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Trivium Publications: Pittsburgh, 2011

The paradoxes of just war from the standpoint of a Canadian woman who was involved in the most violent era of South Africa’s armed struggle against apartheid.

"In violently resisting unjust violence, one finds oneself ethically obliged to do the wrong thing. This is a difficult position to sustain."

What does it mean that violence could be "justified"? What does such justification signify, and what does it accomplish? What underlies its conditions and limitations? Perhaps most importantly, is there any way to resist injustice effectively without feeding a cycle of violence?

Love and Arms investigates the paradoxes of just war from the standpoint of a Canadian woman who was involved in the most violent era of South Africa's armed struggle against apartheid. Helen Douglas bases her analysis on a close reading of the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, for whom everything human begins from our unconditional responsibility for the suffering of others. Thread by thread, she patiently unpicks scenes of aggression and resistance, reweaving them into a brilliant and heartfelt analysis that deepens our understanding of both love and arms.

"Motivated by an important issue she has really made her own, Douglas has written one of the most refined, searching and penetrating analyses of the core of Emmanuel Levinas's work. It places her among his most significant commentators. This is the work of a real philosopher, a real thinker."
Alphonso Lingis, author of The Imperative, Trust, and The Community of Those Who Have Nothing in Common

"Some of the many perplexities that arise from reading Levinas from the global South are clarified by this timely, provocative and remarkably fine book."
Achille Mbembe, author of On the Postcolony


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South African Journal of Philosophy 35 (2), 2016, pp 123–131

ABSTRACT. If a time of crisis calls for a new mode of thinking, philosophical practice offers the means to answer that call. Contemporary philosophical practice revitalises the ancient Greek understanding of philosophy as a way of life that cultivates personal transformation and new ways of seeing the world. This article describes the development of the author’s philosophical counselling practice as a practice of emancipation, in concert with the writings of Emmanuel Levinas and Jacques Rancière. It considers the significance of personal engagement and companionship for the cultivation of practical wisdom, and suggests that the intransigence of our global social and economic crises ultimately indicates an incorrect view of human nature and an ossified or unbalanced relationship between practical and theoretical ways of knowing and wisdom.


(Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2014)

Philosophical Practice, July 2016, 11.2: 1793–97

Moral Emotions: Reclaiming the Evidence of the Heart is a remarkable exercise in the phenomenology of humanness. For counseling philosophers who want to think beyond or outside the frame of psychology, it provides a rich and welcome resource that calls as much for response as for review…



Philosophical counseling is generally considered as a therapeutic response to suffering and a critical response to the professions of clinical psychology and psychiatry. In this chapter, I argue that philosophical practice also offers a therapeutic and critical response to the academic profession of philosophy, especially in these uncertain times that call into question the dominant mode of Western thinking.

From Women in Philosophical Counseling: The Anima of Thought in Action, edited by Luisa de Paula and Peter Raabe, Lexington Books, 2015. All rights reserved. No portion of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior written permission of the publisher.



The Salon, Johannesburg Workshop of Theory and Criticism (Vol 8, 2015)

In July 2014, I had the great good fortune to participate in the "Archives of the Non-Racial”, a mobile workshop organised by the Johannesburg Workshop in Theory and Criticism (University of the Witwatersrand) and the Seminar in Experimental Critical Theory (University of California at Irvine). The Workshop spanned two intensive weeks of lectures, seminars, public events, exhibitions and performances. By bus, participants travelled to significant critical sites in the history of South Africa’s notoriously racist past and its long-centuries of struggle against racism. From Johannesburg, we went to Swaziland, Durban, Qunu (the burial place of Nelson Mandela) and Ginsberg (the resting place of Steve Bantu Biko), before travelling to Cape Town where Angela Davis gave a memorable public lecture. The spirit of the experience was captured in a special issue of The JWTC Salon.

Philosophical Practice: Journal of the American Philosophical Practitioners Association, March 2014, Vol. 9.1

Earlier versions of this paper were presented at 'Philosophy and the Moral Life' (University of the Witwatersrand, 2-4 November 2012) and "Phenomenology and its Futures" (University of Johannesburg, 29-31 March 2013).

ABSTRACT: This is a second 'field report' of a Levinassian philosophical counseling practice. The first part elaborates the practice by means of a 'threefold logic' of ground, path and fruition. While the ground and path remain a Levinasian 'good practice' of relationship and dialogue, the fruition of the work is now seen as 'emancipation', understood broadly as 'the fact or process of being set free from restrictions', rather than 'therapy', understood narrowly as 'treatment to relieve a disorder' (Oxford Dictionary). The turn to emancipation is explored by way of Jacques Rancière's The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation. Philosophy as a practice of emancipation is the work of equals. Keywords: emancipation, equality, ethics, Jacotot, Levinas, philosophical counseling, psychotherapy, Rancière.


The Salon, Johannesburg Workshop of Theory and Criticism
(Vol 3, 2010)

Violence, justice, peace.The challenge faced by post-apartheid South Africans to reconstruct and reconcile rather than give in to fear, hate and despair is underpinned, suggests Helen Douglas, by the challenge of finding the courage to understand what we know and draw conclusions. Extending Levinas beyond Levinas, Douglas reveals a Moebius loop between his call to find the basic goodness at the beginning of every social relation and the South African concept of ubuntu.


Psychologies, April/May 2009

Psychologies magazine has published a collection of 52 quotes with commentaries by four South African philosophers: Samantha Vice, Andrea Hurst, Tobie Louw and Helen Douglas. From the editor's note: "For this Little Book of Wisdom, we look to quotes from modern and ancient philosophers to guide you through each week of the year. We believe their wise words will inspire, challenge and help you approach life in a fresh, positive way..."


