I am a philosophical practitioner, working with individuals and self-reflection groups. I received my PhD in philosophy and MA in psychology from the University of Michigan in 1989. I then started teaching philosophy at a university in Texas, but was not satisfied with academic philosophy. In 1992 I started practicing philosophical counseling, and a year later started giving at Haifa University (Israel) the first university course in the world about this field, and continued teaching it for 15 years. In 1994 I initiated the First International Conference on Philosophical Counseling, and co-organized it with Lou Marinoff. In 2014 I envisioned the Agora webpage, and launched it together with my friend and colleague Carmen Zavala from Peru.
I now live quietly in rural Vermont (northeast USA), where I write, walk in nature, and teach online at two universities. I also give workshops on philosophical practice around the world. My publications include two novels in Hebrew, an anthology on philosophical practice in English, two books on philosophical practice in Italian, and more than 30 professional articles.
My professional website is PhiloLife.net
The basic vision of philosophical practice is inspiring: that philosophy can make our life better. The question is how to translate this grand vision into actual practice. Two paradigms to address this question dominate our field: First, the paradigm of philosophical practice as critical thinking. Second, the paradigm of philosophical practice as a free dialogue, free of methods and presuppositions.
1. ON BEING COMPANIONS
The faces of my online companions appear on my computer screen, side by side, in two rows, each enclosed in a box. We look at each other from six corners of the earth, through distances that are bridged by online connections, through the miracle of electronics.
I greet my companions with a smile. Who knows where each one of them is sitting now. I imagine the walls that are hidden from the camera, the windows that open to a street or a garden, the clothes that are thrown on the floor. Maybe a dog or a husband is sitting in the corner.
And yet we are together. Because my words resonate with your words, because our thoughts are intertwined together, like different branches in the same thick forest. For the duration of 90 minutes we are different threads woven together into a multi-color fabric of thought and insight.
And this means philosophical companions – not I versus you, not declaring personal opinions, but standing shoulder-to-shoulder in the same choir of singers, composing new understandings in philosophical togetherness.
The philosophical companionship is a framework for philosophical interaction, a format of philosophical practice. And like most formats, it can be used for a variety of different goals. However, I think that there is a certain goal that is especially appropriate for it. This is because the philosophical companionship involves contemplation.
Since its birth in the early 1980s, the philosophical practice movement has been dominated by two main formats: First, one-on-one counseling about personal issues, or so-called “philosophical counseling.” Second, discussion groups, especially philosophical cafés and Socratic dialogue workshops.
RECORDINGS OF RECENT PHILOSOPHICAL TEXTS
This month’s topic:
philosophies of authenticity
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THIS IS ONLY AN EXAMPLE
Name of companionship: What does it mean to be true to myself?
Facilitator: Ran Lahav
Dates: Thursdays night, 1:00 pm, USA Eastern Time (19:00 Italy time), starting July 17th
Duration: Four weekly meetings (can be extended, if participants agree)
Participants: Philosophical practitioners and individuals with philosophical background.
Fees: Free of charge
Style: Contemplative sessions focusing on a text, with some textual study.
Details: In this companionship we will explore…
Some philosophical practitioners are against methods. This might seem strange. After all, many important philosophers had methods: Aristotle's syllogistic method, Husserl's phenomenological method, the method of conceptual analysis. Epicurus had methods to assess needs, and the Stoics had methods to for philosophical contemplation. So what's wrong with philosophical practitioners using methods?
Ideas, as I said earlier, have a tremendous power to inspire us and awaken us – not just philosophical ideas, but ideas in general. Nevertheless, philosophical ideas have an especially powerful potential. This is because they deal with fundamental issues of existence, and also because they give these issues rich and complex meanings. They can therefore make a difference to fundamental themes in our life.
Philosophy deals with ideas. Philosophical practitioners work with ideas, but for a special purpose: to make life deeper, richer, fuller with wisdom. Because ideas have a tremendous power to awaken us, to inspire us, to open for us new worlds, to connect us to new sources of plenitude.