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Philosophical Counselling, Truth and Self-Interpretation

DAVID A. JOPLING
Journal of Applied Philosophy
Vol. 13, No. 3 (1996), pp. 297-310
Published by: Wiley
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/24353960
Page Count: 14
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Philosophical Counselling, Truth and Self-Interpretation
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Abstract

Philosophical counselling, Ran Lahav and others claim, helps clients deepen their philosophical self-understanding. The counsellor's role is the minimalist one of providing the client with the philosophical tools needed for reflective self-evaluation. Respect for the client's autonomy entails refraining from intervening with substantive moral criticism, theories, and methods; the client's ways of working out fundamental questions like 'Who am I and what do I really want?' cannot be assessed by the counsellor in terms of their truth-value, but only in terms of whether they reflect the client's autonomous choice to express him/herself in a certain way. I argue that this view, which is informed by an anti-realist account of self and life-history, undermines the distinction between self-knowledge and self-deception. Once interpretive and criteriological free rein is given to the client, and once personal, pragmatic and aesthetic considerations take precedence over truth-value, then the way is left open to clients to generate the most morally convenient self-interpretation to suit their current needs. I defend the view that truth matters in philosophical counselling; more specifically, that there is a basic distinction between true and false forms of self-understanding. To do this, I offer a broadly realist account of self and reflective self-evaluation. If this is right, then philosophical counsellors shoulder a significant burden of responsibility in helping their clients achieve an accurate, defensible, action-guiding and truth-oriented self-understanding.

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