|WHAT IS A PHILOSOPHICAL COMPANIONSHIP?
A philosophical companionship is a group of companions who reflect in togetherness on basic life-issues, in search of meaningful philosophical experiences and insights. Instead of arguing and declaring opinions, companions step out of their usual thinking patterns, and resonate with each other like musicians improvising together, creating an inspiring "music" of understandings that cultivates inner depth and fullness. The companions meet online or face-to-face, often with a philosophical text, and with the help of a facilitator who may introduce procedures and exercises to maintain togetherness and depth.
THE COMPANIONSHIP AS A FORM OF PHILOSOPHICAL PRACTICE
The philosophical companionship is a new form of philosophical practice. Philosophical practice is an international movement that believes that philosophy can make a unique and meaningful contribution to the lives of ordinary people. The movement was founded in the early 1980s, and since then has been dominated by two main formats: philosophical counseling (one-on-one conversations on personal issues) and discussion groups (the philo-café, Socratic Dialogues, etc.). The philosophical companionship is a new format of philosophical activities. It is based on the vision that philosophical reflection has the power to move us, and to awaken hidden depths within us, and add fullness to our lives, especially when this is done in togetherness with others.
In order to all this, philosophical reflection must be more than an intellectual discussion, more than an individualistic declaration of opinions, more than logical analysis or problem-solving. It must engage deeper aspects of ourselves, and open us to broader horizons of life through real communication with others. It therefore requires that we go beyond our individual opinions and thinking patterns, beyond the boundaries of our familiar self, and open ourselves to new "voices," or ways of understanding. The philosophical companionship is designed to do precisely that. It engages the participants in a reflection that goes beyond their familiar boundaries, with openness to the voices of their companions, the voices of philosophical thinkers, and the voices of human existence.
SOME BASIC CONCEPTS OF PHILOSOPHICAL COMPANIONSHIP
The profound – We contemplate because we treasure profound ideas and profound understandings in togetherness. We cherish the profound, just as in music we cherish the beautiful, and in cooking we cherish the tasty. Profoundness is, so to speak, the “beauty” or “tastefulness” of philosophical contemplation.
Togetherness - Participants see themselves as sharing a common endeavor, as participants in the same reflection, instead of asserting themselves as isolated individuals with separate goals. They do not argue with each other, or analyze each other, or assert themselves over others, but rather compliment and enrich each other’s reflection. Each individual is therefore concerned with what is happening to the others, and to the group as a whole.
Resonating – Companions resonate with each other’s ideas just as jazz musicians improvize together with their different instruments, responding to each other, giving space to each other, and creating together a rich symphony of ideas. They do not put themselves in opposition to others (or to the text), they do not express themsleves in isolation from others (or from the text), they do not even examine each other from the outside. Rather, they develop a symphony of understandings together, responding to each other, elaborating on each other, continuing each other, like different instruments in the orchestra.
Contemplative reading – Reflecting on a text while putting aside our opinions and intellectual thinking, and “listening” to the ideas that arise within us. Such ideas can arise in response to specific words in the text, or the words of fellow contemplators, or sometimes spontaneously. When contemplation is full, it is experienced as if my deeper self speaks within me.
Network of ideas – The skeleton of a philosophical theory, or worldview, is made of several basic ideas that are connected to each other in a particular way. By focusing on a networks of idea we can focus on the essential elements in a philosophical view or text.
EXAMPLES OF PROCEDURES AND EXERCISES
Precious speaking – According to this procedure, companions speak in a precise, concentrated way, as if each word is precious, as if each word is a gift to the group. Redundant words such as "Well, I think that..." are eliminated. If possible, companions say only one sentence at a time. When others speak, the participant opens an inner space and places the words in that space without judging them.
Philosophical chanting – The companions read a selected sentence or paragraph again and again, one after the other. Five or even ten rounds of readings can create new ways of listening to the text and new understandings. (This procedure was developed by Gerald Hofer.)
Walking in a landscape of ideas - Companions explore a philosophical text (or theory) not by talking about it from the outside, like external observer, but from the inside. Companions walk in the landscape of ideas, wondering, questioning, suggesting paths. The facilitator may pose questions or passages to direct the search.