Thoughts from the Nordic conference for Philosophical Practice

The 8th Nordic Conference on Philosophical Practice attracted around 50 practitioners from Norway, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, and Sweden. They gathered for two days in the meeting rooms of an old and sumptuous building of Oslo, which used to be the house of craft and guilds of the city, if I understood correctly. Cilia Personne, Adam Wallenberg, Kalle Grill, Malin Sallstedt and Sebastian Rehnman, all very active and generous members of SSFP were in Oslo with me, and this was certainly an opportunity to build esprit de corps among our own “guild”.

On day one, I facilitated a dialogue among some 25 practitioners about "what matters" the most in their own craft, the art of philosophical dialogue. Keywords were flying around: Attention, respect, creativity, singular and universal. One of the participants was Anders Lindseth, a pioneer in philosophical counselling who started his consultations in 1989 in a small city of Norway. When I initiated earlier in the day a collective reflection on the virtue of admiration and its possible existential benefits (in a society were envy seems to be easier than awe), Anders Lindseth spoke wisely about admiring the guest’s courage to dare to be unclear. “Guest” is a term that often came back during the conference to designate the people who visit a philosophical counsellor. The courage to dare to feel unclear: perhaps this is what philosophy is about — the courage to speak of what is deeply unclear and perhaps even harmful or painful in our relationships, social conventions, or cognitive prisons. And the courage to try and make them clear, slowly, patiently, but decisively — not in the manner of mathematics, but with all our heart: “opening a space in your heart”, a space for the possibility of a thoughtful destiny. This is what I feel many “guests" that come by my consultation office in Kungsholmen are looking for: to ascend a line of flight out of golden (or less golden) prisons. 

On day two, Adam Wallenberg proposed a well-structured and fascinating intermezzo about the intertwining of art and philosophy in his practice with children at the Museum or Modern Art in Stockholm. Beyond the maelstrom of workshops, I bring back with me the idea, discussed with Morten Fastvold, who leads the Norwegian Society for Philosophical Practice, that what is important, in this world of hyper stress, competition, and overwork, is to help other professionals, nurses, human resources people, anyone engaged in the daily craft of having to speak with other humans for a living, to pause a little and reflect on the spiritual sustainability and meaning of what they do. How do they conduct dialogues with other humans?

For me, one of the most peaceful parts of the workshop was the train back and forth to Oslo, from Stockholm: a slow voyage of more than five hours were I was alone, quiet, and could realise how grateful I am to be part of the SSFP, a group engaged in the passion of favouring more philosophy and creative thinking in our everyday lives. Philosophy, since the Greeks, is amphibious: it can thrive both in the water of loneliness and on the land of community. 


Luis de Miranda
Member of the board of SSFP
Philosophical counsellor at the Philosophical Parlour in Stockholm