On my provisional conception of philosophical counseling

I think I’ve got the hang of philosophical counseling.

Through philosophical conversation, we clarify the model for living that you hitherto, and often unconsciously, adopted.

In the act of clarifying, we also discover the intrinsic structural unsoundness of this form of life: we honor the ways it can satisfy some of your desires while alighting on the ways it must, of necessity, lead to conflict and emotional turmoil. Hence, we do not analyze emotion for its own sake but only for the sake of seeing how emotions flow from the structural defects in such and such a form of life.

Seeing this form of life play out before us, we learn to practice the art of letting go at the same time that we practice the art of imagining otherwise. A new form of life, the one we’re imagining, cannot be structurally sound unless it promises to fulfill our demands for clarity, wholeness, and meaning.

This whole process, let me emphasize, is an art rather than a science. I am neither an expert nor a sage; I am a moral guide who has a better understanding of the layout of the land but who has been lost on more than one occasion. Together, in conversation, we stroll along; we don’t follow steps laid out before us in some recipe, instruction manual, or self-help tome. And yet, in strolling along, we certainly aim at something. And that something–clarity, meaning, and wholeness–is human flourishing.

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3 thoughts on “On my provisional conception of philosophical counseling

  1. “Seeing this form of life play out before us, we learn to practice the art of letting go at the same time that we practice the art of imagining otherwise. A new form of life, the one we’re imagining, cannot be structurally sound unless it promises to fulfill our demands for clarity, wholeness, and meaning.”

    Classic reframing. Not at all easy when it comes to downsizing our lives. So much of our lives -our self image- depends on our material success. Our culture teaches us to mock ‘wholeness and meaning’ and in general it feels pretty uncomfortable to believe in our selves when we are not achieving the higher middle-class life.

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