South African Journal of Philosophy, 35 (2), 2016, pp 123–131.

You can find it here or there.

The self-confidence of the human being, freedom, has first of all to be aroused again in the hearts of these people. Karl Marx

ABSTRACT: sajp-coverIf a time of crisis calls for a new mode of thinking, philosophical practice offers the means to answer that call. Contemporary philosophical practice revitalises the ancient Greek understanding of philosophy as a way of life that cultivates personal transformation and new ways of seeing the world. This article describes the development of the author’s philosophical counselling practice as a practice of emancipation, in concert with the writings of Emmanuel Levinas and Jacques Rancière. It considers the significance of personal engagement and companionship for the cultivation of practical wisdom, and suggests that the intransigence of our global social and economic crises ultimately indicates an incorrect view of human nature and an ossified or unbalanced relationship between practical and theoretical ways of knowing and wisdom.


This paper has just been published in Philosophical Practice, the journal of the American Philosophical Practice Association. You can find it here  and there …


Helen Douglas, Philosophy in Practice, Cape Town

Abstract: This is a second ‘field report’ of a Levinassian philosophical counseling practice. The first part elaborates the practice by means of a ‘threefold logic’ of ground, path and fruition. While the ground and path remain a Levinasian ‘good practice’ of relationship and dialogue, the fruition of the work is now seen as ‘emancipation’, understood broadly as ‘the fact or process of being set free from restrictions’, rather than ‘therapy’, understood narrowly as ‘treatment to relieve a disorder’ (Oxford Dictionary). The turn to emancipation is explored by way of Jacques Rancière’s The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation. Philosophy as a practice of emancipation is the work of equals.

QA 40. Apr 2013. The ignorant emancipated philosopher

Last week I attended “Phenomenology and Its Futures”, the inaugural conference of the South African Centre for Phenomenology – and a splendid conference it was! I spoke on “Philosophy as a practice of emancipation”. Followers of this blog will know I’ve been beavering away at this for a while. The paper described my philosophical counselling practice as grounded in the ethical philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas (in a nutshell: “We are all responsible for everyone else – but I more than the others.”) and directed towards emancipation (as in Jacques Rancière’s The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation). This was my conclusion…

I have found it increasingly useful and reliable to work from an expanded premise of equality, to suppose that we all come equipped with the same capacity for intelligence, sanity and goodness. This is not faith, idealism or ideology. It is a hypothesis, an opinion that can’t finally be proved either way. But, like Rancière, we can pay attention what happens when we start looking for the evidence to verify it.

To my own surprise, I find that my guests do know perfectly well and are perfectly capable. Just like me, they know what is good for them, and what is not. They know the truth when they hear it. They are capable of expressing themselves in words and works. And yet they are also mistaken, unbalanced, neurotic and dispirited. They suffer and they cause suffering. They need help. What is an ignorant, emancipated, Levinas-inspired philosopher to do? She can offer philosophy as a practice of emancipation. Read more