On the Center in Philosophical Praxis

On the Center in Philosophical Praxis

Summary of one of Achenbach's presentations at the Second International Conference of Philosophical Practice, Leusden, the Netherlands, August 1996: "About the Center in Philosophical Practice".[1]

The following paraphrases are mainly based on a tape recording made by Fred Foulks of a translated summary presented by Dr. Rene Saran after Gerd Achenbach's opening lecture at the Conference. Recapitulated by Shlomit C. Schuster.

Achenbach considers that it is typical for philosophers to look for essences, the general in everything. However, this particular philosophical characteristic he finds not essential in philosophical counseling. He prefers to describe philosophical practice negatively--as not therapy (cf. the negative descriptions of God in theology). One may even come to ask if there is anything important in philosophical practice.

Nevertheless, important are two central aspects: the counselor and the visitor. For the counselor the client is of central importance and for the client the counselor. These two central points are compared to the two centers of the ellipse.

Then there are three important principles concerning the relationship between the two central aspects:

1) God intended people to be different and therefore one should not treat persons as the same. One should try to look for unique links between a person and his or her history.

2) The counselor needs to understand the innermost and manifold thoughts of the client. The counselor should consider himself as a learner in this aspect. There are many possible ways of approaching a visitor. Important is that the counselor opens his or her heart to the counselee.

3) The counselor should not try to change the visitor. Even goals and intentions in the discussions should be avoided so that the counselee can determine the aim of the talks.

Finally Achenbach finds that there are many, numerous more signposts, not commands, on the way of the philosophical practitioner. One such a road signal he found in a report written by a counselee on his praxis: she compared his work with that of a pilot who has a cheerful relationship with the navigator of the ship.

[1] Original title: "Zur Mitte der Philosophischen Praxis." A complete translation of this text by Drs. Wim van der Vlist is found in Perspectives in Philosophical Practice (Doorwerth: Verening Filosofische Praktijk, 1997) pp. 7-15.

(c) Copyright April 1997, Shlomit C. Schuster. All rights reserved.