Flow and Daoism: Comparing Consequent Attitudes


Flow theorist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi compared the experience of Flow to Zhuang Zi’s Dao. To experience flow is like Cook Ding’s skill in cutting-without-cutting—an effortless doing, termed as wei-wu-wei—associating both with happiness. Many have investigated this parallelism to see if the analogy is apt. Several have concluded that Flow and Dao may not really be comparable, having incommensurable foundations and purposes. On the other hand, some argue for a continuation of such discussions in the service of bridging the cultural-philosophical gap perennially thought to exist between East and West. This paper aims to contribute to such discussions, showing that apart from the similarities that have already been shown to exist between the experiences of Flow and Dao, the consequences of those experiences might be investigated as well. Reflective consideration of the texts involved leads to the suggestion that Flow might be situational, while Zhuang Zi’s Dao is dispositional. While the latter should lead one to view and do things in a certain way after understanding and doing Dao, this does not necessarily happen in one who has experienced Flow. This implies that although descriptions of the experience of Flow and of Zhuang Zi’s Dao resemble one another, they might be farther apart than usually considered. This, however, does not mean that comparative study of the two experiences should cease. Similarities in expression of different experiences can still contribute to inter-cultural and inter-disciplinary understanding as along as we also value the nuances involved.

Author Information
Mary Irene Clare Deleña, De La Salle University, Philippines
Elenita Garcia, De La Salle University, Philippines

Paper Information
Conference: ACERP2020
Stream: Philosophy - Comparative Philosophy

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Posted by James Alexander Gordon