Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Second Thoughts on *Marginalia*: How to Choose Priorities

So I officially put my study system into effect and have tried taking notes on Ayn Rand's Marginalia. While my brain feels good, I've instead decided not to continue studying this book, opting to shelve it in favor of another. My thoughts on the flaws of this book has given me a significant insight on how I should choose my study subjects.

The format of the book is that it posts excerpts of various readings Ayn Rand has done and then puts in the right hand margins her notes and comments. It draws from a wide variety of sources, but only includes excerpts, not whole citations, of each, and short ones at that. For some this can be a very good exercise in precision thinking and translating the meaning of sentences, but since the book jumps from focus to focus literally every paragraph it's terrible for integrative knowledge. It's like being tossed several puzzle pieces taken from multiple box sets, but never having enough to actually form one single puzzle. Each paragraph doesn't provide much food for thought unless you have quite a learned background, and many will find it difficult to concentrate intensely on that which may ultimately be over their heads, especially considering what little reward there is to reap in the end.

From this I learned by which priorities I should choose my subject matters: 1.) By how it will impact my thinking in the immediate term, 2.) how it will impact my psycho-epistemology (method of thinking), and, consequently, 3.) how it will affect my actions. Marginalia, in my personal context, fails to provide satisfactory answers to each count. It'll hardly impact my thinking since it doesn't delve too deeply into each line of thought, it'll have little impact on my psycho-epistemology since it isn't constructive for integrative knowledge, and it'll have no impact on my actions since there's too little of the cited material to be useful. At the very best, I did at least learn from the error of picking up this book and gained more knowledge of how to most effectively study.

I think I'll perhaps redesign my study to-do lists (I make separate ones on my computer for each textbook) to incorporate these questions for what purpose I'm picking a particular text. By answering them I'll have a more firm understanding of what I'm aiming for and will better maintain motivation, and by keeping them documented on my to-do lists I'll be reminded of my answers every time I reread the list and cross off/add stuff.

I guess this prompts the question, then, as to why I want to study Good Calories, Bad Calories? As for my thinking, it'll help ground my nutritional beliefs in reality and gain more knowledge of the history and state of modern nutritional science. Psycho-epistemologically, it'll help me gain a more adequate knowledge of proper scientific methods and sufficient proofs, which relates, again, to my central purpose in life, which is to be a scientific entrepreneur in the culinary field. Action-wise, it'll help me better argue for my health beliefs, to comprehend additional nutritional texts better, and to better pursue an objectively healthy diet. I assume from this you'll be able to come to pretty accurate educated guesses as to why I want to study The Logical Leap.

As to what to replace Marginalia with, I'm thinking The Journals of Ayn Rand. I haven't started reading it yet, but I assume that it posts entire entries from her journal (diary/notebook), which would not only be beneficial for my philosophical thinking, but also for my introspection and note-taking skills. I know I said the Objectivism section on my reading list was to be off-limits, but since I'm shelving Marginalia that technically means that I haven't utilized that section yet in this reading round.

As for my note-taking experience, I'm finding that some of the symbols I've decided to construct are unnecessary. I've gotten over my hesitation of writing in the margins (no more pretty books!) and the functions of some symbols can easily be delegated to another, thereby making my note-taking system a little bit simpler. For instance, I think it's completely unnecessary to come up with a symbol separate from that which denotes working notes in order to denote questions. Since I end up dissecting my questions in a series of statements afterwards, it would be inappropriate to designate a line in my notes as if it were only questions. Also, I've learned that some other symbols are needed to make my notes easier to read, such as a slash by each new paragraph in order to allow me to more easily separate them by sight.

I also relearned that I need to keep clocks out of view in order to most effectively study. I don't know if I ever told you this, but in my first study endeavor I found that keeping track of time was a huge distraction. If I were to, say, look at a clock, study a page, and then note it was ten minutes later after I've finished that page, I would panic about my pace of my work and struggle to make things go faster than they should. In intellectual work, one needs to be concerned whether an effort is actually being made, the nature of that effort, and whether it's effective, not how fast that effort actually is. In time my thinking, comprehension, and learning will improve in speed; rushing things will do no good. As such, I'm reestablishing the habit of keeping time-keeping devices out of my sight and setting alarms in order to notify me of scheduled actions and whatnot.

It is strange, but even though I've studied only about twenty or so pages of Marginalia I already feel more mentally competent. I'm typing this post at a faster than normal speed and am having less difficulty finding things to say and the words to express them in. Just goes to show me what can happen when you work the brain like a muscle. Right now my brain is literally experiencing a warming sensation, as if it were burning from exercise.

I also had another thought regarding my conceptual exercise and daydreaming, but I'll save that for later.

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