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Practical philosophy

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Practical philosophy is the branch of philosophy which deals with the actions and activities of men. It classically includes moral philosophy, political philosophy; and, since Kant, the philosophy of law.


Aim and nature of practical philosophy

The fundamental and ultimate aim of practical philosophy is good life or happiness (fulfillment). It does not therefore relate to specifically theoretical problems or of no interest to our action and our life. This point is important because it explains why the practical philosophy since Aristotle includes moral philosophy and political philosophy because in the eyes of this classical Greek thinker as well as in those of his successors the question of development, of social well-being (eudaïmonia) can only be developed by a moral philosophy that addresses only the individual as part of the whole (The Greek City State). It is indeed by a reflection which would take into account the city and which would be more particularly interested in the constitution of an adequate political framework that the development (eudaïmonia) is possible for the individual. For Plato, in the Republic, for example, blossoming (eudaimonia) can only be achieved by the philosopher in a well-ordered “city” (polis), that is to say harmoniously organized, so that the nature of man finds himself fully realized in this harmonious, well-organized (polite) society. The same goes for Aristotle who clearly indicates from the beginning of Nicomachean Ethics that his treatise also belongs to political philosophy because the question of happiness does not in any way, according to him, arise from any individual ethics.

Practical rationality

Practical philosophy is inseparable from the conceptualization of a particular form of rationality, practical rationality. This rationality is characterized above all by the fact that it is certainly knowledge, a knowledge based on science. The oldest form of practical rationality is undoubtedly the concept of wisdom or more precisely of sophia. To be wise, that is to say “sophos“, indeed meant to possess knowledge which was the key to happiness and good living. For Plato, for example, having wisdom or “sophia” was not simply knowing rules of thumb to live happily. Sophia is a science that requires a particularly long course of study.

New philosophical practices

In France in the course of the 1990s, new activities of a philosophy “outside the walls” appeared in café-philosophy for enthusiasts and with philosophy workshops led by teachers in primary schools or for adults in places of learning meetings. There is also a practice aimed at a therapeutic approach where the study of texts by philosophers carries out a form of psychotherapy. This form of therapy will have great success in Italy where a Masters course is being created at the University of Venice. Then non-academic philosophers will also offer organizations, companies or charities, consulting missions aimed at questioning their practices, the meaning of the term they use, and the raison d’être of the people who work there.

In 1996, Jacques Lévine founded the Philosophy Workshops with a kindergarten teacher, Agnès Pautard, and an inspector of National Education, Dominique Sénore. These workshops take place during school time, in nursery and elementary classes, sometimes in middle school. They are characterized by the fact that it is not a teaching of philosophy, but a preparation for philosophical thought.

The therapeutic philosophical consultation was conceived by Gerd B. Achenbach in Germany in 1982. In France it was Eugénie Vegleris who first launched this activity in 1993. The consultations can be individual or in groups and seek to establish the meaning of actions or behaviors of the philosopher client, as an alternative approach to traditional psychotherapies. The philosopher relies on quotes from notable works to justify his analyzes.

The use of the knowledge and philosophical know-how of freelance philosophers arouses the interest of companies which even create permanent positions, often to address ethical questions in the company. Some doctors of philosophy such as Julia de Funès or Laura Lange give lectures on life at work. Some universities offer philosophy and management oriented training.

Freelance philosophers generally offer reflection workshops with organizational methods that vary from one to another, each with their own style, questioning participants on a theme in order to share opinions, and exposing their notable doctrines on the subject.

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