Wednesday, 25 February 2015 19:00

2. Fulfilling people´s expectations

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If we take into account what most people, whether academics or non-academics, spontaneously regard as “philosophical”, then we could say that whatever approach one uses in a philosophical counseling session, a café or a workshop, in order to consider it philosophical it should contain 2 or 3 of the following points:

1) During the session some words and concepts which we (the guest, the group) use to express ourselves should be questioned, and we should dig into what they mean for us and others.

2) If the conversation raises an interesting point that has been discussed before by some well-known philosopher, this could be mentioned in order to make us (the guest, the group) aware of the fact that we are part of the history of thought. This can expand the attitude of “I am the center of the world”.

3) As philosophers, we should behave with certain wisdom, meaning that we will not enter any power games with the participants/guests, discriminate them, show a biased or immature behavior in our interactions with them, or talk improperly about a third person. My experience tells me that this is not at all an obvious point that isn’t worth mentioning. On the contrary, it is part of the core of what “practice” means in relation to “philosophy”, and it differentiates us from some academic philosophers who claim that their personal behavior and attitudes should be separated from their theoretical work.

I am using here the word “we”, because I believe that in order for philosophy and philosophical practice to maintain continuity, the activity should be interesting for us too as philosophers, not only for the client or the group. We should feel that we, too, grow spiritually or intellectually through this activity, not only that we “help” others or “teach” others or “counsel” others. I think so not for ethical reasons or methodological reasons, but for our own “benefit” as philosophers, in order to keep renewing our strength and energy to continue with our philosophical research or thinking path.

There are, of course, other issues when doing philosophical practice, like how to “be with” the other or the group. These, I believe, permit 1) or 2) to happen in a meaningful way.

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Carmen Zavala

I am  a philosophical practitioner with a PhD in Philosophy by the National University of San Marcos . Since 1998 I co-organize a philosophical café in Lima every Saturday evening. I also organize philosophical workshops, retreats, and individual counseling sessions. Together with Ran Lahav I adminstrate the Agora Webpage  since 2014. My personal website is