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Saturday, January 9, 2016

2016 salon series: "...And if we went to the philosopher instead?"


Greetings, wine women and philosophy members and friends. And Happy New Year. Here's hoping that 2016 is a fine year for all of us. As for where we're headed in our upcoming salon series:

It is widely taken for granted that if we are burdened by shame, wracked with guilt, lacking in confidence, caught up in an addiction, feeling depressed, agonizing over our life choices, wondering (queue for song) What's it all about, Alfie?, we'll find the answer to it all in psychology. As a field, it's huge. Just compare the burgeoning Self-Help section in any bookstore to the paltry offerings in Philosophy, say. Just look at the inroads made by psychology into areas ranging from sport to business management, from education to politics. If we're talking about making things work better or feel better or look better or do better, psychology has the market cornered. Whether it's on-line, on-the-couch, or on-the-hoof, there's a host of psychotherapists, psychoanalysts, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and life coaches out there ready to be of service. So how did the relatively new discipline of psichiologia - the study (logia) of the spirit, mind or soul (psukhe) - become the panacea for all 20th and 21st Century ills? What was it seen to offer people (and particularly women) that religion, for example, or philosophy, no longer could? - or perhaps never had? And what is gained and what is lost when a discipline organizes itself around scientific research and the establishment of know-how, as psychology has, rather than a simple love (philo) of wisdom (sophia)?

These questions we will address in our first session together. Because this is a philosophy series, however, we are less interested in comparing psychology to philosophy than in delving into the contributions made by philosophers - in particular, female philosophers - to those aspects of life that have become the bread and butter of today's psychology industry: issues of trust, feelings of shame, and the matter of self-esteem. Drawing on philosophers such as Edith Stein, Simone Weil, Hannah Arendt, Simone de Beauvoir, Sara Ruddick, Gillian Rose, and Annette C. Baier, the plan d'action is to imagine together what a "self-help" (or help of some other kind) manual might read like if put into their hands, or what "therapy" might look like if arranged around their theorizing. Throughout the life of wine women and philosophy 's Thursday evening salon series (she's 8 years old this year!) we have argued that thinking philosophically can change your outlook and enhance your experience of the world. It could be said that in this particular series, we are putting our belief in the life-saving qualities of philosophy to the test, and struggling alongside you to come up with some practical manifestations of this vision. 

When Simone Weil was a secondary student in Paris in the 1920s, the standard teaching method in her high school was to focus in on a particular philosopher each year, and to twin him (it was inevitably a "him") with either a novelist or a poet. In Weil's first year at the school,  everything she learned linked back to Plato or Balzac. Riffing on this educational approach, we will link a particular work by a poet (inevitably a "her") to each of our five sessions: this, in the hope of creating a structure of feeling around the aspect of life we are exploring, and providing an additional entry point into the ideas of the philosopher(s) around whom the session is organized.

We kick off on January 28th, with a session called Psyche.