In the first vision, philosophy is a tool for solving personal problems. In the second vision, philosophy is a journey towards new horizons of life. The first vision tries to make our Platonic cave comfortable and problem-free. The second vision encourages us to step out of our Platonic cave. The first wants to adjust us to normal life. The second offers to awaken us from normal life.
The first vision is inspired by psychotherapy. Just like the psychotherapist, the philosophical practitioner receives clients who want to deal with a personal problem. Just like the psychotherapist, the philosophical practitioner talks with counselees about their personal problems. Like the psychotherapist, the philosophical practitioner helps counselees overcome their problem. And like the psychotherapist, the philosophical practitioner feels successful when the counselee goes back to "normal" life with greater satisfaction and with less problems. In short, this is a normalizing approach.
Solving personal problems is a good thing. Somebody should do it. But is this the role of philosophy?
The goal of Socrates was not to help people find satisfaction in normal life, but to question normal life. The goal of the Platonic philosopher was not to make the cave comfortable, but to step out of the cave to a bigger world. The goal of Stoic philosophers was not to make us feel good about our usual behavior, but to free us from the prison of everyday behaviors. The goal of Rousseau's philosophy was not to make us satisfied with social games, but to question our social games, and to liberate us from them. The goal of Nietzsche was not to give us a small and comfortable life, but to inspire us to overcome "normality" towards a greater life.
These great philosophers express the second vision of philosophical practice. This vision is inspired not by the psychologist, but by the Platonic Eros – the human desire to go beyond our normal boundaries and make life fuller, deeper, bigger.
Some practitioners want to combine those two visions together. But I am afraid that this mixture doesn't work. It makes our vision vague and conformist. And in many cases, it may be an excuse to continue working like psychologists. Let us think more courageously about our vision, in other words, about who we are and where we are going.