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Is A Philosophically-oriented Discussion Serving The Purpose Of Spiritual Care?

Elisabeth Ansen Zeder
Published 2017 ·

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New philosophical practices (NPP) are developing in schools from preschool to secondary level, as well as in health care settings. A classroom community of inquiry is a group of childrenwho inquire together about common problematic issues in such a way that they build on each other’s ideas, offer each other counterexamples, question each other’s inferences and encourage each other to come up with alternative views and solutions to the problem at hand and follow the inquiry where it leads. Those new practices rely on a philosophically-oriented discussion or community philosophy. Therapists like Cinq-Mars (2005) or Loison-Apter (2010, 2011) observe that beneficial therapeutic effects followphilosophical activity according to current practice in community philosophy (CP). Loison-Apter (2010, 2011) speaks about the psychotherapeutic effects of usingphilosophy throughphilosophical dialogueaspracticed in thinking communities according to themethoddeveloped by Lipman (1995, 2006). She finds a correlation between the psychotherapeutic effects and the quality of the relational climate of the thinking community, linked at last with thequality of learninghow tophilosophize. The child psychiatrist Ribalet (2008) offered a philosophical workshop to prevent mental suffering. Like the ancient sages, he acknowledged the therapeutic virtue of philosophy because it “takes care of the soul”. This therapeutic virtue lies in the fact that the philosophical workshop aims at developing the capability to reflect, caring for others, and thus self-esteem. In doing so, he endorses an existential therapeutic approach which is less known in French speaking countries since Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning: An Introduction to Logotherapy” has only been translated in 1988, while already published in German in 1946 and in English in 1959. We think therefore that the new philosophical practices could help question the meaning, not the global meaning, but the meaning a person is giving to his or her life’s journey at a given time. The existential analysis or logotherapy developed by Frankl is defined as “a therapy based on the meaning of life” (Frankl 2006: 99). This author speaks also about “noogenic neurosis” as the impossibility to find meaning in life due to an existential vacuum. For Frankl “the noogenic neuroses result from a lack of meaning in life” (Frankl 2006: 101). While the 21 centurymight seem to bemuch “psychologized”, we agree with Frankl (2006) that it is not possible to leave aside existential questions which are linked to the transcendental or noetic dimension of our humanity, as it is an integral part of it. Furthermore, Besson (2014), a pioneer known for integrating spiritual issues in mental health care at the CHUV (Hospital of Lausanne), points out in an interview broadcasted by “A vue d’Esprit” in February 2014, that there is a relevant link to be seen between mental health and spirituality when defining mental-health policy as part of a community intelligence seeking answers in the prevention of and caring for people suffering frommental distress. The positive psychology of Seligman (Seligman 1992; Seligman and Peterson 2004 in Peterson & Park 2011), and also Pesseschkian (2009) invites us to build up the energies which allow human beings to exercise their self-effectiveness, to manage their emotions and cognitions, and to identify talents in order to maximize their personal development and learning skills when facing their suffering. Could the new philosophical practices be involved in that dynamic? This question has led us to put into place philosophically-oriented discussion groups at a small institution in Western Switzerland, Bethel House, which is a transitional venue for adults who suffer temporarily from a mental vulnerability.
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