mean any of this to contradict the pleasure and value you get from amateur radio. Will gets a sense of the pleasure you get in the play.

    Will Simpson
    My zettelkasten is for my ideas, not the ideas of others. I will try to remember this. I must keep doing my best even though I'm a failure. My peak cognition is behind me. One day soon, I will read my last book, write my last note, eat my last meal, and kiss my sweetie for the last time.
    kestrelcreek.com

  • @Sascha said:
    There seems not English word for "Muße". The next best concept is Otium.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Otium

    There actually is a thinker called David McKerracher who has been proposing an English neologism titled "timenergy". This essentially means consistent unobliged time for pursuing non-work passions (anything from interpreting the bible to film binges and beyond).

  • @Will said:

    He presently processed a self-help article that pointed out three "hobbies worth pursuing."
    Zettelkasting fits number one nicely.
    1. A hobby to train the mind
    2. A hobby to train the body
    3. A hobby to make money

    I didn't read the cited article, but my immediate thought is that the author missed at least two major purposes of leisure activities that don't fit comfortably under the three above:

    • to socialize with others
    • to make things

    @Will said:

    I, too, cringe at the term 'hobby.' It has a lot of summer camp baggage. It is associated in my mind with Micheal's and Hobby Lobby (low-brow chain box stores catering to most 'hobbies' under the sun.)

    @ZettelDistraction said:

    @Will, I agree--there is a spectrum, and I'm on it.

    You all may be interested in Robert Stebbins's "serious leisure perspective", which purports to be a comprehensive taxonomy of leisure, and it is indeed impressively comprehensive. Here is a list of serious leisure concepts from Stebbins, including "the liberal arts hobbies" (which is also the title of a 1994 article by Stebbins). Here is a diagram of the serious leisure perspective that I expect will delight everyone who loves hierarchical engineering diagrams.

    Stebbins is one of many researchers in the field of leisure studies.

    Walter Rüegg called the university "an institution for a normatively regulated use of leisure" ("The academic ethos", Minerva, 24(4), 1986, 393–412).

    @Sascha said:

    There seems not English word for "Muße". The next best concept is Otium.

    The aforementioned Robert Stebbins coined the term Homo otiosus, from otium. Stebbins tells us:

    This creature has three close relatives: Homo faber, Homo ludens, and Homo voluntas. The concept of Homo otiosus includes, but is significantly broader than, Homo ludens (Huizinga 1955) and Homo voluntas (Smith 2000, pp. 259–261). Meanwhile, use of the term Homo faber is so old as to seemingly lack a clearly identifiable progenitor. In fact, describing humanity in this fashion is a remarkably common practice, as Wikipedia's "List of Alternative Names for the Human Species" attests

    — Robert A. Stebbins (2020). The Serious Leisure Perspective: A Synthesis. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan.

    How does serious leisure relate to self-improvement? Elie Cohen-Gewerc and Robert Stebbins put on their poetic "continental philosopher" hat and pronounced:

    To be free means being able to consider free time an open opportunity to go on towards the wide and infinite horizons before us, and in our inner selves, the fascinating infinity we must explore. With further inquiry, one increases one's ability to understand; by broadening one's perspective, one increases one's ability to know. Through conscience, in a remarkable process of self-improvement we gradually develop the small sanctuary of our humanity, in which our power accumulates and the strength of this home and fortress is built. Into this fortress, no one else can penetrate, even with the removal of all the barriers between ourselves and life.

    — Elie Cohen-Gewerc & Robert A. Stebbins (2013). Serious Leisure and Individuality. Montréal: McGill-Queen's University Press.

  • edited October 2023

    @Will said:

    He presently processed a self-help article [^1] that pointed out three "hobbies worth pursuing."
    Zettelkasting fits number one nicely.
    1. A hobby to train the mind
    2. A hobby to train the body
    3. A hobby to make money

    If found the quote in my Zettelkasten, but with a small difference:

    Find three hobbies you love: One to make you money. One to keep you in shape. One to be creative.

    Is it a short form of Ikigai, the Japanese term for the state of well-being induced by devotion to enjoyable activities?

    One of my quotes in Zettelkasten:

    A man sees in the world what he carries in his heart.
    — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust, First Part

    This quote by Goethe emphasizes that our interests, passions, and hobbies can shape how we perceive and interact with the world. It encourages us to explore our inner desires and interests, as they can greatly influence our experiences and perspectives in life. So, when you seek hobbies you love, it's a reflection of what you carry in your heart, and these activities can bring meaning and joy to your life.

