Ora Gruengard

Lecture: The philosophical questions of the counselees

Abstract: I propose the view that the philosophical counselling has to be “client oriented”,  that is, oriented by the counselees’ philosophical questions. As counselees are not always aware of the philosophical aspects of the dilemmas, confusions, conflicts etc. behind their sense of disability to deal satisfactorily with their difficulties, and unless they are already philosophers, they do not conceive their personal problem as a particular instance of a general philosophical problem. Even if they do, they are not always capable to formulate philosophical questions. Yet they have philosophical questions. They have such questions because, whatever have caused them to conceive something as a problem in their problem-situation, some ready-made, mostly inherited unexamined, taken for granted philosophical answers to possible philosophical questions are, so to speak, “called into question”. People, including philosophers, had learned such answers (of course, not as answers but as “evident truths”, “facts”, “moral imperatives” etc.). The philosophical counsellor, as a trained philosopher, should know how to help the counselees realize what is at stake, formulate explicitly their questions, examine the unsatisfactory answers and explore alternatives ones – that is what philosophers normally do when they want to help colleagues, students (or past philosophers) who “got stuck” in their philosophical projects. However, not all philosophical counsellors are doing that. Some of them follow philosophers who are unaware that what seems to them personally as problematic depend on their respective “problem situation”, and their questions seem to them “the” proper, basic or important in the context of that respective situation. Hence, different philosophers have different ideas about “the” proper, basic, important or even meaningful questions. Philosophical counsellors who follow them try sometimes to persuade counselees to ask the questions for which the counsellors have ready-made answers, which seem to them satisfactory solutions… to their own philosophical problems in their own problem situations. In the lecture I explain how the counselees philosophical questions can be “heard” by the counsellor before being explicitly asked; deal with the question what to do with those questions of others, and criticize the “non-client-oriented” philosophical-counseling conversations as neither really counseling nor really philosophical.

Personal counseling

Biography: 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.