In the tedious task of differentiating self-help philosophy from the “real deal,” one might say that the former deals with experiences, while the latter is more interested in experience proper. The “real-life applicability” that self-help books offer has indeed something to do with the plane in which the questions that they ask are situated: the different ways of life, habits, diets. Seeking the core of experience, in its singular form, does not merely mean attaining a new level of generality, it is also a way of cutting out the meddling middle men and to start thinking on our own.
This is why the most prominent philosophical schools and ideas that have crossed the well-guarded lines of academia — stoicism, existentialism, the Cartesian Cogito, the current debate around science and the scientific method, among others — were at the same time empowering and vulnerable to their own bastardisation. The Archimedean point, where the questionable experiences become grounded in unalterable immediacy is a very fragile one. The decision to hold on to experience and explore its nature and possibilities, or to move on and directly jump to its “real-life application” can make or break the whole endeavour.
The decision to expect answers from an editorial or to move on to the contributions, where the question of experience is tackled in light of specific ideas or schools of thought, is a rather pragmatic one; but we might have to remind ourselves from time to time that our proper experience is something that we shouldn’t leap over.
Cover illustration: Kazimir Malevich, “Black Square and Red Square (Painterly Realism of a Boy with a Knapsack — Color Masses in the Fourth Dimension)”, (1915).