P H I L O S O P H Y P A T H W A Y S ISSN 2043-0728
Issue number 25
10th February 2002
I. 'Professional Philosophy Outside the Academy:
Philosophical Counseling' by Peter B. Raabe PhD
II. 'The Chesterfield Group' by Paul Clark
III. Shap Conference Date Change: 22-24 February
I. 'PROFESSIONAL PHILOSOPHY OUTSIDE THE ACADEMY: PHILOSOPHICAL COUNSELING'
BY PETER B. RAABE PH.D
One of the most serious problems facing today's graduate students of philosophy
is the lack of future employment in the field. But this scarcity of jobs is only
a significant problem if working in philosophy is narrowly defined to mean
teaching in a college or university. The perception that a philosopher is
always someone who teaches in an institution is a fairly recent development
within the history of philosophy. In fact philosophy did not begin as an
academic subject at all. It was originally considered a practice, a way of
life, or a means by which to help people live better lives. Around the
beginning of the Christian Era Seneca wrote in his letter to Lucilius, "Shall I
tell you what philosophy holds out to humanity? Counsel. One person is facing
death, another is vexed by poverty....All mankind are stretching out their
hands to you on every side. Lives have been ruined, lives that are on the way
to ruin are appealing for some help; it is to you that they look for hope and
But today few people facing death or vexed by poverty would imagine that they
could find hope, assistance, or even simple comfort in a visit to an academic
philosopher. Academic philosophy has gained the reputation of being dry,
abstract, lacking in empathy and human compassion, more interested in tidy
hypothetical cases than complex real-life problems, largely unconcerned with
women's issues, and generally focused on technical trivialities. The so-called
practice of philosophy in colleges and universities has, for the most part,
deteriorated into shuffling specialized terminology and playing mind games. The
typical position of the academic philosopher is exemplified in Bertrand
Russell's Lowell lectures delivered in Boston in 1914. He said that the aim of
philosophy is the theoretical understanding of the world, "which is not a
matter of great practical importance to animals, or to savages, or even to most
Psychoanalyst Carl G. Jung saw this abandonment of practical philosophy as an
unfortunate development. In his 1942 introductory address at the Conference for
Psychology in Zurich, Switzerland, he described academic philosophy as an
outright embarrassment to professional psychotherapists. He told his audience,
"I can hardly draw a veil over the fact that we psychotherapists ought really
to be philosophers or philosophic doctors -- or rather that we already are so,
though we are unwilling to admit it because of the glaring contrast between our
work and what passes for philosophy in the universities."
The point Jung was making is that philosophy lost its way when it stopped being
of service to humanity, when it denied its practical nature, and when it instead
became something only done by academics with and for other academics. He
understood that when psychotherapists are helping their patients deal with
their problems they are in fact practicing philosophy, but that
psychotherapists dare not call themselves philosophers because of the bad
reputation for uselessness that philosophy had gained. This raises the
question, Why was it that those professionals who were trained in psychology
were doing philosophy with their patients in the first place? The answer is
because at that time in history philosophers were unwilling to help ordinary
people deal with their everyday human problems.
Philosophy is done best by philosophers. And yet while may scholars study
philosophy, few trained philosophers actually practice it. Students are taught
philosophy so that they may in future teach other students to become teachers
of philosophy, and so on into infinity, but there is no practice. This is same
as if medical doctors were to teach medicine to students so that they might
become teachers of medicine to other students, and so on, without anyone ever
actually practicing medicine by treating the suffering individuals in their
community. Courses in applied ethics are sometimes claimed to be the practice
of philosophy, but classroom discussions of practice are simply discussions not
practice. Courses in applied ethics are no different from classroom discussions
of medicine; and a classroom discussion of medicine is a far cry from actually
treating people in distress.
