CSPP Takes Shape: A
May 28 in Ottawa, a small group sat down together during the annual Congress of
Social Sciences and Humanities to explore the possibility of founding a formal
Canadian society for the promotion of public philosophical practices, such as
philosophical counselling and public philosophy seminars.
The participants agreed to forge ahead, and succeeded in laying down a
framework for the Canadian Society for Philosophical Practice during the
June a name and mission statement was adopted. This was followed in July by the
endorsement of a constitution, and in September by the creation of an interim
Executive and Board in preparation for the first AGM the following fall.
After some research and debate on issues of
codes of ethics, licensing, liability and insurance, members decided to
begin the society’s operations on a simple basis and defer clarification of
some of the more contentious matters until later in the Society’s first year.
Formal processing of memberships began in November. The CSPP mission
statement reads as follows:
goal of the Society is to develop and promote philosophical practices for the
benefit of the general public. By
“philosophical practice,” the Society understands activities such as
personal philosophical counseling, mediation of public philosophical
dialogues, the writing (including scholarly writing) and publication of
material on these subjects, research and collaboration among practitioners,
and various other possible related activities that also employ philosophy
broadly conceived to ameliorate and enrich the human condition.
The Society also welcomes the supportive input of psychologically
trained therapists, social workers and other practitioners with expertise in
areas other than philosophy who share an interest in the philosophical
dimensions of human well-being. The
Society also aims to foster good quality in philosophical practices by
establishing ethical standards and supporting measures to enhance the
competence and skill of practitioners.”
The Society is presently promoting membership and
public awareness across Canada, planning a scholarly journal and national
conference, and considering the
development of professional
guidelines that will be both responsible and democratically developed.
You don’t have to sojourn in Paris any longer to take
part in a freewheeling public dialogue on the Timeless Questions.
Regular philosophy cafés moderated by professional philosophers are
found from one end of the country to the other (in a manner of speaking. at least).
They range from intimate circles of fireside-style cozy chats to major
debating-format assemblies for which attendees must book reservations weeks in
advance. Here is a sampling of a few regular gatherings you might want
to visit for intellectual refreshment when you are in the neighbourhood.
Canadian cafés not made known to the editors have not been cited, but we
look forward to hearing of more.
If you really want to do a café philo crawl,
you’d better not skip British Columbia, with
four separate events in Vancouver alone, all endorsed by Simon Fraser
University. In Gastown, Point Grey
and near Granville Island we find professors Stan Persky, Dale Beyerstein and
Roman Onufrijchuk running large events that require advance reservation and
payment of $10 (291-5000 to register, 291-5237 for information).
Each session includes an invited guest speaker.
Sample topics are “Ethical Implications of Cloning” and “Should We
Censor Pornography?” Peter
Raabe moderates a more relaxed
and informal free-admission dialogue at Starbucks in North Vancouver (131 West
Esplanade) from 7-9 pm every second Wednesday.
Topics are chosen by vote during Raabe’s meeting.
Meanwhile, across the strait in Victoria, Dr. Michael Picard
leads a weekly gathering Tuesdays at 7 pm, held at Bean Around the World Café
(533 Fisgard St.). Attendance
averages around 40 people. There is a small cover charge, and topics are chosen
by advance vote. On Thursdays
Picard also runs what he calls “Salon Philosophy”_self-directed
reading groups exploring traditional texts.
Featured authors range from William James to Lao Tzu.
Picard also dialogues with attendees via email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Either we are misinformed, or after that it’s
prairie desolation, then cruise past Hogtown and touch down in Ottawa for Dr.
Stephen Hare’s monthly no-cost event at Chapters bookstore in Ottawa’s
Byward Market. It is held the first
Thursday of the month at 7.30 pm. Attendance
varies widely, from half a dozen to 30 people, typically about half regulars and
half novelty-seekers. It is well
known that Montreal and even Hull are each running at least one regular
French-language café series; unfortunately, details were lacking at time of
press. Moving eastwards, we should
note in passing that Dr. Peter March’s long-running “Philosopher’s
Corner” in Halifax is in abeyance, at least for now.
Begun in 1987, the Corner was really a one-on-one, walk-in gratis
philosophical encounter accessible in a shopping mall.
Dr. March is living far from the city for the time being, and after about
five hundred of the “walk-in clinics” he also wants to take time out to
wonder if “the discussion was too
undisciplined and [if] many participants were there out of loneliness rather
than out of a particular desire to think philosophically.”
Newfoundland reveals two intriguing series of more recent vintage in St.
