Three ways to manipulate ideas¶
The acts of the mind, wherein it exerts its power over simple ideas, are chiefly three: 1. Combining several simple ideas into a compound one, and thus all complex ideas are made. 2. The second is bringing two ideas, whether simple or complex, together, and setting them by one another so as to take a view of them at once, without uniting them into one, by which it gets all its ideas of relations. 3. The third is separating them from all other ideas that accompany them in their real existence: this is called abstraction, and thus all its general ideas are made.
There are three ways to manipulate ideas and concepts1:
- Creating a relationship between two ideas
- One of the fundamental ways of manipulating ideas is to create relationships of comparison between them. Simile is a perfect example of this. The relationship can be positive, negative or neutral - but it forms a link.
- Compounding Ideas
- As a meta example, the concept around there being a set of ways to manipulate ideas is built up of the idea of compounding, relationships and abstraction.
- Abstraction of ideas
- One of the ways you can manipulate ideas is abstraction. This involves taking an idea away from its original context and viewing it alone. This necessarily removes details from the idea but leaves the core structure.
- A note expresses a concept
- A single note expresses the note-takers understanding of a single concept - which might be analogous to an 'idea'.
- Note-taking system
- Create note-taking analogies for manipulating ideas
- Notes can be refactored
- It's possible to refactor notes in the same way that you refactor code. Use the three ways of manipulating ideas. On top of these, notes which cover too many bases can be split, notes which are too granular can be merged together, and it's possible to wrap and rename old notes which no-longer hold up.
- Create something concrete to understand and develop ideas
- Understanding concrete ideas is easier than understanding abstract ideas
- Abstracting an idea is one of the core manipulations of an idea, involving stripping away unnecessary context, leaving a broader idea in its place. This can make them harder to understand, as they effectively stand for many different concrete ideas.