Recently I've revisited a field that's intrigued me for some time: philosophical counselling, or more broadly philosophical practice. Most of those active in this field are almost anti-method, and what methods they do employ are derived from hermeneutics, phenomenology, existentialism, Stoicism, and Socratic questioning - some of which I find interesting but none of which I find deeply congenial. Philosophical practice emerged in Europe around 1980 among thinkers influenced by hermeneutics and existentialism, and even the American philosophers in this area are mostly existentialists (associated with the American Philosophical Practitioners Association) or Stoics (associated with the National Philosophical Counseling Association) - for instance, Elliot Cohen, the progenitor of logic-based therapy, was a disciple of Albert Ellis (inventor of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy). By contrast, my philosophical orientation is toward eudaimonia (the ancient Greek term for happiness, flourishing, living well) and the focus of my writing and living is on solving problems that hinder the pursuit of happiness. Upon reflection, I'm starting to see the possibility of developing a more joyous approach to philosophical practice that takes its inspiration from positive thinkers - especially the six I'm writing books about: Rand, Nietzsche, Aristotle, Thoreau, Epicurus, and Lao Tzu.
Thus while I read deeply in Aristotle for my forthcoming book Complete Yourself, I'm pondering how to apply a more Aristotelian methodology to philosophical practice. In many of Aristotle's books, he starts with what he calls aporia - perplexity, getting stuck, reaching an impasse. Plato's early Socratic dialogues all end in aporia but never "break on through to the other side" of solving the problem. Aristotle goes beyond Socrates using a methodology of asking questions, describing prior opinions and theories, analyzing alternative explanations, and synthesizing his findings. Perhaps a similar methodology can be applied to solving the problems of life, too. Consider the following cycle:
Eventually you might reach another impasse, sending you back to the first step (however, if you've been guided through the process before, this time you might be able to serve as your own counselor instead of working with someone else).
This is the merest sketch of a method that might serve as an Aristotelian foundation for philosophical practice. Naturally I need to research it, reflect on it, and live it before I consider it valid. But I feel it has some promise.
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