How a Note Making App is Changing my Way of Doing Philosophy

in GEMSlast year

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Obsidian, a note-taking application, is taking over my life. This is just a joke, but I have been in front of my computer for a whole of three or four days – not the healthiest thing I will admit. I am a prolific note-taker, but my method is very unorganized. I have a piece of paper whilst I sit down and read, or whilst I attend a seminar. But my notes get lost between other notes, and I tend to not be able to decipher my notes after a while. I also have hundreds of word files on my PC and these are also after some time really not that legible anymore due to the length of the files. However, I never really problematized my note-taking habits because that is all I know. I have files and files full of philosophy class notes, and my art notes is also somewhere. My Master’s thesis notes are over a 1000 pages of quotes and notes that I made whilst studying.

I had a call with my little brother over the weekend and he nonchalantly told me about a note-taking app I should check out if I get time, I might want to use it. Little did I know how my life would change with such a nonchalant mention of this app.

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I am not that much of a content creator. Writing my thesis, I struggled to work my own view into things. Writing essays and academic work was and is always touch because I love to reflect on what others have said and written. And whilst doing this, I make connections. I am a connecter writer. Let me explain. I have a very good memory regarding ideas and concepts. To this day I struggle to keep more than six or seven numbers in my head, but for years on end, my mind remembers concepts and ideas relating to art or philosophy, or psychology. And I make connections. I always make connections, even though it might not look like these different things are connected. And this is where the Obsidian note-taking app is changing my life and my whole way of doing philosophy: it is linking my thoughts for me.

Obsidian uses markdown and one of the awesome tricks with this app is that you can link notes. This is game-changing for me as a philosopher and connecter writer. Different philosophers “talk” to each other through either their lectures or published works. Making these links are not always that tricky, but making hundreds and maybe thousands of these links is the tricky part. Or more specifically, remembering where you made all these links. I have, for example, read for my thesis 100s of articles and close to say 50 books. The links I have made between different authors speaking to each other was done in word. After a while, these word files got so messy that I just lost track. (Yes, I know! Word is NOT the way to go, but I am old school. Word was basically notes with pen and paper on the screen for me.) Somehow, I managed to get my thesis done (a year longer than it should have been due to my note-taking problem). But this would have been so much easier had I had this application.

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So why this application for me is such a gamechanger is that you can “backlink” your ideas. (See the image below: the blue underlined parts take you to a different article related to the one you are currently seeing.) I have only been populating or entering my notes into the app for a week or so now. (I think more than 3 days, but who is counting?) And my graph view has already exploded. All of the “nodes” are connected to different thoughts, philosophers, ideas, concepts, etc., and each “node” contains these notes and writings. Now, rather than looking through countless pieces of paper, or trying to remember in which word document you saved a thought or connected idea, the application stores them and makes them for you. My mind has been so busy this last week trying to fit everything in and remember where I wrote what. This is also one of the ideas behind the application: It is how your brain works. Or something akin to it. While you are thinking you are making connections. And these connections light up other connections.

The most important thing for me about this application is the practical use it can have if I ever start my Philosophical Counselling practice. In a session, if the client feels like it, this “mind map” or “graph” can lead to interesting conversations. In the past, I would have needed to look for the book or paper that I think would have helped the client. This takes time, your memory isn’t all that good, and you might not find what you are looking for, leaving the client feeling frustrated. Now, with a click of a button, I can open a “neural network” or vast playing field of ideas to the client which might lead to a great discussion. The client can also view the graph and share their interest in topics.

In the coming weeks, I might publish more on this. Or I might use the app to write some interesting new articles. Have you heard of this application? How are you taking notes? Please let me know in the comments.

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