Canadian Society for Philosophical Practice
Société Canadienne pour la Pratique Philosophique


Home ] Up ] [ Winter 98 ] Spring 99 ] Summer 99 ] Autumn 99 ]

Winter 1998

Volume I Number 1


The CSPP Takes Shape: A Timeline

A Philosophy Café Tour Coast to Coast

Member News

Forthcoming Projects

Get in Touch (outdated)

The CSPP Takes Shape: A Timeline                                          

On 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 following months.

In 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:

 “The 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.       


A Philosophy Café Tour Coast to Coast

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 (

 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.” 

Next door, 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.

 Hakam Al-Shawi, who 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 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.    

 Professors 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.   

 Dr. 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 projects.

 Members 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 (US news).



 PC 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.


Web 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 Editorial Board.

 First 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 or .More precise information should be available in the next newsletter (quarterly).


Questions? Comments? Contact us!  You can also request Society documents or a membership form by writing:


Hakam Al-Shawi

Secretary, CSPP

915-15 Vicora Linkway

Don Mills, Ontario M3C 1A8

Tel. (416) 422-5433



 To join our online discussion group, send an email message which reads “subscribe CSPP-L” to the address  You can also contact the CSPP officer of your choice: 

  share @ced.flora (interim President and Treasurer, Dr. Stephen Hare)

hakam (interim Vice-President and Secretary, Hakam Al-Shawi)

raabe (Peter Raabe, interim Board member)

lautenwerk (Dr. Christina Bellon, interim Board member)




Canadian Society for Philosophical Practice

Home ] Up ] Organizational Documents ] Contact Us ] Our Activities ]