- Nov 2023
- Oct 2022
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Helbig, Daniela K. “Life without Toothache: Hans Blumenberg’s Zettelkasten and History of Science as Theoretical Attitude.” Journal of the History of Ideas 80, no. 1 (2019): 91–112. https://doi.org/10.1353/jhi.2019.0005
A historical perspective on the sciencesbrings into view controversies, and some beliefs and methodological con-victions that retrospectively turn out to be false—among Blumenberg’scharacteristically colorful picks are Augustine writing that “the stars werecreated for the consolation of people obliged to be active at night,” and“Linnaeus’s opinion that the song of the birds at the first light of morningwas instituted as consolation for the insomnia of the old.”84
something poetic about these examples even if they're poor science...
In “collaboration with his Zettelkasten,”61 Blumenberg worked to por-tray these tensions between different and changing historical meanings ofscientific inquiry.
Hesaid, “We have to know what we are doing in order to be able to askwhether it is what we should be doing.
13 Blumenberg’s anthropological writings, mainly an attempt to reconcile phenomenologywith the tradition of philosophical anthropology, have been gathered in Blumenberg,Beschreibung des Menschen: Aus dem Nachlass, ed. Manfred Sommer (Frankfurt: Suhr-kamp, 2006). This publication has led to a surge of reinterpretations of his work throughthe lens of these anthropological writings; see Rebekka A. Klein, ed., Auf Distanz zurNatur: Philosophische und theologische Perspektiven in Hans Blumenbergs Anthropolo-gie (Wu ̈ rzburg: Ko ̈ nigshausen & Neumann, 2009).
This reference contains the posthumous publication of Blumenberg’s anthropological writings
Blumenberg’s near-obsessive reliance on this writing machinery
Helbig indicates that Hans Blumenberg had a "near obsessive reliance on [his Zettelkasten as] writing machinery.
he limited hisdiscussion of Kuhn to a short article crediting Georg Christoph Lichtenbergwith a much more sophisticated concept of “paradigm.” 9
Hans Blumenberg felt that Georg Christoph Lichtenberg had a more sophisticated conceptualization of the idea of "paradigm" than the one which Thomas Kuhn delineated in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.
Cross reference the original mention of this:
9 Borck, “Begriffene Geschichte: Canguilhem, Blumenberg und die Wissenschaften,” in Borck, Blumenberg beobachtet, 168–95, 179, outlines Blumenberg’s criticism of Kuhn’s model of paradigm change as too schematic. On the notion of paradigm, Blumenberg, “Paradigma, grammatisch,” in Wirklichkeiten in denen wir leben (Stuttgart: Reclam, 1981), 157–62.
Regarding his work on the sciences, Blumenberg did not facilitate hisreception within the Anglophone tradition by engaging much with it. Hemay have initiated the translation of The Structure of Scientific Revolutionsinto German,
Hans Blumenberg didn't engage much with the Anglophone world of science outside of initiating the translation of Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions into German.
for instance, he accused Mon-taigne of having “used up” a quote from Lucretius by employing it to illus-trate a minor paradox, rather than saving it, as Blumenberg deemed“compulsory,” for his major argument regarding the failure of states. 3
Hans Blumenberg was cognizant of the potential of over-use of ideas in his own work and in at least one case accused Montaigne of having over used a Lucretius quote to illustrate a small point rather than saving it for a major point in his argument on the failure of states where Blumenberg thought it was "compulsory".
There is a box stored in the German Literature Archive in Marbach, thewooden box Hans Blumenberg kept in a fireproof steel cabinet, for it con-tained his collection of about thirty thousand typed and handwritten notecards.1
Hans Blumenberg's zettelkasten of about thirty thousand typed and handwritten note cards is now kept at the German Literature Archive in Marbach. Blumenberg kept it in a wooden box which he kept in a fireproof steel cabinet.
