QA 50! Thoughts at sea

castaway_by_ascentem-d4a7u8m

A funny thing happened at the Philosophy Café last month. I got lost. We all set sail on a conversation about “sadness”, but I didn’t know what they were talking about. My mind was clear and present. I just couldn’t relate, couldn’t get a grip, couldn’t participate. And the good ship “we” sailed on without me. Huh.

It’s been a chance to rediscover that – so long as you’re not in real danger, so long as you don’t panic – being all at sea is philosophy’s home ground. Not knowing what’s happening is a condition of wonder, in every sense of the word. It’s also kind of sad.

Continue reading QA 50! Thoughts at sea

QA 47. Motion of confidence (Part 2)

MariaIHaveConfidence

Last week’s philosophy café offered another conversation about confidence. As noted before, confidence has two levels. One is conditional: the conscious trust in one’s abilities or worth, developed through experience and familiarity (“or entitlement”, as someone pointed out, referring to the social confidence of private-school girls). The other is what John Dewey described as “unconscious faith in the possibilities of the situation”, or “the straightforwardness with which one goes at what he has to do”.

One man, I’ll call him Anthony, spoke about a friend he’d had in his twenties who led the two of them on rigorous mountain hikes. One day they were in a cave, swimming across an underground lake, when the friend became hypothermic. Suddenly, the one who had been happy to follow had to get both of them out alive. Anthony told us he did what he had to, towed his friend back across the lake and then found the way out. He said he didn’t know how he did it, but he has never since doubted his ability to meet whatever comes along.

Continue reading QA 47. Motion of confidence (Part 2)

QA 45. Much obliged?

digger dog

For months I’ve been like a hound dog barking at a rabbit hole. Then I think I fell in because things got kind of strange. Here’s how it went…

Step 1 (QA 44). The development of philosophical practice as ethical and emancipatory leads me to think about human dignity as integral, inherent and immeasurable. And a source of great confusion. What is that about?

Continue reading QA 45. Much obliged?

QA 37. Dec 2012. Ten years down the road

http://learningdslr.com/365/theme/music/

2012 has been my tenth year as a “philosopher in private practice”. I’m a bit surprised to find that what began with a hunch and a leap of faith has developed in unanticipated directions, yet stayed true to its roots.

The hunch concerned philosophy as a way of life. First, that philosophical activity – to observe, wonder, discern, make meaning, and speak of everything – is intrinsically and fundamentally human. And that, as much as our actions are guided by our understanding, we’d do better if we were able to think better (with heart, mind and belly). Second, that philosophical counselling offers a meaningful alternative to mainstream psychotherapy. It is not reductionist. It does not pathologise. In philosophical counselling, a person is received in all their uniqueness and everything is open to question. For me, this is grounded in the ethical philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas and the therapeutic lineage of RD Laing, where the other is to be recognised as a legitimate other, the one who commands my attentive care and non-aggressive regard.

Continue reading QA 37. Dec 2012. Ten years down the road

QA 30. Philosophy Café: Community in conversation

kb books2

It’s Tuesday night, and I’m just home from a philosophy café. I have hosted these monthly gatherings since I started my philosophical counselling practice in 2002. This year, we’ve been generously offered space in the lovely village bookshop, after hours – a perfect setting for conversation.

We were thirteen this evening: some regulars, a couple of people who have been scarce for a while, and a few first-timers. Someone started by saying how appalled he was at Hillary Clinton’s televised reaction to the death of Muammar Gadaffi. Celebrating like a vindictive child who’s won a game of tiddlywinks! What have we come to?

Continue reading QA 30. Philosophy Café: Community in conversation

QA 26. (Nov 10) To change our thinking

If the old model is broken, what will work in its place?  The answer is: Nothing will work, but everything might. Now is the time for experiments, lots and lots of experiments. Clay Shirky

We have a duty to change our mode of thinking. David Harvey

There appears to be magic simply in the willingness to tackle life’s hardest problems from the humble position of simply being one among many in a circle of individuals caring for the common lot. Alice Walker

The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them. Albert Einstein (attributed)

Having these words slung my way from many directions recently, I have decided to shift the focus of my philosophy café. To change our mode of thinking. Could there be a more philosophical challenge? But how is this even possible, if the mind we use to think with is the thing we have to change? I don’t know, but I have a few clues.

Continue reading QA 26. (Nov 10) To change our thinking