Why Philosophy Practice isn’t so Philosophical?

Yeah, that seems weird but absolutely right. We believe that practice is replica of theory, and so we want the practical methods to fit ditto with theoretical lessons. Sure, both practical and theories will match in the case of certainties. The ideas would be precisely expressed in the methods of chemistry and mathematics. But there is something interesting about philosophy practice. Here, it’s alright to have a different theory and practical rules. This is because there are no parallels between the theory and reality. And thus, philosophy practice couldn’t always be said philosophical. To bring more clarity, let’s understand the following points- 

  1. Performative philosophy or practical philosophy is about a philosopher who works in circumstances that are not so philosophical. For example, Socrates is questioning the passers-by about the weather. In this, he is pretending totally ignorant of the effect, to learn cause in a person’s attitude or beliefs(effect is weather; and cause is a person’s analysis of it).
  2. Philosophical practice is an organization in which it expresses itself in realistic and performative terms(which could be performed).
  3. Philosophers discuss the lived reality which isn’t always philosophical in nature.
  4. The conversation language with the client is not a philosophical one.
  5. Only some aspects of the discussions are philosophical statements, for the purpose of challenging assertions of reality.
  6. Throughout the philosophical practice, the most important approach is intention and disposition, which essentially varies from one person to another.
  7. The words used in philosophical counseling are also correlated with concepts that are commonly accepted like love, anger, beauty, justice, etc.
  8. As, truth & justification is not feasible, at the same time. And so, the application of theory and practical justification does not exist concurrently.
  1. The Dialogic encounter is unique, in a manner that does not entirely embody in reality the existing views and thinking(of philosophers).
  2. Practitioners should cultivate self-consciousness and demonstrate objective, open-mindedness, and readiness to perceive a situation.
  3. Practitioners should be free from all cognitive biases and pre-formed judgment(so mostly they should keep their practice aside during counseling).
  4. In reality, the philosophy practitioner normally chooses his best solution rather than retaining the philosophical essence of the discussion. 

If you enjoyed this concepts, and are grateful that the profession of philosophy is free from too many theoretical or scientific facts. All Thanks to Leon de Haas who has transformed the nature of the practice of philosophy. The unfortunate thing is that he isn’t with us anymore. A month before, we lost an important soul.  A short introduction to him informs us that Leon J.M. De Haas Bronkhorst (Amsterdam, 1949) studied philosophy (MA, 1977) and mass psychology & -communication at the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands. He used to run his own philosophical practice since 2007, called PlatoPraktijk, often within the framework of professional coaching and counseling.

His contributions to philosophical practice stimulated interest in this culture from all backgrounds. He has genuinely affected people’s perceptions and views on philosophy. The most important aspect of his practice reveals that he used to counsel usually in exciting and friendly places- the park, forest, or empty streets were some of them. 

Nowadays, people are talking philosophy in daily life, and so it’s really not that challenging & boring. Surprisingly, my friends would previously tease my level of curiosity in philosophy. Now that they are knowing about philosophical counseling methods. And so, they are even more excited to learn about various problems. I hope you too are feeling the same. If yes, feel free to share your opinions with us. 

Philosophical Encounter

Philosophical encounter is a practice of philosophical counseling. It isn’t a completely defined term. It’s an idea that signifies meaningful and productive conversation with someone you never met before. This practice could result in replacing old beliefs of client with trending thoughts. It also helps to erase the feelings that don’t serve anymore. It is a journey of a philosopher into a client’s world. It is a method to remove the blocks in clients’ minds that often take away the capabilities of free thoughts and expressions. Philosophical encounter is a part of practical philosophy which helps to deal with the unexpected problems of the client.

According to philosopher and counselor Leon De Haas, there are three methods in the practice of philosophy-
1. Imposing philosophical themes and concepts on someone else.
2. Extracting concepts from someone’s narratives.
3. Exploring someone’s experiences.

Most of the philosophers will use the methods of imposing. It signifies Wittgenstein’s idea of bringing the fly out of the bottle. Wittgenstein has theorized the phenomenological problems with its useful applications. The method of philosophizing works very well for keeping the problems away. But, for long-lasting solutions, we would have to move towards the other two methods of practical philosophy. Extracting means to derive the abstract elements in client talk and try to grasp its true meaning. The concepts of anger, trust, and various other emotions could be understood by having a meaningful conversation with clients. To explore someone’s experiences is to step in someone else’s shoes. It is closely looking at the situation and explore the reactions of the client.