    Edmund Gröpl
    Writing is your voice. Make it easy to listen.

  • @Edmund said:

    One of my quotes in Zettelkasten:

    A man sees in the world what he carries in his heart.
    — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust, First Part

    Great quote; thanks for sharing!

  • @GeoEng51 said:
    @Will One topic that has generated about 50 notes in my Zettelkasten (of 500 notes) is "Personal History / Memories".

    This is interesting to me. Like Will my ZK is mostly self-help topics. I’m not writing and I can’t use it at work so it’s purely a learning endeavor. But my main “hobby” is scrapbooking — storytelling with an art component for capturing our family’s story. It never really occurred to me to combine the two.

  • I do not know myself, and God forbid that I should.
    — Goethe, Conversations with Eckermann

    GitHub. Erdős #2. CC BY-SA 4.0. Problems worthy of attack / prove their worth by hitting back. -- Piet Hein.

  • @ZettelDistraction said:

    I do not know myself, and God forbid that I should.
    — Goethe, Conversations with Eckermann

    It's interesting to parse this sentence from the perspective that Goethe is God. From Brook Ziporyn:

    When a sentient being thinks of a buddha, he thinks of the Buddha seeing himself and all other sentient beings, and every moment of their sentient experience including this one, as his own thought. Thinking of a buddha thinking of me and all other sentient beings each thinking of a buddha and of all other sentient beings, each irresistibly flowing out in all directions into all that is other to itself due to their very nature as limited to themselves, is both the Buddha thinking of me and me thinking of the Buddha—but it is also all sentient beings, indeed every moment of sentient experience, experiencing every other moment of sentient experience. My purposefully taking up the intention to think of a buddha is a deluded desire that overflows into what it does not intend, because like all entities it is essentially also what it is not. My intending the Buddha intending me and all other sentient beings is also the Buddha and all other sentient beings intending me and each other. Right now I am not a buddha. By practicing certain Buddhist practices, I will become a buddha someday. But even right now, the core of my practice is to simply to see clearly ‘my deluded self qua deluded’. This itself is a way of making manifest ‘enlightened buddha as opposed to my deluded self’—and in the Mohezhiguan section outlined above, we are asked to explicitly think of this being in detail, and of this opposition, this distinction from myself. In doing so, however, I come to recognize that contemplating ‘my deluded self as opposed to a buddha’ and contemplating ‘an enlightened buddha as opposed to my deluded self’ are one and the same contemplation seen from two opposite sides: in both cases, I am engaging the thought of ‘my deluded self and an enlightened buddha, defined through their mutual contrast’. In this co-presence, I am learning that the way the Buddha sees this contrast is to recognize my deluded self as a non-dual aspect of his own being, in the precise modality of ‘which is which?’ This body and mind which I am may continue to be deluded and evil, in which case there will definitely be unpleasant consequences for this body and mind. But from the Buddha’s point of view, which I am now also experiencing as I contemplate my own delusion in contrast, those deluded and evil acts of this body and mind are non-dual aspects of his own self and environment, simultaneously evil deeds that harm others and myself, and upayas that liberate others and myself, and finally, directly the Permanent, Blissful Selfhood and Purity of his own eternal Buddhahood, which pervade everything and entail everything. My stupidity itself, as he sees it, is what is omnipresently creating, omnipresently transforming, and omnipresently including all other entities. Zhanran mentions two practices here: I can either see this with wisdom, through philosophical comprehension and meditation, or simply accept it in faith, thinking the thought of the Buddha seeing me as a buddha.

    God forbidding that I should know myself is God knowing itself. LOL

  • @Andy
    Goethe gets his wish while the Buddha hoards self-knowledge.

    GitHub. Erdős #2. CC BY-SA 4.0. Problems worthy of attack / prove their worth by hitting back. -- Piet Hein.

  • @ZettelDistraction: Both of the quotes of Goethe imparted above evince a degree of self-knowledge. Goethe seems to know that he doesn't know himself (or the world), which is the most important part of self-knowledge, so he seems not to have gotten his wish after all—which may be the joke implicit in the "God forbid" quote.

