About these notes

Hi! I’m Andy Matuschak. You’ve stumbled upon my working notes. They’re kind of strange, so some context might help.

These notes are mostly written for myself: they’re roughly my thinking environment (Evergreen notes; My morning writing practice). But I’m sharing them publicly as an experiment (Work with the garage door up). If a note seems confusing or under-explained, it’s probably because I didn’t write it for you! Sorry—that’s sort of an essential tension of this experiment (Write notes for yourself by default, disregarding audience).

For now, there’s no index or navigational aids: you’ll need to follow a link to some starting point. You might be interested in §What’s top of mind.

👋 Andy (email, Twitter, main personal site)

PS: My work is made possible by a crowd-funded research grant from my Patreon community. You can become a member to support future work, and to read patron-only updates and previews of upcoming projects.

PS: Many people ask, so I’ll just note here: no, I haven’t made this system available for others to use. It’s still an early research environment, and Premature scaling can stunt system iteration.

Understanding requires effortful engagement

If you want to really understand an idea, you have to grapple with it.

You can’t just read something, listen to a lecture, or hear a notion in a conversation. You’ve got to wonder: where does this apply and where does it not? What are the implications? What are the assumptions? Whose view is represented here? What does this refute? etc.

As Stephen Kosslyn notably says,

The first maxim is “Think it through.” The key idea is very simple: the more you think something through, paying attention to what you are doing, the more likely you are to remember it.

This notion is a core idea of #e/constructivism, and it’s why transmissionism doesn’t work.

And Schopenhauer:

When we read, another person thinks for us: we merely repeat his mental process. … For the more one reads the fewer are the traces left of what one has read; the mind is like a tablet that has been written over and over. Hence it is impossible to reflect; and it is only by reflection that one can assimilate what one has read if one reads straight ahead without pondering over it later, what has been read does not take root, but is for the most part lost. Indeed, it is the same with mental as with bodily food: scarcely the fifth part of what a man takes is assimilated; the remainder passes off in evaporation, respiration, and the like.

Grant Sanderson (2019-11-28):

You need to make eye contact with the idea.


Kosslyn, S. M. (2017). The Science of Learning: Mechanisms and Principles. In S. M. Kosslyn & B. Nelson (Eds.), Building the Intentional University: Minerva and the Future of Higher Education (1 edition, pp. 149–164). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Schopenhauer, A. (2015). On reading and books. In C. Janaway (Ed.), & A. Del Caro (Trans.), Parerga and Paralipomena: Short Philosophical Essays (Vol. 2). https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139016889 (Original work published 1851)