What is Philosophical Health and How Can We Reach it?

What is Philosophical Health and How Can We Reach it? A Workshop With Dr Luis de Miranda

Thursday 12 March 2020 from 14h to 17h30

7, George Square, room G32
The University of Edinburgh: School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences

Health is one of the main values of humanity. In the last century, physical health and psychological health have been systematized into a societal imperative, an industry and in some cases a mode of control. In occidental societies, what was a luxury for the few in the early twentieth century (gymnastics, dietetics, psychotherapy, etc.) became a necessity for many by the end of the same century. States are financing and administrating programs of psychological and physical health, in the line of what Foucault called biopolitics. Often, “evidence-based” therapies inspired by cognitive-behaviourism favour an institutional mode of psychological health supporting a mechanical view of the mind.

Philosophy is often seen as a theoretical and speculative endeavour, not only unpragmatic but even avoiding commerce with human affairs in a gesture of disgust. A certain form of academic analysis has contributed to a disembodied, apolitical, ahistorical, impersonal idea of philosophy as a supercilious mind-game. A certain kind of philosophizing in writing has contributed to an elitist idea of philosophy in which hermeticism, formal opacity and abstract speculation would be a label of truth. Can philosophy take care of existing humans? The notion of philosophical care possesses a long genealogy. In The Hermeneutics of the Subject, Foucault locates the prehistory of the notion of philosophical health in the Platonic and Socratic notion of epimeleia heautou, the care of the self. For Plato, the philosophical care of the self was a necessary condition not only for itself but in order to become a good governing citizen. The Alcibiades indicates that there was a correlation between the collective idea of justice and the individual idea of self-care. Moreover, such a care of the soul was ultimately not individual, as it was a reconnection with the divine, an idea often illustrated in the image of Socrates’ daemon. The Ancient Greek notion of philosophical health articulated personal growth with a shared cosmology.

In On the Concept of Creal: the Politico-Ethical Horizon of a Creative Absolute, I argued that such a cosmological bridge between the collective and the individual needs today to be reconstructed via a global social contract, in order to avoid the pitfalls of relativism, totalitarianism or Protagorean anthropocentrism. The problem with our dominant physical and psychologised versions of health is that they often implicitly promote a solipsistic idea of the self, methodologically individualist, based on the idea of individual will and technological or chemical scaffolding. In the end, such views might lead to a general form of transhumanism, a constant and anxious human enhancement via automation and technology which might generate guilt and self-hatred among those who cannot become crypto-cyborgs or “well-performing” individuals even with the help of psychoactive drugs or digital prostheses. In a sort of vicious loop, such guilt is sometimes interpreted as “depression” – or any other form of diagnosis validated by the medication industry via the global and dominant DSM protocol. Moreover, the current development of artificial intelligence is generating an artificially deterministic society in which existential choices might be more and more supervised by the State or multinational corporations. Once we will be statistically told by “machines who know better” which education, partner, profession and city to choose, the episteme of the modern subject, based on self-determination, might collapse, generating a wave of pathologies of free will, the premises of which are already observable.

In my practice as philosophical counselor at The Philosophical Parlour in Stockholm, Sweden, I have been conducting since February 2018 hundreds of consultations with human beings who are looking for a less conventional form of care of the self, more holistic, more intellectual, more natural, more philosophical. Informed by my practice, by the “crealectical” methodology I am developing, by the genealogy of the notion of philosophical health, and by discussions within the network I founded in November 2019, Philosophical Health International, I will clarify a few points allowing, in my view, to begin to answer this complex question: What is Philosophical Health and How Can We Reach It? Since the new fields of Philosophical Health Studies and Philosophical Counseling are academically undertheorized and hardly taught, much work needs to be done to define the contours of the notions and their critical viability. Eventually, the question of philosophical health, as suggested by Wittgenstein, is not only mundane, therapeutic, or political: it is also important to question the current status and practice of philosophy in academia.


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