Again, the idea, that philosophy ought to be helpful in a very practical sense,
is not new. Many of the most famous philosophers understood the role of
philosophy to be to help their fellow human beings deal with the difficulties
experienced in daily life. More than two thousand years ago Epicurus
characterized philosophy as "therapy of the soul." He maintained that the
arguments made by a philosopher are just empty if they do not relieve any human
suffering. The Stoics also made it clear that philosophy is not merely the
memorization of abstract theories or the exegesis of texts, but learning the
art of living well. Socrates used philosophy not to teach concepts but to
encourage his discussion partners to question their assumptions and beliefs, to
examine their thinking and attitudes about almost every issue imaginable.
Nietzsche scolded the philosophers of his day because he saw that philosophy
had degenerated into a boring academic pursuit. He said he was waiting for a
"philosopher physician" who would muster the courage "to risk the proposition:
That what was at stake in all philosophizing up to this point was not at all
'truth' but something else -- let us say, health, future, growth, power, life."
The twentieth century's most influential philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein,
asked rhetorically, "What is the use of studying philosophy if all it does for
you is to enable you to talk with some plausibility about some abstruse
questions in logic, etc., and if it does not improve your thinking about the
important questions of everyday life?" John Dewey, the highly regarded American
philosopher of education, wrote earlier this century that philosophy would show
its true value "only when it ceases to be a device for dealing with the
problems of philosophers and becomes a method, cultivated by philosophers, for
dealing with the problems of men." Philosophical counselors have willingly
accepted the challenge to take philosophy out of the lecture hall and present
it to the real world.
Simply put, philosophical counseling consists of a trained philosopher helping
an individual deal with a problem or an issue that is of concern to that
individual. Philosophical counselors know that the majority of people are quite
capable of resolving most of their problems on a day-to-day basis either by
themselves or with the help of significant others. It is when problems become
too complex -- as, for example, when values seem to conflict, when facts appear
contradictory, when reasoning about a problem becomes trapped within a circle,
or when life seems unexpectedly meaningless -- that a trained philosopher can
be of greater help than the average friend or family member.
Philosophical counseling goes directly to the heart of philosophical issues and
concerns that are not only of general public interest but of personal relevance
and significance to a particular individual. It offers both the best available
theoretical information as well as the most practical approaches to
non-academic problems to individuals searching for relief from the difficulties
of their own real-life situations. And because a philosophical counselor does
not diagnose philosophical problems as psychopathology, philosophical
counseling can be far more helpful in certain situations -- in not labeling
those who are troubled as mentally ill -- than many of the various forms of
But just because a philosophical counselor may be dealing with emotional and
very intimate issues does not mean he or she is therefor not doing "real"
philosophy. Every question the philosophical counselor asks of a client and
every suggestion he or she makes is informed by a philosophical expertise every
bit as rigorous as those of her academic colleagues. Philosophical counseling
does not replace academic philosophy; instead it instantiates what has been
learned in the classroom. It is a collaborative, creative dialogue between two
individuals -- one of whom (the counselor) has been extensively trained in both
the history and the practice of philosophy, and an other (the client) who wishes
to draw on this expertise -- whose ultimate goal is the improvement of the life
of the client.
Unlike teaching in a classroom, philosophical counseling is not primarily
concerned with the direct transmission of knowledge from an expert to a novice,
or from the 'knower' to the one seeking knowledge. Yet there are times when a
client wants to learn from the philosophical counselor such things as critical
and creative thinking skills, what famous philosophers have said on various
issue, how to make an ethical decision, and so on. Philosophical counseling
becomes teaching when the client asks to learn due to a personal
Entwicklungsdrang (literally, the urge to develop), and when the counseling
relationship is intentionally focused on the exchange of information and
Fortunately, today there are a number of philosophers who have chosen to work
outside the confines of institutional theorizing, and to once again practice
philosophy in the real world. They sometimes call themselves practicing
philosophers or philosophical practitioners. But most commonly they refer to
themselves as philosophical counselors. There are now graduate courses in
philosophical counseling, professional associations, certification programs,
and practicing philosophical counselors in most of the major countries of the
world, including Canada, Holland, Norway, Austria, France, Switzerland, Israel,
Great Britain, Italy, and the United States. There are also a number of books
and journals being published which deal specifically with theory, method, and
issues in philosophical counseling. These resources are now helping to make the
dream many students have of working as professional philosophers outside the
academy become a reality.
