Double Reflection

Kierkegaard’s “double reflection” is not hard to understand. If I like chocolate, that’s an immediate response, and can occur without reflection. If I think “I like chocolate but if I eat too much of it it will make me sick” that’s reflection. Instead of just thinking about the chocolate I’m thinking about my own response to chocolate, as if I am looking at a reflection of myself in the mirror and judging it. The double reflection is when I think “I worry about food too much — it’s making me hard to live with”. That’s forming a judgment about my own reflecting — it’s like looking at myself looking at a reflection of myself in a mirror, in another mirror. Could there be triple reflection? Sure. Here is an example “My double reflection is just an excuse I use to not deal with my chocolate addiction.”

And yet, it seems to me reflections don’t in practice advance infinitely.  At some point there might be nothing to be gained by further reflection.  I’m not sure if that’s  (what I just wrote) an example of quaternary reflection or just plain old double reflection.  And I’m not sure if it matters!


21 thoughts on “Double Reflection

  1. Susan says:

    Hmmm. Two examples of the word reflection. One the exact thought or as an exact reflection of an image in a mirror. And the other word reflection as pondering about ones image or idea? Is that it?

  2. I think reflection levels (or recursion as I call it) does run infinitely – it’s simply a matter of our mental stamina as to how far it goes. When we think there’s no more practical use to going another layer, we are quite prone to stop (evolution loves to save on calories, after all – and brain work is calorie hungry). But it’s really just our estimate of practicality – maybe there’s way more problem to be considered?

    I mean, that’s the funny ironic bit – people often don’t even get to stage 1 recursion. Why? Because they A: See no practical use in it and importantly B: They do not reflect on themselves seeing no practical use in it! ‘That’s all there is to it!’. A lack of reflection/recursion is a self for filling prophesy.

      • Why?

        It’s kind of self reinforcing, isn’t it? “It’s important” – therefore no need to reflect on whether it actually is important. And when you don’t reflect on whether it’s important, it definitely comes out as important…rather than anything else. A self conserving form.

        Or less fancy; I’m not sure why it’d be important when there definitely is more to consider? Was our estimate of self reflective practicality in regard to burning wood and releasing various pollutants pretty important before the greenhouse effect was discovered? Is that prior estimate of ours still pretty important now? Or discarded? How can it be pretty important when we threw it in the bin?

      • And why would any reflective investigation necessarily be important?

        To reflect at all must we take up the premise we will always come across bounty?

      • Why?

        With such accuracy of definitely being a good idea or definitely being a bad idea, why such accuracy?

        Perhaps it’s…just an estimate.

  3. It’s not so complicated, or at least not always. A polar bear is chasing you across the ice. You have a choice of a canoe or a kayak to make your getaway. He is running really fast and will be on you in 2 seconds. Should you spend more time reflecting on the relative merits of canoes vs. kayaks or just jump in one and start paddling? I’d say the answer is clear, and it’s not just an “estimate”!

  4. Thank you for this! You hold the top search result on google for “double reflection philosophy” and this was really helpful!

    I was trying to figure out if kierkegaard came up with double reflection… Or if hegel conceptualized beforehand

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