Elias presents ... a worm!    Thoughts on family, philosophy,
and technology


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Outlining versus thinking

I'm not sure this is relevant to Toiler's psycho-epistemological comment about "the danger of ordered lists," but I've found that standard outlines are not as brain-friendly as we are led to believe in middle school. Structured data, such as a detailed outline with points and sub-points and sub-sub-points, actually has high impedance relative to humans and is very hard to cognize. It's just not the way we think. Such mechanical structure is useful for organizing data for reference, but not for working out or capturing a line of reasoning.

What does our thinking really "look like"? Like ordinary language. (What a coincidence!)

So if I were to write a book, I wouldn't expect to create any detailed outlines -- ultimately because I would expect my target audience to be people, not computers.



  • At 9:42 AM , Blogger Toiler said...


    You hit the nail right on the head, and with only the faintest clue. Impressive!

    I'm coming to realize that thought tends to be analog -- meaning non-discrete, non-hierarchical, and non-ordinal. It's also value-charged, which makes it unique to a man. This makes the act of trying to be mentally active while constraining one's mind to an hierarchical outline feel like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole -- and not just any square peg, but an unruly, often lopsided, and generally enormous square peg.

    I will think more on your ideas about thought being like language. Surely this explains some of my struggles, and on a deeper level than I had considered.

    The creative process, as I'm coming to realize more and more, involves the conscious mind managing that wild element with purpose, but also with kid gloves. The subconscious doesn't like to be managed.

    I'm hoping that since A is A, once I figure out how to interact with my subconscious mind better, it may still seem wild but also dependable in its own wily way.

    Thanks for your insights!



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