03 Apr 2015

13. Being is the practice of philosophical practice

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Often clients say that my approach differs from the approaches of others which they have experienced, and they call it philosophical. In evaluation they bring in three things:

1. The substance of a consultation is being.
2. The method is dialogical.
3. The outcome is meaning.

I consider these the hallmarks of a philosophical consultation.

1. Being is the substance of philosophical practice. By this I refer not only to the subject matter of the conversation (The "what is x?" question), but also to the interaction of counsellor and client. Both are situated together in time and space, related to each other and interact. Ultimately, they will enter a reflection on being, just like philosophers such as Parmenides or Plato in the history of philosophy. I consider the quest for being as the original impute of philosophizing.

2. The approach is dialogical. The philosopher and client interact by questions, interpretations, stories. They act as equals, identify and discuss philosophical content and come to agreement on an outcome in terms of a metaphor suiting the client's situation best.

3. The outcome of a consultation is meaning. Our time frame is driven by a quest for meaning. Life does not evolve along fixed lines anymore. Globalization brings information about many different life-styles and raises evaluative questions. Issues of choice are involved. Ultimately, it brings us to the quest of meaning. I think that a consultation should contribute to this quest. Not by a fixed outcome, as in psychology or religion, but by a temporary point of reference, a metaphor which serves understanding (for a while), suiting the client, and to be questioned again when this span of life is over.

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Peter Harteloh

I am Peter Harteloh, born on July 5, 1960 in The Hague. I studied medicine (graduation at Erasmus University as MD: 1987) and philosophy (MA at University Utrecht: 1996). I received additional trainings in occupational medicine, psychotherapy and philosophical counselling. I wrote a PhD thesis on quality management in which I explored the philosophical origins of the quality concept and its social application in quality management (2000). Since 2007, I work as a Philosophical Practitioner in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

In my practice, I offer individual consultations, Socratic group dialogue, courses on lifestyle management and philosophical walks. My main sources of inspiration are Pierre Hadot (philosophy as a way of life) who provides a theory for my philosophical practice, and Oscar Brenifier who offers an example of a radical Socratic way of doing consultations. My style can be called clinical, after the "klinikos" (Gr.) who went out to meet the patient in his or her own natural environment in order to understand. In my consultations, I combine a Socratic style of questioning with a phenomenology of understanding against the background of an eternal cycle of Wisdom as expressed in Western or Eastern philosophy.

Since 2011, I am a lecturer in philosophical counselling at the school for higher education of Utrecht. My research is on dialogue, silence and the relationship between concepts and place (topology). I conducted lectures and/or master classes on philosophical practice in Italy (2008, 2010), France (2009, 2012, 2014), Japan (2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013), Thailand (2009, 2013), Tai Wan (2009), Cambodia (2012, 2013), Korea (2012, 2014), China (2013), Sweden (2013), Greece/Athens (2013) and Serbia (2014). I was the secretary (2007-2010) and president (2010-2012) of the Dutch Association for Philosophical Practice.