On Philosophical Counseling As A Philosophical Caretaking Practice
While "philosophical counseling" emerged in the 1980's as a new form of caretaking practice, it can be understood as an attempt to re-embrace a tradition that goes back to the ancients, with their conception of philosophy as a "way of life." This study discusses elements of that tradition in order to provide a theoretical-historical framework for the modern practice of philosophical counseling. The central figure for this philosophic tradition is Socrates. The present study focuses on his notion of the "the examined life," while considering some doctrines in Hellenistic philosophy as further expressions of the Socratic tradition. As represented in the Platonic dialogues, Socrates exhibits "the examined life" by engaging in the practice of philosophy as some kind of "care of the soul." Though he speaks on occasion of the "conversion" that may be required for the commitment to this philosophic practice, it is carried out, in dialogical settings, through the rational-cognition dimension of reason and argument, undertaken with a basic critical stance. This is fundamental for differentiating philosophy from psychotherapeutic practices and highlights the unique value that philosophy may be able to contribute to caretaking practices. This dissertation has a synoptic character: it seeks to integrate a self-reflection on the philosophic tradition with a concern for issues present in the contemporary field of caretaking. For those broad purposes, the interpretation of ancient philosophy relies mainly on the scholarly work by G. Vlastos, M. Nussbaum, M. Foucault, and P. Hadot. With their guidance, the dissertation addresses one question in general: What was present in classical philosophy as a way of life with therapeutic aims that is absent in today's dominant practices of care for the person?