Saturday, 28 March 2015 20:00

7. Methods in East and West

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I think that for the still young philosophical counselling it is important not only to define its nature and bring into focus its purposes, but also to clarify its methods and sharpen its tools. Considering some past traditions which have inspired and may inspire the modern philosophical practitioners, one can see how crucial was the discourse on and the praxis of a suitable method.

As underscores Pierre Hadot, the aim of the ancient philosophical schools was to provide the disciple with a method to better orientate himself in his thought and life. Moreover the transmission of the teachings followed a precise path. To quote just one example within the philosophical schools of the ancient Greek and Roman world, in the school of Epictetus the teaching was divided into two stages:

a) the exegesis and commentary of the authors of the stoic tradition;

b) the conversation, the dialogue between teacher and disciple, which could also deal with practical and ethical issues.

Modern philosophical practitioners may choose their own methods according to the philosophers, past and present, which inspire their work, hence the tools at their disposal depend on their intellectual and/or spiritual background.

A philosophical tradition which was not yet taken into consideration by modern philosophical practitioners (as far as I know), and which may provide useful and stimulating ideas is that of ancient India. As the ancient western philosophical schools, so also Indian philosophies - or better "visions of the world" (darśana) as they are called – were not only theoretical systems but had a practical aim, namely the spiritual improvement and inner transformation of man, mostly meant in a soteriological sense. To achieve their goal the different schools of thought elaborated various methods leading to the perfection of the disciple, from the particular psycho-physical disciplines of yoga to the ritual systems of the Tantric traditions.

To quote the approaches of both Greek and Indian philosophies is just meant as a suggestion, for those who think that philosophy should be regarded as a way of living, not to overlook the necessity to equip oneself with a solid methodological apparatus.

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Silvia Schwarz

I am a scholar in Indology. My main interests lie in the Tantric religious traditions of medieval India. In addition to publishing a book and articles on these topics, I have also produced translations for the general reader of texts from the Sanskrit narrative and devotional literature. I obtained a PhD in South Asian Studies from the University of Vienna.

I am interested in philosophical practice and I am presently concluding a Masters degree in Philosophical Counselling at Ca' Foscari, the University of Venice."