(c) Peter B. Raabe 2002
Peter B. Raabe has a private philosophical counseling practice in North
Vancouver, Canada. He is the author of 'Philosophical Counseling: Theory and
Practice and Issues in Philosophical Counseling' (Greenwood Press/Praeger). He
also teaches courses in philosophy for counselors at Simon Fraser University.
You can visit his website at http://www.ucfv.ca/philosophy/raabep/.
II. 'THE CHESTERFIELD GROUP' BY PAUL CLARK
Pathways To Philosophy has a lot to answer for. It was whilst talking to a
friend of mine about the programme that we decided to meet for a night out and
talk about philosophy in general.
The night out was in a local pub and as the time approached for the bell to
ring 'Last orders' we agreed that we had enjoyed the evening. We decided to
meet again the following week, and that we would bring structure by pursuing a
topic. Free will and determinism was my Pathways issue of the moment and thus
free will and determinism was the chosen topic.
Although the group began with two people, we knew others that might be
interested. Despite the group being small the dynamics of it are not without
problems requiring management, and we thought that these may be of interest to
Pathways News readers, and others that may be considering setting up a group of
These were quite varied although there was a common thread around stimulating
One member had been introduced to philosophy some time past at the University
of Warsaw and wanted to get back into the subject. Alongside this, and my own
Pathways programme other motivations were:
- Mental stimulation
- Enriching one's life
- Expanding one's mind from constraints of day-to-day life
- Curiosity. What's it all about?
- Additional interest in Psychology/ human motivation
- Wanting to know the issues involved in living in this world, even though
there may be no answers to any problems identified
Although pubs have tended to be the most popular places to meet we have also
met in private houses, where the host has always provided refreshment.
Selecting a Topic for Discussion.
So far, we have selected two topics, which have run for several weeks each. The
first, free will and determinism, was stimulated by Pathways, and the second,
morality, was an issue a particular individual wanted to get into.
Owing to the smallness of the group we have not appointed a chairperson. Rather
we rely on self-discipline and our frankness with one another if a member of the
group is talking too much or going off at a tangent, and this has worked well.
Copies of articles about the subject are brought to the group to inform and
help structure future meetings. In this respect Pathways, philosophy magazines,
the Web and books on philosophy have helped enormously. In the latter case three
of our members have read Thomas Nagel's excellent introduction to philosophy
'What Does It All Mean?' ISBN 0-19-505216-1.
Capturing Thoughts and Communication
Early on we realised that, unless our meetings were purely for a chat, we
needed to record our outputs. Mind-mapping was selected rather than, say,
note-taking or tape recording. The mind maps work well and one has been used as
the basis for an essay. Perhaps we are lucky that one of our group takes readily
to mind-mapping. One of the group is copying the mind-maps for her nephew.
Communication is a problem for us as one member often works at night, one works
through the day, and two do not work. This means that the group can meet in
parts and come together as a whole some time later.
To overcome this problem we simply copy all inputs and outputs to each person
and points of clarification can be picked up later.
We were lucky with our first new members as they were well known to each of us.
However, one did admit that he felt a bit 'out of it' at our first get together,
and another left as she did not want to continue with the subject.
Our latest new member is somewhat different as he was known to only one of us
through pool nights at the local pub. He said that he appreciated not being
pushed into joining the group, not being given loads of information at the
start, and being allowed to speak his own views.
Maybe the above will give some pointers to other would be philosophy groups?
On a general note, I have been surprised by the interest in philosophy from
various aspects of my life. At the local pub some people have begun to talk
about philosophy. A friend I meet at Halifax Town soccer games has recently
admitted to beginning to look at the topic, and philosophy is woven in to my
wife's Geology degree course.
