- Jun 2022
Chefs use mise en place—a philosophy and mindset embodied ina set of practical techniques—as their “external brain.”1 It gives thema way to externalize their thinking into their environment
Dan Charnas, Work Clean: The Life-Changing Power of Mise-en-Place to Organize Your Life, Work, and Mind (Emmaus, PA: Rodale Books, 2016)
mise-en-place is an example of a means of thinking externally with one's environment
link to - similar ideas in Annie Murphy Paul's The Extended Mind
- Apr 2022
Krapp argues that, despite its ‘respectablelineage’, the card index generally ‘figures only as an anonymous,furtive factor in text generation, acknowledged – all the way into thetwentieth century – merely as a memory crutch’ (361).2 A keyreason for this is due to the fact that the ‘enlightened scholar isexpected to produce innovative thought’ (361); knowledgeproduction, and any prostheses involved in it, ‘became and remaineda private matter’ (361).
'Memory crutch' implies a physical human failing that needs assistance rather than a phrase like aide-mémoire that doesn't draw that same attention.
The filing cards or slipsthat Barthes inserted into his index-card system adhered to a ‘strictformat’: they had to be precisely one quarter the size of his usualsheet of writing paper. Barthes (1991: 180) records that this systemchanged when standards were readjusted as part of moves towardsEuropean unification. Within the collection there was considerable‘interior mobility’ (Hollier, 2005: 40), with cards constantlyreordered. There were also multiple layerings of text on each card,with original text frequently annotated and altered.
Barthes kept his system to a 'strict format' of cards which were one quarter the size of his usual sheet of writing paper, though he did adjust the size over time as paper sizes standardized within Europe. Hollier indicates that the collection had considerable 'interior mobility' and the cards were constantly reordered with use. Barthes also apparently frequently annotated and altered his notes on cards, so they were also changing with use over time.
Did he make his own cards or purchase them? The sizing of his paper with respect to his cards might indicate that he made his own as it would have been relatively easy to fold his own paper in half twice and cut it up.
Were his cards numbered or marked so as to be able to put them into some sort of standard order? There's a mention of 'interior mobility' and if this was the case were they just floating around internally or were they somehow indexed and tethered (linked) together?
The fact that they were regularly used, revise, and easily reordered means that they could definitely have been used to elicit creativity in the same manner as Raymond Llull's combinatorial art, though done externally rather than within one's own mind.
- external structures for thought
- Roland Barthes
- external scaffolding
- combinatorial creativity
- Llullan combinatorial arts
- note taking
- index cards
- Peter Krapp
- card index
- note linking
- note taking methods
- memory crutch
- Mar 2022
“Noteson paper, or on a computer screen [...] do not make contemporaryphysics or other kinds of intellectual endeavour easier, they make itpossible” is one of the key takeaways in a contemporary handbookof neuroscientists (Levy 2011, 290) Concluding the discussions inthis book, Levy writes: “In any case, no matter how internalprocesses are implemented, insofar as thinkers are genuinelyconcerned with what enables human beings to perform the
spectacular intellectual feats exhibited in science and other areas of systematic enquiry, as well as in the arts, they need to understand the extent to which the mind is reliant upon external scaffolding.” (Ibid.)
Does Neil Levy go into anything on orality with respect to this topic? Check: Levy, Neil. 2011. “Neuroethics and the Extended Mind.” In Judy Illes and B. J. Sahakian (Ed.), Oxford Handbook of Neuroethics, 285–94, Oxford University Press
Link this to P.M. Forni's question about how I think about mathematics and my answer relating to scaffolding or the construction of the Great Pyramid of Giza.
Link this to the 9/8 zettel quote from Luhmann about writing being thinking.
Compare the ideas of visual thinking (visualizations) and a visualization of one's thinking being instantiated in writing along with the Feynman quote about the writing being the thinking. What ways are they similar or different? Is there a gradation in which one subsumes the other?
What does Annie Murphy Paul have to say on this topic in The Extended Mind?
- Feb 2022
This is why choosing an external system that forces us todeliberate practice and confronts us as much as possible with ourlack of understanding or not-yet-learned information is such a smartmove.
Choosing an external system for knowledge keeping and production forces the learner into a deliberate practice and confronts them with their lack of understanding. This is a large part of the underlying value not only of the zettelkasten, but of the use of a commonplace book which Benjamin Franklin was getting at when recommending that one "read with a pen in your hand". The external system also creates a modality shift from reading to writing by way of thinking which further underlines the value.
What other building blocks are present in addition to: - modality shift - deliberate practice - confrontation of lack of understanding
Are there other systems that do all of these as well as others simultaneously?
link to Franklin quote
We need a reliable and simple external structure tothink in that compensates for the limitations of our brains
Let's be honest that there are certainly methods for doing all of this within our brains and not needing to rely on external structures. This being said, using writing, literacy, and external structures does allow us to process things faster than before.
Can we calculate what the level of greater efficiency allows for doing this? What is the overall throughput difference in being able to forget and write? Not rely on communication with others? What does a back of the envelope calculation for this look like?
- external structures for thought
- tools for thought
- Llullan combinatorial arts
- modality shifts
- orality and memory
- commonplace books
- internal structures for thought
- open questions
- Benjamin Franklin
- deliberate practice
- permanent notes