Philosophical counselling beyond the socratic: a preliminary investigation into expanding and developing philosophical practice.
A review of philosophical practice, commonly referred to as philosophical counselling, reveals an array of approaches with a variety of aims. These aims include problem solving, therapy, scepticism, self-knowledge, wisdom and virtue. I argue that the various approaches to philosophical practice can be understood as aspects of a singular vision of philosophy as phronetic: practical wisdom directed at bringing about / increasing well-being. Contrary to the view that philosophical practitioners use a wide variety of methods, I give evidence that most practitioners endorse a Socratic vision of philosophizing. In accordance with this, the philosophical practitioner applies the Socratic Method and adopts the position of the Socratic gadfly – a critical dialogical partner intent on getting the participant to access and assess her worldview. I argue that such a vision of philosophizing is insufficient to meet the phronetic ends of wisdom and well-being. As such, I maintain that additional visions of philosophizing are required. The central focus of this dissertation is dedicated to exploring alternative visions of philosophizing, with the view to developing and enriching philosophical practice. I associate philosophical practice with the conception of philosophy as a way of life. I identify five essential elements of a philosophical way of life: it promotes a transformative aspiration; the aspiration informs a transformative project; it provides a vision of philosophizing that is holistic and personally invested; it provides transformative tools; and it constitutes a self-contained and coherent philosophical system. I offer these five elements as criteria to identify additional philosophies that could enrich and develop philosophical practice. I explore a selection of Western philosophies that, I argue, offer philosophical ways of life. These include: the Stoics, the Epicureans, Kant, Dewey, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. I pair these on the basis of two criteria: shared philosophical aspiration; and divergent metaphysical and ethical tendencies. Firstly, each chapter is orientated around a single aspiration: to ‘be happy’; ‘be good’; and ‘become authentic’. Secondly, in each chapter the philosophies have either ‘transcendent’ or ‘immanent’ metaphysical and ethical tendencies. This serves to highlight the richness and diversity of philosophies that share a philosophical aspiration. By investigating these six I make the following contributions: illuminate a divergent array of ethical, metaphysical and epistemological views; increase the scope of phronetic ends; significantly augment the pool of philosophically prescribed practices; expand the range of roles that the philosophical practitioner can assume; and sketch a tentative view of what philosophical practice could look like.