Is Reflection Fundamentally Worse than Experience?
Most of the philosophers I have been reading seem to think so. The general thesis of all of these statements is that in-the-moment experience is better than passive reflection.
- “When (the Master’s) work is done, she forgets it. That is why it lasts forever.” - Lao Tzu
- “It is very unhappy, but too late to be helped, the discovery we have made, that we exist.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
- “If this myth is tragic, that is because its hero is conscious.” - Albert Camus
I think this brings up some interesting questions.
First of all, these are three distinct philosophies (Taoism, Transcendentalism, and Absurdism, respectively) that evolved on three different continents, with a chronological spread of more than one thousand years. Yet, regarding this issue, they espouse the same intrinsic truth.
So … Does philosophy as a field ever
progress? advance or offer new ways of thinking? Or do philosophical theories remain fundamentally the same, undergoing only slight adaptations to address the specifics of the time?
Secondly, none of these quotes attempt to elucidate exactly why present experience is preferential to conscious reflection. Isn’t the field of philosophy itself entirely dependent on conscious reflection? Does that make philosophy inherently “unhappy” or “tragic”?