Leon de Haas has utilized all these methods in his work of counseling. For this task, he has preferred to choose three approaches to the Philosophical encounter. They are – Narrative situation, observational position, and situational understanding.

  1. The narrative situation is going into a narration of the client. It is listening patiently to the client’s narration of her life, feelings, emotions. It involves the total suspension of any judgment or opinion. While keeping our judgment and mental conflicts aside, we can understand the client’s situation better. Edmund Husserl, the founder of phenomenology, has termed this suspension of judgment as ‘Epoche’. This literally means keeping us free from any mental thoughts and just be immersed in clients words. It is not even looking for the words meaning. Because the meaning of words differs from person to person. Thus, the more we focus on clients’ narration, the better we could know the thoughts going through the client’s mind.

    Narrative situations demand us to be familiar with the client’s life, ask her about the situations which give troubles and guide her in the right direction. This method doesn’t give any form of labeling to clients’ issues. It is just going deeper into clients’ thoughts, emotions, and helps her to come out of negativity. The narrative situation is the situation where a client evokes by recalling her experiences. The experiences help clients to look back again at her problem with a philosopher’s point of view. Narrative situations consist of both an empathizing friend and a neutral observer(de Haas technique)

    In Narrative situations, a practitioner needs to go beyond phenomenology. Phenomenology wants to see the ‘essence’ of a phenomenon by ignoring its concreteness and understanding ‘that what it is’. By understanding the phenomenon without our pre-given opinions and judgment, the phenomenon reveals itself to us.

2. Observational position speaks of movements. There may be variant body movements of your client. The movements help you to know your clients better. The gestures and facial expressions help us to be aware of the phenomenon your client is passing through while describing her emotions. A practitioner needs to carefully examine the observational position without letting her know that you are doing that. When one is deep in emotions and experiences, the body movements speak itself. If we can’t reach inside to understand emotions, we could look for the bodily signs which tell a lot about clients undergoing emotional changes. The practitioner tries to challenge the observational position of a client by mirroring, pointing and questioning. The observational position helps to continue philosophical practice without getting influence by the emotions of clients.

3. Situational understanding involves phenomenological reduction. It is to reduce all subjectiveness in perception, feeling, and thinking and look at the phenomenon as it is. We need to examine carefully the situation itself. We have to go on the roads of the client and feel the way she might be feeling. Putting ourselves in someone else’s position is situational understanding. We need to understand the situation of a client which has made her suffer. Once we realize the situation, we could feel the pain. And once we feel the pain, we know the solution to it.

After finishing the session with clients, by implying all the methods in practice, a client feels more clear in her thoughts. Leon de Haas says that the first session should be basically put to building relations and then one could proceed to counsel for problems. Every encounter with a guest is a unique event with a unique human being. And thus, we have to begin counseling with a mindset of Locke’s blank slate.

The methods provided above isn’t so technical but a general approach we could adopt in the process of counseling others. The method of situational understanding is an extension of the Narrative situation. Once we focus completely on narration, we could easily know the feelings of clients in a particular situation.

Leon de Haas’s methods of practicing philosophy give a clear idea of observation, understanding, and finding solutions. De Haas differentiated himself from Achenbach who uses the Eclectic philosophical method. The Eclectic method is basically looking at different styles and approaches and finding its own ideas. De Haas’s method is not the complete kit to provide a tool for practicing. But, it isn’t less than important tools we require while evolving in the process of healing others. Leon de Haas’s philosophy is different because it helps to deal with clients in a simpler way. It helps to build stronger and long-lasting relations with clients. Once a client trust you, she can completely rely on you for the solutions to her problems. She not only follows your advice but also gives the feedback consequently.

De Haas methods are easy to practice and don’t require any other technical background to grasp its concepts. He has referred Wittgenstein concepts of family-resemblance for finding similarities and differences in the observed phenomenon. So, the family resemblance does not say anything about the essence of the members of the group. But, it is just about the occurrence of similarities together with differences(de Haas) in a phenomenon.

It should be noted that the methods given here are very well related to each other. The following of one method takes us to the other methods. And so, we just need to remember the introductory parts of practicing and the rest would automatically follow. The unique concept of Leon de Haas’s practice is -‘he would not reveal the solutions, but he would make the clients to herself discover the solutions of her problems’. This Socratic approach not only gives complete solutions to the clients but also make her strong enough to follow the solutions for a long time.