We ask the question, Is philosophy a sleeping giant? And if the answer is,
'yes' then is this a self-inflicted closet that with a bit of imagination and
flair philosophy can explode from?
(c) Paul Clark 2002
III. SHAP CONFERENCE DATE CHANGE: 22-24 FEBRUARY
On 6 February, a version of the 2002 Shap Conference program was sent out with
the wrong dates. I am grateful to Rosalind Wilson for bringing the error to my
attention. Apparently the details were based on an earlier, draft version of
Here is the final version of the Conference program. I apologize for any
confusion that may have been caused!
THE SHAP CONFERENCE 22-24 FEBRUARY
SHAP WELLS HOTEL, CUMBRIA UK
FEE: 109 GB Pounds (no concessions)
Places are still available for the Shap philosophy weekend,
at Shap Fells in Cumbria. Anyone with an interest in
philosophy is welcome to join the conference.
The weekend at Shap has been a regular fixture for students
at Newcastle University for over twenty years. More
recently, the weekend has been run in conjunction with the
Philosophical Society of England.
Shap provides the opportunity for intense discussion and
stimulating debate, in between philosophical walks in the
magnificent scenery of the Cumbrian Fells. The excellent
food and well appointed accommodation make this an ideal
weekend break for philosophy enthusiasts.
The title of this year's conference is 'Is Morality an
Illusion?' Michael Bavidge, the conference organizer,
'It is an ancient anxiety that moral values and obligations
may be nothing but illusions. We shall confront this
disturbing possibility in our discussions of the nature of
morality, its foundations and the reassessments it faces in
a secular culture.'
MICHAEL BAVIDGE is Deputy Director and Tutor at the Centre
for Lifelong Learning, University of Newcastle
GEOFFREY KLEMPNER is Director of Studies of the
Philosophical Society of England
TOBY SMITH studied literature and philosophy at the
University of Durham and is particularly interested in
English and American literature and modern German
philosophy. He is a practising Buddhist and attends the
Newcastle Buddhist Centre to practise meditation and yoga.
Friday 22 February
7 pm Dinner
8.30 pm - 10 pm Paper
Michael Bavidge 'Living Illusions'
Saturday 23 February
8.30 am Breakfast
9.30 am - 11 am Paper
Toby Smith 'Nietzsche: Beyond Good and Evil'
11 am Coffee
11.30 am - 12.30 pm Workshop 1
1 pm Free afternoon
5 am - 6.30 pm Paper
Geoffrey Klempner 'In Pursuit of the Amoralist'
7 pm Dinner
8.30 pm General Discussion
Sunday 24 March
9.30 am Breakfast
10 - 11 am Workshop 2
11 am Coffee
1 pm Lunch
| SHAP PHILOSOPHY CONFERENCE |
| 22-24 FEBRUARY 2002 |
| PRE-ENROLMENT FORM |
| To: The Secretary (367), Centre for Lifelong Learning, |
| King George VI Building, Queen Victoria Road, Newcastle |
| upon Tyne, NE1 7RU, UK |
| I wish to apply for a place on SHAP PHILOSOPHY CONFERENCE |
| 2002 and I enclose my fee. Cheques should be made payable |
| to 'University of Newcastle upon Tyne' |
| Please indicate any dietary requirements or disabilities |
| ....................................................... |
| ....................................................... |
| Full fee: 109 GB Pounds |
| Title: |
| First Name: |
| Surname: |
| Address: |
| Postcode: |
| Telephone (Day): |
| Telephone (Evening): |
| Have you attended a course at the Centre for Lifelong |
| Learning in the last year? |
| [ ] Yes |
| [ ] No |
Further details are available from Michael Bavidge at the Centre for Lifelong
Learning, King George VI Building, Queen Victoria Road, Newcastle upon Tyne
Telephone (Secretary): +44 (0)191 222 6546
E-mail: "Michael Bavidge" M.C.Bavidge@newcastle.ac.uk
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