Philosophical consultation is about the care of the self, about the “know thyself”, about searching for a “good life”, a quest for wisdom, becoming conscious of oneself and the world. It is not a psychological approach, where one tells his life and his pains, nor a coaching where one seeks to solve the problems of everyday life, but a real philosophical work, where we pose problems, where we produce hypotheses, where we conceptualize the discourse, and we engage in a critique. Certainly, a subject is summoned, but for a mise en abyme, and not simply to express oneself or for an exchange of opinions. The dialogue then becomes the occasion of a close interrogation, the place for a demanding thought.
I tested a philosophical consultation
Go to the philosopher as others go to the psychologist? Our reporter let herself be tempted. Here is the record of her session with Oscar Brenifier, a rigorous and exciting dialogue.
Principle and difficulties of the philosophical consultation
Still little known in France, the philosophical cabinet or philosophical consultation is an activity that is more commonly practiced in Holland, Spain, Italy or in the United States. Methods vary enormously depending on the practitioners who design and apply them. In this paper, we discuss the concepts and methods used in the work which we have been doing for several years in this field.
The philosophical consolation
The human being is suffering. Nothing extraordinary or new there. It is suffering, more than animals, not only because it experiences bodily suffering, as do other species, but also because it experiences moral suffering, a sub-product of freedom and reasoning, those human characteristics, some consequences that can hardly be escaped. Now, if physical suffering is not permanently present, moral pain hardly disappears, or fleetingly. Whether it be through frustration, impatience, unsatisfied desires, disenchanted expectations, or any other concerns, suffering is there, more or less significant, more or less present, more or less bearable.
Transcription and analysis of a consultation – The case of Kim
Kim came to participate to a philosophy festival, organized around the theme of love. She is a professional translator. Once there she heard about the practice philosophical consultation and decided to give it a try.
To philosophise is to reconcile with one’s own words
One of the main tasks of philosophical practice is to invite the subject to reconcile with his own discourse, and therefore with himself. To be in agreement with oneself, Spinoza would say. As a condition for an awareness, a knowledge of the self and of one’s own thought. This statement will seem strange to some people, but the majority of people who speak actually don’t like what they say, they can not stand to hear their own words, and let alone watch themselves. It is therefore a matter of hearing, in both senses of the word, in order to be able to think in all serenity.
The scarecrow concept
Since always, in a more or less explicit way, without always really knowing it, we have conducted philosophical consultations, more or less informal or constructed. Then, over time, we formalized this practice. However, after we decided one day to “officialize” it, we had to discover that there is still a specific quality to the consultations that are announced as such. Probably due to the theatrical emphasis of the context, to the more formal staging, which certainly includes the gesture that represents the financial exchange and what follows from it. Something appears more clearly in the human psychic schema. We had to learn this by discovering in one of our first “official” interviews a crucial principle, which turned out to be very useful. A few years later, we named this principle: the “scarecrow concept”, or “ghost concept”, or “black hole of thought”.