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Accumulated Notes

The immediate reason is one that should be familiar to everyone; I just can't quite find the right name for it.

Over several years I had accumulated a large collection of notes with the thought of one day making them into … well, something. Then, although I can't remember it now, there must have been a moment when I stepped back and realized that I could easily spent the rest of my life accumulating notes and thinking that one day I would make them into something. At that point, the infinite series of decisions as to whether today was the day collapsed to a single decision: was I actually going to do something with these notes or was I going to accept that nothing was ever going to be done with them? You see my answer.

The alert will have noticed that I like Stoppard's phrase from Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead.

Our names shouted in a certain dawn … a message … a summons … There must have been a moment, at the beginning, where we could have said—no. But somehow we missed it. (He looks round and sees he is alone.)

Speaking of notes, apparently Wittgenstein used a similar method—it's possible this is where I got the idea. Here's how the editors of Zettel describe it.

We therefore came to the conclusion that this box contained remarks which Wittgenstein regarded as particularly useful and intended to weave into finished work if places for them should appear. Now we know that his method of composition was in part to make an arrangement of such short, almost independent pieces as, in the enormous quantity that he wrote, he was fairly satisfied with.

Just as an example, here is one note picked more or less at random from the several hundred collected in the book.

48. In what circumstances does one say “This appliance is a brake, but it doesn't work”? That surely means: it does not fulfil its purpose. What is it for it to have this purpose? It might also be said: “It was the intention that this should work as a brake.” Whose intention? Here intention as a state of mind entirely disappears from view.

Might it not even be imagined that several people had carried out an intention without any one of them having it? In this way a government may have an intention that no man has.

It is interesting to think of the notes as memes.

 

  See Also

  Essay Status
  Fire, The
  Flexibility
  Indecision
  Lotteries and Expectation Values
  Mathematical Notes
  Not Enough Time

@ March (2000)
  April (2002)