Just what is Philosophy anyway?

Philosophy is a Greek word meaning, “love of wisdom.” It began in the 6th century BCE when Thales of Miletus became the first to explain existence in natural rather than supernatural terms. This new empirical way of thinking remained mostly concerned with abstract notions of physics, cosmology, and mathematics, until after the Peloponnesian war, which left Athens in ruins and its people dispersed, depressed, and disenfranchised by the encroaching Roman Empire. Philosophy then turned inward in pursuit of eudaimonia (a “good spirit”) and ataraxia (contentment). Socrates was the first to emphasize “the life worth living,” followed immediately by the emergence of Cynicism—happiness through austerity; Epicureanism—happiness through pleasure; and Stoicism—happiness through virtue. Philosophy has been seeking practical responses to life’s perennial problems ever since, including questions of meaning, purpose, ethics, happiness, and other qualities that make life worth living.

Is Philosophical Counseling better than psychotherapy?

Philosophical counseling and psychotherapy serve different purposes, just as mechanics and plumbers do. You don’t call a mechanic to unclog a drain or see a plumber for an oil change. If you need therapy you should certainly see a psychotherapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist. But if you face philosophical problems about meaning, purpose, ethics, and outlook, then see a philosopher. Philosophical issues may be the result of many years of unexamined living, or caused by immediate existential crises where philosophical wisdom can help. Exploring timeless responses to common perennial problems can lead to better ways of thinking and being, and to philosophical practices that can make us more contented and better able to endure life’s challenges.

What can I expect to gain from Philosophical Counseling?

Philosophical counseling begins by helping you understand your current philosophy of life more clearly. All of us have one, even if we’re not fully aware of it. Determining what you consider to be the meaning of life, the purpose of your own life, the basis of your morality, and the soundness of your thinking will enable you to begin a philosophical examination of your life. Next, you’ll work to decide the shortcomings and strengths of your current philosophy of life, then purposely explore other philosophical possibilities, making adjustments to your own if appropriate. Finally, you’ll learn various philosophical practices to foster and strengthen your renewed way of being in the world. This process can be geared toward improving your life in general, or for addressing troubling matters that have only recently emerged.

How long does Philosophical Counseling take?

Philosophy is a way of life; philosophical counseling is not. It can be short term, lasting just long enough to help with issues of grief, change, meaning, morality, and others stemming from an immediate crisis in your life. Or it can be longer-lasting in an endeavor to develop philosophical stamina and practices that help sustain you in any circumstance during your years ahead. Philosophical counseling can end at any time, though it usually lasts for a few months to a few years. Some clients may choose only to return now and again for a philosophical “tune-up,” while others continue indefinitely as part of their regular philosophical practice.


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