One good way to retain information is to create diagrams of what ever you are studying. I learned this from a teacher of philosophy I had in college whose name was Professor Alfonso Verdu. He would draw diagrams of the philosophies that he was teaching. So I took this method as my own, and did diagrams of all the philosophical works I studied over the years. What is amazing is that I can remember diagrams that I did years ago, or those that Professor Alfonso Verdu used in teaching us philosophy. I converted many of my diagrams into digital form in my books and papers. See for instance, The Fragmentation of Being and the Path beyond the Void (http://works.bepress.com/kent_palmer). The key is to avoid using the same format for each diagram like, for instance, MindMaps. Each diagram has to be tailored creatively to the content being portrayed. The work of creating the diagram that is suitable for understanding needs to be kept in a notebook so it can be referenced. If you look at it occasionally when you are thinking about the problems then that reinforced the memory. But just the act of creating the diagrams more or less imprints it permanently on ones memory. Once one has done diagrams like this for a long time, the diagrams are no longer really necessary, but they always help. Not sure why this is so. I guess the brain gets accustomed to think diagrammatically about concepts and one eventually learns just to do it spontaneously.
Here are some examples:
Harold Bloom is a key Literary Theorist for many reasons, but I think the most interesting of which are his books the Anxiety of Influence and the Map of Misreading, where he talks about how creativity is really stealing, and then covering up what is stolen. For instance, now it is fairly clear from recent Scholarship that Merleau-Ponty and Heidegger stole large portions of their “innovative” ideas from the later Husserl which is documented in The Other Husserl The Horizons of Transcendental Phenomenology Don Welton; Another case is that of Foucault who at the end of his life according to Dreyfus admitted that His theory of Power merely substituted that word for Being in Heidegger’s Being and Time. These are crucial transitions in Continental Philosophy and it seems the anxiety of influence dynamic that Bloom pointed out out holds true in these particular cases. The map of Misreading is similar to Drefyus’ idea of how changes occur in the tradition, where peripheral concerns become central and central concerns become peripheral. In the Map of Misreading each poetic genius misreads the earlier generation, and we can see that misreading is having other concerns that bring to the fore what is peripheral in the earlier generation’s works. So Bloom zeros in on a particular dynamic that explains change in the Poetic tradition and that is probably also true for Philosophy if not more so.
Of course, this theory of Dreyfus and Bloom explains only incremental change and not Emergent Events. Emergent Events are radical changes that are very difficult to explain in this way, like the discovery of Quantum Theory for instance. Einstein’s Relativity could be seen as an example of this sort of change of the way we are viewing things already known by looking at them differently, i.e. via an Anagogic Swerve. But explaining things that come out of nowhere to change everything, like Super-conductivity, or Solitons, or Quaternions, for instance, cannot be explained by this type of theory. Thus we need to augment Bloom’s theory with a theory about the nature of Emergent Events and when we do that it takes us deeply into the structure of the worldview.