I’ve been reading about (and watching videos on) Zettelkasten with Obsidian for the past few weeks, and the claim that surprising connections naturally emerge from the system is really appealing to me.
I just don’t understand how people are linking in a way to cause this to happen.
Here’s an example:
Say I’m reading and making literature notes on Kant’s Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals. I write down the quote, “Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never merely as a means to an end, but always at the same time as an end.”
Later, I convert the famous categorical imperative into a permanent note by putting it in my own words, say:
Always remember that people are conscious beings with emotions, hopes, and dreams worthy of moral consideration. When we use someone to get what we want, this dehumanizes them and treats them like an object rather than a person.
I create some links to obvious other cards with keywords like “moral philosophy” or “ethics.”
Three years and 9,000 cards later, I’ve forgotten I ever made that card.
I’m reading a linguist analyzing the use of language in Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake and I convert a literature note into a permanent note, something along the lines of:
Historically, language in novels has been seen merely as a means to convey story. Joyce says language use can be the core artistic value of a novel; an end in itself.
Now, for us, I’ve juxtaposed this so that the connection is obvious. In the example of years later and forgetting about the categorical imperative card, I see two options.
- My brain still makes the connection, and so I didn’t need Obsidian or Zettelkasten.
- I don’t see the connection, and I can’t fathom any sorts of tags/links that would get this very clear connection to naturally emerge from the system.
So, the question is: how do people link to get these sorts of connections to emerge? I would think this is the whole point.