By Luigi Amato Kunst
Philoactiva’s founder reflects on the state of philosophical counseling and social support system today, and explains how the support of humanitarian organisations may enable philosophers to investigate and plan at how to better support people suffering from marginalisation, our time.
Three years ago, when I took over in this project, we were faced with the urgent challenge of how to make philosophical practice more social.
The situation looked bleak across philosophical counselling schools and programs. Philosophical Counselling movement was in steep decline, and social help was going almost entirely to social work and psychological support. Humanitarian and social initiatives everywhere were searching for answers to the challenge they were being involved more than ever before, but with fewer ways to face the rising sufferance and hardships that overtake millions of ordinary people. More and more social organizations went just behind duplicating.
I realized we had to find a new way to think of the role of philosophy. The obvious answer was to go to philosophers – Universities programs or Schools of Counselling – at that time there were almost 250 philosophical counseling school programs across Europe, and I had some special relationship with some of them.
I knew I wanted practical philosophy to remain ethical, independent and out of the fancy idea of counseling people “philosophically”, something that continued to be nonsense other than trying to earn money by imitating psychotherapy. I wanted to give philosophers the opportunity to contribute to our society, in brilliant and effective unusual ways that worked for them. I meant that we could provide special spots where they could make the experience of the many hardships people are suffering, by cooperating in partnership with Humanitarian Organizations, Hospitals, Health Institutions, and Municipalities.
How can we give an account of “integration” or “inclusion” if we don’t make an experience of it, among the many organizations involved? How can we speak of the famous “shame of survivors” if we do not stay in touch with them?
When I started the project, at first in Denmark and Italy and later in Luxembourg, asking for becoming a volunteer at some organizations, I wasn’t sure whether it would work. It takes a long time before new ideas shape within an organization. Both colleagues and acquaintances were deeply skeptical for a long time, but some of my friends and people close to me listened and responded. It was inspiring how much philosophical thinking could work into social life through the Philosophy Help Desk Project.
Learning from Humanitarian Organisations: a new school for independent philosophers
This idea of cooperating with Humanitarian Organizations, Health institutions and Municipalities has meant so much, and create our philosophical independence, allowing my job the freedom to investigate and reflect upon important issues of our time.
The Philosophy Help Desk project is about training philosophers through an internship program, to be carried out at humanitarian organizations, health institutions and municipalities.
This program of cooperation is free of charge and works in two directions: it provides philosophical thinking to the organizations, and it provides a meaningful experience to the many philosophers wishing to have a career as consulting people specialists.
And of course, this cooperation may lead to professional partnerships and projects specially funded.
Thanks to the Kirkens Korshær, and Danish Charity, I went in contact, for quite a short period, with people whose existence was marked by no having social rights, within the most advanced countries in Europe.
Humanitarian Organisations support and cooperation enables us to hold a first line experience at the Wanteraktioun in Luxembourg operated by the Red Cross. Without them, it would be much harder to do this.
It is this simple cooperation that means we can focus on the unfolding migration crisis impacting communities and the process of integration, and commit to think and reflect on the ways we can inspire people to get rid of apathy and to take action and change life and the world: the LISKO experience in Luxembourg is very inspiring and close to Marx’s 11th theses on Feuerbach that “Philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it”.
I’m quite confident that within two years, Philoactiva is on a path to being sustainable and implemented. It has not been easy and I still have a long way to go – I need some organisations to make a step ahead, by planning with us some specific projects.
I hope to make a research with the University of Luxembourg to investigate the possibility for ethics to be practical philosophy as a form of knowledge constantly enriched with concrete experience in first-person.
The era of secure jobs and institutions through which we navigated our lives with pretty well ease and certainty is being lost, and post-modernity is imbued with vagueness, alienation and loss of meaning. Everything seems unstable. People are walking along facts and concepts that are pretty much “blurred”, far for being clearly stated. The outcome is we have lost the valid presuppositions upon which we can share common argumentation.
What we need today is not a kind of duplication of psychotherapy, but experienced rationality able to understand the social world, making the practice of the human condition, to combat fear and anxiety and inspiring people to take action and change the world for the better. Hope, after all, is rational.