    Cultures approach evil in two ways: the moralistic way and the way of wisdom. Although the moralistic approach is more common, it does not enable us to understand evil. If we do not grasp evil, we cannot be free of it. Enslaved by our ignorance, we behave in ways that increase our individual and collective suffering. The way of wisdom, by contrast, offers insight into evil and relief from suffering for those who have ears to hear and eyes to see. This book attempts to understand the nature of evil from the perspective of the wisdom tradition. [...] Thinkers whom I would place in the wisdom tradition—Plato, Jesus, Confucius, Buddha, Baruch Spinoza, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Dante Alighieri, and Henry James, to name a few—deny that we are born free. Freedom is an achievement, not a birthright. Humanity, too, must be realized; it is not a given. Much of our behavior is not humane precisely because we are not free. Operating with a false sense of self, we enslave ourselves to our passions. When we do harm, we do so unwittingly. It does little good, therefore, to blame us for our crimes. Besides, from the wisdom perspective, we never go unpunished.

    — Daryl Koehn (2005). The Nature Of Evil. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 1–4 (emphasis added).

    In my note system, I often make notes at moments when I recognize my own stupidity. Such notes do impart some degree of self-knowledge, and even self-improvement. So I think Elie Cohen-Gewerc & Robert A. Stebbins (quoted above) were right: "Through conscience, in a remarkable process of self-improvement we gradually develop the small sanctuary of our humanity..." Indeed, I imagine this process is difficult to avoid once we start examining our mistakes.

    Despite Goethe’s disclaimer and Freud’s claims about the unconscious, people probably know themselves better than they know anyone else.

    — Anne Wilson & Michael Ross (2004), "Illusions of change or stability", in: Rüdiger Pohl (ed.), Cognitive Illusions: A Handbook on Fallacies and Biases in Thinking, Judgement and Memory (1st edition), New York: Psychology Press, p. 379

    Wilson & Ross go on to describe some ways in which my reconstruction of my past can be distorted, while emphasizing that recall of the personal past can still be relatively accurate. They don't say it, but I may be even less likely to distort my past in the ways that they describe if I reconstruct the past on the basis of written evidence in my note system.

  • @Andy said:
    @ZettelDistraction: Both of the quotes of Goethe imparted above evince a degree of self-knowledge. Goethe seems to know that he doesn't know himself (or the world), which is the most important part of self-knowledge, so he seems not to have gotten his wish after all—which may be the joke implicit in the "God forbid" quote.

    Goethe's "wish" to remain unknowable to himself is still granted; he remains a mystery to himself beyond acknowledging his own ignorance.

    GitHub. Erdős #2. CC BY-SA 4.0. Problems worthy of attack / prove their worth by hitting back. -- Piet Hein.

  • @ZettelDistraction: I'm with Anne Wilson & Michael Ross (quoted in my previous) post: like them, I don't believe that Goethe was a mystery to himself or me to myself. We're not omniscient, but we all have the self-knowledge we deserve in accord with our practices: psychologists and philosophers have made good arguments for this position, whereas Goethe's maxim is nothing but an unsupported statement that affords a wide variety of interpretations, as our conversation demonstrates. I do appreciate how your Goethe quote expanded the conversation with an antithesis, but I don't find it tenable as a position; it needs to be integrated with an account of (fallible) self-knowledge.

  • You are fortunate not to be mysterious to yourself. You assert that we all have the self-knowledge we deserve according to our practices. While our practices may contribute to self-understanding, this perspective ignores human psychology's inherent complexity and often subconscious nature, a view extensively discussed by Nietzsche and corroborated by recent empirical psychology.

    ... there are other places where empirical psychology has “caught up,” as it were, with Nietzsche—or, more charitably, provided confirmation for Nietzsche’s theory of the will (we will see more in Chapter 7). Wegner adduces support, for example, for what Nietzsche calls the “error of false causality” (Wegner 2002: 64 ff.), as well as the “error of confusing cause and effect” (Wegner 2002: 66 ff., 96 ff.). Automaticity phenomena generally in psychology vindicate Nietzsche’s suspicions about the confusions concerning cause and effect in the psychological realm. As Oakley and Halligan (2017) sum it up:

    Over the past 30 years, there has been a slow but growing consensus among some students of the cognitive sciences that many of the contents of “consciousness,” are formed backstage by fast, efficient non-conscious systems. In our account, we take this argument to its logical conclusion and propose that “consciousness” although temporally congruent involves no executive, causal, or controlling relationship with any of the familiar psychological processes conventionally attributed to it … In other words, all psychological processing and psychological products are the products of fast efficient non-conscious systems. The misconception that has maintained the traditional conscious-executive account largely derives from the compelling, consistent temporal relationship between a psychological product, such as a thought, and conscious experience, resulting in the misattribution that the latter is causally responsible for the former. (Oakley and Halligan 2017: 1–2)

    — Leiter, Brian. Moral Psychology with Nietzsche (pp. 142-143). OUP Oxford. Kindle Edition.

