Thursday, September 29, 2016
Was Socrates a Philosophical Counsellor?
This was my talk to the 5th Internal Conference on Philosophy in Practice at Oxford in 1999
Socrates has been cited as the most important precursor of philosophical counselling (Schefczyk, 1995). Certainly Plato's portrayal of Socrates, as a philosopher who uses dialogue to help people examine their lives, inevitably invites comparisons with philosophical counselling. Yet there are also apparent differences in the context, assumptions, purpose, style and technique of Socrates and many modern philosophical counsellors. This paper aims to explore both these similarities and differences. To provide a focus, Euthyphro (Plato, 1959), a relatively early, short, two-person dialogue concerning one of the participant's "problem in living", will be discussed in the context of philosophical counselling. Although it is recognised that Euthyphro was written by Plato and may be largely fictional, it will be instructive to consider the dialogue as if it portrays Socrates at work accurately. In so doing it is hoped some light will be shed Socrates, philosophical counselling and the relationship between them.
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