Apart from the methods mentioned here, the attitude and intention of the counselor also matter. Attitude describes ‘How am I present here? Do I want to hand on my philosophical knowledge to the other? or do I want to challenge the other to question his truth claims and explore his experiences?’ To clear our intention, we need to ask self ‘What is my contribution to the conversation? What is my aim for this encounter? Imposing concepts and theories? Exploring experiences?’ Once all this factors are clear, our practice of philosophical encounter would definitely turn successful.


A situative view, and a discussion of the value of Wittgenstein’s philosophical investigations’
Lecture before the Korean Society of Philosophical Practice on July 8, 2011

Lecture of Leon de Haas on ‘Dialogical interventions on everyday’s experiences: An Introduction to contemporary Socratic practice’

Role of Socrates Method in present time

Socrates was a Greek philosopher from Athens. He initiated the discussion of complicated moral & philosophical problems in an interesting way. Socrates posed himself as one who knows nothing. He then interrogates with a person to understand their emotions and feelings. He will get to know the mindset of a person by understanding the person’s thought projection. In this way, he reveals the wrong perception of a person by their own outcome of realization.

Socrates stands like a mirror before a person where a person reveals all rising thoughts. The person realizes in the end how wrong he was. In this way, Socrates gave us the path of wisdom. Different authors have employed Socrates as a character of their books on Dialogues. They tried to portray the various methods of Dialogues that Socrates used. Some such philosophers are- Aristotle, Xenophon, Plato, and Cicero.

There is an expression of totality in the Socrates Dialogues. Here the desire for certainty appears while making a conversation. The sense of making valid statements come to a person observing Dialogical methods. People arrive with a clear idea. They start a conversation with an untrue hypothesis. And they end up with a conclusion indicating truth. The Socrates method was to derive the truth which seems to be impossible for many. Socratic methods promote independent, effective and critical thinking.

Three levels of Dialogues-

Conversation itself / answering– Socrates starts the conversation and pretend to be completely ignorant. The conversation comprises of continuous series of questions and answers. Socrates starts the conversation by asking simple questions. And slowly he enters into the difficulty where the person has no clue of it. In this way, not only the truth got revealed. But the egoist nature of a person is also taken down. The conversation method of Socrates is a practice of healing. Socrates acts as a healer and cures a person’s ignorance, attitude, arrogance, fake pride, and lack of interest in seeking the truth. He fills the person with curiosity and desire to look for the truth. The Socrates method of raising awareness of truth is rarely seen in today’s times. People aren’t ready to remove the glasses of the wrong perception to include new ideas in life. Understanding this method in a better way may give an impression of adopting it for the welfare of all.

Methodological- Socrates methodological is a kind of diagnosis. It’s a process of doing continuous research in order to reveal the truth. The truth has to come out by removing lies. We know that the subject philosophy is multi-dimensional. The varied perception of life has created the foundation of philosophy. Philosophical questions is unanswerable by following one man’s principles. Different directions have to be studied for reaching into close proximity of truth. The idea of a methodological approach is to change typical philosophical answers. The way we perceive things needs thorough research instead of giving something ready-made.

Skeptical – Philosophical answers are true for some and not true for others . Knowledge certainty isn’t possible. We just need to find out proof before committing to something. The method of Skeptical is the best approach to reveal validity of philosophical principles. Descartes’s skeptical arguments for finding the existence of self is the most popular theory in the history of philosophy. This method is suitable for dealing with the doubts of both self and others. Socrates skepticism tries to remove all knowledge which appears to be true, but lack truth in real sense. By following the skeptical approach, we reach the closeness of a particular truth.

Socrates in today’s times

Nobody wants to believe what is objectively true or good. Socrates tries to study each area of philosophy- Asking questions like: ‘what is knowledge?’ in the area of Epistemology. ‘What is real, eternal, true?’ in the area of metaphysics. And ‘what are morality, and moral goods?’ in the area of ethics. Socrates fully defined the truest concept of philosophy and life. He says that ‘the unexamined life isn’t worth living’. The process of introspection, observation, identification and forming relations is available in the methods of Socrates. Socrates Philosophy, in the real sense, is a love of wisdom.