- card index filing cabinets
- Daniela K. Helbig
- intellectual history
- history of science
- note reuse
- zettelkasten examples
- Thomas Kuhn
- Michel de Montaigne
- Carl Linnaeus
- Hans Blumenberg's zettelkasten
- Georg Christoph Lichtenberg
- The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
- Hans Blumenberg
- writing machines
- note collection loss and damage
- paradigm shifts
- second order effects
- collaborative zettelkasten
Blumenberg's Zettelkasten - 30,000 entries in 55 years, i.e. almost 550 per year, which is not that much - obviously served the material management for books that he had planned and the collection of documents for theses that he had in mind, without that the reading work for it was completed.
Blumenberg's Zettelkasten had 30,000 notes which he collected over 55 years averages out to 545 notes per year or roughly (presuming he worked every day) 1.5 notes per day.
- Jun 2022
Before we begin, please note that this piece assumes intermediate familiarity with Zettelkasten and its original creator, the social scientist Niklas Luhmann (1927–1998).
Even the long running (2013) zettelkasten.de website credits Niklas Luhmann as being the "original creator" of the zettelkasten.
We really need to track down the origin of linking one idea to another. Obviously writers, and especially novelists, would have had some sort of at least linear order in their writing due to narrative needs in using such a system. What does this tradition look like on the non-fiction side?
Certainly some of the puzzle stems from the commonplace book tradition, but this is more likely to have relied on natural memory as well as searching and finding via index methods.
Perhaps looking more closely at Hans Blumenberg's instantiation would be more helpful. Similarly looking at the work of Claude Lévi-Strauss and his predecessors like Marcel Mauss may provide at least an attack on this problem.
My working hypothesis is that given the history of the Viennese numbering system, it may have stemmed from the late 1700s and this certainly wasn't an innovation by Luhmann.
link to: https://hyp.is/hLy7NNtqEeuWQIP1UDkM6g/web.archive.org/web/20130916081433/https://christiantietze.de/posts/2013/06/zettelkasten-improves-thinking-writing/ for evidence of start of zettelkasten.de
- Claude Lévi-Strauss
- Vienna University Library
- Niklas Luhmann's zettelkasten
- zettelkasten history
- numbering systems
- Marcel Mauss
- zettelkasten origin myth
- Hans Blumenberg
- Jul 2021
Your post says nothing at all to suggest Luhman didn’t “invent” “Zettelkasten” (no one says he was only one writing on scraps of paper), you list two names and no links
My post was more in reaction to the overly common suggestions and statements that Luhmann did invent it and the fact that he's almost always the only quoted user. The link was meant to give some additional context, not proof.
There are a number of direct predecessors including Hans Blumenberg and Georg Christoph Lichtenberg. For quick/easy reference here try:
If you want some serious innovation, why not try famous biologist Carl Linnaeus for the invention of the index card? See: http://humanities.exeter.ac.uk/history/research/centres/medicalhistory/past/writing/
(Though even in this space, I suspect that others were already doing similar things.)
- May 2021
“Sibi scribere: The reasonable author writes for no other posterity than his own, for his own old age, in order to take pleasure in himself even then,” Blumenberg quotes Nietzsche (here, 83).
Filed on a card under the key word cogitare, Blumenberg quotes Kant: “Thinking is conversation with oneself… Listening inside.”
Hans Blumenberg carefully read Luhmann’s piece on ‘Communication with note card boxes’ in 1981. He compared their respective systems, and did not fail to record that he had “collaborated” with his own Zettelkasten for forty years, compared to Luhmann’s mere twenty-six.
So Blumenberg predates Luhmann by quite a bit.
Two hundred years later, Blumenberg’s note cards, each of them number-stamped by him and thus carrying along a trace of their temporal order of origin, could be moved and rearranged continuously in ways that weren’t open to the entries confined to the bound pages of Lichtenberg’s books. Blumenberg relied on the new connections and constellations generated within his Zettelkasten throughout his life as a writer.
Another major example of a significant zettelkasten.
- commonplace books
- Immanuel Kant
- tools for thought
- Niklas Luhmann
- Friedrich Nietzsche
- Hans Blumenberg