John’s. Memorial University’s
Professor James Bradley leads
the monthly “Philosophy in
Public” series at The Darkroom (340 Duckworth St.) at 8.30 pm the last Tuesday
each month. Bradley’s half-hour
presentation precedes discussion. There
is a second weekly open-door event in St. John’s, named
(in honour of a local brew) “The
Jockey Club.” Mostly attended by professors and graduate students from various
departments of Memorial, anyone else interested is also welcome to take part
every Friday at 4.30 at Chucky’s Fish and Chip Shop on King’s Road.
A short piece written by one of the attendees is read aloud and then
discussed by the group. Speakers
presenting in the Philosophy department are also invited to the public forum,
and among the luminaries who have come is Daniel Dennett.
The first Canadian doctoral dissertation on the
subject of philosophical counselling (PC), Peter Raabe’s thesis
(entitled “Philosophy of Philosophical
Counselling”) is nearing completion. Raabe
argues that many previous attempts to articulate the nature and methods of PC
have been unduly distorted by the often-questionable and incompatible
theoretical assumptions and personal styles of particular counsellors.
Instead, Raabe tries to locate an essential universal framework at a
more basic level. He claims that
PC bears some key similarities with (as well as differences from)
psychotherapy, and that all PC method properly involves a four-stage sequence
as client sessions develop. In addition to practicing philosophical counselling, and café
philosophy, Raabe currently facilitates a twice-weekly discussion group at a
live-in centre for recovering addicts. He
helps participants identify fallacies of reasoning others have used in
judgments against them as addicts, and has the residents raise any topics they
want to reflect upon together.
practices PC in Toronto, presented a paper, entitled “The Role of
Philosophical Courage in Philosophical Counseling,”
at the Fourth International Congress on Philosophical Practice
which took place this August near Cologne, Germany. Another paper by Al-Shawi, entitled “A General Framework
for Philosophical Counseling,” is also forthcoming in print.
It can be read on the Web at www.geocities.com/HotSprings/Villa/
3253. In it, Al-Shawi discusses
the practitioner’s need to detach from his or her own particular
philosophical presuppositions and to help the client construct a new
perspective from a challenging foundation of radical skepticism.
David Jopling and Andrew
Brook were elected Honorary Members of the CSPP in November.
Both Jopling and Brook attended the inaugural meeting of the steering
committee in Ottawa and have offered valued advice in the CSPP’s formative
period. Andrew Brook, a professor
of philosophy at Carleton University, is also a member of the Canadian
Psychoanalytic Society and currently Wexler Visiting Professor of Philosophy
at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania. Dr.
Jopling, a professor of philosophy
at York University, recently authored “First Do No Harm: Over Philosophizing
and Pseudo-Philosophizing in Philosophical Counselling,” which can be read in the journal Inquiry: Critical
Thinking Across the Disciplines (Spring 1998, special issue on PC).
The paper discusses the inherent risks in counselling and the
unsuitability of some people to engage in facilitated philosophical reflection
on their lives.
Susan Turner and Dr.
Justine Noel established a philosophical counselling partnership in
Victoria this year, the only such business partnership known in operation in
Canada. Dr. Turner is also an active member in the CSPP’s current
and others are invited to forward news about their PC/PP-related activities,
and comments about this newsletter, to the editors via email:
(Canadian news) or email@example.com (US news).
presentation at U Windsor
Dr. Mark Letteri attempted this fall to organize a
speaker series on philosophical practice at the University of Windsor.
Unfortunately, the philosophy department belatedly agreed to allot only
one session to this general topic. Hakam
Al-Shawi will present his work-in-progress, “Philosophical Counselling: A
Framework” on January 26.
Site and Journal Plans
In December, Letteri and Al-Shawi decided to collaborate
on developing a Canadian journal of philosophical practice, beginning as a
web-based publication. The journal
will be developed on the CSPP’s new web site, now up and running at
Chris Borst and Andrew Brook have already volunteered to serve on the
Conference and Annual General Meeting
The Executive has tentatively set the first Annual
General Meeting of the CSPP for October at Toronto’s York University, to be
held in conjunction with a first CSPP Conference.
Papers and discussion topics are welcome as are volunteers. Please contact Dr. Stephen Hare either at firstname.lastname@example.org
or email@example.com .More precise information should be available in
the next newsletter (quarterly).
Comments? Contact us! You can also
request Society documents or a membership form by writing:
Mills, Ontario M3C 1A8
join our online discussion group, send an email message which reads “subscribe
CSPP-L” to the address firstname.lastname@example.org. You
can also contact the CSPP officer of your choice:
share @ced.flora (interim President and Treasurer, Dr. Stephen Hare)
@yorku.ca (interim Vice-President and Secretary, Hakam Al-Shawi)
@interchg.ubc.ca (Peter Raabe, interim Board member)
@yahoo.com (Dr. Christina Bellon, interim Board member)