Philosophical Practice

Philosophical Practice, a branch in the modern philosophy, using philosophizing as a means for posing, analyzing and solving worldview problems that are determined on the basis of spiritual needs of a client. The task of a philosophical practitioner is to raise the client’s private problems to the philosophical level, to carry  out  with  him/her  a  philosophical reflection on these problems with the goal of widening    the boundaries of the client’s worldview. as a rule, fragments      of philosophical works  are  used  for  philosophical  reflection. in contrast to psychotherapy in the analysis of the client’s personality, philosophical practice relies on the ontological principles of existential philosophy, rather than on biomedical   or psychometric characteristics. in addition, the consultation procedure itself involves working with philosophical catego- ries, in the light of which the comprehension of the client’s worldview problems takes place. Unlike academic philosophy, philosophical practice deals not with the study of philosophical theories or systems, but with the practical application  of  cer-  tain philosophizing procedures, spiritual exercises (P. Hadot), emphasizing the self-knowledge of  the  client,  contributing  to the expansion of the boundaries (transformation) of his/her worldview.

Philosophical practice was institutionalized  in  1982,  when the first international association of Philosophical Practice (iGPP) (Germany, Аustria and Switzerland) was established under the leadership of G.B. Achenbach.  currently,  associations of philosophical practitioners exist in almost all regions      of  the world.

The most widespread forms of philosophical practice are: philosophical counseling, Socratic dialogue, philosophical companionship.

Philosophical counseling is a form of individual or group work, which is a series of  meetings organized and  directed  by a philosophical counselor. as a rule, philosophical  texts serve as material for the work helping the client to carry out      the necessary reflection on specific and particular  manifestations of his/her “philosophical illness”  (a.  Holzhey-Kunz). The  phrase “philosophical disease” is  not  a  metaphor; it  is   a real state of human existence in the world of everyday life characterized by acute sensitivity to the  “call  of  the  Being” (M. Heidegger), coupled with the fear of  death,  social  isolation, freedom and meaninglessness of life. Thus, “philosophical illness” is treated by philosophical methods, which are akin to the ancient practices of care of the self, “constructing     the self” in the face of faceless structures of everyday life.

Socratic dialogue. The basis of this form of philosophical practice is the principles  of  working  with  internal  and  external speech. Since a person’s external speech, by virtue of its automaticity, does not always correspond to what s/he thinks about, firstly, one or another statement cannot express any thought at all, but  completely  relate  to  the  manifestations  of the emotional state; secondly, a person often resorts to an external speech in order to disguise, conceal real thoughts about him- or herself, others or about the situation, unwittingly deceiving him- or herself and others. Therefore, the task   of the philosophical practitioner is to “reconcile” the interlocutor with his own speech (o. Brenifier), i.e. to open for him/her a reflexive plan of analyzing his/her speech utterances   to discover those hidden thoughts that mask  outward  speech. This philosophical practice is effective both for clarifying  the meaning of concepts used in external speech, and for clarifying the meaning of problems arising in certain situations that interfere with a person in solution of certain life problems. During the unmasking of emotions, speech and actions automatisms, a person gets the opportunity to understand the perimeter (R. Lahav) of his “Platonic cave”, as  well as  the possibility of emerging from it to a new level of thinking    and  worldview  in general.

Philosophical companionship. This form of philosophical practice is a group of companions engaged in joint philosophical contemplation of various aspects of worldview problems by the method of phenomenological reduction. The main con- dition of philosophical companionship is a deep concentration on that “pure” experience that can be obtained from a meditative state that puts all the automatisms of thought and speech of external everyday experience “beyond the brackets”. concentration on this experience is carried out by the method     of slow reading of fragments of philosophical text containing complete ideas  on  the  contemplated  problem.  The  statement of one’s own ideas is carried out in unison with the text read,    its main concepts are singled out, from which a common  “map of ideas” is constructed by the efforts of the group, supplemented by concepts or  images arising in  the  space of “pure” experience of each member. The purpose of group  work is to help collectively clarify philosophical ideas through joint efforts. The work of  members of  the group reminds  the  actions  of  musicians  in  a  single orchestra.

Sergey Borisov



  1. Hadot (1995) Philosophy as a Way of Life // Black- well; G.B. Achenbach (2016) The Basic Rule of Philosophical Practice // Socium i Vlast (Society and Power). No.6 (62). Pp. 99-106; S.V. Borisov (2017) What Is “Philosophical Compan- ionship”, and How to Practice it // Socium i Vlast (Society and Power). No.2 (64). Pp. 123-129.; O. Brenifier (2018) The Art of Philosophical Practice: Philosophical Attitudes // Socium i Vlast (Society and Power). No.1 (69). Pp. 80-87; R. Lahav (2016). Philosophical Practice – Quo Vadis? in The Philosophy Clinic, ed. S. Costello, Cambridge Scholars Press.


Related articles: spiritual exercises, philosophical counseling, Socratic dialogue, philosophical companionship, care of the self, contemplation.