    If so, Goethe's maxim that he is a mystery to himself is not just an "unsupported statement" but a profound acknowledgment of the complex, often non-conscious factors that influence human behavior and cognition.

    GitHub. Erdős #2. CC BY-SA 4.0. Problems worthy of attack / prove their worth by hitting back. -- Piet Hein.

  • @ZettelDistraction said:

    You are fortunate not to be mysterious to yourself. You assert that we all have the self-knowledge we deserve according to our practices. While our practices may contribute to self-understanding, this perspective ignores human psychology's inherent complexity and often subconscious nature, a view extensively discussed by Nietzsche and corroborated by recent empirical psychology.

    Regarding "human psychology's inherent complexity and often subconscious nature": I basically know of all that, in general outline, which makes it part of my self-knowledge, and is not in contradiction to my self-knowledge.

    If so, Goethe's maxim that he is a mystery to himself is not just an "unsupported statement" but a profound acknowledgment of the complex, often non-conscious factors that influence human behavior and cognition.

    If we agree to interpret what Goethe is saying as an assertion of the cognitive unconscious, which is what you seem to be saying now, I don't disagree with it. But knowing about the cognitive unconscious is part of knowing oneself, which again just subsumes Goethe's assertion that he doesn't know himself under self-knowledge in general. This self-knowledge can be increased by learning more about the workings of cognition and applying what one learns to one's self-observation and feedback from others. A note system is probably indispensable for this learning process, which we could also call a kind of self-improvement process—improvement of one's self-knowledge: if psychology isn't good for knowing ourselves better, then what is it good for?

  • A gap exists between general psychological and personal self-awareness. Knowing 'about' the complexities of human psychology isn't the same as knowing 'how' those complexities manifest uniquely in oneself. Your assertion that 'we all have the self-knowledge we deserve according to our practices' seems to moralize a psychological and possibly neurobiological issue. What we 'deserve' may be constrained by the limitations inherent in human cognition and self-awareness, which are subject to numerous subconscious influences and biases. It's not clear to me what practices can overcome them.

    GitHub. Erdős #2. CC BY-SA 4.0. Problems worthy of attack / prove their worth by hitting back. -- Piet Hein.

  • @ZettelDistraction: I'm thinking about people of average intellectual capacity like us who have the privilege not to have conditions like developmental disorders or organic damage that cause intellectual disability. (I value all people; forgive me if I'm not using the correct terms for such issues. Any corrections are appreciated.) For us it's what we do that will most affect our self-knowledge.

    The main practice that ameliorates "numerous subconscious influences and biases" is the practice of learning about them and what causes them and continually asking how those cognitive processes are manifesting in our awareness and behavior. This may sound unrealistically difficult if you look at the long lists of such phenomena catalogued by experimental psychologists, but it becomes more tractable when you realize that the superficial variety of such phenomena can be simplified to common principles: e.g., "Advances in cognitive theory and therapy: the generic cognitive model" (Beck & Haigh 2014) or "Toward parsimony in bias research: a proposed common framework of belief-consistent information processing for a set of biases" (Oeberst & Imhoff 2023). There's a large literature in psychotherapy and other areas of applied psychology with empirical evidence that change is possible using such principles. There's also a large literature that's relevant in various wisdom traditions, but I recommend augmenting those with more up-to-date science. You're right that practical applied psychology is not the same as general psychology, but applied psychology is a field, a fruitful field.

  • Goethe's intellectual capacity was estimated to be much higher than average. Would the methods you mentioned have applied to him?

    GitHub. Erdős #2. CC BY-SA 4.0. Problems worthy of attack / prove their worth by hitting back. -- Piet Hein.

