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Projecting the Good Life in Philosophical Counseling

The paper examines the conceptual matrix of philosophical counseling, and philosophical practice generally, which distinguishes philosophical practice from mainstream theoretical philosophy. I argue that the essence of philosophical practice is the realization and radicalization of Pierre Hadot’s paradigm-shifting view of ‘Philosophy as a Way of Life,’ through the projection of philosophical concepts and methods to the goal of attainment of the good life by moral education and character-building. The base-line concept of the good life that the paper works with is the relatively uncontroversial concept of a life based on sustained reflected pleasures that are both socially desirable and individually fulfilling. I argue that this type of concept of the good life as qualified pleasure is inherent in any doctrinal account of what it is to lead a good life, including the ones that emphasize asceticism, such as Christian philosophy of life and ethics. Finally the paper concludes that projections of the good life by philosophical counselors are reflective on philosophical counselor themselves: philosophical counseling is a way of ‘the good life’ that aims to use the resources of philosophy as a whole to help others build the moral qualities and character required to reach their own good lives. By projecting philosophical concepts and methods to the applied conceptual matrix of moral education and the good life, philosophical counseling emancipates philosophy as a whole from its current remoteness and isolation into an active, and reflective, role in the real lives of ordinary people. This heralds a paradigm shift in philosophy, from the pseudo-science that much of mainstream philosophy painstakingly pretends to be to an intellectual powerhouse for the enhancement of the quality, clarity and integrity of life, which was the reason philosophy initially emerged for, both in the Western and in the Eastern philosophical traditions.

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