Notes Make Intellectual Possible

Weekly I/O#81

Taking notes on paper or screens doesn't merely simplify complex tasks like contemporary physics or other intellectual pursuits. Taking notes makes them possible.

Book: Neuroethics and the Extended Mind

In Neuroethics and the Extended Mind, Neil Levy wrote: "Notes on paper, or on a computer screen (or mathematical models, or what have you) do not make contemporary physics or other kinds of intellectual endeavor easier, they make it possible."

"In any case, no matter how internal processes are implemented, insofar as thinkers are genuinely concerned 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."

Our working memory has limited capacity. To perform complex tasks, we should offload some mental load onto an external medium.

This concept also links to the idea that Writing is thinking. You write first and then derive clear perspectives from your own writing.

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