Essay - Learning How to Read

An essay from Niklas Luhmann about learning to read and how there are different kinds of books that require different approaches.

Novels require a temporal dimension for the reader. They are continually reminded what they don’t know (e.g. the ending/resolution of the book). We can define novels to be in two states with regards to the reader–already read and not yet read.

Poems are different. They do not have a temporal dimension, but instead have many aspects that alter the meaning to the reader. Style, tone, word choice, metaphor, rhythm, and more. This requires ‘multi-layer recursion’, to think on each word, sentence, section repeatedly to unlock it’s implied meaning. It’s like the meta game, but in writing.

Theoretical texts (e.g. text books, non fiction) have different demands. The reader is looking to learn and must uncover what is important and what must be learned. This needs short term memory as well as long term memory. Short term to interpret and long term to recall connections with other references/memories.

Connecting information often looks like attaching the information and grouping it as is the case with attributing key ideas to the author. Notes are similar in trying to capture information to better retain it, but often fails (covered more exhaustively in his essay about Zettelkasten: ‘Communicating with Slip Boxes’).

Refers to the Leo Strauss notion that serious writers communicate ideas through many layers of meaning and abstraction which simultaneously protects the author from the ruling regime and attracts the right readers. A ‘Straussian reading’ or interpretation is extracting the hidden subtext and stating it openly.

An antilibrary is one’s collection of books that they have not read. These tend to accumulate and can cause some anxiety in people. However, it’s actually a good reminder of intellectual humility—constantly seeing what we don’t know and might never know.

An analog note taking system that emphasizes connections between atomic ideas. First introduced by Niklas Luhmann.

A talk given by Brian Moriarty, a renowned game designer/developer, that encourages listeners to dedicate themselves to the pursuit of making something awe-inspiring.