21 Feb 2015

4. The fathomless in philosophical practice

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The difference between philosophical practice and classical therapy methods (e.g., psychotherapy) is, strictly speaking, that the philosopher does not seek to control the situation. What a philosopher can do is keep himself/herself continuously open-minded for his guest.

The reason for this necessity is to be able to say the right word at the right time, which is not possible if one follows a defined path or fixed method. Of course, with a fixed method one would also be able to use the right word at the right time, but only in a limited number of situations, namely in those situations that fit exactly the method used.

However, if one follows the method of "no method", adaptability and listening with one’s whole being seem to be a basic requirement for a philosophical practitioner. Searching for a mechanism of philosophical practice in this way, we are facing the fathomless. The fathomless is the one behind every knowledge, the one behind every truth. It is, in Karl Jaspers’ sense, the one who encompasses everything and cannot be grasped in an objective way by our discursive mind. Only the intention to act without purpose makes the One (Plotinus’ expression for the fathomless) accessible to us. 

As a conclusion of my four reflections, I would like to state that contemplative practice is a way to train us for being able to deal with the fathomless. It therefore has the potential to enhance our capacity for philosophical practice.

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Gerald Hofer

I am a German philosopher, a board member of the International Society for Philosophical Practice (IGPP), and alumnus of the first education course of the German professional association on philosophical practice. I am dedicated to exploring ways to approach the fathomless, or what the ancients called “the One.”

Personal contact via email: gerald.drhofer@web.de