  • Perhaps the answer can be found in Kurt R. Eissler's two-volume book Goethe: A Psychoanalytic Study (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1963). The first volume is titled "Goethe's attempt at psychotherapy". I don't know much about Goethe, and I haven't read this book, but from the sound of it, it may be that Goethe dabbled in applied psychology. In any case, he wouldn't have known as much as people educated in psychology know today, just as Newton didn't know as much as people educated in physics know today, even if Newton was smarter than most of today's physicists.

  • My point, obviously, is that if Goethe found self-knowledge elusive, what hope is there for those of "average intellectual capacity"?

    GitHub. Erdős #2. CC BY-SA 4.0. Problems worthy of attack / prove their worth by hitting back. -- Piet Hein.

  • And my point, obviously, is that there is more to knowledge than individual intellectual capacity.

    More importantly, it's not clear to me that your Goethe quote is not facetious, just as you are often facetious.

  • @Andy said:
    There's a large literature in psychotherapy and other areas of applied psychology with empirical evidence that change is possible using such principles. There's also a large literature that's relevant in various wisdom traditions, but I recommend augmenting those with more up-to-date science. You're right that practical applied psychology is not the same as general psychology, but applied psychology is a field, a fruitful field.

    The general frameworks you cited seem more theoretical than applied. Do you have specific examples from your own Zettelkasten of how these theoretical frameworks have influenced your journey toward self-knowledge? How have the theories been operationalized into actionable steps, and what concrete benefits have you observed?

    @Andy said: ... it's not clear to me that your Goethe quote is not facetious, just as you are often facetious.

    I cited a passage from Brian Leiter's "Moral Psychology with Nietzsche" (pp. 142-143) supporting Goethe. The philosopher Raymond Geuss makes Goethe's point that some mysteries related to the self are better left unexplored.

    However, as Nietzsche very powerfully pointed out, humans do not always exhibit maximal interest in clarity and explicitness, and they are right not to. Clarity is often of no use to us at all, and can in some circumstances be a positive hindrance to attaining various important human goods. In addition to our desire for clarity and definiteness, humans exhibit a second set of properties that are perhaps equally important, are very inadequately understood, are very little under our control, and are seriously underappreciated. These are the powers of forgetting, ignoring, failing to ask questions.
    -- Geuss, Raymond. Outside Ethics (p. 6). Princeton University Press.

    I use my Zettelkasten primarily for technical and academic subjects. Others find it useful for self-coaching or personal development, to which I have no objection. I occasionally record my dreams in my Zettelkasten--an uneven practice with no discernible benefit.

    GitHub. Erdős #2. CC BY-SA 4.0. Problems worthy of attack / prove their worth by hitting back. -- Piet Hein.

  • @ZettelDistraction said:

    The general frameworks you cited seem more theoretical than applied. Do you have specific examples from your own Zettelkasten of how these theoretical frameworks have influenced your journey toward self-knowledge? How have the theories been operationalized into actionable steps, and what concrete benefits have you observed?

    I have examples, but that's too personal—I never share that level of personal detail here. There are many self-help books by psychologists with actionable steps and examples of people who have done the steps in various ways: e.g., Mardi Horowitz's A Course in Happiness (2008) (the title may not sound relevant at first, but for Horowitz "happiness is essentially a by-product of self-knowledge"—compare with Daryl Koehn's The Nature of Evil quoted above), Robert Kegan & Lisa Lahey's Immunity to Change (2009), and John Norcross's Changeology (2012). All of those books are congruent with, e.g., Beck & Haigh (2014) mentioned above. I'm not saying those are the best books, just a few that come to mind at the moment as having a how-to-do-it emphasis with real-life case examples. I've been in plain old face-to-face psychotherapy various times in the past too, and it was helpful, and I recommend it.

    @Andy said: ... it's not clear to me that your Goethe quote is not facetious, just as you are often facetious.

    I cited a passage from Brian Leiter's "Moral Psychology with Nietzsche" (pp. 142-143) supporting Goethe. The philosopher Raymond Geuss makes Goethe's point that some mysteries related to the self are better left unexplored.

    You're being serious now, but still, when I read the Goethe quote there's something that just doesn't seem serious about it to me. It seems tongue-in-cheek. It may be just me? Perhaps if I were more Romantic and Sturm-und-Drang like Goethe then I could take it more seriously.

