In 2007 I founded the Erasmus Intstitute for Philosophical Practice for thinking in context and realizing the philosophical life.
Its has two main activities: research and training. Research is conducted into the nature of dialogue, silence and the relationship between thinking and places. Results will be published in International Journals. A training course is offered, consisting of five modules covering most aspects of philosophical practice. Students can apply by this website.
1. The substance of a philosophical practice is being (Parmenides)
2. The aim of a philosophical practice is modification of being
3. Modification of being means a change in quality
4. Style is a reference point for this change of quality
5. Style is defined as a form of character, i.e. ethos in a presocratic sense (like Nietzsche)
The quality of the question (Burgundy 2010)
The art of questioning seems to imply some questions are better than others. A question has a quality. This workshop on finding the best question to continue a philosophical consultation, is intended to reflect on the criteria of a good question. What makes a question a good question? We should look for criteria for that. The video shows an example. Time was too limited to get at criteria for qualifying a question. However, they show. We might say in philosophical consultation we aim at questions with a performative nature. In psychology descriptive questions seems of greater importance. The content of the question is determined by a theory. In philosophical practice we ask questions in order to deepen thinking. The counselee is no product of a method but thinking in a free space. Performative speech is important here. Form becomes content just like in Socratic dialogues. A performative question should refrain form content, be short and precise, elicit a reaction, and withhold from suggestions. It is not just an open question. It has to suits the process of thinking.
The best question in philosophical counselling is a performative question.
Kapittelen or the power of the silence (Burgundy, 2010).
The Kapittelen is a group meeting with a theme or a question, chaired by a facilitator ("the abbot"), in which each participant is allowed to speak, observing the rule that after each time a participant has spoken all participants have to keep silence for the same time as the speech lasted (speaking time = silence time). The rule lays a heavy responsibility on speakers. Should one speak for half of the time the workshop lasts, than all other participants have to keep silence, a not very fruitful way to work. However every process has its reason and can be observed and analysed in this way. When used for evaluative purpose one of the participants is not allowed to speak ("the young monk"). He has to listen and summarize afterwards.
Kapittelen means a short speech on worldly matters by a monk, a speech of punishment by the abbot to (naughty) monks, the place in a monastery where monks gathered to discuss a problem or a question.
Kapittelen is inspired by the monastic tradition. In monasteries the monks respected the silence in order to cultivate the contemplative life. Sometimes they gathered to discuss a problem or question. However, in this meeting they respected the silence and used it to structure the exchange of words and deepen thinking. In this workshop we use kapittelen for evaluative purpose. The abbot or leader of the monastery has to work hard. He observes the group at work, who is saying what, at what moment and guards the rule (speaking time = silence time). He intervenes when participants speak too soon. The time can be limited to 20 or 30 minutes but also undetermined. The abbot then observes and stops the process when wisdom is attained.
In companies you can use Kapittelen for evaluation, problem solving or brainstorming. The group process and its content become manifest and are evaluated. The video shows an example of Kapittelen. Mark how the interaction between participants becomes more effective and less determined by loose expressions. Participants tend to become more attentive, listen to each other, more involved in each other's speech. Thinking deepens. This is a usual effect of Kapittelen. It improves the quality of board or management meetings in organisations. Please comment on it.
Philosophical walks as method. Philosophical practice originated in the 1980s when philosophers started counseling aimed at individuals, groups or organizations. Nowadays, there are many different forms of philosophical practice; a philosophical walk is one of them. It is a spiritual exercise in the sense of Pierre Hadot, one of the founding fathers of the discipline. In this workshop, I will first give a short introduction on walking and philosophy in general and on Hadot’s idea of the philosopher as being “atopos” (without a place) in particular. Next we will take a walk. Just like Socrates and Phaidros we will look for the right spot to philosophize. Finally, we come back to reflect on our experience and discuss the role of philosophical walks in consultation.
The founding manifesto of the Erasmus Instiute reads:
Philosophical life means:
Socratic attitude - practice the “not knowing” -
Love of Essence
Live intensively – against superficial culture - Socrates
Radical thinking – against popular meaning - (Augustine)
Being as (not what) you are (Montaigne)
Thinking reveals being (Descartes)
Cultivate the longing (Schopenhauer)
Revaluation of values (Nietzsche)
Live choices (Sartrre)
- unity of thinking and action -
Just like Boeddha, Plato, Christ, Descartes, Cassanova, de Sade, Joseph Beuys, Nelson Mandela, Gerd Achenbach, OscarBrenifier, Mohammed Atta, the man living in the blue box, and many others....