Socrates was a great lover of wisdom. He has chosen philosophy over his life. He died to keep the practice of philosophical methods alive.

The period of the pandemic is getting tough. People are losing faith day by day. The factor of blind faith is excessively increasing. People who are hopeless, lost, and facing failure are finding the easiest option to end life. They are failing to come out through struggling phases.
In this time, we need a Socratic method of philosophy to not accept anything forcibly. And to conduct a thorough inquiry before accepting any theory. The willingness to do research is losing in humanity. We are accepting things as it is without looking deeper into its several aspects. The judgment is mostly biased because we aren’t interested in losing relations. Humans are willing to sacrifice truth for the interest of their own. This whole idea of humanity could bring trouble to human life. Life is completely losing hope and scope. The Socratic method provides wisdom for a thorough inspection of our conduct. The skeptic approach could motivate us to accept values which is right. It gives us an opportunity to understand the validity of the situation by our own judgment. To doubt the validity of a situation gives us strength to practically examine it.

Instead of believing in false stories and ruining our life, we must engage in thorough thinking and decision making. This idea of skeptic couldn’t destroy the trust with people. It can recreate the trust by bringing truth in its glance. The conversation method is very useful in today’s time of the pandemic. The physical distancing has stopped the meaningful conversation which people would generally follow. People are depressed because they aren’t getting the right answers to their questions. The methods of conversation via electronic medium could keep away the mental illness. This method could keep the purpose of life secured. This platform could provide approach to better living.

The Socrates method of conversation, Diagnosis, and skepticism is useful in present scenarios. The regular talks with our family, friends, colleagues, relatives could take away the boredom of life. The dialogues are essential in feeling high spirited and excited for the purpose of life. If you feel the importance of Dialogues, then start the practice to ease down the complexity of life.

How to gain Mastery of Life?

Gerd B.Achenbach is a German philosopher who founded the World’s first philosophical practice in 1981. He discovered various methods to teach the virtues of philosophy to others. One such method is the application of a new term- Lebenskönnerschaft. The invention of a new term is important to revive the lost tradition. The new term will drive the attention of the masses to follow up with it. The meaning of this term is life mastery. Without demanding much from ourselves, life becomes boring. Thus, it’s important to understand self and master the patterns of our life. The prevailing trend of Art of Living is different from the concept of life Mastery which is further given here.

Difference between Art of living and life mastery

Art of living Mastery of life
To aim happiness To deserve happiness
shapes life proves life
Makes the way right stands for what is right
Practitioner is flexible Practitioner is upright
Gives meaning to life Fulfills life meaning
Exploring curiosities in lifeCuring dull & boring life
Flees the shadow, and look for light Flees the twilight, look for light & shadow
Gives answer to the question of lifeFind question to which life is answer
care for oneself Care for others
Difference provided by Gerd B. Achenbach

Wisdom is the truest guide of the theory of Lebenskönnerschaft. The theory is devoted to virtue. It tries to deliver the importance of virtuous living. But, this method doesn’t resemble the Socratic Dialogical approach. The Aim of philosophical counseling given by Achenbach is different. This Philosophical practice aims at beneficial criticism. It doesn’t try to discover wrong in a person and put him down, but it tries to encourage person into fruitful conversation. There are many good moves while we play chess, but we only opt for a better one. The same concept is true for our life. There are many ways to live our life, but we always prefer better choices.

“We don’t want to know what courage is but be courageous, we don’t want to know what justice is but be just – and we rather want to be sane than to know what sanity is… ”


Gerd B.Achenbach tries to discover the pattern of arguments which is useful for a positive conversation. He also says that virtue could be taught to others by the means of stories and examples.

Of what use is an argument which leaves the people unmoved?

Paul Feyerabend

Achenbach concluded with the truest example on how life mastery could be achieved. He pointed out that Beethoven was a successful artist. It was possible because Beethoven has looked very carefully at the way Bach and Mozart and Father Haydn composed. He learnt their pattern of composing, and by the use of his intellect, he created his own method. The whole world now appreciate Beethoven not because he learnt from someone else, but because of his originality in what he delivered.

By learning from outside world and experiencing within self, we could Master our life and prove our-self right.

Philosophical Practice opens up the trace of “Lebenskönnerschaft” by Gerd B.Achenbach
Lecture for the “6th International Conference on Philosophical Practice”, Oslo, July 2001

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