    The quotes from Leiter and Geuss are okay when interpreted within a bigger picture of self-knowledge. Geuss said that "the powers of forgetting, ignoring, failing to ask questions" are "seriously underappreciated"—so my charitable interpretation of him is that he is advocating for greater knowledge of these actions or strategies or modes, which fit nicely under self-knowledge broadly construed. Geuss in that quotation is very clear that what he's seeking is a balance: he's not advocating that people stay stupid and stop asking questions. Realistically, self-knowledge isn't about being omnisciently aware of everything all the time. It's about the capacity to respond accurately to questions about ourselves when required, just as Geuss says, without overdoing it.

    Geuss's balance shows that he hasn't succumbed to what Elliot Turiel called (following John Kihlstrom) the inadequacy of the "people are stupid" school of psychology, in which

    assumptions are drawn from experiments assessing small actions in often contrived situations that make for what Kihlstrom [2004] has referred to as the ‘people are stupid’ school of psychology (p. 348). Kihlstrom [2008] summarized this school of thought as maintaining that ‘as we go about the ordinary course of everyday living, we do not think very hard about anything, and rely on biases, heuristics, and other processes that lead us into judgmental error’ and that ‘... the evidence of irrationality consists also (of) evidence of unconscious, automatic processes’ (p. 169). Typically, the people are stupid school of psychology proposes that people’s decisions are emotionally driven, not based on thought or rational processes, are irrational in that they involve going against one’s own interests, are irrational in that they involve being blinded by one’s own interests, do not involve choice or self-determination since they are most often non-conscious and out of awareness (automaticity), and that perceptions of deliberative choices in decision making are illusory (see Kihlstrom [2008] for a discussion of the inadequacy of evidence in support of these propositions).

    — Elliot Turiel (2010). "Snap judgment? Not so fast: thought, reasoning, and choice as psychological realities". Human Development, 53(3), 105–109.

    Turiel says that much of the research in cognitive development contradicts the "people are stupid" school of psychology:

    Developmental psychologists often realize that children’s errors do not stem from a lack of thought or inattention to the world. Rather, errors reflect systematic ways of thinking in attempts to better understand the world and to more effectively act upon it. Analyses of how children arrive at their conclusions or decisions—erroneous or not—have yielded better explanations of their ways of thinking. Errors, along with eventual awareness that one has it wrong in some ways, can produce changes in thinking.

    The same is true for adults.

  • If we assign to Geuss and Leiter "a bigger picture of self-knowledge," then we have to distinguish between actionable self-knowledge and non-actionable self-knowledge, the latter being more concerned with limitations on the efficacy of self-knowledge. This distinction is crucial because, as I've mentioned, some self-knowledge may limit or impede action--this is what Goethe is driving at. Recognizing that you have a poor memory is non-actionable because merely knowing this fact doesn't provide a direct pathway to improvement. Knowledge of the limits of self-knowledge has nothing to do with a "people are stupid" school of psychology--unless one believes that the only human limitation is stupidity. It may be wise not to delve into unproductive aspects of ourselves.

    GitHub. Erdős #2. CC BY-SA 4.0. Problems worthy of attack / prove their worth by hitting back. -- Piet Hein.

  • @ZettelDistraction said:

    some self-knowledge may limit or impede action--this is what Goethe is driving at. Recognizing that you have a poor memory is non-actionable because merely knowing this fact doesn't provide a direct pathway to improvement.

    I take a more systematic view of knowledge: the non-actionable knowledge is systematically connected to the actionable knowledge somehow, so it's not going to hurt me to have it. It's a piece of the puzzle that will help me find the actionable puzzle pieces, and will also help me get a sense of the bigger picture of the whole puzzle in any situation, even though I can never have all the puzzle pieces. Everything you said helps me understand why you like the Goethe quote, but my view is very different. In my own life, I don't see a downside to self-knowledge in general, actionable or non-actionable.

  • I appreciate your view that all forms of self-knowledge, whether actionable or not, contribute to a 'bigger picture' of self-understanding. Goethe's point, which resonates with me, suggests that some self-knowledge can be unproductive or harmful. It is an article of faith rather than a demonstrated fact that all self-knowledge is interconnected, and non-actionable self-knowledge will eventually lead to actionable insights. While it's an optimistic viewpoint, it's not universally applicable. There could be instances where the pursuit of self-knowledge, particularly non-actionable forms, might impede growth or action.

    GitHub. Erdős #2. CC BY-SA 4.0. Problems worthy of attack / prove their worth by hitting back. -- Piet Hein.

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