Radical Psychology Vol 7.2 Spring 2009

"This special issue of Radical Psychology is comprised of texts based on presentations given at the Madness, Citizenship & Social Justice: A Human Rights Conference held at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver from June 12-15, 2008. This conference brought together a lively group of over 200 academics, survivors/service users, activists, artists, researchers and mental health professionals. Participants came from as far as New Zealand, Australia, the UK, South Africa and the USA to join Canadian participants in addressing the issues of civil liberties, recovery, ‘sanism’, discrimination and oppression, amongst others. This original conference, organised by Robert Menzies, included an inspired four days of not only paper presentations but also art exhibitions, theatre and film presentations. The conference website can be viewed at

"In "Stranger Neighbours”, Helen Douglas highlights three stories of madness and resistance during the era of South African apartheid. The interplay of the concepts of citizenship, social justice, inclusion\exclusion and identity are considered within these three narratives, along with an analysis of Levinas’ ethics of justice for the Other. This context and analysis forms the backdrop for an important application to the current ‘treatment’ of the ‘mad neighbour’ in society." DOWNLOAD


Philosophical Practice: Journal of the American Philosophical Practitioners Association, March 2008, Vol 3.1

Various versions of this paper were presented to the Philosophical Society of Southern Africa (Stellenbosch University, 17-19 January 2007); the American Society for Philosophy, Counseling, and Psychotherapy (Purdue University Calumet, Hammond IN, 18-20 May, 2007); the North American Levinas Society (Purdue University, Lafayette IN, 10-12 June 2007); and at a seminar hosted by the philosophy department of Stellenbosch University, 25 September 2007.

ABSTRACT: Emmanuel Levinas once wrote, "How can a being enter into relation with the other without allowing its very self to be crushed by the other?"

In a Levinasian philosophical counselling practice, the work of the counsellor or therapist is two-fold, both face-to-face in proximity with the other and side-by-side, engaged together with the other in the work of dialogue. These roles, or phases, are interdependent; each in turn gives rise to and interrupts the other. The counsellor or therapist primarily bears responsibility for maintaining the relationship face-to-face, while the guest (patient or client) leads the work side-by-side. DOWNLOAD


JANUS HEAD: A Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature, Continental Philosophy, Phenomenological Psychology, and the Arts
Volume 8.2 (Winter 2005/6)

Special Issue on Philosophical Practice
Guest Edited by Helen Douglas

The issue features, among other things, an essay by Alphonso Lingis and an interview with film director Alejandro Jodorowsky.

EDITORIAL "It Begins with Desire: Questions of Philosophical Practice"

"Philosophy begins with a vulnerability and a problem. It begins with an itch. It begins with doubt. It begins with longing, with a desire that can be neither denied nor satisfied. There is a restlessness. This state or condition or experience can be thought of as having a question." DOWNLOAD


European Journal of Psychotherapy, Counselling and Health, March-June 2005; 7(1-2): 89-95

ABSTRACT: This essay reviews others which apply Levinas' work to the fields of psychotherapy and psychology. Our ways of knowing, interpreting and relating, particularly in their more dogmatic, commodified and professionalised forms, have been challenged and found wanting as ethical practices. A Levinasian perspective offers a radical reconception, where ethics, the fundamental relation of oneself with an Other, calls for responsibility and - therefore and consequently - investigation, knowledge and interpretation. This turn to Levinas of course leads us to rethink our epistemologies and knowledge claims, but we should not be too quick to think we have found the solution to our problems. We may share 'the idea of a possibility', but patience and attention are still called for.

KEYWORDS: Levinas, psychotherapy, philosophical counselling, ethics, critical psychology DOWNLOAD

This is a preprint of an article whose final and definitive form has been published in the European Journal of Psychotherapy © 2005 Copyright Taylor & Francis; European Journal of Psychotherapy


"The Tao of Drunkenness and Sobriety"
Janus Head (2003) 6(2) pp.320-328. DOWNLOAD
"This essay considers the meanings and relatedness of sobriety and drunkenness with reference to Levinas, Taoism, Sufism, the Bible, and the Beatles."


"Philosophy is back in vogue"
Cape Times. 05.06.03

"We owe TRC witnesses our homage"
Cape Times. 31.07.02


"Redeeming the Wages of Sin: The Workings of Reparation"
Perspectives on Evil and Human Wickedness. Vol. 1, No. 3 (2003), 47-58. DOWNLOAD

"Acts of violence and injustice by their nature call for a response. Where neither retribution nor unconditional forgiveness is good enough, a third possibility - of a redemptive justice - which satisfies the desire for both peace and justice - may take place in the work of reparation. This paper considers the conditions and inner logic of four different scenes of reparation (atonement, "good sports", healing/moral witness, and legal), and concludes with a brief application of this framework to the proceedings of the South African TRC."


"Bumpy Ride: Step-by-step guide to turning your literary instincts into published works"
New Therapist. No. 23, January/February 2003


Love and Arms: On Violence and Justification After Levinas
Master's thesis, University of Stellenbosch. Unpublished.

"What does it mean that the violence of aggression could justify the violence of resistance? What does such justification accomplish, and when, and how? What underlies the conditions and limitations of justified violence, as, for example, these have been formulated in western doctrines of "just war"? Most critically, how could one think about the possibility of a resistance to evil that would be effective without itself instituting further violence?"



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