Philosophy tries to make sense of the world and helps us to live a good life
When to see a philosophical counsellor
You want to see a philosophical counsellor when, for example, you arrive at one of life’s crossroads and don’t know which way to turn. Perhaps you are suffering from depression, facing divorce or burn-out, or having difficulties with your studies; perhaps you have lost someone dear to you or feel that your life has lost its meaning. But it is important to remember that it is always possible to find another point of view from which things might look different, one that suggests new opportunities. This is where a conversation with a philosophical counsellor can help.
The dialogue between a philosophical counsellor and a client is always an open one
When a conversation between a client and philosophical counsellor begins, neither party should try to steer the discussion to a pre-selected conclusion – the discussion should follow wherever the argument leads. The counsellor does not try to make a diagnosis; the client is not treated like a patient, but is treated as an agent and full participant. This implies that the philosopher and the client investigate the matter of concern together as equal partners, but with each bringing something different to the conversation.
Consultation with a philosopher is a valuable alternative (supplement/addition to?) to psychotherapy because it is less confined. You can range much more widely and discuss, for example, the meaning of life and almost anything between earth and heaven. With the help of a philosophical counsellor you can investigate and evaluate all the things that bother you. Your life will probably become better when its meaning becomes clearer to you.
When you change your point of view, you change your perspective and things look different. Perhaps the significance of past events becomes clearer, especially if you have allowed enough time
to pass. One thing leads to another and what was once a painful or miserable episode in your life may well become a source of strength, perhaps even bringing you joy.
The freedom of human beings lies partly in their capacity to choose to change their attitudes. When you do this, you might throw doubt on the style of your previous thinking. The goal now is to find new and better ways of thinking. This is not easy: you can’t simply change a deeply held point of view and adopt a new one by a couple of acts of will. You will need to see why the old one was wrong or inappropriate; you will also have to understand the new one and begin to appreciate why it is superior. In all probability you will have to learn new habits of thought. What you have to undergo can be compared to joining a training and exercise regime in a gym. When you first start to train and exercise your body is often very stiff. But if you keep it up, your physique becomes supple and what seemed difficult at the beginning becomes easy. Something similar holds for the mind: mental exercise and training can enable you to escape the confines of old ways of thinking and explore new points of view which could offer you new visions of your life.
The good life and the love of wisdom
When you join in conversation with a philosophical counsellor you are joining an ancient tradition of intellectual activity dating back to antiquity – intellectual activity inspired by the love of wisdom. Those who loved wisdom let wisdom guide them in everything. Wisdom was regarded as the queen of the four virtues (Sophia in ancient Greek), the others being courage, moderation and justice. The aim motivating this search for wisdom was finding and living the good life, or living well.
What might love of wisdom amount to today? Although the world has changed since ancient times – kingdoms and empires have risen and fallen, cultures have come and gone – what matters most to people, such as the search for happiness and the good life, remain the same. So perhaps the wisdom people seek has not changed much either.
What is a good life?
Since antiquity people have turned to philosophy in times of sorrow and unhappiness. They have sought comfort – but comfort through the achievement of understanding and the attainment of truth.
The inclination to turn to philosophy for help in our personal lives is still there, and fragments of philosophical ideas and thinking are everywhere. This has been eclipsed by the rise of psychoanalysis and psychology and the widespread appeal to them when help is needed. But it is still to philosophy that we must turn when we address the really big questions about what we are, where we have come from and where we are going. In short, philosophy is a way of understanding life and is suitable for everyone.