Workshop: How to get to the philosophical questions of counselees.

In contrast to some approaches which inquire what is not-yet-philosophical with the counselee’s beliefs or assumptions, or what is not philosophical enough in his attitudes and ways of thinking, I suggest to inquire which of his philosophical presuppositions are involved with his difficulties to deal with problems that are meaningful to him, and which obstruct him from finding satisfactory solutions. The purpose is not to be provide answers once the question has been discovered, but to encourage the counselee to examine the presuppositions and explore alternatives. The answers which are eventually chosen by the counselee may be that his question has no answer, or that his initial problem is not really important, but that has to be the counselee’s personal conclusion, not the pre-given counselor’s convictions. Therefore the process of counseling, whatever is its contribution to the counselee, is also a process of learning for the counselor: If he respects the counselee as a possible philosophical participant in a philosophical dialogue, he has the chance to encounter new questions, from other perspectives, and answers that are not less enlightening than those of the big philosophical “stars”.

Ora Gruengard, who had taught philosophy at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the university of Tel Aviv and other academic institutes, mainly in Israel, is practicing philosophical counseling (and lecturing about it) since 1992. She studied philosophy in Israeli and French universities. (PhD, Hebrew University in Jerusalem). She also studied, on post graduate levels, economics and cognitive psychology, family therapy and in that context participated in some courses of social work. She did practical work, as a student, in psychiatric and other institutes, and worked as volunteer with various groups of people who needed support. That experience enabled her to realize how much the concrete problems of life of persons who are not necessarily philosophers are involved with philosophical issues, and how often the theories and practice of psycho-therapy and socio-therapy fail, as does religiously inspired guidance, to address such issues in philosophically proper ways. In her long academic career, she had the occasion to concentrate in a great variety of philosophical themes, authors, and orientations, and to take part in many controversies. Her approach to counseling is based on that experience. It reflects her conception of philosophy as a field of controversies rather than doctrines and dogmas, a way of widening one’s horizons of possibilities rather than discovering ultimate truths. It also reflects her conviction that everyone has already many philosophical beliefs, and many have philosophical questions which they do not know how to ask. Challenging some of the presupposed beliefs and helping to ask the unasked questions may contribute to a better coping with practical as well as theoretical problems. She has faith in the ability of non-philosophers to philosophize, in their terms, about their concerns. She does not trust counseling which ignores that capacity and pretends to teach the counselees the “one and only true”, “deep” or “liberating” philosophy. A book describing her approach and her reservations, Philosophy Matters – Unasked Questions, Open Answers, will be published soon by Lexington, as a part of a series about philosophical counseling.