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All sports fans are sustained by fantasies. They are our white ravens, the sights we imagine we will never see, because they are ruled out by improbabilities, but they still sustain us. For they bring us back to the ‘action’ again and again, hoping against hope and empirical plausibility, letting their associated dreams and wonderings live and flower within us, because it is they, and not anything else, that grants meaning to an essentially meaningless activity. In my soon-to-released ‘cricket fan memoir,’ I wrote the following about the ‘great, epic, unbelievable’ 2001 Indian win in Chennai over Steve Waugh’s Australians:


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In Existential Psychotherapy (Basic Books, New York, 1980), Irvin Yalom writes:

The therapist healed, [Hellmuth] Kaiser believed, simply by being with the patient. Successful therapy requires “that the patient spends sufficient time with a person of certain personality characteristics.” What personality characteristics? Kaiser cited four: (1) an interest in people; (2) theoretical views on psychotherapy that do not interfere with his or her interest in helping the patient to communicate freely; (3) the absence of neurotic patterns that would interfere with the establishment of communication with the patient; (4) the mental disposition of “receptiveness”-being sensitive to duplicity or to the…


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Photo by Mike Gorrell on Unsplash

Are philosophical counselors counselors qualified to ‘treat’ the ‘mentally ill’? The short answer to that is ‘no’ (associated with the query, ‘depends on what you mean by mental illness’.) A slightly more considered answer, which I attempt to provide here, makes note of the particular competences and constraints of the philosophical counselor.

First, a note about philosophical counseling practice and its interaction with traditional modalities of counseling and therapy. Its place is, and should be, similar to the relationship current modalities of talk therapy enjoy with psychiatry. That is, a philosophical counselor typically works with a psychiatrist for referrals-a psychiatrist…


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Photo by Tbel Abuseridze on Unsplash

In their Introduction to ‘Philosophy as Therapeia’ (Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement #66) Jonardon Ganeri and Clare Carlisle write:

For Aristotle, technical knowledge deals with the correct means of achieving a given objective, and practical knowledge is knowledge of ends as such. A technical approach to life will view an existence led without pain and suffering as the means to another end, such as the satisfaction of desire. …


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Photo by Haleel Abdul Hameed on Unsplash

In Anxiety: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2012, Daniel Freeman and Jason Freeman write:

Parents in Guatemala employ an unusual technique for helping children to overcome their worries. They give the child a small bag containing six tiny dolls fashioned from cloth and wood. Each night, the child tells one of the dolls a particular worry, and then places the doll under their pillow. The doll’s job is to take on — and take away — the worry, thereby allowing the child to sleep soundly. During the night, the parent may remove the doll. …


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In the first post of this series, I attempted to provide a brief introduction to ‘philosophical counseling,’ and closed on a promissory note to provide a description of the task of the philosophical counselor. Here it is.

The philosophical counselor’s job is to be a guide and a partner, helping the counseled explore the issues which brought them to counseling, through philosophical insights, interjections, annotations, that clarify, deepen, resolve or reevaluate the issues ‘presented’ and at play in the counseled person’s life. The philosophical counselor’s ‘job’ is to work sympathetically and empathetically with the counseled, whose questions, insights, and queries…


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Photo by Lex Sirikiat on Unsplash

Philosophical counseling is committed to the claim that philosophy can aid us ‘therapeutically.’ This is not a novel claim: philosophy understood as therapy has a long and honorable tradition in the history of philosophy. As a recent supplement of the Royal Institute of Supplement dedicated to ‘Philosophy as Therapiea,’ edited by Claire Carlisle and Jonardon Ganeri, makes clear, Spinoza, the Buddha, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, all in their own ways, either conceived of philosophical thinking as a species of therapy or offered philosophical doctrines as forms of therapies.

Historically, both Buddhist and Hellenistic schools of philosophy maintained that “philosophical argument could bring…


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Photo by Eddi Aguirre on Unsplash

Shortly after I began attending my first and only meditation training class, my teacher began a session by claiming meditation could be done anywhere; the ‘meditator’ should not worry about finding the best or the correct place to do ‘sits.’ Sit anywhere; find a support for your back so you can sit upright; but if you can’t you can meditate lying down. I found this catholic attitude to the position and location of the meditation sit refreshingly non-stifling. I found the last of my many excuses to not meditate melting away: no longer could I complain about the discomforts of…


Buddha and Kierkegaard are here to help

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Photo: Gerolamo Auricchio/EyeEm/Getty Images

I came to philosophy seeking relief from melancholy and anxiety. But after years of study, as a student and a philosophy professor, I still have these feelings. I now believe that anxiousness is a crucial aspect of the human condition, and I must live with it — it’s a vital component of my ever-evolving self.

I hope philosophy can be of similar service to you. I think philosophy can help you accept that we will always feel anxiety. More importantly, it can help you understand that we don’t have to be anxious about being anxious.

Here are three simple truths…

Samir Chopra

Professor of Philosophy, Brooklyn College; blogger at samirchopra.com; @eyeonthepitch

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